Day 089: Pembroke to Westdale Bay
Distance: 28.55 miles
Ascent: 9436 feet
Weather: Overcast, Breezy
Accommodation: Wild camp Near Westdale Bay
I woke early but so as not to get behind wrote yesterdays diary this morning and by the time I had packed was a bit later than I had expected. Then a mixture of me faffing, Jen having kindly provided the biggest breakfast spread ever and playing with little RJ meant I didn’t set off as early as hoped but I was on my way not long before 9.
The forecast for today was good, and as I would be camping tonight and meeting Jen and Rob again tomorrow night I had decided that I would walk as far as I could (hopefully an hour or two more than schedule) to extend today in the dry weather which would shorten tomorrow allowing me more time to spend with Jen and Rob as well as doing admin. The late start hadn’t helped but that was still the plan.
The day started heading down Pembroke High Street, before crossing the Pembroke River where there were stunning views of the castle from the bridge. This was the birthplace of King Henry VII who was the first Tudor king.
The first part of the day was not particularly interesting, firstly winding through Pembroke Dock on pavements with the path not following the coast presumably due to the actual docks. The path follows the side of the main road, where it crosses two very high bridges the Cleddau Bridge and the ‘Neyland’ Bridge. Once across the second bridge the path leaves the road and follows an interesting path that follows the top of the valley tucked behind the garden fences of the outer houses of Neyland. The path slowly drops down to the river edge, where there is a great view back to the Cleddau Bridge.
From here the path followed the small coastal road for a couple of kilometres to Hazelbeach which made for very quick walking. Something which I hadn’t noticed from the other side of the river yesterday was the vast quantity of tugs, maybe 10 of the larger ones and similar quantities of the smaller ones (I think the smaller ones are just to push sideways.) I suppose with the amount of oil ships they need a lot of these.
From Hazelbeach the path becomes a ‘proper path’ for the first time of the day, as it heads up the hill and skirts the seaward edge of a large oil refinery. These paths around industrial plots can be quite interesting both seeing the stuff inside but also the intriguing routes the paths have to take and with a refinery this include getting you over or under all the pipes that go down to the jetties. The first couple of these were bridges, and I think someone with vertigo would have struggled to cross these, as though not massively high the walking surface was gridded metal meaning you could see straight though it to the floor below and even for someone without vertigo it was a little disconcerting.
After the refinery the path heads inland to get to the Black Bridge to cross over to Milford Haven. The path signs were showing a different direction to my map, extending slightly further inland. I decided to follow my map route down the road and can understand why they may have now changed the path even if it is not updated on OS maps yet as there is a blind corner on a fairly busy road with no verge which could be dangerous but you are only on the road for 100m.
Milford Haven is one of those towns I found quite interesting. It is obviously an old industrial town, but unlike many others it still has a lot of industry around with the oil refineries and several power stations providing jobs, so does not have the same deprived feeling of other similar towns. In fact though not a picturesque town, I strangely found Milford Haven had a certain charm even though it would not be my choice of place to live or holiday.
From Milford Haven the path climbs up before skirting another large industrial plot, again I think an oil refinery. Before the path drops down to the beautiful sandy haven, cleverly called Sandy Haven. There were stepping stones marked on my map and as it was low tide I should be able to cross, on arrival it was actually a concrete fording bridge and as the tide was low made a very simple crossing point.
From this point the route got very scenic, following the lowish cliffs passed a few beautiful coves, before dropping down to a small beach at Monk Haven, which based on its large stone wall must have defended a castle or fort or something like that, though there is nothing evident on my map.
After climbing back onto the low cliffs I was soon descending back down to the beach near Dale where as it was still fairly low tide was hoping to cross at a ford, and as I was approaching the area I wondered if this may be uncrossable but as I came to the edge of the embankment there in front of me was what looked like a fairly new wooden bridge (still low so more of a bridging ford) which was just a couple of inches above the water so I had made it just in time and got across quickly and after a short walk across Picklreridge and along the lane I was in Dale. A picturesque, coulourful little village but with a pub, restaurant, craft event and seemingly lots going on.
I did not stop in Dale as scheduled based on what I said above and as it was only 4:30 had a couple of hours in which to push on. I have only done this a couple of times but the walking always seems easier once passed scheduled point as each step now feels even more like a step gained today and reduced from tomorrow. I headed along the path along the now high cliffs, passed Dale Point and around St Ann’s Head where there was a lighthouse and an impressive presumable Coastguard Tower that had been converted into holiday accommodation I think. After this the path flattened out for a while along the cliff edge and I made speedy progress. At 6 I started looking for pitch spots, as up on an exposed cliff, with bracken covering the ground not always the easiest place but after 30 minutes at Great Castle Head, the site of an old now non-visible fort I found a perfect/dramatic little spot which would hopefully protect me from the strong winds forecast tonight.
So even after a late start this morning a very successful and interesting day, and I have gained about 5/6 miles, which will hopefully reduce tomorrows walk by a couple of hours