Whitesands Bay is my starting point. It’s a dull day with showers forecast. The beach was crowded last time I was here in August, but now it’s empty. I’m well wrapped up – beanie hat against the wind, waterproof jacket, fleece, etc.
I see a solitary walker standing on one of the headlands.
Above me the clouds begin to thin, the wind drops, and the sun comes out. I’m soon warm from the effort of walking and strip down to my tee-shirt.
Despite the towering presence of Carn Llidi to my right, it’s an easy path towards St David’s Head. The bracken is already changing into autumn colours.
St David’s Head, when I reach it, is a bit of an anti-climax as it consists of a gently curving promontory of rocks and grass, with no obvious centrepiece. Realising I am about to turn a corner and leave some familiar landmarks behind, I take a self-portrait with Ramsey Island in the background.
The photograph takes some time to set up because, although there are plenty of stones around, none of them seems to have a flat surface. Thinking I am alone, I swear loudly to myself while trying to find a way to balance my camera – and am startled when a couple stand up from behind a pile of rocks (to the right of the photo above) and give me curious looks!
Onwards. The path winds across heathland. The colours are lovely.
But I’m approaching the tall hump of Carn Pemberry. And my easy walk is suddenly about to become difficult. Very difficult.
The path plunges up and down for a while, and then starts to climb up the steep side of the Carn. The way is narrow, littered with loose stones and large blocks of uneven rocks. In some places I must use my hands to scramble up, thankful that my new boots seem to have a good grip.
I’m not alone. Groups of walkers pass me, many older than I am, most carrying heavier packs, all of them sweating and grunting with effort as they climb down.
At this point, I begin to feel very unwell. Perhaps I’m unfit – having not walked properly for a month – and perhaps rather weak from a new diet I’ve put myself on. Also the walk is hotter than I anticipated. Anyway, I find I’m struggling with the slope, getting both short of breath and, more worryingly, beginning to feel horribly dizzy.
I sit down on a large rock. Then, feeling very faint and realising I might fall off my perch, I slide down onto the ground beside the rock. The view from my resting place is beautiful…
… but I am really concerned about my physical condition. I’m not going to be able to get to the top of the climb. Actually, I’m worried I won’t be able to stand up again, never mind walk anywhere.
I drink some water and begin to chew on a few snacks – with difficulty because I’m now feeling nauseated as well as faint.
Meanwhile, several groups of walkers trudge up the path and, when they see me sitting with my back to my rock, compliment me on having found a perfect picnic spot. If only they knew!
The rest, food and fluid seem to do the trick. The faintness recedes. But I force myself to sit still for 20 minutes, before I try to stand up. On my feet I still feel wobbly. But at least I can continue. Slowly. Stopping every few yards for a rest. Grateful to lean on my walking pole.
It’s such a relief to reach the top. The view ahead is wonderful.
From here the walking is much easier, although my pace is slow. And the landscape changes, becoming less rugged with the path often following the edge of fields.
When I was walking here in August, I was very disappointed by the lack of seals – which I put down to the intrusive presence of swarms of kayakers. So, I’m delighted to see several seals lying in a cove below. The pups are easy to spot – bright white against the grey stones – while the mothers are more cunningly disguised.
I’m feeling much better – although my pace is still very slow. Seeing the seals has cheered me up. But I’m unusually thirsty and stop for a drink, then realise my water bottle has been leaking.
Oh no! I’ve nearly finished my water, with miles left to go.
So I’m pleased when I come around a headland and see a small beach in the distance. That must be Abereiddi Bay.
Unfortunately, my map shows no pubs or cafes in Abereiddy, which is a tiny place, but I know from there I will only have another 2 miles to walk before I reach the next village, Porthgain, where there definitely is a pub.
I check my map to make sure of the distances, and suddenly realise there are public toilets in Abereiddy, and I might be able to fill my bottle at a tap – if the toilet block is open, and if it’s drinking water, of course, and it may not be. (Now I remember I intended to buy some water purification tablets, but forgot.) Or perhaps I will see somebody who lives in one of the cottages and they will agree to fill my water bottle?
Onwards. Luckily the next stretch of path is straightforward, following the top of cliffs most of the way, except for one dip down into a small cove – called Aber-pwll, I think.
As I get closer to Abereiddy, I see something that makes my heart sing. A white van. Could it be an ice-cream van? Or a mobile refreshment van? Or – horrible thought – will it turn out to be just a holidaymaker’s camper van?
I lose sight of the beach as the path winds through vegetation and then ends in a quiet road. But, just a few yards down the road is Abereiddy and – yes – it’s an ice-cream van! Thank goodness.
I buy a can of coke and a bottle of water. They are both cool and taste delicious. I sit on the beach, drink the can and the bottle… and feel much, much better.
Abereiddy was once the site of a large slate quarry. When the quarry was abandoned, 100 years ago, a channel was blasted through a side wall, connecting the quarry pit to the sea. The water flooded in and the resulting pond is called the Blue Lagoon.
The rocky cliffs around the lagoon are beautiful. Great jagged shapes, and full of colour. Golden reds, purple greys, and vivid splashes of green vegetation.
Leaving the Blue Lagoon behind, I continue along the coast path. Between here and Porthgain are three fingers of headland, enclosing three coves.
Traeth Llyfn is the first cove I come to. It’s a pretty beach, backed by high cliffs, and I’m surprised when I see people walking on the sand.
I wonder how they managed to get down there, until I see a metal staircase set into the cliff.
Beyond Traeth Llyfn are two much narrower inlets – Porth Egr and Porth Dwfn. No people here, just more seals. I watch as a clumsy mother makes her way, slowly and apparently painfully, over the rocks to reach her white pup.
Cliffs tower above the seals, and are plagued by some noisy black birds. Red beaks and red legs. They must be choughs!
I’m surprised the RSPB regards choughs as amber-list birds. I’ve seen a great many around the coast in Pembrokeshire.
This area used to be busy place when the slate quarries were active. Dotted around are reminders of lost industry – such as these ruined brick buildings, for example.
It is late afternoon and the sun is slanting across the fields. I love this time of the day. The light is warm and clear, while patchy clouds cast slow-moving shadows, adding to the drama of the landscape. I stop and take far too many photographs.
Ahead it appears I can see all the way around Cardigan Bay. While in the near distance, two strange towers – one painted white and one of grey stone – mark the entrance to Porthgain.
[Later I realise the large hump in the coastline ahead – visible in the photo above – is Dinas Head. This will be the highlight of my walk when I reach that part of the coast.]
Porthgain has a narrow inlet and its small harbour is protected from the onrush of waves by a harbour wall. Unfortunately the light is too low, and the cliffs too high, to take decent photographs of the harbour, but the village is lit up with sunlight. And, most importantly, I can see a pub…
My husband is waiting for me. I’m late. He is a bit annoyed because he’s been there for 40 minutes and has only just ordered a pint. Why did he wait so long without a drink? I don’t know.
I drink a slimline tonic instead of my usual cider (because I’m on a diet) and we sit outside and enjoy the last rays of the sun.
Low points: feeling weak and wobbly on the steep path
High points: the views, the seals and their pups.
Miles walked today: 11 miles
Total along Wales Coast Path = 460 miles
Total distance around the coast: 2,067 miles