This walk was oh so long ago during the tentative re-opening after the first wave of COVID. We all thought that was it but how wrong we were.
Anyway, finally got round to writing this in the hope that I may be able to head west to the Welsh coast soooooooon.
Heading out east from a sleepy Cwm yr Eglwys we arrive at a pretty little beach where a family are busy preparing to set out in kayaks.
And as I can’t remember much from this walk (it was 10 months ago), all I can say is that we follow the cliff up high and then dip down twice to two inlets Aber Forest and Aber Rhigian.
Damian poses for a pic on a wooden bridge at the first inlet …….
And as we get closer to a village called Parrog we walk across another – quite unusual bridge.
Just before walking down into Newport Sands we walk past a series of jagged rocks which a gang of young people are enthusiastically using as diving/jumping rocks. It looks a bit dangerous but one would have to assume they know the terrain and what lurks where under the surface of the water. Damian indulges in a bit of mansplaining.
Down we go, following the path alongside the estuary……………………………………………..
Walking into Newport Sands I hear the sound of sobbing coming from a young boy who is being led out of the water. I have no idea what was happening before this but all the children look pretty cold.
This has been a short walk because we are due to drive back to London today. Little did we know that it would be a VERY LONG TIME before we could even think of coming back.
Our taxi drops us off in the small hamlet of Cwm-yr-Eglwys (it helps if you say it quickly) – the ruins of the little chapel provide a photo opportunity.
Behind the church is quite a substantial boatyard, it’s obviously a popular place to sail from. A man and his son are cleaning their boat, the father enthusiastically but the son looks like he’d rather be somewhere else.
Anyway, up onto the cliffs we go, stopping momentarily to watch a couple in wetsuits and snorkelling gear circling around a spot at the foot of the cliffs. I wonder what they are looking for. The huge flippers they are using along with the rest of the paraphernalia make them look like creatures from another world.
The first part of this walk today involves circling a promontory named Dinas Head and after passing Needle Rock the path splits into higher and lower – we take the lower as it is closer to the sea and a short while later reach the cairn on the tip of the headland.
Time for some more photos…………………………
Is this a masculine urge to conquer I wonder?
On we go, spurred on by the possibility of tea and cake in a cafe/bar a few miles away at Pwlligwælod. Soon we are looking down on the very place where cars are parked and there are tables outside the pub and it’s open! But we have only covered a third of the distance to our destination so we do not dally.
………………and here’s a picture of a snail that slowly crosses our path. I have recently been exposed to quite a few snails courtesy of my granddaughter, who is fascinated by them. Usually it’s the pretty shells she loves but this one would probably be a reject – it looks like it’s been bleached.
The next inlet we walk down into is another Aber Bach – the beach is deserted apart from a small boat which lies upturned on the shingle.
Climbing from the inlet the path leads us up onto a tarmac lane which provides car access for anyone coming from the nearest village – Dinas Cross. At the top of the lane is a gate and standing by it is quite a striking woman in a bright red skirt. She is holding a bottle of water and looks like she’s waiting for someone. It turns out that her son is a marathon runner and is running today from Newport to Goodwick (and back again) – a distance of roughly 20 miles! The water is for her son.
From here the path gets narrower, winding up and down through tightly packed ferns. At one point I cannot see my feet anymore which is not ideal as it is so easy to twist an ankle.
…..and then it starts to get a bit muddy in places.
Walking along, lost in my own thoughts, I jump when I suddenly hear panting behind me. I look round to find an athletic looking young man in extremely tight running gear and bright trainers slowing up behind me. We say hello and then it strikes me that this must be the SON – so we stop to chat. It turns out he not only runs marathons in the UK but is also involved in organising them all over the world. He walks for a while with us but after we have walked for 10 minutes he’s off.
This is Damian and the SON walking through a camping site a couple of miles outside Fishguard. Apart from the usual caravans and tents, the site also offers stays in these lovely chalets with a wonderful view out to sea.
Soon Fishguard comes into view so we stop a while and watch a group of boys learning how to paddle a canoe. The trainer is encouraging them to stand up on their canoes and then sit down again without losing their balance. Most of them manage with a bit of wobbling but there is one boy who flatly refuses to do it.
