Foel Cwmcerwyn.

View from the top

by Nigel Summerley

You might think that Pembrokeshire’s highest point would be a struggle to get up to. But the drama of the prize – to be able to see across the whole county – is not reflected in the overall gentility of the ascent.

Foel Cwmcerwyn is a 536-metre (1,759ft) peak. But the starting point for the walk is already 264metres (866ft) up, at the village of Rosebush.

Rosebush has a rough and ready, almost frontier feel to it – largely due to the fact that it was a quarrying centre that once had pretensions to be a Victorian tourist destination. But its railway links were a failure and the quarries closed, and plans for a wealthier future faded.

From the car park at Rosebush, head east to join the footpath that will take you all the way to the top.

Even on a dry and sunny day the ground can still be sodden, and in places the path can be more like a stream. It takes you along the eastern edge of Pantmaenog Forest, a monoculture plantation, privately owned but with paths open to walkers.

One generally comes to places such as Foel Cwmcerwyn for peace and solitude… but if one solo walker meets another, things change slightly. And when you are both travelling in the same direction, a mere hello/goodbye doesn’t seem appropriate.

The young man catching up with me at a gate not far below the summit seemed to have a stride even more determined than mine. I held the gate for him and we continued up the path together. 

He was a computer software programmer – less than half my age. I told him of my dream of moving from London to Pembrokeshire, And he told me of his dream of moving from Pembrokeshire to the city.

So what was he doing here on Foel Cwmcerwyn? Basically, taking a break from work. Whenever he feels he’s spent enough time in front of a screen, he gets out into the open to clear his mind.

We both apologised for intruding on each other’s solitude – but also had a good conversation. Although on the final part of the ascent, I found that walking and talking at the same time did start to take my breath away.

At the top we stood silently, taking in the amazing 360-degree panorama – and all of beautiful, green Pembrokeshire spread beneath us. My temporary companion reckoned that on really clear days, you could see all the way to Snowdonia from here. 

After a while he said farewell and headed north? “Where does that path lead to?” I asked him. “I don’t know,” he smiled. “I’m going to find out.”

A young man with a refreshingly wise head on his shoulders… I felt privileged to have encountered him – and to be standing at the summit of this fantastic county. 

Nigel Summerley

Nigel Summerley is a journalist who recently retired from working at The Oldie magazine. A Fleet Street veteran, he held staff jobs at the London Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express before freelancing for twenty 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

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