111. Hafan San Ffraid (St. Bride’s Haven) – St Anne’s Head
Distance: 12.24 miles
Max Altitude: 80 m
Min Altitude: 9 m
Height Gain: 302 m
Height Loss: 273 m
It was mid morning when I set off from St Bride’s. Next to the beach here is a church and also a non-obvious building. I stepped inside to discover that it’s a pump house.
I discovered that it had been built in 1904 to provide fresh water to St Bride’s Castle. This is an imposing building and had been visible to me most of yesterday (though I have failed to get a decent photo of it with my phone). The water comes from a nearby spring and amazingly the engine and pump are still in working order.
Satisfied that I had learnt something, I started walking.
As ever, there were wild ponies grazing. This beauty kept me company and accompanied me across a field.
One thing I’ve noticed over the last couple of weeks on the Wales Coast Path is an upsurge in fungi. This one had grown to the size of a palm tree (no, really).
I began seeing oil tankers out at sea, an indication that I was nearing Aberdaugleddau (Milford Haven) and Doc Penfro (Pembroke Dock).
As ever, it was pretty idyllic on the trail. I couldn’t believe the colour of the sea, a purest turquoise.
I looked back at my day’s progress so far. Not bad. Incidentally, that black dot below is not a bit of grit on the lens but a divebombing bird. The birds in these parts don’t muck about, I tell you.
I was flagging. Luckily though, the hedges were brimming with blackberries. My progress slowed as I gorged myself on fat, tangy berries every few metres. A much needed sugar boost.
I got to Martin’s Haven around lunchtime. Boats to nearby Skomer Island all depart from the small jetty in the photo. There were none leaving today due to rough seas. I had visited Skomer in my teens whilst on a biology field trip. I saw puffins, seals and all manner of wildlife. I suddenly wished that I could visit again. I felt that it would happen soon, somehow.
As I walked up the road, I noticed this strange-shaped stone jammed into the wall. A nearby inscription said that it was discovered in 1984 in the foundation course of the Victorian wall. The ring-cross stems from the 7th to the 9th centuries and more than 30 have been found in Pembrokeshire. The speculation is that it marks a prayer station or burial location.
My guidebook had alerted me to the presence of Lockley Lodge, a small visitors’ centre also selling refreshments and the like. I was hungry and looking forward to eating. But as I strode up to the building, I saw that it was shut. When was it open again? April 2017. Oh.
With my belly complaining, I decided to walk into Marloes in search of grub.
Here I am.
After walking some two miles down the road I got to Marloes.
I made a beeline for the Lobster Pot pub and practically inhaled a cheese and onion baguette. I was the only person in the pub. I also had my shoes and socks off in order to try to get some life back into my trotters. Sometimes, needs must.
I picked up some supplies at the shop on the way out of Marloes and got on my way.
Just as I was leaving I got a message from Terry to tell me that accommodation was all sorted for the evening. A very kind man was welcoming me into his home on St Ann’s Head. Excellent, I thought.
I found a bridleway and eventually got back on to the Wales Coast Path. The route took me across the disused Dale airfield. This was one of eight airfields that were built in Pembrokeshire during the Second World War. It opened in June 1942 and for a year operated Wellington bombers of No. 304 (Polish) squadron. They flew on convoy protection missions as well as bombing raids on ports in occupied France. Back in Marloes in the church, there is a roll of honour to the Polish aircrew who served here.
Looking at the satellite image, Dale has a pattern of three intersecting runways in a triangle. This is impossible to discern from the ground, of course. I found myself walking down one of the runways, and ended up on the cliff edge looking out towards Skokholm island. I was the only person around for miles.
The views were, as always, spectacular.
As well as the runways, there was evidence of other buildings too. A quick look on Google showed me that buildings such as accommodation blocks were sited on farms and other areas well away from the airfield as this offered better protection from enemy action.
I wanted to stay and explore further. But I had to push on. Needless to say, it has been added to my return list and I also have a lot of historical reading up to do on it too.
When I got to west Dale beach I was amazed at the scale of the landslides that have occurred there.
I possibly should have taken advantage of the fact that I was the only person in the vicinity. But I needed to get to St Ann’s Head.
How perfect is it here though?
For quite some time, these wild ponies followed me as I made my way along the trail.
At one point they began galloping together. I could have filmed them doing so but I just absorbed the scene with my eyes instead. Soon they were silhouettes on the horizon behind me.
St Ann’s Head was looking stunning in the late afternoon sunlight.
I was so happy to see the lighthouse in the distance. I had almost reached my destination for the evening.
I was given the warmest welcome imaginable at The Officer’s House by Frans. Over dinner that evening we discussed the local history, politics and architecture amongst other things. I can’t thank him enough for opening his fascinating house to me and being so hospitable.
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