Ramblers’ Cymru held their council meeting at Stackpole on the Pembrokeshire coast last weekend, and before it started we went for a walk in bright sunshine.
Stackpole belongs to the National Trust and is an outdoor centre. It was the site of a grand house, built for a Norman lord; the Cawdor family rebuilt it as a fashionable house in the 1730s, but pulled it down in 1963 because they could not pay for its upkeep. The trust acquired the estate in 1976.
Our leader, John Reeves, took us from the centre down through blackcap-filled woods to the Bosherton Lily Ponds (the lilies were not yet flowering). We crossed the impressive Eight-arch Bridge (which from many angles appears to have only seven arches) and took a permissive route across fields to Stackpole Quay. This was a hub of activity with a noisy car-park and it was a relief to climb onto the cliffs and head round to Barafundle Bay.
I was walking for some of the time with my good friend Marika Kovaks from Herefordshire, who is visually impaired but does not let that stop her. She is intrepid and, despite some rocky terrain and steep steps and slopes, she walked as fast as any of us. She has an excellent ear for bird songs and calls, and we swapped information as we heard them—skylarks, a stone chat and linnets.
Ruth Curle from the Vale of Glamorgan Group took a photo of us in the archway above Barafundle Bay, before we began the steep walk down.
The beach was full of people; we crossed it and headed up through woodland onto the cliff again. I was looking at every jackdaw hoping it would be a chough and at last I saw two of them perched by the cliff edge. I was sad that Marika could not see them, but she shared my joy.
We walked round the impressive Stackpole Head and then on westwards, into the sun.
The last time I was on these cliffs was a memorable occasion. It was 23 September 1999 and I was with delegates from the National Park Authorities’ conference. Vicki Elcoate, the chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks was paged (that dates us!) by Emma Loat, a fellow staff member. Emma had just learnt that the deputy Prime Minister and environment secretary, John Prescott, would announce at the Labour Party conference the following week that there would be national parks in the New Forest and South Downs, an important milestone in a long campaign. We celebrated on the Pembrokeshire clifftops.
We reached to Broad Haven and then climbed up Stackpole Warren to Bosherton Lakes in golden evening light.
The next morning I was up at 6am to walk by the lakes. It was slightly misty.
There was plenty of birdsong and I hoped to see otters near Grassy Bridge. Sadly I did not, but I had a good view of a heron.
I returned to the centre to join the walk at 7am, led by Nigel Lee who is very knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and history of the area. We walked back to Grassy Bridge, and again there were no otters.
We crossed the bridge
and then went down to the sand dunes above Broad Haven so that we could see the numinous Church Rock, said to resemble a seahorse.
By then it was time to return for breakfast. But I was sorry that I hadn’t found the Victorian boathouse, so I slipped away and discovered it. It makes a good bird-hide, although better in the evening when the light is behind you.