By the time we reached Freshwater East, it was crazy hot. To an extent we’d got used to the heat (if that is a possibility in West Wales) – certainly we had learned from the start of our journey and were carrying less and being super-vigilant about our water supplies – but it was hot. So hot that our phones disabled themselves just by being outside. It didn’t stop us enjoying the adventure – far from it. Very few people can say that they walked in Wales for the best part of a month without being rained on. But perhaps it made the days when we did take time out from the walk, to hang out with family and friends who came to join us, that little bit more enjoyable.
Every day’s a school day…
From our camp at Freshwater East, we headed into Pembroke on yet another day hazy with heat. We’d aimed to be as healthy as possible as we headed out from Cardigan, but I was craving a dirty fry up and persuaded Alex that it was only fair given all that we’d already achieved. Dirty fry up scored, our next destination was the iconic Pembroke Castle: home of the Normans, English Kings and flashpoint for the second Civil War between Cromwell and John Poyer’s Pembroke Royalists, something we hadn’t known before. A second day saw us heading to Bosherton and the lily ponds which did us and our visitors proud with a stunning floral display over the water.
In search of some respite from the heat we made our way on through Castlemartin range (the war games had temporarily ceased) to tiny St Govans chapel, nestled in the rocks at the bottom of a steep cove. Close your eyes and you can sense the many footsteps that have trodden the path to the chapel before us – all the way back to the 1300s. Just as an understanding of the traditions of gin making and distilling have informed our desire to do things differently, Welsh heritage was never far away as we made our way around Wales, nudging gently at our shoulders as we explored new landscapes while navigating our own personal path forward.
A second day in the area brought more friends and time out – an opportunity to catch up and share our stories as we meandered around Barafundle and enjoyed a pub dinner – before heading on with our journey.
Refining the plan
Being willing to refine and tweak the plan has been vital as we grow our business here in West Wales. It’s an acquired skill, being happy to step out of the comfort zone of a plan you’ve already made – and one we refined during our walk so that it serves us well as we take the distillery forward today! This part of the walk was a case in point. While the Pembrokeshire coast line is really familiar to me, having explored much of it as a child, there were stretches that Alex didn’t know at all. After leaving Freshwater East, we had planned to stop at Manorbier on our way along the Pembrokeshire section of the coastal path towards Tenby. Manorbier was packed, and although Lydstep had looked hopeful on the map, it wasn’t really a place for wild camping, so we urged our feet on, down and then up the Lydstep steps to Penally Head and on to a wild camp on Giltar Point next to the MoD camp.
We had an amazing view for the night – over Caldey Island. Just as well, because we had planned on staying in a campsite if only to enjoy the luxury of a hot shower, so we had to stay grotty all the way to Tenby the following day.
Tenby had always been part of the plan, though, and the next day we packed up quickly (more noisy military activity next door to us on the Penally range) and walked the length of Tenby South beach at low tide before savouring the delights of this most popular of seaside resorts (mostly coffee and wifi!). After a night with a friend, we hit the final section of the Pembrokeshire coastal path, a steep climb swathed in mist, but oddly still hot. As we hit the final couple of miles of Pembrokeshire, the sun came out and with low tide again in our favour, we dropped off the cliff tops and walked along the beach to Amroth and the start of the Carmarthenshire section of the Welsh coast path. Although our feet could have told us we’d walked 186 miles, give or take, since setting out 2 weeks previously, it was quite an emotional moment to see the coast path sign telling us that was the case.
The end of the beginning
Reaching the end of the Pembrokeshire section of the coast path felt like a real milestone, the end of the beginning. While we might not have known the whole of it before the walk, Pembrokeshire was pretty familiar territory. It had offered us stunning weather and fantastic views and places to rest while we’d overcome all the difficulties we hadn’t anticipated. During this first part of the walk, we’d learnt what we needed to take (and what we could ditch), how to pack our kit up, how to work together to make the best of each day. What’s more, when faced with challenges, we’d overcome them, and most importantly, I’d been able to get back in touch with the real Ellen. We were waking fitter every day, really in the walk and determined to achieve our goals.
The rest of Wales awaited us – and we were ready!