Trip report: PEMBROKESHIRE COAST PATH – part II/III

DAY 4, ANGLE to SANDY HAVEN

Distance: 45 km

Time on trail: 5:45 – 18:45

Sandy Haven camping 6£

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I slept restlessly, listening the low humming of the distant oil refinery. It remainded me of the coming 45 kilometers. I knew my legs could make it if just having the right attitude – you’ll set out to do something and that’s it! To help to achieve this goal, I split the day in three parts: first 4h30 minutes to the Pembroke Castle, then 4h30 minutes to Milford Haven and at last 6,5km to the final campsite.

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The oil refinery loomed in the distant shore like a grotesque temple, representing everything industrial. I walked closer while the morning progressed.

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I reached the Pembroke Castle on time and sat down for a lunch break. After the castle, the trail headed into woodland where I got lost for some 20 minutes, and soon after got almost run over by few nervous cows. Only ninja jumps and quick feet saved me. The lost time and extra difficulties annoyed me like hell, like the day wouldn’t already be hard enough?

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At the end of the bay the trail changed to road walking, and the day began to feel heavy. I passed by more and more industrial constructions, but in some way it was also interesting. Ugly but interesting. Short breaks followed one after another. It rained time to times and I had to walk the whole day in wet socks.

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I don’t remember much from the last kilometres but at some point I started to believe that I was going to make it. I think I almost flew the last part but reaching the campsite was a huge disappointment. It was kind of closed and for a while, I couldn’t see anyone. Finally I saw some movement in one of the holiday homes and went to ask what should I do. The man was a friend of the owner or something, and had the key to the shower block. He asked me a fee and promised to deliver it to the owner. After few hours I dropped dead, while wind got stronger and stronger outside, playing with my lonely tent.

DAY 5, SANDY HAVEN to MARTIN’S HAVEN

Distance: 20 km

Time on trail: 7:00 – 14:00

West Hook Farm campsite 7£

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Right next to the Sandy Haven campsite are series of stepping stones that can be crossed only at the right time of the day. That day the high tide was at 6:05 am and the low tide 6h10 minutes later. The stones are visible the earliest two hours before the low tide so I could safely cross the water from 10:15 am. That was definitely too much waiting for my taste, as I was already up at six o’clock. The wind and rain were hammering my tent and I wanted anxiously to get moving.

I took the 1h2o minutes detour along narrow country lanes. Mist hid everything and whenever the biting wind couldn’t reach me, I sweat like a pig. Taking the detour felt stupid and exhausting but fortunately I was able to cross easily the next stepping stones at The Gann.

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Near Dale the weather got seriously worse. Strong eastern wind swept over the exposed peninsula and it was pouring with water. I had to stop for a hot tea and chocolate cake. At the same time, a cross country marathon and even an ultra marathon was taking place outside. Insane!

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Apart from my severely leaking boots, my rain gear kept me dry enough, and for a while, it was nice to cheer up the muddy runners. But in that weather I decided to make the short cut through the Dale peninsula and get to West Hook as soon as possible.

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This time the campsite was open, and there were even some other campers. But unfortunately still no sign of any other hikers. And as the two girls of my age, camping next to my tent, were not interested at all in my stories, fun of the whole trip was sliding further and further. The campsite was at a beautiful spot but the mist covered any views to the open sea. Darkness fell early and in my low spirits I could only hope for a drier weather again.

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DAY 6, MARTIN’S HAVEN to NEWGALE

Distance: 31,5 km

Time on trail: 7:45 – 16:15

Newgale camping 7£

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At seven in the morning it had not been raining for a while and I started to walk. The visibility was close to non-existent.

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At St.Brides Ann my hike almost came to its sudden, cruel end. I met a Dutch photographer and biologist, who was studying small living creatures among the rocks and puddles of the beach. As soon as I was at the distance to say hi, I fell on my back without any chance to react. It was a stupid mistake and a combination of sloppiness, muddy boots, slimy and extremely slippery rocks. I was very lucky not hurting myself any worse, even the camera I was holding in my hand got only a small scratch. What a way to introduce myself to the Dutch!

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The trail continued muddy and slippery because of the yesterday’s race, and it was painfully difficult to walk. Fortunately, some sun greeted me at Little Haven, but at Broad Haven it rained again.

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I ate a cold lunch of yoghurt and bread, wearing wet socks a third day in a row and feeling slightly miserable in the cold wind. After Nolton I finally met some other hikers when I saw two British guys walking the same Coast Path but to the opposite direction. “What a lovely holiday weather!” they shouted and pushed bravely against the wind, like typical young British men centuries ago when exploring the distant lands and farthest corners of the empire.

