PEMBROKESHIRE COAST PATH 2010-2014
There's a short story about today's walk. We set off to do this walk on Monday 16th September from Nolton Haven, but after about a mile I got a real stomach pain and had to drop out. Geri accompanied me back to the car and we let Mike and Beryl continue alone. We were determined to do the walk and so I set out alone doing it in the opposite direction today - alas Geri's foot was still sore from yesterday.
I caught the Puffin Shuttle from St Davids and after about an hour I was ready to to go from St Bride's Haven.
St Bride's Haven
The coast path here is quite benign and easy walking as you pass alongside the red sandstone cliffs. It was slightly overcast with a breeze in my face which kept me cool and I was able to keep up quite a steady pace. It was very peaceful with not a soul in sight.
Looking back to St Bride's Haven
and St Bride's Castle
Warey Haven red sandstone cliff
Tanker anchored in St Bride's Bay
Stack Rocks about ½ mile offshore
I passed Stack Rocks out in the bay and the natural arch there got larger as I headed north. As I neared Mill Haven I came across a rock sculpture which subsequently turned out to be one of five "Eyes of the Sea" - this one was called "Walking Eye".
One of the five "Eyes of the Sea" rock sculptures
Lime Kiln at Mill Haven
Climbing up and out of Mill Haven I took the opportunity to 'snap' the Common Toadflax. This little flower had been an ever-present feature of the coast path these last few days and it was worth a mention. The creeks further on, Dutch Gin and Brandy Bay were clearly areas of interest to HM Revenue and Customs in earlier times. Today, Brandy Bay had 2 inhabitants, a grey seal pup and mother.
Brandy Bay with seal and pup
A little further on is the strangely named Howney Stone - home to a number of gulls and cormorants.
Borough Head looking towards Stack Rocks
After passing Borough Head, the path cuts downwards through woodland with trees covering the cliffs all the way, down to the shoreline. Soon the picturesque and popular holiday village of Little Haven is reached.
Dropping down to Little Haven
L-R Broad Haven & Little Haven
Foreground - Little Haven
beyond - Broad Haven
It was very tempting to drop onto the sands and walk from Little Haven to Broad Haven and bypass the coast path, but I stuck to the path and soon found myself passing through Broad Haven and back up onto the cliffs where I stopped for a spot of lunch.
St Bride's Bay from Broad Haven
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Speckled Wood Butterfly
Whole mess of Stonechats
As I progressed along the cliffs towards Nolton Haven I came round a corner and spotted a fence with a load of Stonechats perched there as bold as brass. I crept up wanting to take a close up photo - sadly only one remained to take a bow.
Except for just one
I was now on the homeward stretch and arrived at Nolton Haven having completed the nearly 10 mile walk in just under 4 hours. It was then a matter of waiting for the Puffin Shuttle to pick me up and return me to St Davids.
First view of Nolton Haven
We parked the car inland from the coast path in St Ishmael's and walked about half a mile along a footpath to emerge onto the coast path at Lindsway Bay. Our intention was to walk the coast path in the reverse direction ending up at our finish point of yesterday to ensure we crossed the Gann at low tide.
Longberry Point and beyond Watch House Point
with St Ann's Head in the far distance
The buildings at Watch House Point
We headed west towards Dale passing Longberry Point and Watch House Point where there are a number of World War II buildings including an observation post and 6" gun emplacements.
Dale Roads and the gas terminal of Milford Haven
Our first view of Dale from just east of Monk Haven
We had just passed Loose Haven and came across a Victorian folly known as the Malacov (probably named after a tower in Sebastopol taken by the British in the Crimean War in 1855) on top of the cliff east of Monk Haven.
The Victorian folly near Monk Haven
The high wall at Monk Haven
Monk Haven is a deep, steep-sided valley, and here the path drops right back down to sea level. A large 15' high wall backs the head of the red sandstone beach, with a gap in it where the stream runs down from the valley to the sea. The wall was built in the 18th century to mark the boundary of the Treewarren estate.
Dale from Musslewick Point
Beryl and Geri cross the Gann
There is a shaded climb back up to the cliffs and the path crosses grassy fields, then drops back down to the beach and continues along the shingle to the stepping-stones at the Gann. It's important to time one's arrival at the Gann to coincide with low tide otherwise a 2½ mile detour inland is the only way to get to Dale.
