Be­side the sea

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - Discover -

THE WEATHER IN au­tumn is a wil­ful crea­ture. Days of gen­tle golden warmth are fol­lowed by storms that tear the weak­en­ing bonds be­tween leaf and branch. And nowhere do those shift­ing lights and winds have more space to play and re­flect than be­side the sea. On wild days it can lit­er­ally take your breath away: words grabbed from your lips and blasted into the sky, the roar of the waves bat­ter­ing the land as you lean into the ir­re­sistible, ex­hil­a­rat­ing force of it all.

On other au­tumn days, like this one, it can be ut­terly still, as if the world is hold­ing its breath be­fore the on­slaught of win­ter. From the tri­an­gu­la­tion point on Pen y Fan at the tip of Di­nas Is­land the sea views seem in­fi­nite, rip­pling out to a faint hori­zon. I’m half­way be­tween Newport and Fish­guard, walk­ing a 12-mile stretch of the Pem­brokeshire Coast Path as it clings to cliff­sides and climbs to their top, dips into wooded coves and pad­dles across sandy beaches.

The sky has been grey all day, but with a del­i­cate patina like weath­ered steel. The shore has been bright with colour: patches of green grass and rust­ing bracken in the an­gles of the cliffs, and leafy splashes in the woods of Cwm Rhi­gian and Cwm Ffor­est as they drop to the coast. I’ve spot­ted leaves and seaweed dry­ing to­gether in the tide line, while the hedgerows hang onto the last wisps of sum­mer, flow­ered with red campion, herb robert, vi­o­lets and one of the vast fam­ily of al­most-iden­ti­cal white um­bel­lif­er­ous plants I can never iden­tify. The gorse still glows sun­shine yel­low, still smells like co­conut sham­poo, and the barely-mov­ing sea is lu­mi­nous, some­times sil­ver, some­times green, and some­how re­flect­ing more light than the sky seems to hold.

De­spite its name, Di­nas isn’t an is­land but an omega-shaped head­land al­most sev­ered from the main­land by the same rush of glacial melt­wa­ter that cut the Gwaun Val­ley. The ru­ins of St Bry­nach’s church at the eastern end of its neck tell the tale of some very dif­fer­ent au­tumn weather. Its roof was torn off by storms in Oc­to­ber 1859, when the winds hit the top of the Beau­fort Scale at force 12. 133 boats sank off Bri­tain’s coast, 80 more were dam­aged, and the gales be­came known as the Royal Char­ter Storm for the steam clip­per smashed against the rocks of An­gle­sey with the tragic loss of 450 lives. Weather-ob­sessed walk­ers should know this was a key event in the cre­ation of the Met Of­fice, with the first gale warn­ings go­ing out the fol­low­ing year. It’s hard to imag­ine such dev­as­tat­ing force on a soft, muted day like this, where the sea lies like a mir­ror, barely mak­ing a sound.

By the time I drop down to the quay in Fish­guard, pic­turesquely dot­ted with colour­ful houses, I am ab­so­lutely cream-crack­ered. Not just from the dozen miles of dis­tance but from the up and down and up again that has ac­cu­mu­lated through the day to over 4500 feet of as­cent – that’s more than Ben Ne­vis from sea-level. (The A487 and its buses run a mile in­land so you can al­ways dip out early for a shorter walk.) But I’m happy too, for those tired legs are a sure sign that this year I have re­ally grabbed au­tumn and cel­e­brated the sea­son from shore to sum­mits. Carpe diem.  FALL COLOUR The coast path is a riot of tints and tex­tures: felty moss, cop­per-wool bracken, grey rock. uWOODY BAYS Val­leys full of trees lead down to the sea in a cou­ple of places, like here at the aptly-named Cwm Ffor­est. WALK HERE: Turn to Walk 19 in this is­sue

CALM AF­TER THE STORM St Bry­nach’s church was wrecked by storms in the 1850s; its ruin is now a con­tem­pla­tive spot. Long views across the sands of Newport Beach. OCEAN WATCH

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.