Day 12: Pembroke to Trefesser : 72km and 1050m of climbing

Having had a lazy day yesterday, we were surprisingly ready to get on our bikes again.  We were off by about 7.30am and expected the usually tedious process of getting out of a city – but this one was straightforward.  There were some sharp hills but soon we crossed the estuary and joined a delightful bike path which followed an old railway line. Lined with trees and wild flowers it climbed very gently up hill and was empty at that time of the morning.

The delightful cycle path

After 20km we dropped down to Broad Haven, the site of one of our least successful holidays.  It must have been about 1992 when we camped there with a toddler and a crawling baby and it rained continuously for days – so we gave up and went home rather than face another day of trying to stop a toddler making mud pies in the damp.

Overlooking Broadhaven

Today was overcast at this point but dry.  The road along the coast was – as in all roads along the coast – a mixture of seriously steep up and seriously steep down, with short periods of respite along the bluffs.  It was fantastic scenery but tough cycling.  I suspect we may have a great deal of this over the next few days.

The beach at Nolton Haven

The road swooped down to a series of little hamlets, and then rose out of the settlement over the next cliff.  We stopped at Nolton Haven and brewed up, watching children playing on the beach in the little cove. It was the first day of the half term holiday and bank holiday weekend. We pressed on past Newgale (surfers paradise except the sea was calm today) and then up Newgale Hill (18% and slow).

After more back roads and lots more ups and downs, we reached St Davids.  St David was a 5th century preacher and mystic who lived a simple life and inspired generations of Welsh Christians.  He was quickly adopted as a patron saint of this area and has remained symbolic ever since.  A cathedral church was built at St Davids and has remained on the same site ever since.  I have mixed reactions to cathedrals – much as I have mixed reactions to anything involving religion.  For those who do not know, I am an atheist with a theology degree; someone who lived in a religious community as a young man and has spent his professional career trying to understand and mediate between doctors and patients with profound religious views which cause them to have a different approach to life and death for children and relatives.  I have also had so, so many cases that have touched on financial or sexual abuse by those in religious authority that you will forgive me a measure of caution about the motives of anyone in a dog collar.

St Davids Cathedral

The inside of this amazing place

But St Davids Cathedral was a wonderful experience.  In part it was the simplicity, in part the sheer size and in part it was perhaps how we were feeling.  Cycling holidays tend towards looking for the good things in life, seeing beauty as opposed to seeing problems and allow time for us to understand the historical significance of historical sights.  It was a light, airy building and the sun streaming in through the upper windows.  It had a mixed history and was nearly a ruin by 1800, but was rescued and restored.  The roof is wooden and the carvings are a joy to observe. (Bernie says one of her most favourite cathedrals ever).

Next we met my chambers colleague, Rhodri Price Lewis and his wife, Barbara, for lunch.  Rhodri and Barbara have lived here for many years, managing the commute into London as we do from Worcestershire, albeit their commute is a bit longer.  Barbara had career as a teacher, and is a keen cyclist.  It was a really relaxed, enjoyable meal on the terrace of an old pub next to the cathedral.  The sun was out by now and as we sat soaking up the sun we marvelled at Rhodri ordering our meal on the pub’s app on his phone. As if by magic our meal arrived – albeit with 3 extra portions of chunky chips!  We donated these to a grateful next door table!

After lunch we visited the ruined Bishop’s palace next to the cathedral. The religious and political importance of the bishop meant a pad of considerable proportions. Underneath all the main rooms were a series of underground caverns where all the work was done.

The Bishop’s Palace

After leaving St Davids we adjourned for coffee in Rhodri and Barbara’s garden about 3 miles north of St Davids, and conveniently on our route.  We discovered that we had one additional thing in common – we have both been “Daily Mailed”; an interesting experience where a well known national newspaper gets the humph about something and writes slightly less than flattering things about someone to the great amusement of your peers.  Not nice when it happens and, as Rhodri says, better not to read below the headline.  However, most of us wear it as a badge of honour.

We said our goodbyes and ambled towards the Hill Fort Campsite at Trefassor. Perched high on a headland,  the final km of which was up a bumpy track.  This is a “green” campsite and there was loads of space.  We set up and then watched a spectacular sunset over the sea.  Watching the sun descend into the sea was something we had often seen abroad but never in the UK.  It was mystical and made me wonder if, after giving us such a superb show, the sun would be bothered to do the whole thing again tomorrow. A superb ending to a superb day.

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