A Royal Day Out

Looking over the bay at Dale © Nigel Summerley

I set off from Dale for a date with royalty – or at least with royal history – and sunshine decided to accompany me all the way. It was such a lovely day that it was tempting simply to stay and rest in peace on the inviting sands at Dale, but the coast path south-east summoned.

Past the Griffin pub, there was a lane that took me up to the west side of the the bay. But before I left the village there was a wonderful unofficial display of wood sculptures in someone’s barn open to the road. It was mid-morning but it felt as if the whole village was still asleep. Apart from the wooden lady in a green bikini and the naked man eating an ice cream, and their companions in the sculpture barn, I saw no one.

Wood sculptures © Nigel Summerley

As the trees lining the lane thinned out, I could see the bay more clearly, a long, wide expanse of blue water. And then the coast path sign took me up off the lane and across a field inhabited by a trio of horses who gave me a curious glance.

I followed the path upwards across the grass towards the sea. When the light opens up the sky and the air is still, this part of the Pembrokeshire coast really does make you feel like you’re walking along the edge of the world. 

The navigation tower at Watwick Point is something of an architectural monstrosity, but on such a bright day even this took on a faint air of beauty. It’s a dizzying 160ft tall, and it almost hurt to look up at it. So I hurried on south-westwards, along the clifftop and then down to Watwick Bay.

Watwick Point © Nigel Summerley

It’s difficult to imagine the Queen disporting herself here in her swimmies, but apparently she did in the 1960s when she wasn’t the sedate old lady she is today. You can’t blame the royal family for picking this spot – it’s perfect for swimming and sunbathing. They had the place cordoned off for the day, it seems, for their seaside pleasure – and security.

Henry VII – as he was not long after to be – probably had a few security concerns on his mind when he landed not far west of here, at Mill Bay, in 1485. Concerns like would he manage to get ashore safely? Would he get inland successfully and raise a big enough army? And would he be able to wrest the throne from Richard III instead of meeting a sticky end? 

The coastal path continues to Mill Bay, but I took a wrong turn when I came back up from Watwick and ended up for a short while on another path going away from the sea. Fortunately, I soon hit a track that took me south, back to the coast and then on to my destination.

Clouds had started to gather, and there seemed to be a doomy, gloomy atmosphere at Mill Bay. Perhaps it was the heavy, dark rocks, or perhaps it was just me projecting my musings about how long it would take to march the 250 miles from here to a bloody battle at Bosworth Field.

High tide at Mill Bay © Nigel Summerley

Like many walkers, I’m normally averse to going back the way that I’ve come, but I rejected the option of taking tracks northward to complete a circle round to Dale, because I couldn’t bring myself to leave the drama of the coast path. 

The change of direction made every step and every view I had enjoyed on the outward journey just as fresh and just as inspiring on the way back.

And as I eventually got back into my car at Dale and headed off to my cosy hotel, I didn’t envy Henry Tudor anything.

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley retired from The Oldie magazine to return to freelance journalism. He previously held executive staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for 20 years for newspapers including The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Guardian and the ‘i’ paper, plus a wide range of magazines. He continues to write about music, travel and health, and blogs at www.nigel-summerley.blogspot.com.

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