“Shall we go camping?”
“We should you know! My ancestors are from Trevethin, Pontypool, Newport… Maybe Nantyglo at some point.”
“Trevethin is a shit heap. Let’s just go to Pembrokeshire!”
Before you judge, my friend’s Welsh and from Newport – he’s as offended as you!
Paul’s an old friend of Nigel’s and since I met him (on a plane to Barcelona) we have all got on well. He and his wife have a cool pub in Bristol and Nige and I would spend the occasional Sunday evening there, not to mention the Hallowe’en parties… So when I lost Nige, Paul was instantly there. He helped me with the order of service and read an emotional eulogy at the funeral. Isn’t it amazing how friends, when the need occurs, can become like family?
Anyway, I digress. The above messages were exchanged some weeks ago but finally, after much to-ing and fro-ing, I booked us into The Celtic Camp Site, near St Davids. Paul gave it his seal of approval and, well I thought the pictures looked nice!
Wednesday, 8th August
We left Bristol just before 10 – the traffic from Bath wasn’t great. Although I had the Sat Nav on, I really didn’t need it. Paul’s travelled almost to the exact spot week in, week out for years. I must say, it was rather lovely having a bloke in the van, chatting away. The fact he could direct me flawlessly too was a real bonus! As I’ve said many times, I do struggle with female chit-chat and so the journey to Pembrokeshire was wonderfully refreshing.
We got to the campsite around lunchtime – maybe a bit later. The site was stunning; the most incredible view of the coast, peppered with rural landscape and rugged coves: just beautiful…
We chose a spot on the edge (retrospectively, I think we should have moved up to higher ground – that’s where the view was at its best). With the hedge on one side of Paul’s wee tent, and Wendy on the other, at least the wind was reduced a little. Obviously, Django and I were fine. In our solid VW!
As I sorted out Wendy and strategically placed the fairy lights, windbreak, stove and flag pole; Paul started to sort out his ‘caterpillar’ tent.
“At the pub, they all wanted me to do a time-lapse video of me putting up the tent. They think I’ll be really bad at it…”
He was but there isn’t any proof. You’ll just have to take my word for it!
For our first walk, Paul took us onto the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path to Abereiddy. Django bounced effortlessly along the pathway, occasionally making my bum go a bit tight as he bounded up to the precipice! But, overall, it was an easy stroll. We came out by some beautiful cottages and then wound our way down a narrow road, to Abereiddy Bay Beach. It was packed; huge vehicles trying to negotiate the bend at the bottom of the road (forcing us onto the grass verge), only to be told there was no room in the car park. So back up the way they came… So glad we walked! Once we got onto the beach, tranquility descended. It’s odd, isn’t it, how tranquil life can be, even when amongst a crowd of people.
Back at the camp site I cooked us some haloumi. We ate pretty much everything we had brought with us for the whole trip… and drank all the wine! Still, it had to be done; conversation was had, tears and laughter flowed naturally and it just felt perfect.
Thursday, 9th August
As usual, Django and I were awake by about 5.30… It just always happens that way. Anyway, we laid in for an hour, until we saw Paul poking his head out of his cocoon-like tent. It was about 6.30. We needed a plan for breakfast. I needed a coffee!
The brilliant thing about having a tent is that your pitch is saved; which means you can drive your VW camper away… Well, that’s a first for me!
“They’ll be lots of places to get breakfast in St Davids.”
Just four miles up the road, and definitely on my ‘bucket list’, St Davids was the obvious choice for coffee.
We didn’t end up with the best coffee but we did drink it whilst looking at the best view. Paul took me down to see the famous St Davids Cathedral and the ruins of St Davids Bishop’s Palace. Wow! Just, really didn’t expect to see anything so grand and as magisterial as that – breathtaking. I vow to revisit and go inside…
Next; we found a friendly hotel that served breakfast to non-residents and was dog-friendly – perfect. We sat there for quite some time, watching the Friday market set up and soaking in the hub-bub that is everyday life in beautiful St Davids.
Back to the van, via Oriel y Parc; an ecological visitors centre by the carpark. Again, I’d have liked to have stayed longer but Paul wanted to take us on another coastal walk. This time, through Solva and into Manorbier and time was marching on.
On to Solva then. There didn’t appear to be much there, if I’m honest, but the high street was incredibly pretty and I do like me a pretty high street!
The road to Manorbier was brilliant; lots of windy lanes, narrow roads and stunning sea views. Then, as you come into the town, you’re faced with the most incredible castle. Today, though, we were focused on walking. So I parked up and we set off on a 4km Coastal Path Walk to Swanlake Bay. It looked much worse than it was – you could see people like ants winding their way ahead and it felt for the world that you would never get there. But, yeah, not too tricky at all. I worried a little about Django as it was hot and he was panting a fair amount.
“There’s fresh water for dogs at the beach. You’ll see…”
After a tiring hike up, came the precarious stroll down. Django was perfect – not once landing me on my arse! As we came down to the entrance onto the beach, there was a pile of rubbish. Amongst the rubbish were four plastic milk cartons, full of fresh water:
“FRESH WATER FOR THE DOGGIES!!!
HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY 🙂 “
Paul told me that it’s from a guy who also collects up all the rubbish, and then when there’s a pile, he takes it to the tip. I looked up to the top of the cliff,
“How on earth does he do that?” I asked.
We sat on the beach for a while, I was particularly enjoying the view of a young guy bouncing naked into the waves. If I had my costume (and the courage), I’d have jumped in too! Paul, however, decided that maybe he wouldn’t take a dip after all, ha, ha! Anyway, we only had an hour left on the car so we set off back, filling Django up with more water before we started.
On our way back to the camp site, we stopped off at St Davids for food; a mash-up of veggie burgers, Pringles and Black Olive Hummus… Perfect with the two bottles of Italian wine and four bottles of Welsh ale! As we sat eating, drinking and chatting, the wind continued to battle with the windbreak and flag pole – the windbreak gave up pretty damn quickly. So I decided to rescue the flag pole before it did the same. Then we retired to comfort of the van, finishing the wine and our chat. Django was shattered – until I tried to get a picture of Paul for the van, that is… Such a diva!
By half 10, we were done in. Paul crawled into his tent and Django and I fell asleep. That’s the benefit of the Welsh sea air!
Friday, 10th August
We awoke at about 5am to rain! It’s always then that you need to pee… I walked the endless walk up to the toilets between the storm, leaving Django in the dry. Shortly after I got back, Paul emerged from his wind-battered tent – honestly, I’m impressed it was still standing! Tired, we tried to catch a few more zzzs, but the heavens opened and so Django and I sat in the van, watching Paul’s little tent get battered by the incessant wind and rain.
As soon as the rain stopped we packed up the site. It really didn’t take that long and by the time we were sat in the breakfast room (with everyone else), the weather was brighter and there was even a rainbow in the sky. After two beautiful, sunny days, it seemed the perfect time to go home.
So that was Pembrokeshire. Well, a bit of it anyway. Such a beautiful place and certainly somewhere I’d love to revisit. Maybe next time I’ll bring a Bell tent; I loved being able to leave the camp site and I think a freestanding tent – as opposed to a drive-away awning – is a little more flexible. Hmm, I’m seriously getting into this camping malarkey!