Pembrokeshire Coast Path 2001

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 4 - Marloes to Angle

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Day 8 - Thursday 13th September - 14 miles + 2.2 miles detour for tide

Marloes to Sandy Haven

I got up at 8 a.m. and had my rather limited breakfast of corn flakes and beans. It was not ideal, but better than having nothing. There was a dehumidifier in the drying room and my things had dried out very well overnight.

The weather was rather windy but reasonably bright as I set out at 9.30 to rejoin the path near to the youth hostel. The somewhat bright start soon deteriorated with the wind gaining strength and the sky darkening. Once again I was faced with a battle against the wind which seemed to come at me from all directions, though mainly from the side. What would have been an easy walk was far from easy as I was frequently being nearly knocked off my feet. There was more excellent coastal scenery on the way to St Ann's Head with views across to Skomer Island and other smaller islands. Rounding St Ann's Head, with its collection of coastguard buildings and lighthouses, there was a little bit of shelter from the wind and I took a rest sheltered by a wall. The worst of the black clouds passed over with only a few spots of rain and there was even a brief period of sunshine, but the strong wind was blowing the clouds along so quickly that it didn't last for long.

Past St Ann's Head the view opens up into the large harbour of Milford Haven and also down the coast to Linney Head. There were quite a few ships sailing in and out of the this busy port. From St Ann's Head, the headland near Angle is only about three miles away and looked quite close but, following the coast all around Milford Haven, it would be two and a half days before I reached there.

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The buildings and radar are part of waterway navigation system
Great Castle Head

Sheltered from the westerly wind now, the walking was far more pleasant, and I was even fortunate enough to get quite a bit of sunshine. I hadn't been able to buy anything suitable for lunch although I still had a few things left from the previous day, so it seemed like a good plan to make for the Griffin Inn at Dale, which I reached just after 1 p.m. There I had a steak sandwich and chips and a pint of Worthington bitter sitting on a bench outside overlooking the bay, which was now lit up with bright sunshine. The bench was in the shade, so I soon moved down to a sheltered spot on the beach to spend about an hour resting in the sunshine.

The next section, Pickleridge, is where it is possible to cross the bay at low tide but at other times it is necessary to take a two and a half mile detour inland, crossing the river at Mullock Bridge, which is what I had to do. There is a pebble ridge going most of the way across the with a narrow tidal channel cutting through. After the detour, I decided to take a closer look at the crossing point from that side, even though this meant taking a slightly longer route. The tide was quite high but the channel was still only about 10 yards wide, though it did look quite deep with a fast tidal current. It was a pity to have to take such a long detour for such a short stretch of water, but the timing was such that it couldn't be avoided.

Although there is much evidence of the industrial and maritime nature of this area, the coastal scenery is still worthy of inclusion in the coastal path walk with features such as Stack Rock Fort giving added interest. The weather kept alternating between thick cloud and sunshine with a short shower of rain just before I arrived at the B&B at Skerryback Farm. I was planning on walking the mile or so into St Ishmael's to the pub for a meal but it started to rain and Mr. Williams kindly offered to take me in his car as he was going to visit his father-in-law in hospital. He also said that I would get a better meal in the Sir Benfro Country Inn at Herbrandston, which was on the way to the hospital at Milford Haven. I had a very good steak and kidney pie there with a couple of pints of Worthington's before he picked me up again to take me back. I had a good chat with the proprietor there, comparing notes about the running of an hotel.

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Day 9 - Friday 14th September - 15.5 miles + 0.5 miles to B&B

Sandy Haven to Pembroke

I had a good farmhouse breakfast at 8.30 along with an Australian couple who were staying there, and set off at 9.20. The crossing point of the estuary at Sandy Haven is another one which can only be negotiated at low tide and involves an even longer detour of nearly four miles if the tide is in. As I had predicted from tide-tables, the tide was out and I was able to make an easy crossing over a small concrete bridge and stepping stones. Soon afterwards the walk continues past the site of the disused and demolished Esso oil refinery, but most of the way it is hardly noticeable because the path is somewhat lower down. Apart from a few sections of rusty wire fencing not much is visible unless you go out of your way to look for it.

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A small footbridge and stepping stones cross the estuary at low tide
Crossing point at Sandy Haven
A Victorian defence of the waterway
Stack Rock Fort
From Hamilton Terrace - the oil terminal jetties can be seen on the enlarged photograph
The town of Milford Haven

A large complex of jetties serving the various oil refineries now dominated the main estuary and there was also a good view of Stack Rock Fort a few hundred yards from the shore. This was not quite the unspoiled natural beauty that I had found in the earlier part of the walk, but it was not unpleasant and there were still some good views to be found. Further along the route goes through the town of Milford Haven, first via a residential area and then along a pleasant raised terrace along the front. This brush with civilisation was an opportunity to top up with cash from a cash machine, as I was down to my last few pounds.

The weather was a great improvement on that of the last couple of days with plenty of sunshine and far less wind making ideal conditions for walking. I stopped for a rest on the terrace overlooking Milford Haven as I had already walked about five miles. After crossing the inlet of Castle Pill at Black Bridge with all the boats lining the muddy banks, the route goes up a rather dangerous stretch of road before heading across fields and then following the perimeter fence of an oil refinery. For much of the way trees screen off the storage tanks of the refinery and the main reminder of its presence is the high wire fence. There are two footbridges along the way competing for the title of the ugliest bridge ever to be built. The first is over a huge array of pipelines leading down from the refinery to the jetty and the second is over a road.