Slowly we descend into Fishguard harbour, the tide is out so it doesn’t look very attractive and the high street has its fair share of boarded up shops and run down pubs. There have though been attempts to brighten it up and we did walk past a few art and craft shops.
Slowly we climb the steep hill leading to the upper town and the continuation of the path leading round the coast and then down to The Shack, the only open pub in Goodwick. It hasn’t been a very long walk but I am still on auto pilot, head down, watching my feet when the path opens up onto the busy main road that links Goodwick to Fishguard.
Damian starts to cross the road and like a faithful dog I follow without looking right left and right again. Suddenly a feel a rush of wind followed by a very loud, angry male voice shouting abuse at me as he misses me by a hair’s breadth on his super fast racing bicycle. Shocked I stand and stare into space, my heart pounding as he runs towards me apologising for shouting at me – I mumble something incomprehensible including the word “fault” but all I want is to sit down. He runs off and Damian gets me a beer. I have a feeling that for all the people sitting watching my dramatic escape, this was probably the highpoint of the afternoon.
We arrive at the woollen mill in pouring rain but the forecast does say it will clear up later – we decide to wait in the cafe. To ensure social distancing each table has to be booked while ordering which means less room for customers but a couple already seated on a large table invite us to share it. It turns out they are walkers so we chat for a while about walking in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Corsica, somewhere I would really like to visit. The rain eases off so we say goodbye and head down to the coast. The path runs past a pretty little holiday cottage, standing alone with only a 5 minute walk down to the beach.
………and here is the beach, deserted, unlike yesterday and where we turned right yesterday we now turn left and hobble over the pebble beach.
Soon we are up on the cliffs, with the sky clearing – this beautiful peacock butterfly is a morning treat.
We walk past another beach, a twin sister to the one we started from this morning. That one is called Aber Bach and this one Aber Mawr. And here’s a Welsh lesson , “mawr” means large and “bach” means small. I remember my Welsh grandmother used to use “bach” as an endearment when we were children.
The path is quite flat here and we make good progress, which is encouraging as my body is still smarting from the long walk yesterday. I look back occasionally to take photos of the cliffs, caves and small islands.
Eventually we reach Abercastle, a long thin inlet, busy with small boats, kayaks and paddle boards. Although Damian is keen to try paddle boarding it certainly doesn’t float my boat. First of all it looks like hard work and I also find the movements ungainly and not nearly as graceful as those needed to send a kayak whistling through the water.
We walk on, round a promontory – yet another Castell Coch (there are so many of these in Wales) – “coch” means red but there’s nothing red around here. Later the path takes us through a series of “pwlls” – small inlets ringed with steep cliffs and inaccessible beaches – or so we think.
Looking down from the narrow path above one of the the steep drops we spy a human being lying stark naked on the beach. Almost as if he could sense our presence the man stands up, puts his hands on his hips and stares directly up at us. There is some defiance in his stance which is curious as we are so far up we cannot see his face nor any bits and bobs he may have been wanting to protect from our gaze. How did he get down there? We scan the cliffs and gradually the pattern of a possible way down begins to emerge over to the right but it looks like a dangerous scramble. Seems like a lot of effort just to have a beach to yourself.
By now we are nearing the inlet that leads up to the village of Trefin. The path leads us to a stream running down to a stony beach. On the other side of the stream are the ruins of a water mill, the old grinding stone still intact. We rest for a while…
We are now not far from our destination but the sky looks dangerous. I really hope it doesn’t rain as I’m looking forward to a pint at the Sloop Inn and as Wales is on partial lockdown they will only be serving outside.
Above Porthgain are two navigation markers, the furthest away is a bit worse for weather but the one closest to us has definitely had a facelift. These would have marked the entrance to what once was a busy industrial harbour exporting slate from local quarries. The slate was cut into slabs by water powered mills and the waste was used to make bricks and road stone. Large brick “hoppers” dominate the harbour – these hoppers were used to store crushed road stone before shipment and are now a Scheduled Ancient Monument. I remember the first time I visited Porthgain almost twelve years ago that I thought these ruins may have been a prison which cast a shadow over my fish and chips. Now I know better.
Just as we reach the village it starts to rain – heavily. We summon our remaining reserves of energy to dash up to the Sloop Inn to bag us a table outside. We have two umbrellas with us and all our rain gear on so it’s not so bad. The rain dripping on the umbrella and the cold beer reminds me of camping which I used to do many years ago – it is almost cosy.
