Pembrokeshire Coast Path – 180 miles – June 2015

5 Jul 2015 by wp_admin, 3 Comments »

In far west Wales is Pembrokeshire, a county with a seaboard that is the UK’s only coastal national park. Cliffs, beaches, wooded estuaries and wild inland hills are connected by a path that runs 180 miles. Last month I ran its full length. The path is not just a distance: it goes up and down. When you add the ups, cumulatively there is more ascent than in climbing Everest.

I was supported by a team: my brother Ed and his boys Sam (8) and Harry (6), and my friends John and Tim. Between us we hired a cottage in Weston near Haverfordwest as a base. From here I ran the path in 44 hours. This was broken into five stages: 20 miles on Friday afternoon, 45 miles on Saturday, 45 miles on Sunday, 45 miles on Monday and 25 miles on Tuesday morning. That is three full days and two half days of running, and I do not think there was a low point. Friday. After personal training sessions in north London between 06:30 and 10:30, Tim and I drove from Kentish Town to Amroth and met John. From here I ran the near-tropical 10 miles of south-facing coast path to Tenby while Tim and John parked a car further down the coast and drove back to Tenby so we could run 10 miles back to Freshwater East together. Blue sky and heat made the route through wonderful places like Lydstep and Manorbier the ultimate antidote to north London and five hours on the M4.

The first big day was Saturday. We’d stopped at Freshwater East the previous evening so that Ed could take Sam and Harry to Barafundle and Broadhaven, two of the finest beaches you could ever hope to see in the UK (unless you were going on to see the rest of Pembrokeshire’s shoreline). We ran onto these beaches and watched the children run around, then made our way onto the Castlemartin military training area. The route we followed is only open at weekends. We ran past the ancient hermitage of St Govan’s Chapel, derelict half-tracks and tanks, PERGYL signs warning us to keep to marked footpaths lest unexploded ordnance from miltary exercises should blow us up and an extraordinary colony of seabirds at Stack Rocks.

We moved inland here towards Merrion Camp, Warren and a rendezvous at Cold Comfort Farm. Unfortunately our maps did not correspond and at Cold Comfort farm the support car wasn’t there. The other mooted rendezvous had been Warren, so I ran back there and then back to Merrion. Again, no sign. I went back up a long hill to Cold Comfort where Tim was waiting. Eight hundred metres further on we found the team scratching their heads as to why it had taken us so long to reach them. Purists take note: at this point we bent the rules. Taking into account the fact that I had run nearly two extra miles to go nowhere, I got in the car and drove exactly the same distance further down the route (which was at this point was all road anyway). Even by doing this we were still behind schedule. Running into Freshwater West brought back very happy memories of the campervan honeymoon in Pembrokeshire last year.

John now took over the job of keeping me company. We re-started after eating one of Cafe Mor’s delicious lobster burgers. If you are hungry, I would say it is worth anything up to a five hour drive from anywhere in the country to go Freshwater West and eat the unfeasibly delicious locally-sourced sea food provided by Cafe Mor. With these super calories in my belly, we ran onto the Angle headland where an eerie sea mist took visibility down to zero and created a strange otherness in this remote place. I have run this stretch in bright sunshine; the mist now made the ruin of a hermitage or farm house perched over the edge of the cliffs beyond Rat Island look very special indeed. The sun reappeared at West Angle Bay, where Harry and Tim were swimming. At the other side of Angle John swapped with Ed and we ran the larger Angle Bay together. At the other end Sam joined us as we ran past the oil refinery at Bulwell Bay and power station at Pwllcrochan Flats. The landscape underneath these huge structures is lush woodland that has grown unrestricted I n the shadow of the heavy industry. Sam now came into his own as a support runner, being thoroughly entertaining in a way in which adult support runners are not. That is to say, he jumped in every patch of long grass he could find, vaulted fences, climbed under gates and sprinted as fast as he could down precipitous slopes. He covered four miles with ease and we reconvened a couple of times with the support vehicle to refuel before making our way into Pembroke. My goal for day one had been to make it across the Cleddau Bridge from Pembroke into Neyland and then onto Milford Haven. John took over again and together we ran the comparatively bleak concrete stretch towards the magnificent Cleddau Bridge at a good pace while Ed took Sam and Harry home and Tim waited down in Neyland. Tim swapped with John for the last plod of the day, underneath the James Bond-esque oil refinery and into Milford Haven. We had covered 45 miles in 10 hours which all things considered was pretty good going.

3 Comments

  1. jane morris says:

    I enjoyed reading that. Well done. How is your foot? Sounds like you have some kind friends.

  2. Terry says:

    Henry – this is an amazing achievement and an inspirational web-site. I’m so glad that life is working out well for you and that you are having such a positive effect on the lives of others.
    I never said congratulations on your wedding but my thoughts were with you both and I wish you lifelong happiness.
    Incidentally, I like the look of this year’s Tempest : was the weather kind?
    Keep the projects going.
    Much love.
    Terry

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