Walk 8 of this series starts from the village of Bosherston, joins the coast path at Broad Haven South beach then across to St. Govan’s Headland. It’s a circular walk, returning to Bosherston by country lane. Starting in the village provides an opportunity to walk via the wonderfully scenic Stackpole Estate, following the trails around the famous lily ponds which lead onto Broad Haven South beach.
Bosherston is a small village, with one road, a number of picturesque old cottages and an impressive Norman Church. For ramblers and visitors it has a couple of essential amenities. Ye Olde Worlde Cafe is a quaint ivy clad cottage tea rooms, though only open during holiday season (it was closed when I walked this section in early January).
There’s also a great welcoming village pub, the St. Govan’s Country Inn which serves superb bar meals and a fine pint too. It’s a very popular place particularly during spring and summer as hikers, rock climbers, campers and day trippers make a beeline for it.
When walking or hiking, planning a route is essential and an old map I recently discovered offers some great advice! Bosherston ticks all the right boxes offering both amenities.
Our walk starts by heading into the National Trust estate, passing the NT car park down through woodland to join a nature trail around the lily ponds. The area is a haven for wildlife and we heard a woodpecker noisily making its presence known high up in a tree top. On the pond a cormorant flew low over the water, and numerous ducks gathered at sheltered areas near the banks.
The varied habitat of the ponds is an ideal home to otters and if you visit early and are fortunate you may get a glimpse of these elusive shy creatures, although I haven’t been lucky enough to see them on my visits. At the southern end of the ponds is an area of marsh with reed beds, a peaceful scene as rustling reeds in colourful winter hues sway in the breeze.
The reed bed marsh is a good spot for heron, kingfisher and various species of birds such as warblers. The lakes are fed by natural underground freshwater springs and the water drains south through a rock crevice and emerges as a babbling brook flowing under a small footbridge which links the coast path and continues to flow onto Broad Haven South beach.
The stream creates quite a feature as it flows firstly over a stony and rock strewn surface before quietly and gently winding its way through the soft sands towards the sea.
Our previous walk we had detoured inland at this point so we rejoined the official coast path here and continued westwards across the dunes which are the backdrop to the wide level sands of the stunning Broadhaven beach. At the far end there’s steps leading to a National Trust car park and a washroom block. From here the coast path route continues westwards across an area of cliff top known as the Trevallen Downs and there’s a spectacular view back eastwards of the rugged coastline with numerous caves, rock arches and rocky outcrops.
There is a sentry gate which marks the boundary of the Ministry of Defence Castlemartin East Range. This section of coast path is only accessible when the military range is not in use, so it is important to plan ahead to ensure the coast path is open to proceed from here.
The land within the range was requisitioned by the War Office in 1938 from the Cawdor family, landowner Lords of the vast Stackpole Estate and has remained in military use as a firing range since. Signs along the path warn of the dangers of ordnance left from the military exercises, so don’t pick up anything in this area!
The track leads across land above the reputedly old smugglers cove of New Quay, where an abundance of gorse with bright yellow flowers provides some colour to the winter landscape.
Castlemartin range is recognised as having some of the finest coastal landscape scenery and spectacular limestone rock formations in the UK. An area of open ground to the south leads to the headland known as ‘St. Govan’s Head’.
An old coastguard lookout building is the southernmost point on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and the rich limestone rock cliff faces of the headland are spectacular. The exposed position means that winds here are really bracing as westerlies whip in from offshore carrying the noise of the sea as waves smash into the rocks below. It’s an epic coastal scene for the senses, of both sight and sound.
When I first walked this area over twenty years ago, it was possible if not entirely sensible, to walk quite close to the top of the vertigo inducing cliffs as the grass surface went almost to the cliff edge. The cliffs here are very popular with rock climbing enthusiasts and over the years it’s obvious now that a fair amount of erosion of the grass and soil surface has occurred.
Walking to the St. Govans car park there is a track on the left to a cove and steps which lead down to the holy site of St Govan’s Chapel, a place steeped in myth and legend. That’s for another day and walk though. For now our walk is back along the country lane to Bosherston village to finish the day with a meal and pint at the St. Govan’s Country Inn.
Walk 8 brings the distance we have covered so far on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path from Amroth to St. Govan’s, to 26 miles. Join us again for walk 9 in the series.