Having found a lovely BnB in Goodwick, we get a ride south to Tregwynt Woollen Mill – the plan being to walk back to Goodwick. The mill is in COVID mode, which means there are no tours of the buildings that house the looms but the door is open for a peek inside. You can also hear the chitter chatter of the machines busily weaving the most gorgeous blankets, clothes and cushions.
There is also a one way system through the shop to the cafe and the marked standing positions for queues make me smile.
After a cup of tea we head down a narrow tarmac lane and then turn off down a footpath through the woods to reach the sweet little beach named Aber Bach. There are a few people out sitting on the pebbles enjoying the morning sun. We turn right heading north on the cliff path. By the time we reach the cliffs at Pwllcrochan (a mile or so), the clouds are massing and it starts to look like rain.
…….but as is so often the case, as soon as I put my wet wear on it clears up. This is so infuriating as it is a struggle to dig into my rucksack, retrieve the waterproofs and then stand on one leg and wobble trying to get the trousers on. Anyway, there are greater challenges in life……
Sometime later the path seems to disappear into a steep pile of rocks but Damian insists he can see a way up, so scrambling it is.
At the top is a cairn and I add a stone, relieved to rest after my exertions up the rocky slope.
From here we get to walk on a wide flat grassy path through gorse and bracken – here’s a photo of me looking quite serious and hungry.
Looking at the map we realise that we still have a long way to go with limited provisions and that the path from now on is not going to provide any tea stops or food shops. Despite this we both need fuel so when the path leads up onto a tarmac road we take advantage of a bench with a view and eke out the sandwiches. On the other side of the road is a memorial stone to a well known (well not to me) local bard who wrote mainly in Welsh. A wiki tells me he won the crown at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 1926 and in 1929 he won the chair at the National – the first of an unequalled four wins. I remember exciting school trips to the Eisteddfod in Llangollen, particularly the colourful traditional dress worn by some of the dancers and singers.
We walk on……
Round about Trefasser the cliff and rock formations are really spectacular and even the small scattered “islands” all have names Ynys Melin, Ynys y Ddinas, Ynys Ddu, Carreg Ddu. I later look up what “ynys” means in Welsh and guess what – it means island.
The path now is still quite rocky and in places quite steep – another scramble.
And again effort is rewarded by another cairn topped with a dancer/shaman……………………..
We are now getting very tired so it is with relief we start to see the Stumble Head lighthouse in the distance. This is where we turn a corner and start the to head east back to Goodwick.
But from here it is still four or five miles back to our Bnb and it’s very hot…………………….
From here on I don’t really have any extra energy to look around me. All my strength and concentration is geared towards putting one foot in front of the other and not think about how thirsty I am. With one exception when we see a seal ………………..but even this is not enough to raise my spirits.
Eventually we can see Fishguard, Goodwick’s twin town, in the distance, so not far to go now.
……..and the unmistakable 910 metre long breakwater, made from 1.6. million tonnes of rock blasted out of the hillside.
Finally we meet the residential outskirts of Goodwick and hobble down the streets into the town.
As Wales is on partial lockdown the only place serving cold draught beer in Goodwick is “The Shack”, a wooden hut with outside space, on the other side of town and located on a busy main road. Do we care? Do we have the energy to walk there? Hell yes.
Last time we were here it was a very different day, heavy rain pouring from a slate grey sky. Today the sun is shining and the sky is a deep blue.
The first thing to catch our attention is the manoeuvring of a huge static caravan. We stand and stare for a few minutes. Now it may look like this video is upside down but if you click on it order will be restored. I need to also say that most of the photos here were mistakenly taken on the video setting (I have a new phone).
And then up onto the cliffs to start walking. Down below are a string of “havens” – pretty little coves and after a mile to two we reach Druidston Haven where this earth house built into the cliff greets us. A jogger who overtakes us tells us that the house has been named the Teletubbies house. It has a beautiful view over the sea and space to sit outside and eat. From the back it is very discreet.
There is now a short stretch on a tarmac road which leads past a gate and a path leading to a beautiful little roundhouse with a conical roof. The information board in front of the gate tells us that this is an eco cottage for short and long stays with no electricity apart from wind/solar and water heated SLOWLY by a Finnish fire (whatever that is).
