Little Haven looks different this morning. The tide is out. Good. That means I should be able to walk along the beach to Broad Haven, thus cutting out a mile or so of road-walking.
Beyond the narrow strip of Little Haven is a wider beach, called The Settlands. It seems only accessible at low tide and is deserted except for a family with a kayak. The young teenage boy refuses to allow his mother onto the kayak with him. She shrugs her shoulders and walks off looking hurt and angry.
At the end of Settlands beach I come across a barrier. It’s an outcrop of rocks with waves washing around its base – and I can’t see a way of getting through to Broad Haven.
With an hour to go until low tide, I waste a bit of time taking photographs and even manage a self-portrait. Here I stand, like King Canute in reverse, willing the sea to recede.
Only half an hour until low tide now, and still no dry sand to walk on. Perhaps this is as low as the water gets? How far is it to Broad Haven anyway?
Then two girls come striding along the beach. They wade around the edge of the rocks and disappear. I wait to see if they come back, but they seem to have made it through without a problem.
My reluctance to paddle is not due to any fear of water, but I am worried about continuing today’s walk with sandy feet. I already have a small blister on the outside of my big toe (a common site for me). And I don’t want any more.
I can’t decide what to do: either I take off my footwear and wade, or I turn back and walk along the road. Hmmm… If I spend too long dithering, the tide will rise again, cutting off this beach from Little Haven, and then I’ll have to wade anyway!
Off come the boots. Off come the socks. The sea is cold but very refreshing. I realise I’ve walked along many beaches on my coastal trek, but always wearing shoes or boots and I’d forgotten how wonderful it is to walk in bare feet, with the feel of soft sand beneath my soles and the tug of gentle waves around my ankles.
Broad Haven is just ahead.
I wash my feet clear of sand in one of the rock pools, and use my jumper as a towel. It’s awkward balancing as I put my socks back on, and then my boots, but I manage it without getting covered in sand again.
I spend some time walking along the beach and climbing among the rocks on the far side of Broad Haven. It’s a pretty and popular place, dotted with families enjoying their summer holiday.
From Broad Haven, the path climbs up to the top of the cliffs and continues onwards. I take a photo looking down at this family group, who are taking a photograph of themselves among the rocks.
The next section of path is easy – a gentle stroll in bright light above a blue sea. St Brides Bay is a beautiful place and today there is no haze to spoil the view. The rocks below me have delicious names: Den’s Door, Sleek Stone, Black Point, Settling Nose, Ladder rock.
Two or three miles further along is the next beach. Druidston Haven. (Every cove around St Brides seems to be a ‘Haven’.) Down goes the path, almost to the sand, and over a stream, and then up a very steep slope on the other side, where steps have been placed to ease the climb.
I meet several people walking along this section, both casual strollers and some serious walkers with backpack. In fact, this week is the busiest I’ve ever seen the coastal path – although it’s not exactly crowded!
The next beach is Nolton Haven. It’s another narrow inlet with rolling waves, making it a great place for surf boards if the waves were high enough, I would imagine. Today it’s filled with body-boarders.
Beyond Nolton Haven and the path winds through a more rugged landscape, following the slope of the cliffs. The prominent rock is called Rickets Head.
Coming around the headland and I get a great view along a stretch of sand. This is Newgale Beach.
I was anticipating a long walk down the 2 miles of beach, but the path down to the sands is closed. A sign warns of rock falls.
So I must stick to the top of the cliff instead. I walk past an old brick chimney, the remains of a colliery which extended under the sea and was closed over 100 years ago. My feet crunch on fine black pebbles. Coal?
The path begins to slope gently downwards as the cliffs drop towards the north end of the beach and give way to a shingle bank.
I was planning to walk a little further, but the weather is so warm – and the view so inviting – I sit myself down on the grass and have a drink and a snack. Half and hour passes before I decide I must get going again.
I come down onto the shingle bank at the top of the beach. I assumed this was artificially created as a barrier against flooding, but later I learn the bank is entirely natural. There is an excellent article about the area on Countryfile.
As I walk along the beach, the tide begins to come in at a pace. Holiday makers are forced to retreat and must squash themselves into the available space at the top of the sand.
I lie down on the shingle – using my backpack as a cushion – and relax in the sun. After a few minutes I will carry on, I tell myself…
Some time later I wake up. It’s 4pm and still warm, despite a fierce breeze blowing off the land behind me. The sandy part of the beach has entirely disappeared under the waves. Most people have gone home. Only a few families remain and, like me, are sitting on the shingle. A group of teenagers arrive, carrying towels and boards. ‘Where’s the beach gone?’ they ask each other.
I feel intensely relaxed and happy. I could continue further if I wanted to, but at this point – when everything seems so perfect – I decide to end my walk for the day.
Miles walked today = 8.5 miles.
Total along Wales Coast Path = 428 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,035 miles