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Newgale had a big, open campsite without any other protection than a rocky seawall. My tent was swaying in the wind worse than ever. It was cold and rainy, and the only hospital place to be was the local inn.

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To be continue…

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Trip report: PEMBROKESHIRE COAST PATH – part I / III

The extreme western point of Wales is not so well known as the more popular long distance trails in UK. However, the 300 km long Pembrokeshire Coast Path should offer a magnificient experience along sandy beaches and windswept cliff tops. After my previous, hard mountain trek in the French Alps, I felt it was again a turn of a coastal walk. To Wales then!

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After an exhausting travel, with many different trains from London Gatwick, I finally reached the village of Kilgetty, near the starting line of the trail. The day had been sunny and promising so far but when I got off from the train, it started to pour water. It poured like giving a last warning or a reminder if I really wanted to do this. I could still turn back. After making the last groceries, a beautiful rainbow led me towards the campsite at Stepaside, some 30 minutes away.

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DAY 1, STEPASIDE to MANORBIER BAY (28th of April)

Distance: 33 km

Time on trail: 6:30 – 18:00

Kelpie campsite (5£ as it was officially closed)

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In the morning, the tent was covered with rime but I had felt warm during the night. Birds were signing loud while walking the last few kilometers to Amroth and the seaside. The Atlantic Ocean was waiting, glimmering gloriously in the morning sun.

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Low tide at Saundersfoot.

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While approaching the walled seaside town of Tenby and its colourful houses, westerly wind got suddenly stronger. But soon I was inside the town walls, walking along the main street. The local outdoor store had only large gas cartridges but fortunately I found a medium size from a Morris&Brothers hardware store. As always, it was a huge relief to find the gas. After a 45min lunch break I began a long stretch along the beach towards Penally and the first MoD firing range. In the freezing wind, I couldn’t help but to wonder, how the locals were wearing so few clothes?

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A red flag in the mast meant that the army was firing in the area and I should use an inland detour.

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Lydstep had a big caravan park but no one was around at the Happy Acre campsite. I decided to keep going, and soon after, I found nice grassy patches at the clifftops. For an hour, I was trying to make up my mind whether to wild camp or push until Manorbier. My feet felt good, so finally I started to move again and walked the last 6,5 km.

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The Kelpey campsite was closed due to an installation of a new toilet block. I cursed my bad luck. The owner, who was a nice lady, didn’t want me to stay at first, but in the end she couldn’t refuse the easy buck. I might have looked quite tired too… I stayed near the fence, out of sight, boiled pasta and observed a curious Red Robin flying around. The dark clouds promised rain for the night and I hoped, that by morning it would be clear again.

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DAY 2, MANORBIER BAY to BOSHERSTON

Distance: 18 km

Time on trail: 7:00 – 14:00

Free campsite

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It rained hard during the night but the morning was full of positive feeling, the air was filled with the sound of waves hitting the Manorbier Bay.

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Until Broad Haven I climbed up and down the seaside cliffs and passed by beautiful sandy beaches, Barafundle Bay being the most stunning. The sun was shining but westerly wind made me feel chilly, as soon as I stopped walking.

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The MoD range of Castlemartin was also closed, so I turned inlands and to the lily ponds of Bosherston. The ponds were quite disappointing as I didn’t see birds at all, and the hard midday sun made heavily wooded slopes and the lakes look dull and uninvited. Soon after, I reached the village and found an empty campsite. It felt way too early to finish the day, but as the next day I couldn’t reach any further than Angle, I decided to stay. The village didn’t offer much to see, and as no other walkers were anywhere, the rest of the evening felt long and lonely.

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DAY 3, BOSHERSTON to ANGLE

Distance: 25 km

Time on trail: 6:40 – 14:30

Castle Farm campsite 5£

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Another fine morning. I walked through fields to the army barracks of Castlemartin and an observation area, from where one could see the military training. Unfortunately, nothing was going on at that early, so after a breakfast break, I tackled a long stretch of road walk to reach the sea again at Freshwater West.

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Many ups and downs followed before I reached the Angle Peninsula and the Thorne Island, that rose from the sea like the fortress of Alcatraz. It felt strange to see the northern shore where the trail would eventually go – after walking first some 50 km around the bay of Pembroke!

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Angle is a bit more lively village with a nice campsite. But still, unfortunately, I was the only hiker. The next day would be all urban and industrial with oil refineries, liquid natural gas terminals and city of Pembroke waiting. My plan was to pass by it all at once. A hard 45 km walk all the way until Sandy Haven, far from the other side of the peninsula. To succeed in that, I needed some refreshments:

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To be continued…