Tanks to Ponds – Castlemartin to Bosherston

This section of our discontinuous circuit of the Wales Coastal Path is a continuation of a shortened version we did earlier at Easter but was such a bore fighting our way against a gale force wind we turned around at Castlemartin and went back to the car at Freshwater East. This time the weather was better and I was in a more conducive frame of mind for a walk. Aunty and I are now getting pretty good at making the bus links work for us, mind you this is easier at this time in the season as they are running far more regularly than before Easter. So after parking the car at Bosherston we caught the bus to Castlemartin and walked back.

You are not likely to forget that this can be a live firing range.

The initial part of the walk is inland because much of the Castlemartin army Tank Range is off limits. Just as well as they’ve been banging away since we arrived a few days ago. So we followed the road up to Warren, a small hamlet on the east-west ridge of the peninsula. Warren parish and the adjacent parish of St Twynnells follow a set of field boundaries and are thought to perpetuate prehistoric land units dating as far back as the Iron Age. What is clear to anyone walking or driving through this landscape is how the church spire of St Martins stands out from all directions. The site of the church may have early medieval origins, though the current church is 13th century. During the wars with France the Admiralty chose the church to act as a prominent landmark to aid navigation for passing ships, and the church tower was renovated and a tall stone spire was added. With falling church attendance in the 20th century the church closed it’s doors in 1970. However, in 1986 it was recognised there was a need for a a multidenominational place of worship for the thousands of British and German troops passing through the Castlemartin range. The church was restored in 1986-1988 and has held services in Welsh, English and German since.

The Green Bridge of Wales. A natural arch carved out by the sea. Smaller now than a couple of years ago when a chunk fell off the the storms recently.

After Warren we followed the road down the ridge towards the sea, and passed a car park of tanks on the edge of the range taking the day off. This part of the path is not always open to the public, and depends upon the military practice use of the range. Today though it was open to the Challinors, and so in we went. When the range is open the path takes you past the old village of Flimston, which sit abandoned and forlorn on in the middle of the tank range. Looking more like a film set for a disaster movie than a once fully function home and chapel to a thriving community. Ironically the chapel is now a Grade II listed building, and so there is an obligation upon the Ministry of Defence to maintain it.

Elegug Stacks teeming with sea birds

If you are not walking the Wales Coastal Path there are a couple of reasons for coming this way. One is to see the Green Bridge of Wales, a large natural arch carved out of the limestone cliffs. But another reason for coming this way at this time of year is to looking wonder at the Elegug Stacks, which create a wondrous sight with thousands of guillemots nesting along the sheer cliff sides. Every possible ledge was occupied by these beautiful black and white auks. We stayed a while having coffee watching the constant activity of arrivals and departures as the parents left to hunt and return with food for the young. How on earth they know which ledge to head for is beyond my understanding. We could have sat there for ages, but the walk needed to be completed and we have a few more miles to cover.

I love walking along the cliffs here in the late spring and summer. Because of the activity from the military this area is not heavily farmed, it would be difficult for the tractors to dodge the tanks. Cattle are raised on areas of the range, but the fields are not heavily stocked and are moved around the range reducing the risk of over grazing. This allows and encourages a wide diversity of wildlife to develop. As we walked towards St Govan’s Head I was able to identify more than 35 different flowers, and there were many more that I didn’t bother with or Aunty would have become frustrated with me stopping all the time.

Eyebrights are tiny and you have to get really close to appreciate how beautiful they are. Perhaps one of the favourite flowers.

But it’s not just about the wildlife, there are the views and history. Tucked down a narrow cleft in the rocks is St Govan’s Chapel (more here). The site of an ancient chapel and hermitage fo St Govan (more here). The we walked along the cliff top the the views just kept on coming, revealing small and empty sandy bays for those will to walk the distance for solitude on the beach. Eventually after 9 miles we reached Broad Haven and Bosherton Pools, the play ground of the super rich who once lived at the Stackpole Estate.

Broad Haven is a fantastic beach. But don’t tell anyone, let’s keep it between just you and me dear reader.

30 June 2019

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