Rain Can’t Dampen Pembrokeshire’s Appeal

Manorbier Bay ©Nigel Summerley

We’re continuing to publishing some articles on walking in Pembrokeshire that you can enjoy virtually… and have something to look forward to doing when the lockdown is finally lifted…

I must love Pembrokeshire, because even when it’s cold, wintry and wet, I can’t resist going out and exploring it. And it never seems to disappoint. 

On an outing from St Florence, the lanes were occasionally more like streams, as my wellies, my umbrella and I headed for Manorbier under a sky that was all cloud. But even on this damp and unpromising morning, there was a wonderful peacefulness in the air.

The wind and rain died off as I traversed the level crossing at Manorbier Station and headed on to the village. There was even some sunshine as I dropped down to the bay below the castle, to stand on the sand and watch the surf and a couple of daring surfers. But Manorbier was the real starting point. From here I was taking the coast path east to Presipe and beyond. 

The path climbs high above Manorbier Bay giving views westward that can stop you in your tracks more than once. Eventually I turned along the clifftop towards Presipe (which I’m told is pronounced ‘Pree-sep’), the first of three remarkable beaches on this walk.

The vertical strata of the sandstone cliffs around Presipe Bay fall like beautiful giant curtains. One hundred and sixty slippery steps took me down to the beach where the incoming tide added to the drama of the setting.

Steps down to Presipe ©Nigel Summerley

Those steps proved a lot tougher and a lot slippier on the way back up. After a breather at the top, I headed east again, with the path winding around the perimeter of the Ministry of Defence’s rather forlorn-looking Manorbier Camp.

There were more wet steps to negotiate with care at the next beach, known as Church Doors. The grandiose cliffs here do have the quality of a religious building and there is something spiritual to be gained from standing on this beach as the water pours in between the cathedral-like walls. 

In the base of the western cliffs there is a cleft big enough to let a person squeeze through to the neighbouring beach of Skrinkle Haven. But it’s a manoeuvre to carry out at low tide rather than high.

Foolishly, with the water coming up to the top of my wellies and my grip on the wet rocks becoming increasingly less tenuous, I went to see if I could get through. I was glad that, as I saw the sea foaming through the narrow gap towards me, an inner voice possessing some wisdom told me to go back and leave Skrinkle for another day.

Going up the 140 steps from Church Doors is quite a stretch even if you’re reasonably fit. After a stop halfway, I pushed on up to the top, managing not to slip over. Then the path took me east and north toward the village of Lydstep.

Lydstep looked damp and miserable but I easily found the path north from opposite the Lydstep Tavern. There are footpaths all the way from here to St Florence – allegedly. I did my best to follow them with the aid of an OS map, but they seemed to peter out here and there – and I felt at times that I, too, was in danger of petering out from the exhaustion of squelching through mud.

The rain had really set in once more – which didn’t help. When I got to the slimily wet wooden railway crossing half a mile north of Lystep, I noted that it looked extremely slippery. I walked so gingerly that I managed to fall over on my backside and lay across the tracks laughing to myself. Thankfully, trains on this line seem to be few and far between.

After much mud-hopping around wet fields, I finally found my way down into St Florence and had the pleasure of solid road beneath my feet. It had been a great, if at times arduous, hike of six or seven miles, but every step had been worth it.

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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