While I was unemployed (and for a while after I started work again !) I had literally nothing. Occasionally though, I would treat myself, and I bought simple items which I could use for camping.
The reason for this, is however bad things were (and although I couldn’t afford to at the time) I knew with certainty that I would get out camping again. It was just a matter of time.
My friend Sue did a superb job of organising a camping trip to Llangollen a couple of months ago, so when I heard she was planning something for Tenby, I couldn’t wait (it would also give me a chance to try out some of my camping gadgets (*2)).
I had originally intended to do Saturday to Saturday, but it didn’t end up working out. Luckily, Alex was driving down early on Tuesday, so we travelled there together and shared the petrol.
Halfway there, realised I had left mobile at home . Luckily, my mobile synchs with outlook, so once I could find a computer, and connect back to work, I had a number for Dan at work (in case of emergency’s) and Steve (to make sure my fish didnt starve).
It was a weird feeling throughout the week, as I kept feeling like I should reach in my pocket and check something, but there was nothing there 🙂
We met up with everyone at the Meadow farm camp-site. There are normally spectacular views of the bay from here, but the weather was awfull and you couldnt see more than 100 yards.
I’d packed light, and it was the 2nd outing for the Zephros 2 tent which performed superbly once again.
Alex had brought an enormous tent, with all sorts of accessories, and it took us 2 hours to put it up.
We headed off to see a bit of the town.
In native welsh (is there any other kind of welsh) Tenby means little fortress of the fishes.
Tenby is mainly known for its beautiful beaches and 13th century medieval wall. The most striking part of which, Is the 5 arches barbican gate shown above.
It wasn’t always like this. The English civil war and a plague that killed half of the residents, laid ruin to the city. The visiting John Wesley wrote: Two thirds of the old town is in ruins or has entirely vanished. Pigs roam among the abandoned houses and Tenby presents a dismal spectacle.
Shortly afterwards, Sir William Paxton started investing in the town and today its one of the busiest tourist seaside areas in the country.
We wandered around a couple of different pubs. The town had loads of character, and after less than an hour, it was growing on me.
Not everyone could make it on the trip. No attenders included Brian (Salisbury plain) Glenn (working) Dan (told me it would rain and I was mental). Present, were several people from the Chester and district walking group , the Chester branch of IVC and some personal friends of Sue’s.
My tent held up perfectly throughout the night, despite terrible weather. In the morning, it was awful, and I thought seriously about hanging around the town doing some cultural research (which means sitting in pub all day).
Although there are dozens of walks available around the area, there are 2 main walks, along the cost. One runs from Trewant back to Tenby, and the other runs from Tenby to Saundersfoot.
We decided to do the first one, and got the bus out to Trewant (in my experience, if 1 leg of a journey is to be done by public transport, always do that first). This would mean that the walk would end back at Tenby, rather than everyone having to wait for a bus, at the end of a 13 mile walk !.
As you can see from the picture above, the early part of the walk was interesting, but coastal views were no existent. The weather was terrible, but as Billy Conolly said, in the UK, theres no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.
The Pembrokeshire coastal path we were following, is Wales only coastal national park.
We stop off at Swan Lake bay (I don’t know why its called that, as there weren’t any Swans are anything).
We had a go at beach combing and I had 1 of my sandwiches (ok, so if your getting the idea it was a bit dull, once we stopped walking, your on the right track).
Just as we entered Manorbier bay, the weather picked up.
The sun was beaming, and those that could changed into shorts. I realised that I only had my fleece and hadn’t packed a T shirt, so I baked for the rest of the day.
As we walked into Manorbier, to meet the rest of the group , we passed Manorbier castle. It was used in the film I capture the castle.
I was interested to see that they run writing courses there. I cant think of a more inspirational setting.
Once in the town, a few people visited a nice tea shop, and had soup. I went for a pint, and in between, ate the superb packed lunch I’d purchased from Sainsbury’s.
At one point, I’d actually considered buying a picnic from Carlucios. When I realised how much it weighed, I changed my mind.
Fed and watered, we continue on our way.
We had to head inland from the coast to continue the walk, as a military base is located there.
Air defence range Manorbier, is the only range in mainland UK from where the High Velocity Missile (HVM) employed in the anti aircraft role can be fired.
Its actually called the Starstreak missile system and is the latest in the design progression from the Blowpipe (used in the Falklands) to the S15 Javelin (deployed in the first Gulf war).