Having crossed the Gann we emerged onto the road
and a place to have lunch
After crossing the Gann we stopped for our lunch - Mike had taken the non-standard sandy estuary crossing and so lunch was without him. After finishing lunch we continued along the road and arrived in the pretty little village of Dale, with its colourful houses, its harbour and its seafront pub. Sadly we had to say goodbye to Geri who had turned her ankle on the pebbly approach to the stepping stones across The Gann. We collected her as we passed back through Dale at the end of the walk.
The next stage is a rather uninteresting mile along a little lane that leads through woodland up towards the headland of Dale Point, but soon the path branches off to the right and brought us back out into the open. There is a lot of steep up and down bits along the next section, as the path constantly dips down into little bays then back up onto the cliffs. One of these, Watwick Bay, has an semi-tropical feel to it, with almost white sands and very clear, blue water.
Looking back at Dale Fort from Castlebeach Bay
A leading light beacon
Watwick Bay from West Blockhouse Point
West Blockhouse Point and the old fort
The Pembroke to Rosslare ferry leaves Milford Haven
West Blockhouse Point Beacons
As we headed for West Blockhouse Point and our coffee break point I stopped to take a photograph of the impressive West Blockhouse Point Beacons. These are three leading light beacons which perform the same function as a lighthouse.
The plaque near Mill Bay commemorating
Henry Tudor's landing in 1485
We continued and dropped down and through Mill Bay, the point where Henry Tudor landed in 1485 before the Battle of Bosworth, after which he became King Henry VII of England.
The old coastguard tower now a holiday let
St Ann's Head - the last section to the lighthouse crosses a large field. There are a surprising number of buildings on the headland: not just the lighthouse and its outbuildings, now converted into holiday homes, but also a street of identical but now deserted former coastguard houses.
The lighthouse at St Ann's Head
After a quick diversion to the view point near to the lighthouse we returned to the coast path and walked another mile or so then turned inland to the car park at Kete.
Looking back at the lighthouse
We parked near to St Bridget’s Church which overlooks the beach at St Brides Haven, the site of a Mesolithic flint factory, and is said to be named after St Brigid who is believed to have visited Pembrokeshire with St David. The church dates from 1291 and is built on the site of a former chapel.
Nearby stands St Bride's Castle, a 19th century baronial mansion set in 99 acres of mature parkland. The mansion was re-styled in 1833 to give a castellated outline by the fourth Lord Kensington it’s owner at the time. Now the castle is a timeshare.
St Bride's Church
St Bride's Castle
St Bride's Haven and the red sandstone cliffs
We set off along the coast path which initially hugs the wall surrounding the St Bride's Castle estate. We passed The Nab Head, the site of a Mesolithic chipping floor where 10,000 yrs ago tools and weapons were worked from flint nodules washed ashore.
As we approached Tower Point with a Iron Age Promontory Fort, we came across three white horses who tagged along for a short distance before one of them got a bit on the 'kicky' side - then they trotted off.
Tower Point and wild white horses
Musselwick Sands looking north
Musselwick Sands looking south
The next section was quite undemanding but beautiful, with red sandstone cliffs brightly streaked with yellow algae being a regular feature. As we rounded Black Cliff we stopped for a coffee in the shelter of a high bank.
Black Cliff Musselwick Sands
Musselwick Sands from Hopgang
After coffee we headed for Martin's Haven, having been advised by a couple of walkers that there was a seal pup there we we eager to see it for ourselves.
Martin's Haven is a sheltered bay and the embarkation point for Skomer and Skokholm islands, both internationally famous for their wildlife. They are managed by the Wildlife Trust West Wales, which has an information centre perched on the hillside overlooking the bay, alongside of which, set into the wall, is an early Christian inscribed stone.
Solitary grey seal pup at Martin's Haven
Martin's Haven slipway
Early Christian inscribed stone near the Information Centre
Grey seals at Renney Slip
Seals or rocks?
As we rounded Martin's Haven, the island of Skomer came fully into view. Skomer (Welsh: Ynys Sgomer) is well known for its wildlife: a third of the world population of Manx Shearwaters nest on the island, the Atlantic Puffin colony is the largest in southern Britain and the island is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest as is the nearby smaller island of Skokholm.
