Pembrokeshire National Park Coast Path.
Finally, I had a clear sunny day with no other commitments to begin my walk of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and we set off in the camper van to the most northerly point and beginning of the walk at St Dogmael’s. Reading up about the trek beforehand I was aware that to do the whole section from there to Newport would be rather a rash start – described as the most taxing and needing about 8 hours!
St. Dogmael’s to Ceibwr Bay
Arriving at St Dogmael’s about 10.30 am on a lovely autumn Sunday, my plan was to walk as far as Ceibwr Bay, which would be more realistic and still a challenging 6 or 7 miles. This section takes you to the highest point on the path at 575 feet or 175 m and is notoriously varied in the number of steep inclines and drops.
We agreed on a meeting point at Ceibwr Bay or the woods near the garden centre depending on a good place to park the VW campervan, and Cwtch the collie and I set off. Initially the path meandered along the estuary from St Dogmaels to Poppit Sands and then climbed along the lanes up to the youth hostel and Allt-y-goed farm and campsite, before joining the coastal track at the Cemaes Head Nature Reserve. The lane is long and winding and very steep in places, so I very soon realised I was maybe not as fit as I had hoped and stopping to take photos and remove layers was very welcome! Cemaes Head is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and has spectacular views across Cardigan Bay and beyond. – I was intrigued to overlook the site of the famous legend of Peregrine and the Mermaid.
By this point Cwtch had accepted that we would not be turning round to find Ken and she was raring to go on and explore more – the heather and gorse, sunshine and warm wind made this headland a very pleasant stroll after the struggle up the hill. As I went on round the headland, it was easy to see the need for warnings about the narrowness of the path and its proximity to the cliff edge – definitely not advisable on a day with poor light, rain or wind turbulence. I decided that despite the protests from my lungs, I preferred the steep inclines with Cwtch adding some leverage on her lead to the slippery muddy slopes down. She is a very good dog and quickly learned to wait for my clambering down to join her on the very muddy sections if I said “steady, steady”! There were several stiles, gates and bridges on this section so not for anyone without some degree of fitness.
Walking with a dog on the coast path
I met a lovely international group from the US, Canada, Norway and Australia on their 13th day on the path , about to finish later that day and a few others in ones and twos. Cwtch waited for them to pass as the track is very narrow and was rewarded with plenty of pats and cuddles. It was worrying to see one dog off a lead rampaging all over the cliff edge – hopefully the owners thought twice about this as three of the people I passed had commented on this! There were only one or two spots wide enough to take a break and sit down for some water and a snack, but so many stunning views and the OS points and names on gateposts make it easy to follow your progress on the map or in a guidebook.
A sense of achievement and enjoyment!
My personal highlights were the incredible geological folding in the cliffs and hearing the seals calling to each other above Traeth y Rhedyn, having a kestrel pass within inches of my eyeline and the panoramic views right along the coast as far as Fishguard. Less appealing was a section where much of the vegetation had been burnt away and an extremely boggy, slippery path down to my meeting point at Ceibwr Bay – I could see the benefit of a walking pole. By the time I got down to the beach, Cwtch was desparate to enjoy a paddle in the stream by the stone bridge. And I was glad to see Ken, who had just arrived and to walk the muddy track through the woods to the campervan for a cup of tea!
It was about 2pm so I think I had done pretty well , having just stopped briefly for a drink twice, to check the map and text Ken! I felt very exhilarated and looking forward to the next section when time and weather permits. I had a few aching muscles the next day, but no blisters and felt I had done about enough for one day. Cwtch was pretty tired and muddy too, but we had had a great day together.