The path now runs through a series of green fields and Damian gets a chance to chat to the locals.
And a mile on we are looking down on the long sandy beach of Broadhaven where holidaymakers are making the most of it with windbreaks and other beach paraphernalia – trying to ignore the grey clouds gathering ahead.
Unfortunately for us the tide is coming in so instead of walking along the beach to Little Haven we are forced to tramp up the steep hill on the road and then down into the village where our car is parked. The reward is a freshly caught lobster brioche which we eat on the seafront. This has been a short walk to close the remaining gap in this area. Tomorrow we are off further north to join a few more dots.
It’s another deep blue sky day as we set off from Little Haven, a village which definitely lives up to its name. Damian spots a little shop selling fresh lobster brioche but that will be tomorrow’s lunch – we have just had a hearty breakfast.
The path follows the road for a while up a steep hill and then branches off to the right, up onto the cliff top. We walk and walk and at some point this stone arrangement appears – what does it mean? There is a bare path in the grass in front of it and I wonder whether this was where the stone with the hole used to lie. Anyway, we stop to catch our breath and drink some water – that’s the trouble with cooked English breakfasts, they are very salty.
We now follow the coast path over the cliffs, beautiful wild flowers on both sides, red campion, fox gloves, heather and in places ox daises – this flower catches my eye, no idea what it’s called but I love the delicate threads of the bud it has sprung from.
Our next breather is St.Brides, a small village presided over by its castle, which you can just about see on the skyline. It was built in 1833 and is apparently a well preserved example of Scottish baronial architecture. It is set in 99 acres of parkland and the coast path runs parallel to the stone walls which mark its boundaries. From the internet I discover that the building has been renovated to an extremely high standard “providing the discerning holiday maker with a choice of stylish and comfortable apartments and cottages” .
Leaving the village behind we climb once more up onto the cliffs where we come across these beauties. Edible? I don’t think so somehow.
The day seems to be getting hotter and hotter and once more I berate myself for not researching some summer walking shoes. It really is too sticky for heavy leather boots.
Another beautiful beach then appears – the bright blue water so inviting.
Around the next corner we find an unorthodox way of getting onto the beach as there doesn’t seem to be any alternative. I make my way trepidatiously down what the OS map calls the Black Cliff – the steps carved into the rock make it easier but it is a bit of a scramble half way down
The water is gloriously cold and refreshing and there is plenty of time for a spot of sunbathing. Or so we think…………….
Lifting an eyelid I suddenly notice that the tide seems to be coming in quite quickly but when I mention this to Damian he tells me to stop worrying. Ten minutes later I believe i have reason to be worried so I head off left to the other end of the beach where the water is further out and plenty of people are still lying on the sand. I then scan the cliffs for another way up but no – we will have to go up the same way we came down. Walking quickly back to base I explain the situation to Damian who still does not seem worried even though the water is now gently lapping his walking boots. Now convinced that we will soon be trapped I grab my things, paddle through the shallow water around the rocks and leap up on to the boulders leading up to the path. Every man for himself!
Reaching the top of the cliffs I look back and see quite a lot of people now hurrying to reach dry land and eventually Damian appears with his boots in his hands. What I can’t understand is that the people on the other part of the beach are making no move to leave – do they intend to stay there until the tide turns? Who knows?
After all that excitement I sit down to wait for Damian and take a picture looking back on the beach – the map tells me this is Musselwick Sands so we don’t have such a long way to go before we are reunited with the car.
…..and here we are, the beach at Martins Haven again.
Thanks to our taxi driver, who has obviously dealt with coast walkers before, we agree on a plan to drive our car to St. Martin’s Haven and meet him there. He would then drive us back to Dale, where we finished yesterday and we would walk back the 12 miles or so to our car.
Climbing up out of the morning stillness of the village, the tarmac lane leads us upwards past a small house with some strange wood carvings stacked up outside – this one recalls some of the nightmare images of Francis Bacon’s work.
Up through the coolness of the woods we climb, it is already hot, shouldn’t grumble, it’s a beautiful day.
Just before Dale Fort Field Centre, the path veers off to the right and when we emerge from the woods we can see what look like more beacons ahead. We are approaching West Blockhouse Point.
