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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

stile styles

stile, n. a step, or set of steps, for climbing over a wall or fence.

Wherever we walk in UK, inevitably we have to cross stiles on our route, and Pembrokshire was no exception! On this trip we came across many different styles which Tom models in the pictures below.

The simple stile. One step, a couple of rails, and a post to hold on to.

The Dog Stile - a simple stile, with the added feature of a dog gate that is operated by lifting the plank as shown by Tom.

The Stone Stile - we didn't see many of this type in Pembrokshire. In this stile, the steps are build into the wall of stone

The Useful Stile - stiles are ever useful as a seat when the ground is damp or for when one needs to adjust their boots.

The Lookout Stile - useful for when the bushes impede one's view.

The Kissing Gate - this is not really a stile, but is a closely related cousin and serves the same purpose of a stile.

The gate - again not a stile, but this conventional method of accessing the next field (albeit with a fancy lever closure) was also common sight in Pembrokeshire.

Fishguard to Strumble Head

This morning we packed our bags and left the hospitality of Mrs Evans B&B. We were moving on further south to tackle the sections of Coast Path between Fishguard and St Davids. After the heavy rain of the night before, today we started with beautifully sunny skies. It would be a pleasure to walk, though this time we were burdened by our packs. Despite the seemingly ruthless packing process, they were still a bit heavy!

The first leg of today's journey was by bus, covering the ground that we already walked yesterday down to Fishguard. From there we joined the coast path and huffed and puffed up the hill at Goodwick. It was slower today, but enjoyable because of the the lovely day. The start of the walk was quite easy and soon we were back to the spectacular views of the coves and headlands both behind us and ahead. Soon we can across more seals (approximately 20 on the first beach) and then more... and more... and more. It was amazing, so we stopped quite a lot. Most of the time we were well above the beaches on top of treacherous cliffs, but at one point near Strumble Head the trail came down very low to the beach, and had we wanted to, we could have walked on to the beach and seen the seals up close. We left them be though, not wanting to disturb the pups any more than we were from a distance.

At Strumble Head we called it quits for the day's walking... the feet felt like they were being ground into the dirt with the weight of our packs. So we passed the time waiting for the "Strumble Shuttle" bus by sitting in the bird hide (an old military fortification) and watched through the binoculars the porpoises jumping in the waves.

The closest B&Bs we could find for the night were at Trefin, since unfortunately the Pwll Deri youth hostel is closed on Tuesday nights. But no matter, the Strumble Shuttle took us there and Pen yr Olmarch was a lovely B&B... quite luxurious for us grubby trekkers!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Newport to Fishguard

Monday morning and second day on the trail... feeling every muscle in my body after the previous day's 24 km. Task for today was a 20km walk from Newport to Fishguard via Dinas Island. The walk started off with us exploring the other side of Newport which we had not previously seen. It's a very nice town, and some cute little cottages available for weekly rent... must keep them in mind for the future.

As we passed through the edge of the village we saw fishermen actually catching fish (and releasing them), and beyond that a surfer who was struggling because the waves were'nt moving fast enough! The water was quite calm, and the sky was overcast and dull, though it was not cold. Just then beyond the surfer Tom spied a black fin... was it a shark or a dolphin? It proved to be not one, but at least 3 bottle nosed dolphins which frolicked about for about 5 minutes and then moved on to who knows where, not to be seen (by us anyway) for the remainder of the day. This was the highlight of the day!

We coped with the walk today, but it seemed more difficult as we were still suffering a little from the day before. Also it was windy... very windy, and by the end of the day we really needed to get indoors out of the weather. After reaching lower Fishguard we had a quick refreshement at The Ship whilst waiting for our bus, and then caught the bus back to Newport.

That evening it rained, and rained, and rained. Mrs Evans kindly dropped us down to the town so that we could get some dinner. Tonight was a very good choice of "authentic" welsh Indian food at the Royal Oak. We were well satisfied!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Poppit Sands to Newport

Today, the first day on the trail, we were keen with anticipation. It had rained heavily in the night, but in the morning it started off sunny... though with the sort of clouds that lloked like they would produce rain at any moment. Mrs Evans, our very obliging host at the B&B, drove us up to Poppit Sands, the start of the trail, about a 20 minute drive away. What have we got ourselves in for, I'm thinking in the car. The drive up the coast was quite a long way. Would we make it back by nightfall?

Today was supposed to be the hardest day on the trail. If we could make the journey back to Newport today, we should have no problems with the remainder of the trip... or that was the theory anyway. The weather was quite fine when we reached Poppit Sands, though the threat of rain remained. With the wind blowing strongly though, the weather, neither good nor bad, would not stick around for long.

