Hiking the Pembrokeshire Trail in Wales

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May 13th 2019
Published: October 31st 2019
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Coach House InnCoach House InnCoach House Inn

Our home in Saint Davids
This year we did a walking holiday in Wales with an additional few days for a narrowboat cruise and two theatre events in London. Our itinerary was dictated somewhat by the arrival of our 3d grandchild (Florence) which was scheduled for late April. However babies don't arrive until they are ready...

Departure day from Salt Spring was April 18th on the 0620 Long Harbour ferry. Because it was Thursday, the cost was only $18.40.

There was a major rain event but we were off the boat more or less on time into fairly heavy traffic. For those of us loading on Salt Spring the new ferry lets us off last as we are on the lower deck....

The price of gas in Vancouver was $1.71 per litre but it reduced as we went east ($1.50/litre in Hope) We stopped in Osoyos at around 2.00 for lunch with some Winnipeg friends (Arasons) then continued on to Ymir via the Grand Forks grocery and liquor store(s). A long day (7.20 PM arrival) and the usual vows to take 2 days next time...

The next day was Good Friday and we did the Oscar Bear Hike which is a mildly
Heading back to St DavidsHeading back to St DavidsHeading back to St Davids

The only day with rain
challenging climb near Ymir. Easter dinner was in Nelson. We also spent Saturday in Ymir/Nelson and left for Calgary Sunday morning. We met the new Handkamer grandchild.

Monday morning we had a brief visit with Jim Thornborough who was just recovering from chemo and seems lucky to be alive. Cancer issues are far too common.

We then drove to Whitewood, Sk with the objective being to stay at the Quest Inn. However it is becoming popular and we ended up down the street in the Whitewood Inn-not completely horrible and it included a good full breakfast.

The next day we made it to Lorette/Winnipeg where I got "The Truck" and then continued on to the lake via Steinbach (groceries and a battery) The next few days included the usual spring plumbing challenges, the Neil Fry (my former accountant) funeral back in Winnipeg and lots of cabin opening activities. No bugs yet as it is getting down to -1 or 2C at night but the ice is starting to go out on some of the lakes. I started the outdoor shower and ended up doing hose unhooks at night due to the low temperatures-I also covered the heating
One of the Joys of HikingOne of the Joys of HikingOne of the Joys of Hiking

Beer seems better in the UK
unit with a tarp...

Our days include a lot of walking on the trail formerly known as the TransCanada Trail in preparation for Wales- 4 to 6 miles per day.

On Thursday May 2,Florence Marie-Josee Coates came into the world, weighing in at 9 pounds. We went in to meet her and pick up Xavier so he could come down for a visit. He is a pretty easy guest to have here and is a great sleeper. Xavier is not the most adventuresome eater so Kraft dinner is an important staple.

On Sunday we took him back home and then went to Winnipeg for a pre-trip hiking meeting.Our afternoon was spent at MTC where the "The Cottage" was playing at the Manitoba Theatre Centre to rave audience reviews but with less enthusiasm from critics. Parking for MTC continues to be a major challenge.

Then it was back to the lake for more training walks plus railing construction on the Penniac Bay bridge. We also did the ultimate psychological prep walk which is to hike to Falcon Lake and back-about 28 km which unfortunately resulted in a a blister.

On May 10th A,F,X and F came

Lots of flowers this time of year
down and we had pizza night. The next morning there was a small medical crisis and Jan got an ambulance ride to Steinbach for a suspected heart attack. (it turned out to be a mild form of pneumonia) Antibiotics had to be acquired (more on this later)

Sunday morning we headed into Winnipeg to catch the 330 WJ flight to Toronto where we had a scheduled layover. However Westjet really did a number on us and managed to keep us from catching our connecting flight to London-a bunch of lying #$%^&. As a result we arrived in the UK one day late which wiped out our rest day. One consolation was that we ended up on British Airways-great service and we need to allow them into Canada for domestic flights...Westjet and Air Canada are to travel what Charles Manson is to neighbour hood watch.

