124. St Ann’s Head – St Ishmaels

124. St Ann’s Head – St Ishmaels

Distance: 7.2 miles

Max Altitude: 58 m

Min Altitude: 1 m

Height Gain: 210 m

Height Loss: 225 m

 

It had been almost a fortnight since I had last walked.

To cut a very long story short, I had been fortunate enough to meet a retired consultant on St Ann’s Head, who was on holiday from London; this was all courtesy of my kind (and worried) host, Frans. When I told the consultant my symptoms (which I shan’t go into here for fear of boring you to death) he was very concerned and told me to see a doctor pronto. So off I toddled to my GP, who then dispatched me to the hospital for tests. They found my brain, my heart and a few other defects, but fortunately, nothing that can’t be helped with a series of injections and tablets. I will need some further investigations when I finish my hike, but all in good time…

Whilst all this was happening, I also caught some kind of fever, had a birthday and slept an awful lot.

Still shattered (and on my much-lamented rubbish feet) I decided to return to the trail in order to finish what I had started, and to hell with any medical conditions. Hurrah!

And so I found myself back on St. Ann’s Head on a beautiful Pembrokeshire day complete with blue skies and crisp sunshine. My welcome was complete when this fellow came to say hello. The Wales Coast Path just wouldn’t be the same without a bovine or two.

I fed the cow some grass and got on my way, past the lighthouses on St Ann’s Head.

It’s hard to believe that this is where the Sea Empress disaster happened in 1996. This entire coastline was awash with black oil for a long time afterwards, but twenty years on there’s no trace that it ever happened to the naked eye. Nature is amazing.

A short walk and I arrived at Mill Bay. In 1485, Henry Tudor arrived in this very location, with his 55 ships and 4000 soldiers landing at nearby Dale. Just two weeks later he defeated Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth Field to become Henry VII.

I struggled to imagine the scene here and wondered whether Henry got his feet wet coming ashore. He must have, I concluded.

My next destination felt very personal to me. I knew that my grandfather was stationed at St Ann’s Head with the Royal Artillery at the beginning of the Second World War. But I didn’t know much more than that, other than the fact that he operated the search light.

This bit is known as West Blockhouse Fort. The site is now derelict but there’s plenty of evidence of the buildings that would once have stood here, including concrete gun emplacements, bunkers and so forth. I imagined my grandfather here as a young man. I felt sad.

 

I continued on towards Dale. On the way in to the village, I walked past a series of driftwood sculptures by local artist, Sean Kehoe. I was impressed.

I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon to be walking. The sea was calm at Dale and the tide was low.

It was a short walk across the Gann from Dale, which saved me a lengthy detour inland fortunately. I arrived at St Ishmael’s, my stopping point for the evening. I had managed more than seven miles under foot despite not feeling the best. All in all I was pleased and ended the evening with a smile on my face.

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