We’re back at Musselwick Sands, this time exposed by the lower tide, and we’re joined by J for the day, on a tour of the Marloes peninsula. Still the cold wind blows, ostensibly from the west, though it’s actually turned a corner on its way here, and comes from the Arctic.
The path pushes westwards over tall indented cliffs, past Hopgang, East Hook and West Hook, until it descends to Martin’s Haven, a narrow but sheltered inlet where boats leave for Skomer and elsewhere. In a wall the National Trust has repositioned an early Christian stone inscribed with a ring-cross Celtic ring-stone, a reminder of the sea-links that bound these so-called ‘remote’ western shores together. The car park seems quite full, but no one can be seen on the east side of Skomer. The far west of the peninsula, facing Middle Island, was walled off by the St Brides estate as a deer park, shooting and overeating being expected behaviour of the owners. Buffeted by the strong winds we conquer the highest point, where there’s an old lookout, and then do a circuit, with fine views towards Skomer and, further south, Skokholm. We can’t see a reason why the deer park isn’t counted as part of the coast path.
Back at Martin’s Haven we follow the path south. After the bare deer park the flowers resume: gorse, thrift and kidney vetch. We nestle for lunch in one of the three ditches of an ‘Iron Age’ fort and agree that life here in prehistoric times would have been nasty, brutish and short. It’s unlikely that as Iron Age individuals we’d have survived to the advanced ages we’ve all reached, and very unlikely that we’d have lunched on salad sandwiches, apples and chocolate covered bars. Despite our efforts the wind finds its chilly way into the ditch, and we’d be reluctant to exchange our Gortex coats for a few ragged prehistoric sheepskins.
Soon we’re parallel to Gateholm, a slug-shaped island running out from the coast. At low tide it’s accessible, but now there’s no way to reach it, and we walk past, ignoring this time its prehistoric remains. Beyond lie Marloes Sands, a long stretch of sandy beach backed by a tall curtain of near-vertical yellow cliffs. We’re tempted to walk across the sand – a young man with a baby strapped to his back strides on to the beach, in what must be a toughening-up experiment – but there’s no obvious escape at the far end. Before the bay ends, on flat land at the top, run traces of two long runways. Sheep graze the grass that’s recolonising their frayed concrete edges. The aerodrome was built during the Second World War, and the area has other evidence of its existence: drowned gravel pits at Pickleridge, and the two neat rows of service houses facing each other across the central grass valley of Dale.
We leave the path at Westdale Bay to cross the grassy isthmus to the village of Dale, along what’s called, Dr John the geologist tells us, the Ritec fault, that extends east beyond Dale along the waterway of Milford Haven as far as Tenby. Today it also acts as a duct for the westerly wind, channelling blasts of cold air into the village: we can understand why its houses cluster at either end of the bay, leaving the centre empty.