Day 087: Manorbier to Freshwater West
Distance: 22.00 miles
Ascent: 5840 feet
Weather: Rain Morning, SUnny Spells Afternoon
Accommodation: Wild camp Freshwater West
The forecast for today was terrible, with rain forecast all day. Whilst having breakfast the rain was torrenting down, but fortunately it stopped as I was about to leave. So, after a good breakfast I was ready for the off. Or I would have been if I hadn’t had a niggling suspicion that I had forgotten something. I went through everything in my head and it appeared that everything was present, so I left. The path started off as it meant to go on with lots of ascents and descents, with the first large descent taking me down to Manorbier Bay where there was one surfer trying to catch what appeared to be non-existent waves. Once down in the bay there was a lovely castle a few hundred meters inland.
Just as I was climbing the hill out of Manorbier I realised what I had forgotten, my giant chorizo & salad baguette I had prepared last night. Normally this would just be annoying but with no shops today it was a bit more of an issue, as I had made the baguette for dinner with the assumption that I would grab lunch at the only option which was a National Trust Café at Stackpole Quay. After thinking it through I decided that I had enough calories for dinner in my bag but just not what would normally constitute a meal (nuts, oats, chocolate) which would have to suffice this evening and I would still have lunch at the NT café (I considered getting something to carry from the NT café but no real portable option other than tiny sandwich.)
Well sandwich issue over, the path continued with its nonstop climbs, through absolutely stunning scenery, before dropping down to Freshwater East, which is a lovely beach. There is a little shop here in the caravan park which I thought was closed today and upon checking it was. I had been fortunate to remain dry until this point because a couple of heavy showers had passed some just to the north and some just to the south but I had evaded them, though my luck had run out and it started to rain fairly heavily. The path climbed up out of Freshwater East, and after a few more climbs I reached Stackpole Quay which is lovely, it is a very small quay with one boat actually moored in it, and also the location of a lovely National Trust Café where I had my lunch.
The next part of the walk I had actually done before about 5 years ago when a group of us stayed in a little NT cottage in Stackpole, around the same time of the year, and I have really fond memories of that little trip. The path heads up and over a little hill, before on passing through a little archway Barafundle Bay appears before you, it is a lovely beach strangely often voted in the top ten in UK and sometimes even the world though it would probably only just make my top 10 on the walk so far, that’s not to say it’s not lovely though. There had obviously been a few families around based on the large drawings in the sand, which were far more artistic than our effort 5 years earlier.
After climbing out of Barafundle Bay the path flattens of for a while, following the line of the shear rocky cliffs with their numerous coastal birds, before a climb down to Broad Haven, where you have to head up the river a short way to cross at the bridge. Broad Haven is stunning and I think I prefer it to Barafundle Bay due to it’s interesting features; rock formations, meandering river and dunes as well as sand. The rain had fortunately stopped and unlike what was forecast it did not properly rain for the rest of the day.
Still with a long distance to go, I did what turned out to be the last proper climb of the day out of Broad Haven, and up onto the edge of Castlemartin Firing Range. Normally mid-week you can’t access this area and would have to divert inland, but when I checked on my rest day it stated the range was open presumably due to Easter, and on arrival the red flags were not flying so I proceeded.
The path follows a gravel track through the range and after a couple of kilometers passes the location of St Govan's Chapel, which is precariously placed down the bottom of a crag in the cliffs. I have been to this before and decided to not climb the steep stairs down with my backpack, but can definitely recommend climbing down if you are on a walk as the little chapel is very quaint and in a great setting.
The next part became a bit monotonous on the gravel track through the military range, with little changing for about an hour and a half even if the views and landscape were nice. I did though see what appeared to be a smallish unexploded ordinance. I was very happy to reach the little carpark which signified that the path was turning inland. I passed a little church which appeared well preserved in amongst, by the looks of it, a ruined hamlet, I think it is called Flimston.
After turning left the path reaches Castlemartin, before passing Gupton Farm. This is now a National Trust Farm and campsite but for some weird reason it appears not to open till 1st April, after the bank holiday, and they didn’t respond to my email to see if they were open. So, I carried onto Freshwater West which feels very remote, even though there were a few cars parked up, and I found a lovely little pitch amongst the dunes.
My dinner as stated earlier was a bit bizarre but plenty of calories to keep me going and tomorrow I will restock up on supplies. The next 5 days are quite jam packed with friends, family and babies in abundance with the walk carrying on around them. I am really looking forward to it.
A day where rain had been forecast all day, though I was fairly lucky getting a fair amount in the morning (though nothing to hard), and almost none all afternoon allowing me to dry out before pitching. So, a good day, with lovely scenery and bought back good memories.