From here we follow the cliff path, past a group of pretty white ponies who are totally disinterested in us and on to St. Ann’s Head. (I have a new iPhone and the setting must have been on video by mistake)
The road here goes past the squat little lighthouse and the row of lighthouse cottages, which I believe are summer lets. They all look empty, which is unsurprising as Wales is still on lockdown and there are very few tourists around.
A short while after St.Anne’s Head I begin to flag and we stop for refreshment – a 2 day old banana has never tasted so good. We continue, past Frenchman’s Bay, then Welshman’s Bay – what no Englishman’s Bay? And to the point, where if we wanted, (but we don’t) we could give up the walk and take the road across the neck of the peninsula back to Dale. I would now like to point out that HERE there should be a photo of Dale Castle, standing back from the coast and surrounded by green fields. This photo should be on Damian’s camera. But I cannot find it – so there you go…..
Here’s a picture of its beautiful little bay instead.
The path now follows the cliffs, past signs of a disused airfield off to the right, until we turn the corner at Hooper’s Point and look down on the long stretch of golden sand that is Marloes Sands. Should we swim? I am so hot and sweaty that a dip sounds heavenly but I have no costume with me and do we have the time? After a bit of deliberating we take the plunge (as it were) and walk down the steep narrow path to the beach.
We find a suitable pile of rocks to call home, rip off our clothes down to our underwear and walk determinedly into the freezing cold water. My screeching attracts the attention of a couple with their two kids frolicking nearby – they look quite shocked. The father laughs and shouts out that after 20 minutes the water will feel almost warm – five minutes is enough for me but it is wonderful!
Energised, we pound along for the rest of the walk until we reach Martins Haven and our car. On the beach below a knot of people are gathered who tell us that, due to Covid restrictions, the boat that normally takes visitors across to Skomer Island to see the puffins is still sailing, but you can’t get off the boat onto the island. We make a mental note to come back next year in June and do the trip.
The tide tables website for Sandy Haven has been sitting saved on my computer screen for months, winking at me every time I sit in front of my laptop. Finally, I get to use it so when we turn up at 12 noon the tide is out, allowing us to get across the narrow estuary instead of a 4 mile walk around it, mostly on roads. There used to be stepping stones here but health and safety regulations have been at work and the stones have been replaced by a wide concrete path – bit of a shame.
Leaving the muddy beach behind we turn left and climb up through woods up onto the cliffs. We pass Little Castle Head, the sight of an ancient fort and then Great Castle head which sports a beacon of some sort – maybe for navigation?
It is hot and although I know that this will be a short walk I already feel tired – perhaps due to the long drive yesterday from London. We have also not been walking since March, pre-Covid, pre-new grandchild and myself in Denmark for 4 months.
Well – it is a beautiful day and the views are beautiful, particularly the deep rust red of the cliffs.
…………and vibrant purple of these flowers that line the path.
At Monk Haven we are faced with a high and low road and Damian decides to ignore the high tide route and take his chances on the beach – I follow although not entirely certain that this is the right choice. But all is well and we soon come to Musselwick after which the path swings upwards to circumvent an area of marshland and we cross a long gang plank over the muddy ground of the Gann river and carry on down into Dale.
Dale hosts a cafe and pub/restaurant so, as it is relatively early, we opt for a cup of tea and a Welsh cake. Covid restrictions mean a long wait in a queue but the village is busy with people taking off and arriving in boats, kayaks and on paddle boards. The pub’s clientele are packed along the sea wall clutching pints, while children in wetsuits swarm around their parents’ legs demanding attention – there is a lot to entertain us.
Unfortunately neither of us remember to take a photo of the village. ……..sigh.
Out of the station at Hoylake we walk down towards the sea and follow the edge of the very marshy beach towards West Kirby. Out of all the birds described in the information board below I think I could recognise the sanderling (because of its scuttling gait), the oystercatcher (due to its red beak) and the curlew (again long curved beak and mottled feathers). I may be getting better at it but there is a long way to go.
Soon we are faced with a choice of walking along the beach or the road – we take the “beach”, winding our way around and through large patches of soft sand and water. It doesn’t take long.
And pretty soon we are in West Kirby……………..