Having left all that behind, a wooded path leads down to the pleasant little village of Hazelbeach, where I stopped at the Ferry Inn for a bacon and mushroom baguette and a pint of bitter. From here the Cleddau Bridge, which takes the coastal path across the estuary, can be seen and Pembroke Dock is just across the water with not an oil refinery in sight. A couple of miles of road walking along the bay leads, via a woodland path, to the first road bridge, crossing a small estuary, then on to the much bigger bridge over the Cleddau estuary. There were good views from both of the bridges, which are quite high above the sea.

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One of the few things of interest in Pembroke Dock
Gun Tower, Pembroke Dock
A very well preserved castle
Pembroke Castle

The next couple of miles' walk through Pembroke Dock is probably the low point of the whole walk. There are one or two points of interest, one of which is the Gun Tower, but for the most part it is a rather depressing place. However, it was not long before I was through and back onto a path in the countryside, albeit without much of a view until it met up with the estuary leading into Pembroke. Soon Pembroke Castle came into sight - a very impressive castle in a pleasant setting, with the town of Pembroke behind. I was quite surprised how nice Pembroke was - a complete contrast to Pembroke Dock. It is an historic market town with no sign of the industrialisation of the nearby area.

I found my B&B at the far end of the town where I found that I had been upgraded to an en-suite double room. After showering and changing, I set off back into town where I had a meal of beef goulash in the King's Head. The meal was not very filling and, by the time I had drunk three pints of Worthington's (not a very strong beer) and walked back to my B&B I felt more than the usual effect from the alcohol. The central heating was on in my room so I was able to dry the things I had washed. It is so much better if you don't have to pack damp or wet clothes, or even wear them, as is sometimes the case.

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Day 10 - Saturday 15th September - 14.5 miles + 1.2 miles to and from B&Bs

Pembroke to Angle via West Angle Bay

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The castle towers over the far end of the town
Pembroke High Street
There is no attempt to hide this refinery
Oil Refinery near Angle Bay
The fort, built in 1850, is now an hotel
Thorn Island from West Angle Bay

I felt a bit lethargic in the morning but, after a good breakfast, I soon felt fine again and set off at 9.20 into a bright, sunny morning with a fresh wind. Walking back through the main street with a view of the castle ahead was very pleasant and I called into a little bakery to get some things for lunch. There was a certain amount of road walking to start with and I made a careless navigational blunder by going up the wrong road out of Pembroke. When I couldn't find the coast path marker where I thought it should be, I thought that I must have missed it. I decided that, rather than retracing my steps for a while, I would carry on and turn right down the next lane, where I could pick up the path again. However, as I was in a completely different place from where I thought, the next lane turned into a bridleway and brought me back almost to where I had started from having done a round trip of over one and a half miles.

It felt good to be back on the right track again, despite the detour and I then took more care to ensure that I stayed on the right route. Because route finding on this walk is incredibly simple most of the way, it is easy to become complacent in areas like this where the route does not follow very close to the coast. I stopped for a rest at 11.00, after doing only two and a half miles along the coast path plus two thirds of a mile to regain the path from the B&B. Again, the route, though not unpleasant, offered only limited views of the coast, and pylons became a prominent feature with the power station and another oil refinery coming more into view.

I kept expecting the power station and its chimney to loom large, but this was not the case, and I then realised that the chimney and much of the power station was no longer there - it was obviously being decommissioned. Again, the view was not particularly dominated by the oil refinery simply because for much of the way there was no view. In the shelter of this large harbour, many more trees are able to grow than do so on the exposed parts of the coast and these were blocking most of the view. The battering of the exposed coastline from strong winds and the salt spray means that only a few stunted trees manage to survive there, so there are few places where the view is interrupted. On this part of the route, much of the way is along lanes or paths with high hedgerows or through woodland and there are only a few places offering long distance views. Although woodland is pleasant for a short while, it becomes rather tedious going for mile after mile with no view. Even a view of an oil refinery would be preferable!

I stopped for lunch near the jetty of the Texaco oil refinery. Although this is capable of taking 300,000 ton supertankers, there were only three much smaller ships berthed there. Further along were some larger ships but still not any supertankers. At least now there was a view most of the way and the walking for the most part was very easy. By Angle Bay I met a chap who had worked for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and who had walked the path 16 times. His opinion was that it was far better to walk the path from south to north rather than the north to south route shown by most guide books. The reason for this is that the views look better with the sun shining from behind the walker, whereas the other way much of the scenery is often shown in silhouette.

A new path has been opened round Angle Bay to avoid the need for walking along the beach, which could be a problem at high tide. My B&B was in Angle but, rather than heading straight into Angle, I had planned on walking round the headland to West Angle Bay and approaching Angle from the opposite direction to reduce the length of the next day's walk. It was interesting to look across and see all the places I had walked through a few days ago - St Ann's Head, Dale, Sandy Haven, Great Castle Head, as well as the fort on Stack Rock from the other side. I rounded the head and reached my B&B at 5.40 p.m. This place was not in any accommodation list and I had only found it by ringing the local pub, The Hibernia Inn, who said that they didn't do B&B but gave me the number of a couple across the road who did. Without a stop at Angle, it would have entailed a very long walk to Castlemartin.

As I was making my way to the B&B, I noticed a chap with a large rucksack and later, when I went out for a meal to the Hibernia Inn, he rolled up at the same time. He came from Swansea and was just doing about five days of the walk. It was his first time backpacking and his pack weighed 27 kilos when he set off! I had a couple of drinks with him before he went off to set up his tent whilst it was still light. I stayed for scampi and chips followed by apple strudel before returning to the B&B where I watched Last Night of the Proms and caught up with the latest news on the World Trade Centre.

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