We arrived in London early in the morning (0630), then took various train rides including Heathrow Express to Paddington Station. We then had to get to Broadhaven via Newport. This last train took us to Haverford where we had to take a taxi into Broadhaven. We are right on the beach in a nice
Along the trailAlong the trailAlong the trail

Yet more flowers
hotel with its own restaurant. Diner was Italian with good lasagna and then all of us had a good sleep. The next day (Wednesday May 15th) everyone their packed suitcases for pickup and then had the usual monster sized English breakfast.

Our 11.5 mile walk started at 0930 along the beach cliffs-no way of getting lost on this trail as you just keep the ocean on your left.... Spectacular views along the cliffs and our first stop was at Nolton Haven. Everyone is feeling a bit jet lagged and the hills are tough.We stopped at Newgate to eat our packed lunches which typically consist of ham.cheese, lettuce and pickle (relish) on brown bread.The final 5.5 mile stretch to Solva took 3 hours and then it was into the Carlsberg beer. The Hotel is the Cambrian Inn where they served us the first steak and mushroom pie of the trip. Sleep came easily for all of us.

Day two (Thursday May 16th) started off in a leisurely manner as we waited until the stores opened at 0930. This is a short day with only 4.5 miles to go. The start of the trip was a long climb out of the harbour and there were lots of stranded boats in the bay as the tide was out. Another spectacular walk along the cliffs with only 2 or 3 hill climbs and we got into St Davids pretty early. The Coach House will be our home for three nights. We have to figure out the local Coaster bus system for tomorrow (easy-stop was right across the road) Our dinner in St Davids was at the Cwtch (means hug in Welsh) restaurant. This was chosen by Linda and was a major gourmet experience. Every night we would say this was the best meal of the trip only to surpass it the next night.

The next day we caught the Coaster Bus # 403 at 0901 and arrived at Whitesand Beach. (We were down to four as Linda had a knee issue) The keep ocean on the left mantra was off today as the program was to walk back to St Davids which was about a 9 mile trip. The weather was a bit more Wales typical-light rain and a wind.

I am still dealing with the blisters from the Falcon Lake walk but they are not too bad thanks to
A few dairy herds along the wayA few dairy herds along the wayA few dairy herds along the way

They seemed to be having a meeting..
a liberal coating of vaseline each day.Tonights restaurant was The Grove and included excellent soup and a duck salad.

The next day after a monster breakfast, it was back on the Celtic Coaster at 0935 for another trip to Whitesands Beach. The program today is to walk north for 12 miles to Trefin and then come back to St Davids in a pre-arranged taxi. We were on the trail at about 0945 and it started off with a big rocky climb, then hiking through fields of heather. The first 7 miles took us along the cliff edge to Abererdy where we stopped for ice cream. Apparently from there it is 2 hours to Trefin and we had a brief interruption for beer at Porthgain. Our group arrived in Trefin at 0415 and then took Frank's Cab back to St Davids. My blisters are back and Jan has a bad sunburn thanks to the antibiotics.Dinner was at a great pub (Bishops) This was our last night in St Davids. (one bar cloth so far) (36 miles to date-44 miles to go)

Our taxi took us back to Trefin in the morning for the beginning of a 12.5 mile walk
Broom plantsBroom plantsBroom plants

just like home
to Strumblehead. The walk started at Trefin at 10.00 am and started off on a cloudy cool day with some nice field walking as well as the usual cliff side path. It was pretty easy, passing through a small fishing village with a brief stop at at a Cromerg which is an ancient burial tomb. There was a huge climb where the Strunblehead light house could be seen which seemed to be close. However it was actually 3.5 miles away and our late arrival at 4.36 angered the taxi driver. Our subsequent drive to Goodwick was quite rapid plus there were two accommadation facilities which further upset the driver...Jan and I were in the Ferryboat Guesthouse - 2 single rooms. Ruth, Marsha and Linda were in the Fern Villa. We met at the Rose and Crown for a good dinner and I got yet another bar cloth.

