Day Four - West Angle Bay to Pembroke - Pembrokeshire Coastal Path South
Distance - 14.5 miles via Angle Point Headland or 11.5 miles from The Point House Inn and Angle Village
Easy grade with some short moderate sections. Low hills, marshy boardwalks, mudflats and ancient wooded drove ways skirting the modern refineries of the Haven. What these grades mean.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path heads out this morning to circle the rocky Angle headland with views out to the Alcatraz like offshore rock of Thorn Island with its 19th century Napoleonic Fort.
Rich hedgerows and coastal gorse blend with sections of lush bluebell woodland as you round the remains of Chapel Bay Fort to enter the mature beech woods that cling onto the low cliffs. The water views are now of the continual movements of the huge tankers, ferries and tugs that slide quietly by, which is in itself quite entrancing.
A final descent through meadows rounds the Angle Point Headland to a new type of scenery with the mudflats, marshes and tranquillity of Angle Bay - a birdwatchers paradise with flocks of migrating waders such as redshank, curlew and grebe, mixing with solitary fishing heron, egret and oystercatcher.
Just past the remains of the old lifeboat station you enter this sheltered and timeless spot for a lazy drink at the 16th century Point House Inn, frequented by local boatmen and sheltering yachtsman gazing over the bay endlessly waiting for the next rising tide.
The Wales Coast Path now takes a wide arc around Angle Bay on a delightful wander along the mud banks and foreshore passing the relics of old shipwrecks beyond Angle Hall.
The huge Rhoscrowther refinery dominates the back of the bay but apart from a short section on the access road it’s well hidden by woodlands and paths that pre-existed its less than welcome arrival.
The largest refinery in the Haven, its huge chimneys are visible from as far north as Solva, almost a week’s walk away. However, despite initial misgivings, it’s hard not to get some fascination with the immense alien structure as it appears briefly and just utterly dwarfs the walker.
That said, you will welcome its disappearance as you drop below it into some excellent sections of pastoral oak and beech woodland, broken by regular views of the coastline and ivy covered ruins of limekilns and former hamlets abandoned when the refinery arrived.
At Fort Popton you find one of the sturdy 19th century defensive estuary forts now taken over to house the Rhoscrowther Oil company’s archives.
The coast path then disappears into wildflower meadows and gorse, only reconnecting with the refinery briefly to pass below the huge fuelling pipelines that snake out into the estuary, where you will glimpse some of the massive 20000 ton super tankers loading at very close quarters.
Today virtually no habitation remains in this area and the walk passes through the largely abandoned village of Pwllcrochan. Fear of accidents at the nearby plant drove the residents out to leave a ghost village which sits at the head of the creek at St Martins Haven.
Once famous for its oysters and cockles, it is now a lonely square tower church and long closed school, the empty property boarded up and bought by the oil companies. Yet, leaving the Pembrokeshire Coast Path here you can divert briefly into a superb boardwalk nature reserve below the lost church - a surreal spot where you will find a healthy otter population, in a superb rich section of dragonfly marsh all existing in the shadow of those fuming towers.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path now heads into a lovely section of ancient track way through woodland with good views towards Pembroke. Wide marshes emerge as you cross gentle farmland paths, small stream valleys and little copses broken up by boardwalks over tiny tidal pills or creeks such as the one at Goldborough with the interesting remains of its huge square limekiln.
The lack of intensive farming due to the industry means that there are some excellent wild meadows here, with impressive carpets of wildflowers and as many butterflies and buzzards in this forgotten corner as on any part of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Turning to follow the Pembroke River inlet you pass one final creek head at Quoits Mill, before heading into the first large habitation since Tenby as you reach Monkton, passing the remains of its old Benedictine Priory which date back as far as the 11th century. Worth pausing to visit, the church of St Nicholas and St John here houses part of the old sanctuary and choir from the original Abbey.
Beyond this you reach the historic town of Pembroke and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path delivers you straight in to its heart, depositing you right below the iconic keep walls at the oldest castle in West Wales and one of the largest fortresses in Britain.