Gentleman Cyclist

June 16, 2018

Castlemartin East

Filed under: Wales,Walking — admin @ 10:54 pm

The last time I came to this part of Pembrokeshire, some four years ago, we tried to walk along the Castlemartin ranges and found that they were closed as they are monopolised by the sodding military. I didn’t anticipate being able to walk them this time, so had mentally written them off. However, some late research indicated that the eastern part of the range is open to the public at weekends. I went on to discover that the western part, which is normally closed, is open on a limited number of days per year and that this Sunday is one such day. One has to join an official guided walk, with a ranger from the Welsh Wildlife Trust or some such, and as soon as I realised that I could take part, I booked a place. Given that each walk us about 7 miles, I decided not to commit myself to doing any more walking on either day.

I left the Swanlake Guest House (aka West Moor Farm) towards the main road to catch a bus to Pembroke. Thereafter I caught another bus to Stack Rocks, which is on the border between the east and west ranges. The first bus was a standard single decker and there was nothing remarkable about it other than its capacity to receive fares by Apple Pay. The second was scarcely more than a minibus and this was definitely cash only. However, we three passengers (a young couple and myself, all intent on walking to Bosherston) were treated to an unscheduled stop when the driver opened the door and pointed out a particularly attractive patch of orchids in flower. That never happened on the old 34C which used to take me to and from school. I once took a dead badger home on the bus. That, however, is another story.

A fine Welsh drizzle had set in so initially I wore my waterproof. However, the sky was clearly beginning to brighten so I was hopeful that I wouldn’t be wearing it for long, and so it turned out.

The cliff scenery along this stretch was absolutely breathtaking. The cliffs were cut through with deep ravines, there were Sea stacks covered in guillemots but the walking itself was mostly very easy. You could tell why the military liked this but rather than the stretch I walked yesterday. Yesterday’s walk was punctuated with very steep gradients and today’s wasn’t. It was generally very flat, therefore ideal for vehicles to whizz around doing whatever military vehicles do.

Every so often there were people rock climbing. This is an activity in which you definitely need to have total faith and trust in your companions. My one solitary attempt when I was at college was on some anonymous precipice in North Lancashire. The single event which persuaded me that I wouldn’t bother again was when I was about three-quarters of the way up an 80′ rock face. I had reached a convenient ledge and decided to have a breather when one of my companions shouted down ” Are you holding on tight, Pete?” When I replied in the affirmative the voice said ” Well stay put for a moment. Your rope isn’t attached correctly!” So, Mike Garlick and Duncan Bennett, in the unlikely event that you are reading this, I still think you are worthless morons some 45 years later.

However, back to Pembrokeshire. I watched one young chap scale what seemed to be an impossible cliff with great facility. When he pulled himself up onto a tiny ledge and stood there without hanging onto anything at all I actually felt slightly nauseous on his behalf.

I again failed to spot anything which I could definitely say was a chough, quite simply because they were too far away for me to make out the colour of their beaks and legs, but on a balance of probabilities I feel pretty sure that some of them must have been, despite the preponderance of jackdaws.

Meanwhile, the clouds had completely cleared and I made my way to St. Govan’s Inn, via St. Govan’s chapel. I settled into my room but around 6.30 I fancied a stroll around the Bosherston lily ponds. Walking in light shoes and with no pack on my back was a lovely relief and that pushed my total for the day up to about 15 kilometres, or a little over 9 of your Welsh miles.

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