The next day (Monday May 20th) the taxi took four of us back to the Strumblehead parking lot (Marsha had a headache) Today's walk was only 7 miles but there was lots of variety including heather fields, woodlands, and the inevitable cliff edges.There were several big ships out in the water including
Trail through the woodsTrail through the woodsTrail through the woods

This type of terrain was a bit unusual
the Stenline ferry to Ireland and some German cruise ships, all heading for Goodwick. We had lunch at mile 4, then it was into town at 1.30 for beer and a stop at a pharmacy. Jan is still getting over sun reaction and Linda has a bit of a knee issue- the special KT tape is cheaper here than in Canada. It was birthday night for Jan at the Royal Oak Pub.

The next day we had a taxi take us up the hill through town after a huge breakfast. I am now putting raw wool on my blisters. We plucked it off various fence wires along the way and it appears to work well (maybe the lanolin) Another good change is the use of a water bladder in my pack instead of a bottle.

We did about 7 miles today arriving in Newport Sands shortly after noon. Our walk today included navigation around Ynys Dinas which had lots of climbing and we came down off the cliffs at Garopp and then stopped at the Llmyngmair Arms (don't ask how to say it) for 2 pints of Carling draft. Next door was an antique shop specializing in rail
Marker at trails endMarker at trails endMarker at trails end

A few meters from our hotel
artifacts, but unfortunately all the best pieces were much too big and heavy for my luggage space.

Our accommodation was at the nearby Golden Lion and the evening meal was another gourmet special (duck breasts with blueberry compote) We have now walked about 100 kilometres (the distance sounds more impressive in metric)

Wednesday the 22nd is our second last day and the trail is getting harder with lots of climbing, According to my watch we did 181 flights of stairs up and 122 down including the famous Witches Cauldren which is a collapsed cliff land bridge over some caves. The total today was only 9 miles of which the last 1 1/2 was an uphill slog to the Old Vicarage. This place is famous for its food and we had to pre-order the meals and they lived up to the reputation. With the vast quantities of liquor, the bill came in at 139 pounds just for the two of us.

Thursday being my 73d birthday, we started off with the usual huge breakfast and then it was off for our last day of walking. The first part is to get back to Moylegrove and there are two alternatives. Yesterday we came on the road and today everyone took the stream side path -much better. At the end of the path it was back on the Pembrokeshire trail for what was billed as the toughest part of the trail.There were several high peaks to climb including one which was 180 meters.The peaks were close to the cliff edges for added excitement.

After the last climb, it was all down hill to an ice cream spot and then a pub. After a well earned beer we hiked the last part of the trail to the marker in St Dogmaels and then on to the Argo Villa. Dinner was at a local fish and chips place and it was excellent (and cheaper than the Old Vicarage) Final distance was about 150 kilometers in 9 days. (CTC was 16 days for 320 kilometers)

The next day we were picked up at 10.00 by a very friendly driver - unfortunately he had an incorrect address for Goytre and no GPS so we ended up in the wrong location. However, I had data on my phone (Giff-Gaff) so we managed to find the Goytre Wharf after a stop for groceries and
Captain QueegCaptain QueegCaptain Queeg

Piloting the narrowboat
liquor. ABC boat hire is the boat rental place and our first step after unloading our luggage was to take training on operating the Red Sea Swallow (our 60 foot narrowboat) We are on the Brecon and Monmouth Canal and started at about crossing #75. These boats are tricky to drive and you have to "steer small".

The canal is narrow ( just over two boats wide) and quite shallow. However the pace is slow and people walking on the towpaths beside us were out pacing the boat. We stopped at bridge 98 and walked about 1/2 a mile to a good Indian restaurant (The Bombay Duck) for dinner. We walked home in the dark and spent our first night on the boat in the very narrow berths.