They fly radio controlled planes that are bright orange, and than practice trying to hit them (although I presume they practice near misses, as replacing all those planes must be expensive). When finished, the plane is flown back, the engines are cut and a parachute lets it descend slowly to earth (we watched this with fascination).
I decided not to take any pictures of the missile or its launcher.
I’ve seen spooks and I didn’t want to get bundled into a white transit van on my way back from the chippy.
Its 4 years since I did the Anglesey coastal path. I remember commenting at the time that I’d never seen anything so spectacular, but this was even better.
I had expected to see some “wrecks” around here, but there weren’t any.
I cant stand ambiguous signs. I always think that signs should be obvious, and you should know instantly, the information being conveyed.
We were walking along the main path, but I small path closer to the edge had been eroded. The writing on the green part of this sign, tells you not to go this way, but I thought the graphic at the top, communicated the message superbly !.
The top of the path, overlooking Lydstep.
The area was more caravan park than town, and if the prices in the shop are anything to go by, the residents there must be particularly wealthy.
As we leave Lydstep, we walk along this sort of peninsular.
Once we’d walked to the end, it dropped down and from here it was just a matter of walking a few miles down the beach to Tenby.
I noticed that people started to spread. Walking is a bit like that. Sometimes you stay with the pack and chat, and other times you find some space on your own. It had been an amazing day, and in the last couple of miles, even a cynic like me, was in a reflective mood.
Back in town, a few people decide to head back to the camp site, and get ready for an evening out (they would later change their minds, and exercising the hight of alfresco decadence, order pizza’s to be delivered to the camp site !).
The 2 David’s and I decided to relax with a pint. We find a nice pub with a beer garden . It was largely taken over by its regulars, and “tourists” like myself were tolerated rather than welcomed.
Still, character trumps hospitality in my book, so we had a couple there, and decided it wasn’t worth heading back.
I’ve never been a big fan of sea food.
If you invited me out to celebrate your birthday, and we were eating at a seafood restaurant, I’d come along, but I’d eat the food in the same way I’d eat worms on a Survival course (and in case your wondering, I’ve done it !).
The exception to this, is Sea-bass and traditional Fish and Chips from the chippy (the latter not to be eaten to often, for the sake of my health).
The chip shops around Tenby were superb. The thing I especially liked, was how every fish was fried fresh. There were no battered fish, sat behind glass waiting for someone to buy them, like there is at home on Friday night.
I must have eaten Fish and Chips for lunch or dinner on about 4 occasions throughout the trip, and wasn’t disappoint once.
I’d heard you have to be careful eating in the street, as the gulls can be quite aggressive.
We decided to do an experiment.
All around us, gulls were perched on rooftops watching us eat. As we sat down on a bench, they moved in closer, and started to perch on nearby cars.
I had about 15 chips left on a tray. I walked over to a bench about 15 feet away, got my camera ready and stepped back.
The gulls attacked the tray (thats the only word I can think of to describe it). In seconds all the chips were gone, and they tray lay in tatters in the corner.
We decided to have a few more drinks in town, and its then that I discovered a brilliant pub, called Normandie. I went back a few times during the trip.
Next day up bright and early, we decide to visit the Island of Caldey.
When I’d seen the island from the coastal path, the day before, I was convinced it was the one from Torchwood. In fact, thats Flat Holm Island of the coast of Cardiff.
Its a couple of quid by boat for a return trip.
As we were sailing out, we passed the lifeboat station.
Tenby had the first slipway equipped lifeboat station in the country, installed in 1905.
We take the piss quite a lot on this website, but there are exceptions.
To my mind, the kind of guy who gets out of a warm bed at 4am in the morning and puts to sea in horrendous conditions to try and save someone else’s life, is in a league all of his own.
I’ve included a link to the crew list. These guys are made of iron, if you have any spare money, please do consider donating to the RNLI (and pray that you never need to use them).
We arrive on Caldey Island.
On the top left of the picture, is the abbey where the monks actually live. The monks themselves, are featured on facebook. A situation so ridiculous, that I have nothing else to say about it.
On the right of the picture, is the shop and museum. The main source of income for the island (aside from selling salvation I suppose) is the chocolate and perfume that they make.
The chocolate was very nice. The perfume, one of the foulest stenches I have ever endured. I can only presume that the monks don’t go out on the town often, and have therefore become confused about what perfume should actually smell like.
I think if I was female, I would rather go out for the evening wearing insect repellent.
On the plus side, there was a small cafe on the green and the tea was really nice.
We wandered around exploring.
