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 6 - Afterthoughts

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There is undoubtedly some extremely good coastal scenery around Pembrokeshire, much of it unspoiled, and this is enhanced by the wildlife, particularly the seal colonies, which are so much in evidence. The controversial part of the walk is the area around Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock, which is a section that people sometimes bypass. Personally, I feel it is still worth doing, as there are only a few miles where there is nothing of interest to see, although the scenery in general is not as interesting as that of the rest of the walk.

However, despite the beauty of the coast, at heart, I am a man of the mountains and did not get quite the same enjoyment from this walk as I have done on many other walks. This feeling was re-enforced somewhat when I climbed a couple of hills near St David's and found that the different perspective offered by only a modest climb made all the difference. The other thing I found lacking was that I had no particular highlights to look forward to as, on the map, much of the coast looks very similar, so it is difficult to know which parts are going to be best. On a mountain or hill walk it is generally easier to see where the highlights are likely to be.

On the positive side, there is the advantage that the view is less likely to be obliterated by low cloud and, even in poor visibility, there is always something of interest nearby that is still visible. I think that this is the sort of path that is ideally suited to day walks, although the remoteness of much of the coast makes it difficult to access from most parts of the country. By walking the whole route, transport problems only occur to the start and from the finish.

I completed this walk in September, as opposed to my preferred time of June, because of the foot and mouth crisis. The disadvantage of this was that it was dark in the evenings and meant that there was little daylight left to look around the area after dinner. Also, when walking into towns or villages to find a pub, it was generally dark on the way back, although I didn't find this much of a problem and could generally make my way back with only occasional use my torch. There are, however, advantages to walking in September. The Atlantic grey seals have their pups at this time of year and are much more in evidence around the coast. The pups are left on deserted beaches, unable to do anything for themselves, whilst the adults swim and dive nearby for food. At other times of the year it may be possible to get occasional sightings, but in September it is virtually guaranteed that considerable numbers will be seen. Another advantage of September is the feast of blackberries which line the route for most of the way - the only drawback being the slow progress you make if you stop every few yards to pick more fruit!

When I started planning this walk, I assumed that accommodation would be easy to find, as there would be plenty of holiday resorts along the coast. This was definitely not the case and some parts of the coast are just as remote and uninhabited as many mountainous areas. The youth hostel chain serves some parts reasonably well, but it was disappointing that a number of the hostels were already closed in early September, being open only for groups to 'Rent a Hostel'. Planning is also made more difficult by the problems of tidal crossing points and firing range activity. To make both tidal crossings there is only a very narrow window, which often does not fit in with the rest of the schedule and incurs one or two lengthy detours.

The firing range activity, which at one time was published months in advance, is now much more varied and is only published about a week or so ahead. This makes it very difficult when planning the walk well in advance. The firing schedules often appear in the local press, although this is not guaranteed. However, the local Tourist Information Centres are provided with schedules and should be able to provide details. Without this information, the only reasonably safe option is to reach the firing ranges at a weekend when they are generally open to the public. However, if this is not possible, then there is always the option of visiting this area in the early evening, when the firing has finished. On a later visit by car, I found the ranges to be closed, but they opened up again at 4.30 p.m. giving me access to Stack Rocks.

Throughout the diary of this walk it may have been noticed that not much mention has been made of blisters or other foot related problems. This is because I had very few of them. As was inevitable, I got a few small blisters, mainly on the sides of my heels, but they did not give me much of a problem. This was probably helped by the good footpaths and fairly easy walking conditions I encountered on the walk. Most of the time my feet kept reasonably dry, as there was very little walking through long wet grass or marshy ground, and this helped prevent blisters.

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