193am Bosherston to Castlemartin

I ask for an early breakfast, and catch the 9am coastal cruiser from Pembroke. This is the express service, avoiding beach detours, but my bus driver is the same as yesterday. He quizzes me about my walking plans. Am I going to spend the whole day in the pub again?

01 Coastal Cruiser, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

When I tell him I plan to continue yesterday’s walk to Castlemartin, and then go on to Freshwater West and Angle, he raises his eyebrows. It’s a long way. And it’s all road walking to get around the firing range, with nowhere to shelter if it rains, he tells me. I explain I have a Plan B if it rains, which is to come inland at Freshwater West and catch the afternoon bus. But no, I don’t need a return ticket. If Plan A goes well, my husband will be picking me up this evening from Angle.

He has very expressive eyebrows. I’m not sure he believes (a) I will make it to Angle and (b) I really have a husband. (Following a fall last week in which I injured my hand, I have been unable to wear my wedding ring.)

The journey is an interesting one. We rattle at a hell of a pace, making up a few extra minutes between stops, so that the driver can nip off the bus and have a quick fag by the roadside. The only other passenger is a man with a florid complexion and a mass of greasy hair under a stained cowboy hat. He was on the bus yesterday as well, and seems to be suffering from dementia.

I don’t know why more people don’t travel by bus. Every journey is interesting and eventful!

I get off at the pub in Bosherston and, just as my bus driver predicted, I’m forced to follow the road. But’s it only for a short distance, before I can turn off along an old track.

02 quarry path, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path, Castlemartin Ranges

I’m pleased to be walking on a firm surface, with minimal mud. The lane is nicely overgrown, with weeds poking through the tarmac in patches. I pass an old quarry. And then I come to a barrier.

The checkpoint is unmanned and looks unused, while the way is barred by a very insecure-looking locked gate. It would be easy to climb over. But I can’t ignore the no-entry sign and the ragged red flag. It’s a weekday and the range is closed to the public.

03 no entry, Ruth walking around Castlemartin Ranges

Footpath signs direct me up another track, to my right. Now I am moving steadily uphill, and further away from the sea. But I have no alternative.

From somewhere in the depths of the artillery range I hear the sound of gun fire. A machine gun? Short, sharp intermittent bursts. Da, da, da, da, da, da, dat. And the occasional boom! of an explosion. I’m glad I didn’t climb over the gate!

My bus driver was wrong about the road walking. A footpath sign directs me off the track and I follow the Castlemartin Range Trail, which turns out to be a pleasant grassy ramble through fields around the periphery of the range.

04 sign, Castlemartin Artillery Range, Ruth walking the coast in Wales

I pass through unmanned check points and signposted gates. The going is easy. The dark clouds have disappeared and, although the ground is still wet from yesterday’s rain, the sky is blue today.

05 walking through meadows, Ruth in Castlemartin Ranges

In the distance I see the church tower of St Twynnells. Yesterday, on the ‘slow’ bus, we went up to St Twynnells for some reason, before turning round and heading back down towards Bosherston. Nobody got on or off the bus during this detour.

06 St Twynnells in distance, Ruth hiking in Wales

I come to a farm track. Tractors, driven by terribly young teenagers, are shuttling to and fro, collecting some crop from a nearby farm. When they meet on the lane, they have difficulty passing each other.

07 Tractors on road, Ruth Livingstone hiking through Pembrokeshire

Footpath signs direct me straight across the track and into a field on the other side. The path becomes overgrown. The wet grass does its nasty work, and fills my boots with water. I squelch along, through nettles and cow parsley, around the edge of the field. Until I come to a gate…

08 overgrown field, Ruth hiking near Castlemartin

… and find myself back on the farm track. I’ve gone in a big loop and returned to the track a few hundred metres from where I crossed over a few minutes ago. Who designed this path? The price of my unnecessary detour is soaking wet feet!

The sun is shining and I take my boots off. As the tractors continue to pass to and fro, I lean on the gate and watch my damp socks steam gently in the sunshine, while I try to sponge some of the water out of the boots with tissues. To make matters worse, along with wet feet  I am suffering from hay fever. And so I daren’t use too many tissues in my boots, because I need them for my running nose.

With slightly drier feet, I continue onwards up the lane. It’s very beautiful. This might be ‘road walking’ but it’s the perfect road for walking!

09 country lane, Ruth hiking in Pembrokeshire

Until I reach Merrion Camp. Now the footpath skirts round the side of a fierce fence. Interestingly, the few security cameras I find are all pointing inwards.

10 walking around Merrion Camp, Ruth Livingstone in Wales

I join the B4319, my bus route of this morning, and the road that runs along the northern boundary of the Castlemartin Artillery Range. There is no pavement, but traffic is light and there is a mown grass verge, so walking along the road is easy and I make rapid progress.