Not many ice-creams being sold today but people are out enjoying the sunshine……but hang on a minute……………… is this nondescript seaside town on the Wirral the site of unreported miracles? Are they walking on water?
Well no – it turns out there is a concrete path circling what is in effect a marine lake – we give it a go. It is not quite a Biblical experience but definitely peculiar and curiously liberating.
The windsurfers get very close ………….
After this bit of excitement the path leads us down onto a long straight forest track through Wirral Country Park. Not much happens apart from trying to dodge families of cyclists out for the day and I fall into that meditative plodding motion which helps me through uneventful stretches of walking. The sun is warm on my back and it’s lovely to hear birdsong – I’m happy.
However, after about 4 miles of this, both of us are gasping for a cup of tea so we hail a group of people to ask about cafes in the vicinity. The directions are a little vague (or were they too complex for us to remember?) and it takes another mile of residential streets before we get to the turn off for Parkland where pubs and cafes have been promised.
The town is very busy on this Sunday afternoon and we walk up and down the street for a while trying to find a cafe with space for us – in desperation I plump for an ice- cream.
And just as I am taking my first slurp we are lucky enough to grab a table from a couple who are just leaving the cafe next door. From here it’s all downhill – we miss two busses (standing in the wrong place, my fault, and unreliable rail replacement busses). The rainbow over Neston station is the only uplifting moment of an hour waiting in the cold.
Damian has gone to a football match in Sheffield – he hates football but it is an opportunity to meet up with a friend. So, I walk back to the ferry terminal and then head north past the Royal Liver Building. This is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city of Liverpool and is home to two fabled Liver Birds that watch over the city and the sea. Legend has it that were these two birds to fly away, then the city would cease to exist.
I am actually not looking forward to this walk as the map shows a long slog along a main road (A5036) through what looks like real industrial docklands. This brick wall follows me for a mile or two and I seem to be one of the very few braving the pavement.
I then walk past what must be one of the ugliest buildings in the country – can’t really work out what it is. I cross the road and scuttle past, preferring the intimidation of the brick wall, which at least allows me periodic glimpses of the docks and river.
At one point the wall merges into stone and opens out into a small landing stage – some brave people have organised a kayak trip on the water.
I walk on, avoiding piles of kerbside litter, through rows of shuttered shops and abandoned dockside pubs. In places, an influx of small businesses have appeared, taking over empty buildings, breathing new life into the area.
This one catches my eye – what on earth do they produce?
And later I walk past what I’m told is the Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse – a grade II listed building and the world’s largest brick warehouse. It is currently being renovated to create, yes you’ve guessed it, luxury dockside apartments.
……..and just up the road, if your visitors need somewhere to stay ……the gorgeous Titanic Hotel.
I am by now getting very hungry and although I do have a few sandwiches, the lorry loaded road and industrial landscape do not offer up any suitable place to sit and eat. I am also coming to the end of the road where I have to turn right before the start of the container docks, which I am very glad I don’t have to walk through.
There then follows a tiring trudge up another main road, where I am forced to hide from the traffic in a bus shelter and bolt down one of my sandwiches – is this really coastal walking? I ask myself, not for the first time.
Anyway, at one point, I decide to forgo the delights of a two lane highway and the stench of gas from Seaforth Dock and turn off left through residential streets.
After a while I end up on what I assume to be Seaforth High Street which is really the stuff bad dreams are made of. Every other shop is shuttered closed, although the bargain booze and bookies show signs of life. There are not many people around and those that are seem to sport the same grey pallor. The road is thankfully short with a brutal cut off at the end, consisting of one more busy main road and railway line. I long for some open space and head decisively west to pick up a trail around a lake which then merges with Sefton Coastal Path.
At last, a horizon…………
On the path around the lake stands an information board which illustrates how far Seaforth has fallen. (I do hope no-one reading this post lives in Seaforth or knows anybody who does) The story is that in 1903 Seaforth Radio was established as one of the first wireless stations in the world for maritime radio communication. It also boasted the first school for the training of wireless telegraphists – one of whom was Jack Phillips, a senior radio operator on the Titanic, who remained at his post on the ship and consequently lost his life. Poor Jack………
From here I follow the trail along the promenade, and then on the beach to take another look at the Gormley sculptures. I first saw these back in 2103 when I walked from Crosby Beach to Southport. It seems so long ago…………………….