193pm Castlemartin to West Angle Bay

After walking for several hours, I’ve finally reached Castlemartin, and I’m back to where I should have ended my walk yesterday if I hadn’t spent most of the day sheltering in the pub! I feel a sense of relief. I’m back on track.

The coastal footpath seems unsigned through Castlemartin, but I take the first left off the roundabout, go down a lane and find the path. To my right is farmland, to the left is the artillery range – and in the distance is the sea. I’m heading back to the coast.

 view over Castlemartin artillery range, Ruth walking in Pembrokeshire

I meet a man with a dog and a backpack. The first walker I’ve met all day. He tells me he has walked from Angle. I ask him if the path between Angle and Freshwater West is difficult.

‘Yes,’ he says. ‘My knees are complaining. At least six or, maybe, seven big ups-and-downs. I thought they would never end.’

My heart sinks. I’m walking further than I planned today, to make up for the missed miles yesterday. And it sounds as if the final stretch is going to be the toughest.

‘There’s a bad bit of mud ahead,’ he says, as if trying to depress me further.

But the mud doesn’t turn out to be as bad as I feared. Only a surface layer. And no cows on the path, only horses in an adjacent field.

 muddy farm track, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path towards Freshwater West

Beyond the farm track, the path joins the road. I was resigned to tarmac walking, but in fact there is a footpath on the other side of the hedge. And so I walk between the hedge and a fence, along the edge of the boundary of the military range. The fields are full of glorious wild flowers.

 fields of wild flowers, Ruth hiking in Pembrokeshire

Further along, a sign tells me that the wild flowers have been specifically chosen and seeded to create a bumblebee haven. Some rare species, including the near-extinct shrill carder bee, are thriving here.

a04 peacock butterfly, Ruth Livingstone

I wish I’d known about the bumblebees earlier. The notice comes at the end of my trek around the Castlemartin ranges. (Although, if I was walking the other way, it would have been at the beginning!)

So, full of ignorance, I hadn’t bothered looking out for bees. But I did take some amazing photographs of butterflies. This one is a peacock.

Sadly some of this section of path is badly overgrown. I get stung by nettles and scratched by thistles. And I risk a twisted ankle, as I am unable to see the ground, which feels very uneven beneath my boots.

path of weeds, Pembrokeshire and Ruth's coastal walk

It’s a relief to get back on the road and away from the hazards of the path. Across fields I see a reminder that I am nearing Milford Haven – the tall chimneys of an oil refinery.

oil refinery, Ruth walking the Wales Coast Path

The road is quiet with very little traffic… and there is a stunning view across the bay.

Freshwater West, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Wales has a habit of recycling place names. For example, there are two places called Newport. And yesterday, I walked across a bay called Broad Haven, but I know there is another bay called Broad Haven further ahead. The day before yesterday, I walked around Freshwater East. Now I’m approaching the beach of Freshwater West.

It turns out to be a glorious place. Very windy. Wide, flat sands, surrounded by unspoilt cliffs and rocks. When I see a fellow hiker is sitting on a rock beside the road, I can’t resist taking her photograph with the beach as a backdrop.

backpacker, Freshwater West, Ruth in Wales

I check to see if she is Ursula, a young woman who is walking thousands of miles across and around Wales to raise money for charity and who I was hoping I might meet along the way. But it isn’t Ursula.

In the car park I find a mobile food trailer. This menu looks great, and I’m tempted to try a laverbread sandwich but I’ve brought a packed lunch with me. Instead of sandwiches, I buy a piece of ginger cake and a cold can of coke.

snack van, Freshwater West, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire coast

The wind is ferocious. I find a sheltered spot in the lee of a sand dune and take off my socks (still damp) and my boots (still very wet). It’s a perfect place for a picnic. What a view!

Ruth Livingstone walking across Freshwater West

The cake turns out to be a chocolate brownie, not ginger. But I don’t go back to complain. It’s too delicious to resist.

The wind soon dries my socks, but the linings of my boots remain soggy, despite more mopping attempts using the napkin my cake was wrapped in. As a result, the insides of my boots end up both damp and chocolate coated.

With a hard trek ahead, I make myself rest for 1/2 an hour. Then I set off across the beach. On the other side, the path rises gently up the slope. This doesn’t look bad at all. What was I worrying about?

 Ruth hiking the coast path above Gravel Bay, Pembrokeshire

I meet other walkers. The wind makes it hard to concentrate and nobody stops for a chat.

 hikers, Pembrokeshire Coast Path, near Angle

The views back across Freshwater West are stunning. White waves, bright sands, red rocks.

 looking back Freshwater West, Ruth hiking in Wales

I come to a gate with a warning sign. “This is a challenging stretch of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path...” Uh-oh.

warning sign, Ruth hiking from Freshwater West to West Angle Bay

But the sign says it’s only 3.4 miles to West Angle Bay. I almost there! And can it possibly be worse than the north Cornwall coast? I remember Rusey Cliff and the climbs around Crackington Haven. Nothing to worry about, I tell myself. Onwards.