As we walked towards the lighthouse, I looked back and took this picture. From a distance, the Island looks pretty small, but you can see how big it is here.
For no particular reason, we started discussing the wall on the right. Sue reckoned that the grouting on this building needed work.
I thought it was at least 100 years old and should be condemned.
As we reached the lighthouse, we decided to stop for a break.
One of our party had sat on some mud or something. There was some discussion about how “serious” the problem was.
Since nobody had a mirror, I was called upon to photograph the area, for review by the “victim” of this mishap.
Martin Sheen in Wall Street, said “When a guy gets old enough, he’s seen everything”. After taking that picture, I believe that I have.
As the offending backside was was forced into my face and I was instructed to take the shot, I fought the urge to scream. Instead, I unwittingly exclaimed “Christ on a bike”.
This was unfortunate, as someone religious was passing, and they took a dim view of my comments.
I’ve deleted the photo now. Like the true face of god (which this most certainly wasn’t) some things are never meant to be seen.
From the lighthouse, there was a nice coastal walk.
Were weren’t able to do it, as the last boat back is at 3pm so there was no time.
If you miss the last boat home, they will send you a charter boat and it will cost £50.
Back from Caldey, we have a couple of drinks around the Esplenade.
Its full of Victorian era hotels and has loads of character (if I’d been here on a romantic sort of weekend, I’d probably have stayed at one of these).
It afforded a superb view of St Catherines Island and Palmerston fort built in 1867.
There was talk of converting the fort into an esclusive hotel. I’m no engineer, but it didnt look like an easy job to me.
The path up to the fort was closed. Inspired by urban adventure I thought we should do some sort of “James Bond” thing, sneak over and jump the fence once it got dark.
Surprisingly, I couldn’t get any volunteers to come with me, so gave up on the project.
If anyone is wondering, this is what it actually looks like inside.
In the evening, we continue our tradition of contributing to the local economy through pub and chip shop.
Wine bars are, to me, for people who want to go out for a drink, but don’t want to look like drinkers. A nonsense really.
Some of our group are ensconced there and we meet up with them. Flash looking from the outside, its surprisingly dreary on the inside. There’s even a singer !
Its normally younger “musicians”, who confuse good music with loud music and turn the volume up to headache inducing volumes in order to compensate.
I’ve included this picture, to show that older people can be stupid as well.
A brilliant thing about the camp-site, is its location right on the Pembrokeshire coastal path.
The following day, we got up, got ready, wandered down the drive, and there we were, ready to walk to Saundersfoot.
It was really muddy underfoot but the scenery was superby. The rest of the group decided to walk a bit further, but Alex and I had lunch in Saundersfoot (what do you know, there’s a chippy !)
and then took the bus back.
In the afternoon, I just hung out in Tenby, wandered around the shops, bought a t shirt, then found somewhere quiet and started jotting down some notes for adventure opportunities I’d thought of.
Later I meet up with the group, and we have a couple of drinks and some dinner at the 5 arches (beef & ale pie and chips for £8).
Of course none of this would have been possible without a lift from Alex, so I treated him to dinner (and like any decent bloke, he didn’t take the piss and order Steak 🙂
Were going home the next day, and I feel a bit sad.
We wander around Castle hill. Its dark now, and very quiet. We sit on a park bench, and someone spots a Seal (or an old car tyre, depending on who you believe).
I wander around some more, in a reflective mood. Lots of things have changed over the last couple of years.
I’m constantly striving to get life back to what I consider normal. But what does that actually mean. Well to me, it means big budget overseas adventuring. Or so I thought.
Trips like this one to Tenby are meant to be a temporary compromise aren’t they ?
Its then that it occurs to me, as I look out to the ocean. I’m not looking at the Taj Mahal or the Empire State building.
I’ve seen both of those things up close. When I think back to the experience, it was no more special then, than this moment is now.
Its then that I realise. Its like when you work with someone, you see them every day and you fall in love with them without realising it (*1).
I’m where I want to be and my life is already back to normal. Life has re-aligned itself while I wasn’t looking.
Dan asked me to point out, that this was hilarious and incredibly cheesy. I didnt think so, but for full disclosure, promised to mention the comments.
Unfortunately the weather was so bad, I never got to try out any of my camping gadgets (that’s why there are no pictures of my tent or the camp-site or anything).
A brilliant week away and I would definitely recommend Tenby. That said its people and places that make experiences memorable, not just places.
I’d like to thank everyone that came along, with special thanks to Alex for transport and Sue for organising. Without them, this trip wouldn’t have been possible.