The forecast for this day was rain, heavy for two hours in the middle of the day, so I was anxious to make an early start. This was often difficult as Guest Houses and B&Bs reflected their owner and breakfast was usually from 8am or 8.30am; small pubs would often ask you what time you wanted breakfast and would not be enthusiastic if your choice was early. There was a good reason for this: a landlord cannot start clearing up until the last customer has reluctantly left the evening before and often would not want to go to bed until everything was washed up. Late nights do not make for early mornings!
The Mariners Hotel, however, included among its customers what used to be called “commercials” and offered breakfast from 7.15 at which time it was still fine and after the usual problem of finding the right way out of town I was bowling along to the famous rocky headlands and beautiful sandy coves of the South West Coast Path.
By the time I arrived at Broad Haven the rain had set in and the headlands clouded with mist. My friends Terry and Miriam had walked the Coast Path and I had intended to take photos of the path as it wound round the headlands but discovered the limits of my new smartphone which unlocks by touch of your fingerprint. The pad you touch has to be absolutely dry as does your finger. Everything was misty and as soon as I opened my phone the wet condensed on it and the only way to dry my finger was to shove it down my underpants which could be embarrassing except that virtually the only people around were the Lifeguards peering out of their huts into the mist. I managed, after about 10 minutes, to get a shot there but could not photo the rather small stone at The Druidstone and gave up.
The worst thing about pushing my laden bike up the narrow, winding and busy coast road was the traffic coming up behind me who were taking a chance if they tried to overtake me and it was with great relief when I arrived on to a quiet straight road heading inland until I saw a barrier and hut some distance ahead. I had clearly missed a turn but thought I had better enquire and a young serviceman carrying a gun emerged from the hut. It was Brawdy Air Base so he was very surprised at my question about a cycle route but, fortunately, another serviceman emerged and told me which direction to go.
By then it was throwing it down, which was predicted to last two hours, so when shooting down a hill and over a bridge I saw a sign to a Woollen Mill with a small tea shop I shot inside with great alacrity and ordered tea and cakes which were consumed in a very leisurely fashion and closely followed by coffee and Welsh cakes. I went inside the Mill, which I discovered was called Solva Mill, but nothing much was happening. It was Saturday and there was one small loom (see photos below) which had been in use and had a particularly completed piece of work, an information board explaining they produced woollen carpeting for sale in the adjacent shop or to order, and a short video showing the loom in action. The shop itself was popular but no one stayed long in the Mill and when the heavy drumming of the rain on the roof eased, I set off for St. David’s.
St. David’s boasts a famous Cathedral where Ian, a friend from my National Service days in the RAF, had in 1978 been appointed as a Succenter. His obituary in The Church Times said that his skill at the organ and inspiration of choirs showed throughout his ministry. It also referred to his native wit, which he had had plenty of opportunity to use mentioning the absurdity of life in the National Service during winter nights in the huts where servicemen huddled around a red hot Tortoise stove.
By the time I got to St. David’s the rain had stopped. It is a surprisingly small town, very pretty and full of tourists. Approaching the town you could see St David’s Cathedral tower for miles but in the town it was hidden until you walked though a gateway into the Close and there it was below you – it seemed immense in its setting. I went inside, and its grandiose was not lessened, reminding me of St. Albans, but I did not stay long as I was conscious of my bike and panniers standing outside unsupervised so I intended to return the following day.
The YHA Hostel was only a couple of miles away and was a former farmhouse and situated down a very bumpy track. It was staffed between 5pm and 10am but I was given a cheery welcome when I arrived 15 minutes early. It didn’t provide food but there were pots of instant porridge, and curry and rice bags that you could heat up in the kitchen. I was surprised to find several mothers with young children but one explained that if you walked a bit further up the hill behind the buildings across some rough ground and then down there was a lovely sandy beach.