The path is rugged. It plunges down into little valleys and climbs up to the top again. Sometimes there are steps, sometimes just a rocky scramble. I try to count the ups-and-downs, remembering the first walker I met who warned me there would be six or seven. But I lose count. And I decide to give myself over to the walk. Yes, it’s a rollercoaster. Just enjoy it.

steep valleys and dramatic rocks, Ruth Livingstone near Angle

The best way to walk is to stay in the moment. After all, it’s not the destination that’s important, it’s the journey.

seat on cliff, Ruth hiking in Wales

Dark clouds scuttle across the sky. A few drops fall and rain showers continue, intermittently, for the next mile or so.

Ahead I see a bench perched on the top of a cliff. My legs are growing tired and I’m thirsty. When I get to the seat, I promise myself, I’ll stop for a rest and a drink.

ruined building with view of Whitedole Bay, Ruth in PembrokeshireWhen I reach the ‘bench’, I realise my mistake. It was a trick of perspective. The bench turns out to be a ruined building.

I stop for a rest anyway, and the sun comes out. I put away my waterproofs.

I’ve passed over East Pickard Bay, West Pickard Bay (more examples of the Welsh economy with names.) Somewhere below was the rocky arch of Guttle Hole.

According to the map, I’m standing on a promontory above Parsonsquarry Bay. Ahead is Whitedole Bay and Sheep Island. The cliffs show evidence of recent rock slides.

 Sheep Island and St Ann's Head, Ruth walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Sheep Island is linked to the mainland at low tide via a rocky isthmus. I wonder how the island got its name, and if any sheep manage the scramble across that causeway?

Beyond Sheep Island and the path becomes flatter and easier, with only a few easy dips.

 flat cliffs to West Angle Bay, Ruth walking the coast, Wales

Ahead is the mouth of Milford Haven. And over on the other side of the water is… St Ann’s Head. I look forward to walking there in a few days time.

Another ruined building stands proud on a precarious piece of headland. I think this is the remains of East Block House, built in the sixteenth century by Henry VIII to guard the approach to Milford Haven. If I wasn’t so tired, I might have gone down to explore it.

old block house, West Angle Bay, Ruth Livingstone

I pass a number of old gun mountings, looking considerably more recent than Henry VIII’s era. And then, growing nearer, I see the pretty beach of West Angle Bay.

West Angle Bay, Ruth walking Pembrokeshire Coast Path

I’ve been to West Angle Bay before of course – only briefly – as part of my meandering bus journey to Stackpole Quay yesterday.

The walk down to Angle is easy, but the landscape changes. Signs of civilisation now dominate: black-costumed bales of industrial farming, a caravan/mobile-home park ahead, the pastel coloured houses of Angle and, towering over it all, the tall chimneys and storage tanks of the oil refinery.

industrial landscape, Angle, Ruth Livingstone in Wales

From West Angle Bay I walk up the road towards the village of Angle. It’s only 5:15pm and I’ve a couple of hours to wait before my husband arrives. He’s making the long journey by car from Lincolnshire to join me for the weekend.

In Angle, I’m disappointed to discover the pub on the main road doesn’t open until 7pm. I know there’s a second pub nearby and, although I can’t work out how to get to it, I manage to find their phone number on my iPhone. No, they don’t open until 6:30pm.

There are no benches by the roadside, so I sit on a wall near the entrance to the village and wait. Somewhat later than 5:30pm, the Coastal Cruiser drives past, heading for West Angle Bay. I wave to the driver. A few minutes later the bus returns. The driver waves to me.

A man parks his car nearby and gives me a funny look. Ten minutes later he walks past, with a dog in tow, and gives me another funny look. It takes me some time to realise I’m sitting on his wall! Will he ask me to move? Should I move? If so, where can I sit?

Luckily, before the man comes back from his dog-walking, my husband arrives. For once he’s early.

Miles walked today = 14.5 miles.
Total along Wales Coast Path = 348 miles
Total distance around the coast: 1,955 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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18 Responses to 193pm Castlemartin to West Angle Bay

  1. Alan Palin says:

    Hi Ruth, glad to hear of your continued progress. Although it was some time ago, I cannot remember the ups and down being that bad, well not as bad as some bits of North Cornwall! Don’t know if you got as far as the Old Point House Inn nr Angle, which I called in for a pint when I went past on a longish Pembroke to Freshwater west section.

