When we started planning this set of holiday walks we thought we could use the buses to get around enabling us to complete some longer stretches of the coast without too much faffing around. However, we didn’t really take into account that the summer timetables in Pembrokeshire wouldn’t come into force until May. Is it too much to ask that more buses are put into place as soon as Easter, especially as the weather generally improves around this time. Well, you guessed it! We are still in the period of Winter bus timetables, but also we naively didn’t take into account that all buses stop on Easter Sunday. So this fill in section of the Coastal Path was a relatively short one. Well it would be if we were only going in one direction, but with no buses it was an 8 mile there and back walk. But the weather was great and so it made things much easier. Thinking it would be busy we arrived early at Manorbier. So early in fact there were only 2 other cars in the car park.
A word of warning here to the wise. When walking in sunshine, and if you are follicle challenged as I am, make sure you have a hat with you. Some idiot on todays walk had forgotten his! So a ferret around my bag found a piece of material that acted like a bandana. So I spent the day wandering around the coast doing an impression of the most uncool east pirate looking for a fancy dress party.
Manorbier is an awesome looking castle right near the beach. It is provably owned, and unlike so many other castles in Wales is very much intact. This is due to the fact that it was never attacked by the Welsh. Manorbier is famous as the birthplace of Giraldus Cambrensis, the Welsh churchman who accompanied Archbishop Baldwin in 1188 on his recruitment campaign for the Third Crusade around Wales. He wrote a number of books, many of which are available today and provide a fascinating insight into 12th century life in Wales.
Like many bay and havens around the coast of Pembrokeshire the beach all but disappears at high tide in Manorbier. But when the tide recedes the beach opens up into a broad expanse of yellow sand, popular with surfers. The path quickly leaves the beach and the beautiful red coloured coastline stretches ahead of you. Although openly a few short miles from Skrinkle Haven to the east the rocks are very different. Gone are the uniform grey of the Triassic Limestone, and in comes an older hard red sandstone laid down in the Devonian and Silurian periods 408-427 million years ago.
Between Manorbier and Freshwater East is perhaps now my favourite beach, and what a name it has as well. Swanlake Bay is not easy to get to, that is perhaps it’s appeal to both Aunty and myself. A long wide sandy beach, sheltered and safe. What else do you need for a coffee stop. The red sandstone rocks are sculptures in their own right. Each one different and marbles worth lighter white rocks creating wavy, unique stripes. It was difficult to know where to look. But don’t tell anyone – we want to keep this beautiful beach for ourselves.
Coffee over it was time to move on to Freshwater East, the path climbs quickly up from Swanlake Bay. In fact this stretch of the path does have some steep climbs. In total during the walk there and back we climbed 1900 feet. It brings home that walking along the coast is not just a walk along the beach so to speak.
Freshwater East gets it’s name from the small stream that empties directly onto the beach at the western end of the bay. The long sandy and sheltered bay provided a great spot for ships to stop off and replenish their water supplies. Not surprisingly for an isolated beach it also gained a reputation for smuggling.
The walk back was relatively easy but made a little special as Aunty spotted an Emperor Moth on the side of the path. She is a very good spotter, has no idea what things are, but often sees things I miss. This is a real beauty of a moth, and is the first time I’ve seen one. It sometimes feels that fate intercedes, if the buses had been running we would have missed this impressive day flying moth.