Coast path day 11

towards Ricketts Head

Solva to Nolton Haven.
Solva is in two parts – upper and lower, with its pretty harbour on the protected ria (part of a drowned part of a meltwater channel). Since the 1300s it has been a busy trading place and the famous Smalls lighthouse was built here and floated out 22 miles to its final position in the 1770s, which was quite a feat. At low tide you can walk round almost to the little beach at St. Elvis and when the tide is in there is plenty to see in the pleasure craft going about their fun, dogs and horses enjoying the shallow waters and lime kilns to explore on the little beach. It is traditional to see if smallish children can wriggle through the tunnels. Solva is a colourful and busy place with good eateries, shops and galleries and the nearby Solva Woollen Mill to visit too. Coastal bus services stop here and the car park charges in season and can get full on summer days.

The coast path continues up onto the Gribin, a promontory above the car park which boast stunning views and an impressive Iron Age fort. There are also Tudor copper remnants on Dinas Fawr. Wild flowers bloom and gannets soar above on clear days. There is a steep stony track down onto St. Elvis beach with its wooden bridge over the stream (my children were convinced this was the troll’s bridge when they were small). Spend some time on this beach and look back up the glaciated valley – often grazed by cattle. On calm days ducks paddle round from Solva harbour to investigate the stream.

The path goes on up and down and you may only meet some wild horses once you are past Dinas Fach, with its blowhole. This section is enchanting in summer with squill, ferns, brambles, willows and birdsong all around, and blackberries in autumn. A small sandy beach known as Pointz Castle is next and then in the northeast corner of St. Brides bay is Penycwm beach. You will have been spoilt for places to pause and take a break. From Penycwm, there is a good path back to the road and inland to the youth hostel.

A derelict brickworks is next and then extraordinary geological features abound – sedimentary rocks particularly. You can walk round onto Newgale beach at very low tide, but watch out as it comes in quickly and you may get wet feet. The stunning 2.5 miles of sand will give you a chance to take off your walking boots and paddle along on the firm sands. If the tide is high the path will take you on the cliffs and road . Note the stream at the north end as this is Brandy Brook, which marks the Landsker Line – the division historically between Welsh and English Pembrokeshire.

Newgale’s vast expanse of flat sand and the great surf makes this beach popular with all those interested in any sort of watersports, and it is a great place for families too – even in August there is space for all and you can make out tennis courts, football or cricket pitches, build vast sand structures and paddle or bathe in the sparkling clean water. As you approach the southern end you will be able to spot the coal measure and some of the 26 shafts that were once worked here. You rejoin the path above the beach at the cafe at the Pebbles car park and the prominent Ricketts Head promontory now beckons. The Trefane Cliff colliery was operational here from 1850 until 1905, but this are is subject to erosion from the winds and storms – the huge pebble bank is under threat and Ricketts Head itself is crumbling away.

The path climbs up a little until you reach the car park and viewpoint at Maidenhall Point and you will shortly reach Nolton Haven (old town), which was once the main coal exporting place for the area. This beach has toilets, a free car park, rock pools, places to fish from and clean sands. Half way through the tide, the sheltered cove fills to about waist height for some time – ideal for bathing, and kayaking from here is popular too.

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Suzanne Ashworth

Suzanne Ashworth

Suzanne is now enjoying realising her long-held ambition to work as a Community Photojournalist and to celebrate her passion for the beautiful county of Pembrokeshire. Usually accompanied by her Pembrokeshire border collie, Cwtch.

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