Pembrokeshire coast walk: day 1

May 5, 2013 0 Comments

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We start at Poppit Sands, beyond St Dogmaels at the mouth of the Teifi estuary: two men just on the wrong side of middle age, with sensible boots and full rucksacks.

A blustery wind blows, clouds rush in from the west, and it’s far from warm. C. and I have a single ambition: to walk to Newport without injury or mishap, as part of our six day effort to walk most of the Pembrokeshire section of the Wales Coast Path.

On some days we have ‘guest walkers’ to accompany us, but not today. This is one of the great walks of Wales – an encyclopedia of cliff landforms, an anthology of coastal wildflowers and a severe challenge to ankles and knees (total ascent = 2,821 feet).

We climb quickly to pass a gallery of high cliffs, twisted by huge geological forces to form synclines and anticlines, and drop to Ceibwr Bay for a sandwich stop, to the sound of the sea, a finch singing, and little else. Spring flowers line the route: anemones, violets, celandines, thrift and campion. Blackthorn blossom explodes and gorse burns.

The clouds lift and the sun moves in from the west. More cliffs, even grander and more contorted. Pwll y Wrach, a collapsed cave, appears on the left, and we pass over the natural bridge left between it and the sea. Seals play, hundreds of feet below. Signs warn us of sudden death, with a sketch of a man falling headlong from a cliff, surrounded by dislodged rocks.

At last, after several harsh ascents, we reach the vast expanse of Traeth Mawr. A bride on the beach, her dress ballooned in the wind. A wind surfer skates, turns in an instant, and glides in reverse. A quiet coda: a wooded walk along the river Nevern to Parrog.

‘Taxing’ is the guidebook’s description of this stretch, and aching tendons, strained thighs and general exhaustion suggest it might be right. But both of us have survived the fifteen miles. We drive back to our St David’s base fast, down empty roads. The land flattens, trees grow sparse and the outlines of strange serrated rocks loom. The light intensifies. This is the edge of the world.

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