…Peter wears sturdy boots with his trousers sensibly tucked into long woollen socks, Kath sports a racy Panama hat with a black band, and I have a rose pullover.
Along Amroth’s shingle beach, formerly occupied by Victorian houses but long since washed away, we looked out over the flat sand that reached around the frozen lava flows to Wiseman’s Bridge a mile or so away.
Behind us stands the New Inn, a farmhouse with a four hundred year history and now a smart pub, modern and gleaming white in the sunshine. Next to us is the marker post marking the start of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, opened in 1970 by the friendly Welsh broadcaster and Oxford history graduate, Wynford Vaughan Thomas. It tells us Poppit Sands are 180 miles away.
Fine weather, low tide, and a lively brown dog encourage us to walk this first stage of the coastal path to Tenby, 7½ miles away.
Three men boated down the Thames. Jerome K Jerome wrote so eloquently about their adventures that they entertained the British public for many years. The modest aim of this blog is to recapture in some small measure the fun of a journey across fields and woods and along ways marked by an acorn etched into posts at regular intervals with the sea an eternal companion on our left hand side.
The walk across the wet flat sands to Wiseman’s Bridge is easy going. At Wiseman’s Bridge, we tramp through three dripping, narrow tunnels built over a century ago so horses could drag iron ore on the tramway to Kilgetty Iron Works from Saundersfoot harbour and finished iron products in the opposite direction. On exiting the third tunnel through a shower of water, we are in Saundersfoot, a gaily painted town with a holiday feel even in March. We lunch at the Shoreline Cafe looking directly over a wide expanse of golden sand. My eyes stare at the restlessly breaking waves on the stubborn beach which loses, and will later win, in its perpetual fight with the tide. Small children are already building sand castles only knock them down later in an echo of the sand’s life with the sea.
Our group consists of three women of a certain age and two OAP men. Sian recovering from a hip replacement walks slowly aided by two walking poles, Marjorie in her three-quarter length trousers and lightweight walking boots tackles everything with a deceptive ease, while Kath sports a racy Panama hat with a black band. Peter wears sturdy boots with his trousers sensibly tucked into long woollen socks, and I have a rose pullover. Ruby loves running free back and forth. She scurries along the path, her bountiful energy seemingly inexhaustible. She makes me feel tired and slow as we start the first climb up the wooded hills past the best hotel in Saundersfoot, the St. Brides.
The section to Tenby is four or so miles and after a mile and a half, we catch a glimpse of St Mary’s Church spire in the haze which has descended to blur the distant views. But Tenby doesn’t yield without a fight. It throws hills before us up which we trudge. Slate edged steps ease the steepest sections. Elsewhere we climb up the dry path step by step and all the while below us through the leafless trees the glistening sea restlessly attacks the beach.
Up and down twice and we reach Allen’s View on a woodland hilltop on the last hill-crest before Tenby. Miss Jessie Allen, an Edwardian spinster, an ex-teacher and a polymath, was interested in all things Greek and an enthusiastic gardener. I imagine her teaching her upper class girls in dark blue gymslips at Cheltenham College. In Greek lessons, she would recall the gallant exploits of Xenophon and use Homeric words like polyphloisboian and wine-dark as she recounted him marching his army to the Euxine Sea to cries of thalassa, thalassa. And did she like Miss Jean Brodie sleep with the singing teacher or the artistic director of the local theatre? Did she dream of this when on retirement she built an open-air theatre constructed on the cliff overlooking Tenby to stage dramatic productions?
On her death, she gifted the gardens to the Friends of Tenby. On top of a waist high moment sits a plaque which aligns the view to Worms Head in the east around to Tenby, across the Bristol Channel to Ilfracombe 42 miles away, finally to Penally in the west. But today fifty years after its construction, mature trees obscure all views!
Excitement! The familiar red air-ambulance circled overhead. ‘It’s coming into land,’ said Sian an ex-nurse. It landed in the field next to us. At the bottom of the field stand two ambulances. Soon, a bearded doctor in red overalls jogged down the hill to the large ambulance outside the farm house. Then came a second paramedic carrying a large plastic bag of plasma in each hand. However, they revealed nothing more and after a while, we walked down the road to the North Beach car park and the end of our journey.
Part one of a multi-part story is complete. Three women and two men are dog-tired. Even Ruby is man-tired and we all slump into the comfortable car seats happy with our day’s work.