Day two of the Coast Path
Ceibwr Bay to Newport.
Remote, rugged and challenging.
When I saw the above description of the section we were about to walk and I noticed that everyone who has done the whole path refers to this section to Newport as the most strenuous, then I knew that Cwtch and I were in for a rigorous hike. We set out on a glorious sunny late September morning – Cwtch with her new harness and me with a walking pole – both later proved to be very much appreciated! To tackle this part of the path on a windy day or in poor weather would be risky, if not quite foolish.
This section covers a little under 9 miles, with much of the path very close to the edge of the 500 ft (150 m) sheer cliff drop on the seaward side – I was often quite conscious that only a narrow line of gorse or bracken was between us and a fatal fall! Not for anyone with vertigo…! From the astounding views of the geological wonders of Ceibwr Bay the path quickly began to climb and the air was full of swooping fulmars. Underfoot conditions were sticky with plenty of mud and dewy grass, and the track is not only narrow, but involves seemingly endless steep inclines and slippery descents. This was almost impossible to manage in parts and I was very pleased to have Cwtch to encourage me and my walking pole to keep my balance.
7 miles with no leaving points.
After the first mile or so, you reach the gate to the main part of this section and the sign on this reminds you in no uncertain terms of what you are about to commit to : 7 miles with no facilities or escape paths of challenging hiking with many steep sections and all on the cliff edge! Having just passed the most stunning natural arch and with the promise of so much more scenic delights ahead, I did not hesitate, but did take a few deep breaths and checked my bootlaces!
One of the foremost geological features to marvel at was the Witches Cauldron ( Pwll y Wrack) – a huge collapsed cave caused by the erosion of the soft shales and sandstones – the gradients here are sharp and some sections have many steps too. Only after you have made it up to the top of the other side and look back does the full precipitousness of the path become clear – perhaps as well, I decided. There are the remains of Castell Trerufydd on the opposite headland – an iron age fort. I met only one other hiker going in the same direction and when I observed him scrabbling hand over hand , clinging to the gorse and fence on each side to lever himself up some of the mudslides, I realised how lucky I was to be with Cwtch, my collie. Not only was she adept at picking out the least slimy footholds, she also pulled me up the almost vertical tracks.
Then followed a section along the top of the cliffs with fewer extreme inclines, but high up on the clifftops and I enjoyed the views, the seabirds ( I spotted razorbills, guillemots and a cormorant) and butterflies, while Cwtch was fascinated by the calls of the Atlantic grey seals below – I am sure one pair lying on their backs in the water were actually blowing bubbles?
Morfa Head and Newport Bay.
If you want to stop for a breather and a drink, then be aware that until Morfa Head, most of the fences along the farmland are electric, so not to lean on or tie your dog to! Once the path widens out a little and you can spot the distant Dinas Island, there is a little more space to take a rest and enjoy the views at your leisure. Another point worth knowing about is that some of the gates do not have a dog passing place, so unless your dog is very agile or not too heavy to lift this could prove one challenge too many – for Cwtch one of the final gates just above the final descent was almost beyond her as she could only just wriggle underneath after I had removed her harness. I then only had hold of her collar – this was pretty hair-raising as the drop to the right was only inches away and I did not want to lose her, my rucksack or walking pole.
Further on the rock amphitheatre of Cell Howell was a wonderful sight to behold – thousands of tons of rock have slipped down and the erosion is very clear. Then we came to the rounded edge of Morfa Head and the welcome sight of Newport bay lay before us with the sea twinkling in the sun.The path here had a new challenge – lovely springy turf, but full of rabbit holes so I needed to watch my footing and allow for Cwtch to be distracted by all the rabbit droppings! There were some more incredibly steep sections until the summit was reached – then down the slippery rocky garden of gorse and heather on the south flank – my knees did not enjoy this bit! Below the sands of Newport and wide curving estuary were an enticing panorama to look down upon, while the Preselis and the wide sweep of sea towards Fishguard filled my view ahead.
Cwtch could hear and see other dogs having fun on the beaches below and once she spotted the cove at Pen Pistyll I let her off her lead so she could have a paddle and play in the sea. I slid down the rocks to join her and we had this enchanting little cove all to ourselves – apart from a seal, who came in close to watch us. There are some caves and wonderful views from this little beach, but I should confess that I would not have been able to get back up to the path without Cwtch’s help and the guidebooks do state “the tempting descent to the beach is not advised being over vertical slippery rocks”.
Traeth Mawr or big beach is otherwise known at Newport Sands – quite an unusual style of holiday place for West Wales with its golf course, luxurious accommodation seafront facilities, shop, surf club and car park with fees even out of season. The coast path can either be taken through the woods on the edge of the golf course or across the dunes and sand to the estuary shore, over the bridge and across to Newport Parrog.