St Bride’s Bay – part 1

Thursday 16th June – New Gale to Nolton Haven and back again

Total Steps: 14,532 – 7664 steps on the trail 6,868 off the trail

Total: 6.6 miles 3.5 on the trail, 3.1 miles off

Running Total: 30.4 miles – 20 miles on the trail, 10.4 miles off

I woke up a bit later than usual – the sun was shining and it was pleasantly warm (19). By the time I had driven to New Gale, I was not setting off on the trail until 10:15. I have decided to start proper on the next section around St Bride’s bay – there is a short piece to join up the trail from Porthmynawyd but I have a cunning plan to address that on the day I do the boat trip and when the tide is out on New Gale beach! I have also moved onto the South Pembrokeshire map!

Anyway I set up a touching point, with a puffin sign on the toilets of the car park. I managed to get the parking app to work, which was pleasing and set off initially on the road above the beach at New Gale as the tide was in! It was a bit sad to see the café at the third car park firmly shut (what with that and the café of choice (Sands Café) in New Gale being a building site!), it is all a bit sad to see.

The section on the road was OK and easy going, but a bit dicey with a narrow road, encroaching stones from the beach, and passing cars. I was glad initially to divert off on the cliffs when the path emerged after about ½ a mile. This proved to be a bit of a false joy. The path started to do the up and down thing, with amplification – so the descents got deeper, ascents higher and the path trickier. It was good to be walking towards Ricketts head rock, which is very visible when walking on New Gale beach. The third descent (and one with 2 path options as one was so badly eroded) came out by a disused mine shaft, which I remembered seeing before. It was along the path after that I met a woman and her son. I remarked that the path was very up and down, and she said – the worst is still to come!

As I had just completed another ascent, I found some crab claws on the path (not sure if this was a bird or human intervention but it must have been a big crab!) Sadly, the woman was right, as I reached the point directly above Rickett’s head rock, I realised the only way down was a very precipitous slope and with a lot of loose gravel on the surface. I took a phone call part way down, confirming tomorrow’s boat trip – weather permitting, which was more than a little surreal. It was slow progress but eventually I stopped for a late morning coffee to restore my equilibrium near the foot of the rock.

I carried on and eventually this taxing path turned down into Nolton Haven. I found a bench to sit on, and contemplated what to do. I was not happy to go back the way I had come. This had been my initial plan (and to walk back on the beach near the Mine workings). So a cunning plan b was hatched to walk back on the road. I used the available facilities, and had a snack and used the bench as the touching point for the coast path.

After a steady ascent back, this turned out to be an Ok choice. Eventually I had lunch on a bench in a national trust car park, which was more scenic than it sounds. And the views down to the beach (where the tide had now gone back out) on the second leg on the road were good.

Friday 17th June – Nolton Haven to Harold’s stone and back again

Total Steps: 16,833 – 8438 steps on the trail 8395 off the trail

Total: 7.6 miles 3.8 on the trail, 3.8 miles off

Running Total: 38 miles – 23.8 miles on the trail, 14.2 miles off

After an early night, I was up with the lark to be ready for the 8:30 boat trip from St Justinian’s. The wind had got up overnight, and sadly just after 7:20am I got the call to say the boat trip was off. The wind direction (south easterly) was the problem, and it turned out with the way the weather went this was all for the best. I have rearranged to Tuesday – so fingers crossed for that!

Had a more leisurely coffee and then set off for Nolton Haven for the next leg of the trail. I am being a bit hampered by the absence of the Puffin Shuttle, so will have to do a circuit back to where I parked. It was not possible to use the car park app, as there was no phone signal in Norton Haven. I was on the trail climbing out of Nolton Haven shortly after 9:10am, having connected with the touching point I left on the bench by the car park. The stiff breeze was notable and I had set off without my fleece on (a first) as the air temperature was warm (about 19). The views around the first headland were good, and I looked down on a set of ladies having an early swim who I had seen in the car park. Apart from a few very well maintained steps, it was easy going into Druidstone and the path dropped down to behind the beach. The tide was well in!

It was then abit frustrating as the lovely Druidstone Hotel (which I have frequented with Jane in the past) owns the land, so the path goes up to the road and winds round a big section of cliff with views down to the beach. Eventually, after a section up on road, then a path parallel to the road, the path finally cut back across the headland to the coast from the road. This then joined a section I have been to with Jane suitable for disabled access which runs above Haroldston Chins. I had a coffee stop here and took in the fantastic views. It was beginning to cloud over, and the fleece went back on and stayed on!

I decided to do another mile on the coast path – which was very easy going to connect with a path back at the Harold stone. All in all this whole section of coast path had been the least challenging but nonetheless very scenic! I soon got to the turning point, and used a coast path footpath sign as the touching post. The path I had identified turned out not to exist, so I had to do a slightly longer back route on the road.

This included a stop at St Madoc’s church in Haroldston West (which was a hamlet with a handful of houses). The signs in the porch say it all. I availed myself of the bench in the churchyard and contemplated.

I descended and rejoined the road past the Druidstone Hotel, and then back up after passing a very ‘ecofriendly’ property with magnificent views. By now it was damp in the air the sea mist/low cloud were very much in evidence. I walked past where they hold Nolton Haven drive in cinema – no evidence of any showings any time soon! I was soon winding back down into Norton Haven, where the car was.                       

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