The walk started off pretty easily. Gentle uphills on a small farm road which in turn became a footpath and passed through the fields above the farm and camp site up to Cemaes Head. Keen to make progress, we didn't hang around at the head for long, and kept along the trail. Stunning cliffs more than a hundred metres high were to our right as we made our way along the narrow path. The wind was off the ocean, so whilst there were some strong gusts, there was not much chance of being blown over the edge. Around the next bend we came to an amazing sight - way down below on the gravelly shores of Traeth y Rhydyn beach was a family of seals with several young fluffy white pups - they were difficult to see, but binoculars proved we were not imagining it. But this was not the only wildlife we saw... soon we cam across mushrooms larger than dinner plates and a toad that was seemingly unthreatened by our presence.

Shortly afterwards a rain shower christened the new gortex jacket, but it didn't last long and soon we were on our way down to Ceibwr Bay, the last road exit (and get-out option) for the day's walk. Beyond it we would have to continue all the way to Newport Sands. Which is of course what we did!

No sooner had we started off in the direction of the Witches Cauldron, a spectacular blowhole, but the second rain shower of our walk cam in. Out came the rain jackets for their second airing. This time the rain was quite heavy, so Tom started looking for shelter. There's not much of that to be found on the coast path and the best he could find was under a small footbridge crossing a stream. After 5 minutes sheltering (slightly reluctantly, not wanting to be the next victim of a flash flood and be washed over the edge of the cliff path) I emerged to check the weather and already the sun was starting to come out, so again we were on our way. This part of the walk was lovely. Lots of ups and downs, but not too difficult.

Part way along the final section of the train we came upon some tiny woolly ponies that were sitting amongst the bracken. Making good time we reached the headland above Newport Sands when Tom spied a huge seal wallowing in a pool at the base of the cliff - amazing! I hadn't seen a seal that big before! Newport Sands proved to be a lovely beach - wide and open, sun shining and few people around. If only our feet weren't so tired (we had completed 24 km walking in 7 hours), we would have spent more time walking along it. Still though, there is the trek up the hill from the village to the B&B... and then down and back again for dinner! Let's have a drink at the Pub first!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A week in wales

0845 - Paddington Station, London
Well here we are aboard the 0845 FIRST Western train to Swansea - minus one trekking pole (the last minute search proving fruitless). Hopefullly we remembered everything else... though we already know we left the sunglasses behind (optimistically thinking that they may be important)! Well fed from the Cornish Pasty Company at Paddington, we spent the remainder of the morning reading the paper and watching the sunny skies of London cloud over on the westward trip. At Swansea we changed trains for an uneventuful trip up to Fishguard Harbour. There were plenty of sheep and green rolling pasture to admire through the hazy windows of the train.

1337 - Fishguard Harbour, Pembrokeshire
How do we get out of this station? Seems the assumption is that all passengers will board the ferry to Ireland or similar. But not us - we're here to walk the coast path from St Dogmaels to Sta Davids. The way out of the station was in fact rather easy we found... no real need for a sign pointing the direction as you just walk along the platform in the direction of the town.

Accommodation for the night is a B&B in Newport, a day's walk north of Fishguard, so the bus named the "Poppit Rocket" (for Poppit Sands, the start of the walk) was our planned mode of transport. During Summer (to end September) this excellent service ferries walkers to all the main access points of the coast path 3 times daily in each direction along the path from Poppit Sands to Fishguard. There are also sister buses named Strumble Shuttle, Puffin Shuttle etc that cover other sectors of the path. (Find out more about this service on http://www.pembrokeshiregreenways.co.uk/default/).

Unfortunately it was a bit tight to make the 1400 bus to Newport, especially since Fishguard town lies a good 20 minute walk UPHILL from the Harbour, so we took our time and settled into the Royal Oak Inn, apparently famous for a French surrender after their abortive invasion in 1797, the "Last invasion of Britain". Here we sort out our plans, read maps and play with the camera, but mostly we enjoy our "Brains " (bitter).

Later as we went for a walk down to Lower Fishguard (down a big hill) we realise that there is another bus - #412 which goes to Newport every hour, so keen to get to our day's destination, we take the next bus.

Newport seems a pleasant sort of town, but before doing any exploring, we wanted to get rid of our packs. So onward to our B&B we march... up the hill about half a mile to the welcoming Craig-y-Warw. The first of many trips up that hill!