More seals at Deadman's Bay with Skokholm on the horizon
We continued round the headland which now had a distinct South Downs feel about it with broad flat gentle grassy slopes with good pathways engineered for wheelchair access. We stopped for lunch near to Deadman's Bay and did a spot of seal gazing and looking out towards Skokholm Island.
Our next port of call was the mile long Marloes Sands, a remote but popular beach for tourists and surfers alike, guarded at it's northern end by the disconnected peninsular of Gateholm Island.
Marloes Sands looking south
Marloes Sands looking back towards Gateholm Island
Marloes Sands looking north
Leaving Marloes Sands we came across a disused airfield, the former RAF Dale a World War II airfield, the construction of which began 1941. It became operational in June 1942 and for a year operated Wellington bombers of No 304 (Polish) squadron which flew on convoy protection missions and bombing raids on ports in occupied France. In September 1943 Dale was passed to the Royal Navy and was finally closed in 1947.
Choughs at Dale airfield
Dale airfield - disused hangar
Dale airfield one of the crumbling concrete taxiways
After skirting round the airfield we came to Wesdale Bay from where the slim neck of the Dale peninsular was quite evident. We climbed up out of Westdale Bay and headed about another mile or so along the coast path before we turned left inland for the car park and the end of our walk at Kete.
Dale and Dale Castle from Westdale Bay
One final climb up out of Westdale Bay
About 3 hours after leaving Bucknell and having had a quick cup of coffee and sticky bun we were just about ready to set off from the car park at Freshwater West. This is reputedly one of Pembrokeshire's finest beaches popular with surfers and with long expanses of sand and a spectacular bay and sand dune system. But first, the obligatory photo and then we were set.
The forecast for today was very promising with the weather improving all the while and so it proved to be as the day progressed.
The fearsome foursome ready to go
Freshwater West bay
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Looking back at freshwater West
We set off through the sand dunes and had hardly been walking more than twenty minutes when we came to a sign which advised that the stretch path we were entering was "challenging" - nice one!
Footpath collapse at Gravel Bay - Geri takes a look
Terrain near Black Cave
Near East Pickard Bay and a lichen covered rock
Dropping down into West Pickard Bay
one of those 'downs and ups'
The 'challenge' warning
The challenge came in the form of several 'downs and ups' at Black Cave, East Pickard Bay, West Pickard Bay and Guttle Hole. We eventually emerged onto less hilly ground and here, at Castle Bay and Rat Island we were reminded of the military defences over the years with the remnants of the barely visible iron age fort to more recent gun emplacements at East Block House looking out to sea.
A deep chasm in the red sandstone cliffs at Castle Bay
A gun emplacement at East Block House
We made our way round West Angle Bay and the Angle peninsular for our first view of Milford Haven, a natural deep water port which handles over 29% of Britain’s seaborne trade in oil and gas. The third largest port in the UK and the biggest in Wales.
West Angle Bay
First view of Milford Haven and Thorn Island
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View of Milford Haven, Stack Rocks Fort and Man of War Road
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The coast path takes us past Thorn Island, originally a fort built in 1854 and converted into an hotel in 1947 and has changed hands a number of times since then. Further into Milford Haven is Stack Rock Fort, a 19th Century fort dating from the time of Napoleon. The fort, completely surrounded by water and with its own jetty, was built on a small island to protect the area from invasion.
The northern part of the peninsular is very peaceful as the coast path at this point is shielded by a shore-side hedge all the way along to Angle Point where the path turns sharply right/inland to Angle Bay and the village itself where we found a convenient wall to stop for a snack.
Our first view of Angle as we approach from Angle Point
The peaceful village of Angle
One of the terminals at Milford Haven
Our final stretch cut across the neck of the peninsular and back to Freshwater West. En route we passed Rocket Cart House, a white building on the road between Angle and the Former Coastguard Watchtower.
Rocket Cart House
© Copyright Colin Bell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Rockets were stored here and transported to the site of a coastal disaster on a horse drawn cart. A Rocket then fired a line towards the ship in distress, securing the breeches buoy to rescue passengers and crew. The system was in use until the 1930s.