I pass the main entrance to Merrion Camp, where two tanks stand guard. One is a British Chieftain tank, the other a German Leopard.

11 tanks at entrance to camp, Ruth Livingstone in Castlemartin

From here the road continues, straight and rather boring. Over to my right the land rises and I take a photograph of St Mary’s on the ridge, a rather large church set in the tiny village of Warren.

12 church at Warren, Ruth walking around the Castlemartin Range

I come to a significant road heading off to the left. This goes through the ranges and down to Stack Rocks on the coast. Of course, the road is closed today. If I had been able to walk through the ranges, this is the point at which I would have had to come off the coast and up to join the B4319 anyway.

13 main road through Artillery Range, Ruth walking in Pembrokeshire, Castlemartin

I’m pleased to reach this point. I feel I’m back on the official Coast Path again. Except, I’m not really. Or am I?

My OS Map shows two possible routes for the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. One route follows the road. The other heads northwards and up to the ridge, where it follows a different road into Castlemartin. All the signposts seem to want to direct me to this latter route. Maybe it’s more scenically interesting? But, it involves moving even further away from the sea.

I decide to stick to the familiar B4319.

When I come to a checkpoint with a red flag, I think I might have made the wrong choice. This point is manned, but in a rather lackadaisical fashion. The guard seems to have arrived by bike. He gives me a cheery wave. At first I think the way ahead is blocked, but it’s the side road that is forbidden. I continue onwards.

14 Linney checkpoint, with bicycle, Ruth walking past Castlemartin Ranges

Overhead planes are droning. Maybe it’s only one. Every few minutes it flies in low, over the road, south towards the sea. Suddenly I’m startled by a very loud burst of machine fire. I guess the plane is firing at some target just off the coast.

There is very little traffic on the road. Just as well, because there are no pavements. A small car hurtles past me and somebody throws a can of coke from the window. It nearly hits me. How rude!

Over the fields I see coloured houses. Castlemartin.

15 Castlemartin, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

The road takes a right-angled turn, and climbs steeply up the ridge to the village. I don’t actually go through Castlemartin, which seems tiny. (The bus driver told me there used to be a pub here, but it closed down years ago.) Instead, I stop at the roundabout at the entrance to the village and sit on a handy bench for a drink and a snack.

Over the road is yet another checkpoint and guard hut. This one is empty. There whole of its tiny interior is occupied by a battered, but comfortable-looking armchair. Some joker has stuck a TripAdvisor sticker to the window.

TripAdvisor sticker in checkpoint window, Ruth in Castlemartin

[To be continued…]

Route this morning:

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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10 Responses to 193am Bosherston to Castlemartin

  1. jcombe says:

    Sounds a frustrating walk. I’ve had got wet feet a few times recently walking through fields with long damp grass. I tend to just put up with wet feet, at least at this time of year my feet soon warm up, but it is still not very pleasant.

    Sounds like you provided the bus driver some amusment. Driving a route like that (designed for walkers on the coast path) you would have thought he would stop being surprised at people walking the coast!

  2. paul.sennett@db.com says:

    Good morning. Congratulations on your further progress. I would be very curious to hear how positive and negative you find the benefits of this long term walk on blood and other readings… health improvement is one of our biggest drivers in walking…

  3. Marie Keates says:

    Some bus drivers are real characters, especially in rural areas. I hear some surprising tales of passengers too. There are some odd balls we all know by name in the office like Cornish Sally who keeps going missing and we have to put out alerts for her with the drivers. I think she may have dementia too.

  4. Di iles says:

    Today I was lucky enough to walk this when the firing range was open. It’s such s shame this is a restricted area as it was a truly stunning walk. The cliffs and coves were absolutely stunning. I stck to your number one rule Ruth by walking as close to the coast as possible, people were walking on the tank track( official path) and wouldn’t have got a glimpse of the wonders I saw.( I didn’t understand that) The sea bird colonies at Elegug Stacks near Bullslaugher Bay were a spectacular sight, I’ve never been so close to such huge colonies before, amazing!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. I confess I went back on another day and actually walked the range too. It’s wonderful. But the farthest bit is permanently closed to walkers and only open a few days a year for a guided walk. You have to book a place on one of those walks in advance, and all the places went quickly in 2015.

  5. Di iles says:

    Glad you managed to go back Ruth. I didn’t know about booking the bit that’s always closed, thanks Ruth. I know the military have to do their thing, but I do feel annoyed we are largely denied seeing this stretch. Think I’m just a greedy coastal walker and want it all! 😊

  6. Karen White says:

    I forgot to say on the previous post that I was amused by the ‘actual size toad’ on the sign.

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