    I actually started at the other end of the country. Parking at Flint and using my newly acquired Senior Rail card I took the train to Chester and walked back along the WCP. Part of the channelized Dee is probably the straightest line I have ever walked in!! Prestatyn to Flint next

    • Hi Alan, and yes the ups and downs were fine. Certainly not as bad as Cornwall. The Old Point House was the pub I couldn’t find and they were closed anyway. I did walk past it the next day but it was too early to stop. How did you get on along the channelised Dee? Straight lines rarely make interesting walking. Enjoy the next section of your walk 🙂

      • Alan Palin says:

        Hi Ruth, I think you will miss out on the really straight bits of the Dee, as the highest (or is it lowest?) bridging bridging point of the Dee is the beautiful A548 Queensferry Bridge.

        Yes I agree walking alongside Canals is mind-blowingly boring.

  2. Freshwater Bay and its surroundings are superb. It’s strange but I had a similar experience – from my journal, Friday 10th June 2011:

    “Just before Freshwater West Bay I met the familiar dog walking Jonah who told me of the severity of ups and down on the path between there and Angle. It turned out to be fairly normal up and down coastal path walking. Seascapes and weather were brilliant with the exact meaning of that adjective.”

    I wonder if it was the same chap?

    I hope you can bring yourself to enjoy Milford Haven – I found it fascinating.

    • Hi Conrad, what a spooky coincidence with the man + dog + warning. Maybe he was the same chap, but he seemed genuinely surprised by the number of ups and downs, so either he has a poor memory or he must have been a different guy. Like you, I really enjoyed that section. Coastal walking at its best 🙂

  3. Debbie Yates says:

    Hello Ruth
    I have recently found your blog and am reading it from the beginning, it’s so inspiring and as a 50+ lady myself who loves walking it has given me the incentive to try and be more adventurous. I have started small, walking the Solent Way as I live on the Isle of Wight. So far I have done 3 sections, today I did 14 miles which is my longest yet, and I’m so pleased that I did it with no problems!
    I would love to do the coast of Britain one day like you, in the meantime when I have finished the Solent Way I have some other long distance paths I would like to walk.
    As I walk alone I wondered if you had ever felt unsafe (apart from encounters with animals!)? Do you ever feel vulnerable walking alone?
    I am enjoying reading about all your adventures!
    Best wishes
    Debbie Yates

    • Hi Debbie and thank you for your kind words about my blog. So glad to hear it’s inspired you. I envy you living on the IOW. I did my first junior doctor job there and loved it.
      On the topic of safety, I have been worried about cows, dogs, slippery paths, steep cliffs, twisted ankles, adder bites, getting caught in the dark, etc. But I assume you mean do I feel safe from attack by random strangers? I’ve very rarely been worried about other humans, only sometimes I’ve felt uneasy on the edge of towns and industrial estates (for example, Gravesend and Basildon and Newport). The more isolated the area, the less I worry, because the only people I meet are other walkers. I might just be naive, or lucky, or both!

  4. John says:

    I second what Conrad has written, Milford haven to angle was surprisingly intersting and enjoyable. Keep up the great blog.
    Cheers J.P.

  5. Marie Keates says:

    It sounds like a challenging walk what with the rain and the closed pubs. I love the chocolate coated boots though, sounds like the sort of thing I’d do.

  6. Di iles says:

    Hi Ruth, just done that one today, love looking at your blog before and after I do my walk, it’s really helpful. Lovely walk but I was really hot and sweaty and that always really slows me down. Some days you’re just really tired aren’t you? Today was one of them for me, I suffer with very low levels of ferritin and keep forgetting to take my iron tablets, my legs were like lead weights up the slopes, I think my bodies telling me I’ve dipped again. Really enjoyed the walk though, and as ever thanks for lovely photos and interesting account .

    • Well done for doing the walk on a hot day, Di. Yes, there are days when everything seems harder for no apparent reason. I find wind difficult. And the heat can make me feel lightheaded and dizzy, maybe due to salt loss. Anyway, I hope you’re feeling better and got your strength back.

  7. Di iles says:

    Yes not keen on the wind either Ruth especially walking into it! I like the 4 C’s for walking Calm, Crisp, Cool and Clear!!! Being a 50 something lady can warm things up a little too much for walking too if you know what I mean 😡😪 still not going to stop us is it ?

    • Hadn’t heard of the 4Cs. Did you invent them? They perfectly sum up a perfect day for walking 🙂
      I know absolutely what you mean about being too warm. And, no, it’s not going to stop us!

      • Di iles says:

        Yes Ruth I made the 4 c’s up 😊. I’ve just come back from Pembrokshire and sadly no 4 C walking days. Fabulous walking though. Your blog was so helpful and inspiring for my walking there. Sadly didn’t have wifi 2nd week so couldn’t refer to it then. Consequently have fallen behind reading on your latest walks, so I’ve lots to catch up with. Hope it’s going well.

  8. Karen White says:

    A glorious view of Freshwater West. The chocolate coated boots don’t sound good! Does walking with damp socks on increase the chance of getting blisters?

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