Our plans to make progress with a series of walks on the Pembrokeshire coast this year were thrown into disarray when the coronavirus / Covid-19 global pandemic resulted in the UK implementing a national lockdown in March 2020. In Wales non-essential travel was limited to 5 miles from a home address and activities such as touring and holidays were outlawed.
The message from the Welsh Government agencies to the public was “Visit Wales…Later”. The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority ran a campaign advising the public “stay home” and “Pembrokeshire, It’s not for you”.
As the Covid-19 virus meant that all the normal activities of society were placed on hold for an extended period, for those who like to spend as much of their free time in the great outdoors this was particularly dispiriting. The lockdown regulations were relaxed in August 2020 and so, almost 5 months behind schedule, we were able to make plans to resume our series of short walks on the Pembrokeshire coast.
So with restrictions lifted, we resumed our coast path walks in mid August. However new rules were in place and so these 2020 walks will be remembered for new measures with social distancing signs placed along routes and hand sanitiser being an essential carry item for use after handling gates and stiles.
The start point for Walk 15 is Milford Haven marina, heading westwards to reach the tidal inlet of Sandy Haven and covers just under 5 miles of coast path. There’s a low tide crossing at Sandy Haven which needs to be carefully timed by those walkers intending to continue towards Dale, however this is a circular ‘there and back’ walk so tide times are not a factor.
Setting out from the Marina the beginning of the route is through uninspiring streets of terraced homes in Hakin, although the local chip shop, aptly named ‘The Hake Inn’ smelt inviting as we passed by just before lunchtime. Once through the housing area the path drops down to a road by the Yacht Club facing Gelliswick Bay and follows this road alongside the bay.
The route follows a concrete track and then a grass path alongside the LNG terminal site. Although hedgerows screen the terminals from view, the oil and gas pipelines connecting to jetties on the waterway are a reminder that the area is heavily industrialised.
The path descends via a series of steps, passing underneath pipelines across a small sandy beach before ascending steps to reach a bramble sided track alongside fields at South Hook Point. There’s a good view from here of another of the Victorian era maritime defences, Stack Rock Fort.
From South Hook Point the scenery markedly improves as the path is within the protected National Park and the contrasting landscape colours of countryside, cliffs and the rocky shoreline are a welcome sight walking towards Sandy Haven.
The gently undulating countryside fields along the cliff tops provide open views of craggy bays and across the waterway towards the Angle Peninsula in the distance.
Reaching the headland above Sandy Haven, there’s a campsite which in previous years during August probably was full with families and holiday makers . But being it’s 2020 the place is sadly deserted, still closed due to the Covid regulations. Walking around the outside of the campsite the path drops onto a cliff backed rocky beach with rock pools which are popular with young explorers. However it is eerily quiet, the silence only broken by the sounds of a solitary family at the shoreline, we wondered is this the new normal? At this point we turned and via the country lanes to Herbrandston Village returned to Milford Haven marina. This circular walk distance was 8.6 miles, and the total distance now covered on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path in this series to 70 miles.
It was so good to at last be back in Pembrokeshire and walking the coastline. Particularly after the uncertainty caused by the COVID pandemic and the monumental changes to freedoms and lifestyles, the benefits of walking coastal paths and countryside to improve ones physical and mental health well-being cannot be overstated.
Join us again for our next walk on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.