Walking the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, August 2012
While it seems like most of London has spent the last week looking for Wrynecks, some friends and I used the long weekend for our now annual camping trip to west Wales. Generally I'm not someone who likes to return to the same place year on year but our little patch at the bottom of a generous farmer's field, a stone's throw from the stunning cliff top path that winds around this beautiful part of the world, is an exception. It's about as 'off the grid' as you can realistically get and even my phone couldn't get any reception for days; these are precious moments. Waking every morning to the sounds of the countryside stirring through the flimsy canvas; the chirrips and whirrs of linnets and skylarks, the calls of crows, gulls, livestock...well, it's something I look forward to endlessly.
We've walked a good part of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path now and one day we'll finish it (!), but this year we walked the path from Strumble Head to Fishguard.
With the forecast looking gloomy for much of the weekend it was with epic JOY that we hit the headland on Sunday morning with blue skies, sunshine and a light breeze on our backs. We survived the rollercoaster ride that is the Strumble Shuttle and were pretty soon all taking in the amazing views from the top. It's easy to see why it's a famous seawatching spot and there were plenty of seabirds on offer. Gannets were dotted everywhere, big white shapes in flight, occasionally dropping head first like a stone, into the sea to feed. Closer to shore kittiwakes (inc juveniles) gathered on the surface as herring gulls and fulmars wheeled above. Further scanning bought a small group of razorbills at sea and, perhaps most interesting of all, a passing shearwater. Bins could only take in so much but it looked ok for a Manx Shearwater, though I'd love to claim it was the Sooty Shearwater that was spotted the same day. Anyway, that was good but I was most excited by the brief view of a dolphin flashing through the water nearby! I only saw it briefly as it breached and disappeared, but I suspect it was a Common Dolphin since several others had been seen recently. My first wild dolphin anywhere I think. Elsewhere at Strumble Head a small crowd was gathered looking down on the inlet beneath the lighthouse and here's why:
Aw yes! These are Grey Seals I think - a mum and her pup. The white-coated pup must have been born only recently as it has yet to moult into its first proper coat. This one seemed quite happy in the water as its mum offered gentle encouragement and kept an eye on us. Pembrokeshire is a good area for grey seals with a population of around 5000 and as we walked north, almost every bay seemed to have them present.
There was plenty of wildlife to see from the path; birdwise it was all the good usual suspects of rocky cliffs and grassy slopes. A Stonechat was flicking about as we left the car park and Rock Pipits were abundant all along the cliffs. A Kestrel tussled with crows on the sunny cliff edge and there were Peregrines at several points. On the migrant front, Swallow passage was in full swing wherever we went along the coast and a single Wheatear perched on a rocky outcrop in some adjacent fields. In the sheltered, scrubby sections of the path, Chiffchaffs were regularly heard. These same areas were also good for butterflies with a Painted Lady a nice find on some thistles and a Wall Brown (a first) appearing briefly as we stopped for lunch on the headland where some French revolutionary types launched a brief and ill-advised invasion in 1797. Apparently it was the last invasion on British soil and it lasted 2 days before they were presumably told to sod off. There, that's some history for you.
|The stunning colours of a Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) at Strumble Head|
|Purple flowers of heather (Calluna vulgaris) blooming on the cliffs|
|Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) clinging to thistles on the coast path|
Here's some footage of passing Raven, listen out for its distinctive kronk kronk kronk call:
The path on this section was a lot more up and down than the more southerly stretches but still a great walk. After a couple of hours we rounded the headland towards Fishguard and ducked in land in search of a pub.
Thus it was kind of inevitable that a good few hours later we found ourselves crashing elegantly down lanes and fields in pitch darkness. Whose idea was Jagermeister followed by a night hike? Nevermind. In the city you forget what darkness is like, but out there, with no electricity to infect, your eyes can begin to read the shadows. And the stars! If you give them a chance. Bats skimmed our heads as we picked our way home.
The next day we awoke to RAIN and not your drizzly city rain either...COUNTRY RAIN. Buckets of it. And it didn't let up for 18 hours. It put a dampner on things (ha) and curtailed any further ramblings but that's the way it goes. Next morning I awoke to this, and everything was forgotten:
|View from my tent|
It's not hard to see why Lonely Planet voted the Wales coast one of the top places to go in the World in 2012. But you don't want to do what they say, right?!
Couple of days in Pembs bird list:
Kittiwake, Gannet, Fulmar, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Pipit, Kestrel, Shearwater sp., Cormorant, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Raven, Magpie, Peregrine, Rook, Carrion Crow, Wheatear (1), Chiffchaff, Razorbill, Linnet (c300), Swallow, House Martin, Woodpigeon, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Little Owl (heard), Tawny Owl (heard) - also possible Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
For my rambling family: K, K, J and B