The towpaths beside the canal were originally for the horses which towed the cargo boats along the system carrying coal, iron, and various products. The waterway network was made redundant with the development of the railroad system but are now very popular for recreation including canal boats plus lots of walkers, runners and cyclists on the towpaths. I did a 2 mile walk before breakfast in the direction of our
Water stationWater stationWater station

Keeping boat tanks full apparently helps the steering
boat travel to see what was ahead.

Our breakfast is on the boat and consists of fruit, granola, bagels etc. We set off at 10.00 with the plan being to travel to bridge 115, then turn and come back to moor at B112. The turn was a complete fiasco and is probably still being talked about by the people on the bank who saw it. A man from the marina hopped on and saved us...

We moored at B112 and walked to Crickhowell to shop and see the town-lots of small traditional stores but a bit of a waste of time. We stopped at the Vine Tree Restaurant near the Usk River Bridge and had yet another excellent meal. Our night back at the boat ended early.

The next day we had to navigate back to near the Goytre Wharf. The first step each morning is to start the boat which I have not truly mastered. Finally we found the "magic button" and the diesel roared to life (just before we started looked for the telephone number for the rescue person) Today we had some alternate captains with everything getting a chance to steer... Cattle beside the canal were running for their lives.

We moored at about B79 and this was a challenge due to the very shallow water along the bank of the canal. We had to use the plank to get to shore etc.Tonight it was leftovers on the boat for dinner (scrambled eggs and welsh whiskey among other things)

Monday May 27th is what they call in the UK a bank holiday (they don't do Victoria Day here) We were up at 7.00 and cleaned up whatever bits of food we had left and then set off to get to home port at Goytre. This was very tricky as we had a strong cross wind but we managed to get into the mooring at about 9.00 AM. It took 2 taxis to get us and the luggage to Abergavenay Station where we caught a busy train to Newport. (almost lost Marsha and Linda here as they nearly stayed on the train) However all of us finally made the transfer to the Paddington train and then on to the Central Park Hotel. For only 250 CAD we got a small noisy hot room-this is London.

Jan and I are on our own
Horatio Nelson lives againHoratio Nelson lives againHoratio Nelson lives again

Lots of interesting sights along the canal
now. To get around we bought two Oyster Cards to get us on the Tube which is one of the worlds great things. We spent some time shopping on Oxford Street and bought a $160 Japanese chefs knife. I blithely stuck it my pack and tried to get into the theatre with it...They kept it for me. Our show was the Book of Mormon and it was great. I suspect it might not play well in Salt Lake City or Cardston.

Wednesday the 29th was our last day in London. Major walking today and we crossed Hyde Park to go to Kensington. One amazing sight was the Household Calvary barracks where we could see horses on the high stories of the building. We also went to Harrods and bought new pepper and salt grinders-not your ordinary department store. Our afternoon was at a matinee showing of Come From Away at the Phoenix theatre-one of the best live theatre shows ever for us. Lets all go to Newfoundland.

The next day Ruth left us for a tennis event. Marsha, Linda, Jan and I moved to the Acorn Lodge near Gatwick for an overnight stay. then flew back to Winnipeg
A residence along the canalA residence along the canalA residence along the canal

The canal system provides lots of benefit to the region
on the 31st. I did the Riverview 65 Km Cycle fundraiser on June 2nd which was a bit challenging with jet lag-then it was back to WHL for the summer.

Additional photos below
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A great place to visit
Leggo storeLeggo store
Leggo store

big lineups to get into this store
Hyde ParkHyde Park
Hyde Park

Near the swimming club
Acorn LodgeAcorn Lodge
Acorn Lodge

A typical meal
Back in WinnipegBack in Winnipeg
Back in Winnipeg

Riverview charity ride-65 Km

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