This is another two-car day. I attempt to park Car 1 in Marloes outside the Lobster Pot pub. The landlord, a middle aged man with a surly look, raps on a window, then unlocks the door and shouts across to me that this is not a public car park. I explain that we’re customers, or at least intend to be so once we come back. Would he wish to turn away our business? ‘They all say that’, replies the irritable man, insisting that the car is removed. I retreat with good grace and park instead outside St Peter’s Church further up the street. St Peter must surely possess more charity than Mr Lobster.
Car 2 we leave in Broad Haven. We try to walk across the sands to Little Haven, but the tide has already beaten us and we have to retreat and take the road. On the brow of the hill we pass a grim gothic stone building labelled (long ago, in scrawly white capitals) the ‘Haven Fort Hotel’. Norman Bates kept a cheerier place for travellers than this (to be fair, it’s been closed for some years). In 1977 the then owner, Mrs Rosa Granville, wrote to her MP, Nicholas Edwards, to report seeing an ‘upside-down saucer’ and ‘faceless humanoid’ creatures from the hotel. Mr Edwards called in an officer from RAF Brawdy, who unfortunately could find no evidence to confirm Mrs Granville’s sighting.
We decide instead to have coffee in a café at the centre of the village. On a television mounted on the wall Jeremy Kyle insults ordinary people and induces them to insult one another. In these parts the ordinary people live in and take holidays in Broad Haven. Little Haven is older and more picturesque, and its neat houses seem to be mostly expensive holiday lets and second homes.
After Little Haven the coast turns east and changes character again. The path still keeps high, but now wanders through deciduous woodland (oak and beech) instead of low gorse, and under the trees, their light green leaves just starting to unfurl, bluebells are in flower everywhere. We make a partial circuit of the Stack Rocks, a curious line of bare rocks that includes an arch. St Bride’s Bay looks like a rest home for old tankers: a series of them lie there at anchor, waiting their turn, maybe, in the Haven. And beyond the ships we can see the far side of the Bay. On its western extreme Ramsey Island smiles happily in the sun.
The trees run out and the path becomes more exposed. Gate after gate goes by. In this part of Pembrokeshire many of them have plastic plates carrying two pieces of useful information, the grid reference and the name of the bay or other feature nearby. Falling man signs continue. One of them departs from the style book that prescribes a vertical fate and has him falling obliquely to reflect the slope of the cliff.
We see St Brides from a distance, from the ‘castle’ that dominates the horizon. It’s a Victorian mansion, built within a vast estate enclosed by a tall stone wall, and was later leased by the Edwardes family, the Barons Kensington, as a country retreat. The family owned large estates in south west Wales but also in London, and engaged in property speculation, not always successfully, in the London land booms of the nineteenth century. In due course each Kensington retreated from the Castle to the graveyard of St Bride’s Church nearby. Three of them had huge pseudo-Celtic crosses erected over their graves. No doubt they all thought the social order that privileged them would last forever, but death duties put paid to their St Brides estate in 1920 and today their house is a property bond holiday home. The path skirts the outside of the huge estate wall. At its southern end the wall has had to be strengthened with frequent buttresses to prevent collapse.
At Musselwick Sands we leave the path and walk up to the road beyond Marloes. The village is English-style and attractive, with a clock tower, built in honour of the 4th Baron Kensington, and an eighteenth century hall. Inside the church is a rare (for Anglicans) baptistery for total immersion of the body. It’s clear from the leaflet about the church and its history that the rector is a broadminded, ecumenical sort. We put a coin in the collecting box in payment for our parking spot, and decide not to order a pint of beer each in the Lobster Pot. Instead, back at Dale, we eat at the Griffin, a pub with a wide and deserved reputation for its fish cooking, and for the friendliness of its owners and staff.