The day started early, 3.30 am, with violent cramp in my right hamstring. I leapt out of bed and went through the usual agonies, stretching and massage until it relented and I returned to my bed with throbbing hamstring and my thoughts. These were not good with firstly annoyance because, rather predictably, my recovery from the bug had been slow, as had my first training rides. These rides had been on my road bike, and short, and I had only returned to anything near my normal times on my 20k standard test route. I needed to have done longer and harder training rides before I had set out again but tried to console myself with the thought that on tours like this you usually become fitter the further you go. If my hamstring was still hurting that badly in the morning, would I be able to push my bike up the big hills? As happens in the “wee small hours”, my imagination was running riot.
In the morning the hamstring was still sore, but the advantage of cycling is that I could use just one leg to provide the main power so I thought I would cope. I did not have to wait long to find out as, within a mile of leaving town, I was pushing my bike up a hill shown on the OS map as being steeper than 20% (1 in 5). It was manageable and, as the day went on, to my great relief my hamstring gradually eased.
The day’s cycling was to be mainly along the tops of the hills following the coast, with occasional beautiful views over the Celtic Sea but when I reached the top my first view was back down towards Camarthen and I spotted, on the far side of a field, what looked like an ancient earthwork of which there are a number in the area; just the place to bury a venerable leader: his descendants would know he was still keeping a beady eye on them.
These were quiet lanes with just an occasional tractor and a lot of battered old Land Rovers, just the vehicle for farmers, narrow for the lanes and gateways, can go anywhere and easily repairable. Was happily philosophising about the rural life when I was suddenly startled by a buzzard which shot out of a bush when it was equally startled by my silent approach. They look beautiful birds soaring high in the sky; agitated at six feet away they seem huge and scary.
I suddenly came across a magnificent house with a long white front shimmering in the sunshine and stopped to get a better look, when the owner appeared in white stained overalls and proudly told me he just finishing painting the front. I mentioned the buzzard which he knew as this was in its hunting area. He was also frequently visited by a kite but the most spectacular visitor had been a peregrine falcon which usually kept watch from a neighbouring pylon but when he drove down a lane in his car it would fly along with him and if the car disturbed a small rodent it would dive down on to it. “Someone has shot it.” he said, bitterly. He was interested to know where I had been and he said that Pilgrims had been one of the earliest uses of the Ferry at Ferryside as they had been going to the shrines at St Davids and that on the OS map you could follow the Pilgrim’s trail. He also recommended Pendine as being a good place to visit, not the first time I had been told I must visit there for its beautiful sands.
Eventually Route 4 split and I had a choice either to continue up and over the hills or a diversion down to Laugharne on the River Taf where the map showed a castle and, further along the shore, Dylan Thomas’s boathouse, before rejoining the route at the summit at Three Lords. Working on the principle of never letting a castle be passed without inspection, I freewheeled down into a pretty little village with everything for tourists: cafes, gift shops including local handiwork and, overlooking it all, a splendid castle.
The castle had been built in the 13th century, replacing a wooden Norman one, captured by the Parliamentarians in the Civil War and partially dismantled and later turned into a tudor mansion. Both Dylan Thomas and Richard Hughes had used the summer house for writing in.
It was lunchtime and I spotted what could possibly have been an ideal pub. The problem with visiting somewhere to eat, as I had discovered earlier in the trip when I had my helmet stolen, was security of the bike and load as you usually have to go inside to order something. All my valuables are kept in my bar bag but that was too small for the iPad which I kept in a front pannier which could be easily taken off the bike by its handle and both then carried inside. This pub had a railed in section with rows of benches and I slid the bike with difficulty into a corner behind an amiable couple who would keep an eye on it. The pub overlooked the village centre and, as the couple said, just the place to watch the world go by. Decided there was not time to go further down the coast to see the boathouse.
Soon after starting climbing the hill out of the village, I crawled slowly in low gear past a pair of horses and had time to exchange greetings with the riders. Later, when forced to push the bike, they came by me. I later crawled slowly by them again but said I expected to see them further up the hill. They wished me well as they said they would be turning off soon. It was a long struggle but it was worth it for eventually there was a view of a gloriously blue sea and the specks of some of the houses of Pendine. Broke my earlier promises to visit Pendine. It would be an exhilarating swoop down to the sea but could not face another 40 minute slog back up again.
Eventually I glided down to the coast at a pretty cove of Amroth on the Saundersfoot Bay. Then it was mainly along a joint bike and footpath which had become the Pembroke Coast Path, mainly off road past other coves. The cycle route and the coast path were now one and a lot of effort had been put into creating the Coast Path including a section created by the National Trust and three tunnels, the last emerging into Saundersfoot where I was staying for the night at a guest house. On the recommendation of the proprietor I went to The Chemist a little away from the centre, a friendly pub with good food overlooking the beach.