Day 088: Freshwater West to Pembroke

Distance: 19.52 miles

Ascent: 4310 feet

Weather: Overcast & Sunny Spells

Accommodation:Millstone RetreaT


I woke up and straight away knew something was up as I have got used to the sound of my tent canvas just slightly flapping in the breeze in the mornings but there was no sound at all this morning. Which meant either there was no wind at all (unlikely) or my tent had frozen completely solid for the second time of the walk. As expected it had frozen though no issues with anything else this time. But as I was in a dip in the dunes the sun wasn’t going to reach the tent for a while, so was going to have to take it down still frozen. This was harder than expected as all the pull tighteners had frozen solid meaning they wouldn’t loosen without first being rubbed for several minutes and the tent was so solid the canvas retained its shape even after everything had been removed. So I carried it up to the top of the dune and into the sun for 10 minutes by which time it was malleable enough to fold up.

My hands now frozen I was happy to be ready to set off. On walking out of the dunes with the hazy morning sunshine, the stunning backdrop of Freshwater Bay and the scenic path ahead the frozen tent saga was soon behind me and I warmed up quickly, and I also gained signal for the first time since early yesterday afternoon allowing me to check some shop/food options for today which were limited.

I really enjoyed this first part of the walk up to West Angle Bay, on the narrow winding path with great vistas out onto the sea and stunning little valleys/coves, though it was incredibly steep with almost continuous ups and downs.

The path descended at West Angle Bay, and as expected the café was shut, so I carried on and not long after I came to Chapel Bay Fort & Museum which appeared to be opening and on checking their site they were opening today for the first time of the year at 10am and had a café. It was 9:50 and I had no real food options open for another 12 miles, and due to the leaving food issue yesterday was very low on supplies so decided to wait. At 10am I went in and was there first customer of the year and it is volunteer run and they weren’t quite ready, but I waited about 30 minutes and then they were able to serve me. I got a jacket potato, that was great though did strangely come with a side serving of potato salad though I was happy to wolf that down as well.

Fully replenished I continued on and soon reached Angle, where across the bay the Pembroke Oil Refinery was dominating the skyline. The path completely flattens out and follow a nice track around this bay before beginning to climb as it skirts the seaward side of the oil refinery for several miles, though once actually close you can’t see the refinery itself but the plethora of large ships either depositing crude oil or receiving refined oil (not sure if that is the right phrase) was interesting to see.

After the oil refinery the path takes an inland diversion this time skirting a power station, at this point the path became quite muddy and on passing a little farm I was followed by a little Jack Russell until the gate where there was a sign saying ‘Do Not Let The Dog Follow You’, I was not really sure what I could do to stop a dog following me but luckily he stopped once I had gone through the gate.

There was one steep climb before suddenly I came to a herd of sharp horned cows that had smashed through their gate and onto the path. It was a quite narrow section of path with a little drop on one side and then a river, and the cows (maybe 15 of them) between me and my gate. But I could actually see another hiker (the second of the day) just 100m the  other side of the gate so presumed he had got through easily enough, so I picked up a stick and went for it. The first two cows moved away but then the next couple did the opposite and started slowly towards me and then suddenly much faster and I had to jump down the bank and had unclipped my bag ready to drop if necessary. At the bottom of the bank I had the option to jump in the river if need be but my jump down the bank had given me a few seconds (as the cows hesitated getting down the steep bank) and I quickly darted down the now slight gap in the side of them before they started running after me and made it the 25m or so to the gate.

On catching up with the other hiker (Gareth) who was looking for the path, it turned out the same thing had happened to him and he had had to go through the river getting his feet wet and then climb over a barb wired fence to get to the other side of the gate, not what I had assumed just casually walk through.

He was walking in the same direction, so we walked together for the 3 miles or so to Pembroke and he offered me a hot cross bun which went down very well. It’s always nice walking with other people. There were no incidents on this stretch, and we were soon in Pembroke where we went our separate ways.

Jen, Rob & little RJ had driven down from Derby to Pembroke and had kindly booked a little flat for us all in Pembroke. It was great to see them and we had a great dinner and they had got me a great hiking inspired birthday cake which my photo below really doesn’t do justice to. I will be staying with them again on Sunday which will be nice.

So a cold start to the day, but barring the cows a lovely trek with varied scenery and great to have the Houghton family this evening.

charles compton