Pembroke Castle looks splendid above the water of Pembroke River and seems in good condition for an old castle. When I mention this to a man walking with his dog, he tells me the castle was extensively rebuilt after being pummelled by Cromwell.
Ahead of me I see a couple of women walkers with large backpacks. I recognise them as the hikers who were following me yesterday. They have Irish accents. I try to keep pace with them, but they walk faster than I do.
I was anticipating an urban walk from here to Pembroke Dock. But the path turns out to be very rural in nature. I walk across fields, with Pembroke River bright below me…
… and through woodland, where some sections are very muddy, due to cows using the path for shade…
… and come out in the Pennar area of Pembroke Dock. The official Coast Path runs through Sykemoor, and joins the road further inland. But I decide to stick to my ‘as close to the coast as I can’ rule, and follow another public footpath into the housing estate.
I join the Military Road, heading out towards Pennar Point. It follows a ridge and, although the road is boringly straight, the views are wonderful. To my right is a golf course and the blue waters of Milford Haven. Over there, in a place called Hazelbeach, I am planning to meet my husband for lunch.
At Pennar Point I was expecting a holiday camp. But Pennar Park turns out to be a new housing estate. The waterfront situation is attractive, but you would have to enjoy industrial views, since the most striking features of the landscape are my old friends – the power station and oil refinery – sitting just across the mouth of Pembroke River.
From the end of the Military Road, I was hoping to follow a public footpath into Pembroke Dock, but it turns out to be horribly overgrown. So I follow alternative paths that wind in and out of bushes, and take me doubling back through the golf course.
Unusually, I don’t see a single ‘Beware of golf balls’ sign – and don’t realise I am walking along the edge of a green, until I hear a ‘thunk’ sound and a ball lands a few yards away! It’s the closest encounter with a golf ball I’ve ever had.
Beyond the golf course there’s a short distance of road walking until I arrive at the waterfront of Pembroke Dock. This old structure is called the Gun Tower, but is marked on my map as a Martello Tower. It’s a long time since I’ve seen one. (There is another one nearby, but my route has bypassed it.)
I follow the road around, past a park area, and past a wonderful patch of verge which has been deliberately planted with wild flowers. They’re beautiful.
After a steep climb up a hill, I arrive at the imposing structure of Cleddau Bridge. This is my route across to Milford Haven.
Last night, my husband and I drove down a side road to a pub called the Ferry Inn which nestles just under the bridge and close to the water. We had a meal to celebrate our wedding anniversary. 35 years.
This morning I’m sticking to the high ground and walking over the bridge. Cars are queuing up to pay at the toll booths. But walking is free! The views are wonderful. I look across Pembroke Dock and recognise the 5 towers of the power station and the taller chimneys of the oil refinery.
Half way along the bridge I meet a cyclist. He seems to be carrying his backpack the wrong way round, so that it dangles in front of him like a pouch. Only a weird man would do this. The weird man happens to be my husband.
He’s been for a bike ride to Milford Haven and beyond. This afternoon he must return to Lincolnshire, but before he leaves he’s going to deliver my case (by car) to my next B&B. We confirm where we will meet for lunch. Like the pub last night, the lunchtime pub is also called The Ferry Inn, or the Ferry House Inn, but it’s on the opposite side of the water.
There are actually two bridges I need to cross, the second one takes me over a river called Westfield Pill and is much less impressive than the first. Below is an extensive marina.
At the end of the second bridge, the coast path doubles back and dives down into a wooded section just below the bridge. The turning is easy to miss. The walk through the woods makes a welcome change from road walking, but I’m soon back on tarmac again. This is Neyland.
I walk through an area of parkland, where I stop for a drink and a rest. It’s another beautiful, sunny day – and I’m hot and tired. And hungry! But I resist having a snack because I’m only a couple of miles away from the pub.
There’s a good view back to the Cleddau Bridge. It’s not exactly elegant. Functional.
I head down to the waterfront and follow the road. The houses are strung out along the shore, pastel coloured and pretty.
My husband has already arrived at the pub, but walks back along the narrow road to meet me. The pub is in a lovely situation, with a great view up the estuary, and no sign of the industry that surrounds us.
After lunch, my husband leaves for his long drive home. I wait for a while, because I’m still feeling tired and there is no need to rush. I’ve only got 3 more miles to go.
The path takes me around the edge of the oil refinery. I enjoy the views over the water, and watch this large ferry setting off. There are regular sailings between here and Ireland, and this explains why I’ve heard a lot of Irish accents in Pembroke.
There is little evidence that I’m walking alongside an oil refinery. The path takes me through woodland.
And only occasionally do I catch a glimpse of manmade structures.
Above are the blades of wind turbines. I’ve never passed so close to a turbine before and I know that people who protest against them get angry about the noise. So I listen out, but it’s not too bad. Just a regular whumping noise. Quite soothing really.
And every so often I have to cross over a battery of pipes, via metal bridges. The open grill work beneath my boots is a little unnerving.
I guess the high fences on either side are there for safety reasons, but they do spoil the view.
One of the joys of coastal walking is, in my opinion, being able to look across the water at landmarks that are familiar from previous walks. So I enjoy seeing the 5 towers of the power station.
After a couple of miles along the shore, the path turns inland, through fields. I feel refreshed after my extended lunch break and make easy progress. It’s gone 6pm, but the sun is still warm and I very much enjoy this section of the walk.
I follow quiet lanes and cross over another estuary. This is Castle Pill. The pastel houses overlooking the mud are newly built and have fierce warning signs to deter intruders. Shame. Not exactly a friendly-feeling place.
I go down to the shore, where a slippery footpath looks inviting. But I’m not sure if it’s a dead-end, so I turn back to follow the official route, which take me along quiet roads and lanes. The sun is low and I walk in shadow, unable to take photographs.
After climbing a steep hill, I realise I’m in Milford Haven. There is an extensive green area, sloping down to the water, with paths and benches. It’s very pretty. I was expecting a busy industrial town, so I’m surprised.
I’m tempted by an ice cream van, but I’m still feeling full from lunch. There’s a bandstand and a few pieces of sculpture, including this tribute to fishermen.
Then the road goes down and I reach the marina. It’s a proper working dock with fishing boats as well as yachts.
It takes me some time to find my B&B – The Heart of Oak – which is hidden down a side road. Once upon a time it would have faced the water, but now a cluster of rather ugly metal warehouses spoil the view. Still, it’s a nice place and very cheap. The bar has resisted modernisation – except for a large screen TV and a pool table. My luggage is waiting for me.
Miles walked today = 16 miles.
Total along Wales Coast Path = 379 miles
Total distance around the coast: 1,986 miles