Welsh wonders

· travel · life ·

About two weeks ago, we returned from a holiday in West Wales, on the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline. When I was a child, we often spent our holiday in Wales, but in mid-Wales, rather than the coast. I had never been to that part of the Pembrokeshire coast before, and it turns out that I have been missing out on a treasure.

This is an incredibly beautiful bit of the world: the coastline is dramatic, with tall cliffs, abundant coves, caves and offshore stacks, and such a varied geology that you never know what is around the next corner. If you walk along the coast path (which we did, every day), every turn, dip and rise of the path brings a surprise and a new spectacular view. When the sun was shining (which, thankfully, it did a lot during our holiday), the sea is a deep turquoise. If you don’t believe me, just go and look at some of my photos.

We were lucky to find a lovely cottage to rent in the village of Trefin, which is right on the coast path, so within less than 5 minutes we could be on the path, and within 15 minutes, sitting on a spectacular spur, able to look at gorgeous cliffs and beaches in two directions, while tucked out of the wind. We walked different bits of the path every day, sometimes using the coastal bus service (the Strumble Shuttle) to drop us on a different section of the path.

We saw no end of wildlife from this high vantage point. From our cliff spur, we watched a pair of peregrine falcons cruising around the cliff faces. Now, I’m lucky enough to see peregrine falcons frequently at work, but there’s really nothing like seeing them in their proper coastal habitat. In urban areas, you often only see part of their flight, before tall buildings obscure your view. Being able to follow the entire flight path of a peregrine falcon is thrilling, as they carve the air into a series of elegant parabolas. It struck me as I watched them that they are both the bow (wings swept back, gathering power in their curve) and the arrow it unleashes (wings fold to a compact point, casting a piercing point at a target). They are shape-shifters, inscribing the air with geometrical precision. It is awe-inspiring and somewhat humbling to watch, and I could have done it all day.

We were also there at the right time to see the start of the pupping season for the grey seals. We took our binoculars with us on our walks, and on one, looking down at the inaccessible beach below, we could see the grey torpedo shapes of adult seals in the water, and a fluffy white pup (only a few days old) struggling in one of the shallow pools. The pups don’t swim very well when they are very little, and this one was obviously in some distress, calling out, and getting visibly weaker as we watched. A couple of females blocked a curious male from getting to the pup, but didn’t do anything to help it. There was nothing we could do either, but will the pup on to haul itself out of the water. After some time, its mother returned and the pup followed it towards the beach. She fed it, but in the water, so it was having to try to keep itself afloat while suckling. Eventually, we had to tear ourselves away from the drama: we had only intended to stop briefly to look, but suddenly, and an hour or more had somehow flown by.

Another walk took us past Aber Mawr beach. I love swimming in the sea, but due to a combination of poor planning, and not realising what a gorgeous beach Aber Mawr is, I hadn’t brought my swimming costume or a towel on the walk. Luckily, Mr. Bsag is very accommodating to my selkie-like need to dunk myself in freezing seas, so as soon as we got back to the cottage, I flung on my swimming costume, grabbed a towel and we drove back to a parking spot near the beach. When we had walked along the beach earlier in the day, we had the entire stretch to ourselves, but on returning there were a few others on the beach. I wasn’t keen on having an audience, but I really wanted to swim in that lovely water. I knew it would be cold, so it wouldn’t be a long swim! Once I got to where the water was mid-thigh level, I had to get in deeper gradually to avoid cold shock. As each wave broke a bit higher up, I had to remind my body that it needed to breathe out as well as in. Finally, I took the plunge and actually started swimming. It’s a cliché that ‘it’s lovely once you’re in’, but it really is. I adore swimming in the sea, working with the waves, tasting the salt, and smelling the seaweed (one of my favourite scents in the world). Swimming in warm seas always feels like cheating to me: there’s nothing like chilly ocean water to make you feel vibrantly alive.

When I got out, I was buzzing and euphoric, getting the giggles as I rather pathetically failed to stand on one leg on the pebbles while drying myself and getting dressed. I really need to toughen up my soft southern feet, or else remember to bring flip flops next time!

We’ll certainly be back, that’s for sure. It can’t come around quickly enough for me.