Tag Archives: sea cliffs

Wales debrief: camping, walking, climbing, BBQs!

16 May
 
Oak tree at Brandy Brook
 Like many people I spent ten days thanking Kate and Wills for their generosity in giving us an extra Bank Holiday weekend in April.  Rather unpatriotically I chose to spend mine well away from London.  The temptation of ten days holiday well away from London versus crowds of people flocking to see the royal wedding, public transport groaning under the weight of it all, was just too strong, especially with the weather promising to be so beautiful for the time of year.  So a bunch of us organised to go camping in Pembrokeshire, Wales for a good mix of relaxing, walking and climbing.  We stayed at a campsite called ‘Brandy Brook‘, just 10 minutes drive from the coast and between 15 and 20 minutes to the sea cliffs which we would be aiming to climb. 
 
Brandy Brook is slightly inland, so whilst you are close to the coast, the campsite is well sheltered from those pesky off-shore breezes which can threaten to whip away less sturdy tents.  I can certainly recommend it – the owners couldn’t do more to help us, bringing us picnic tables and blocks for our barbeques.  It’s also well enclosed, with lots of space, so its great for kids to be able to run around in the centre of the field.  We almost had the whole field to ourselves that week, so it was pretty peaceful.

On the first day we set off on a walk in blazing sunshine.  There was just a light breeze, reminding us that it was still only April after all, but apart from that the skies were blue and clear from horizon to horizon.  We walked past an old, disused mill and along woodland paths lined with dainty wildflowers like bluebells, daisies and primroses.  The air was warm with the scent of the gorse bushes and their bright yellow flowers.  They smell like coconut oil to me and remind me of holidays!  Am I the only one?  After some time and as we were on our way back to camp, a stiff offshore breeze sparng up.  This usually means you’ve got about 20 minutes before it starts raining, and sure enough we could see a bank of dark clouds heading inland from the sea and racing us back to camp.  We started walking faster but it wasn’t long before the clouds overtook us and we were in the middle of a thunderstorm!  It took us 30 sodden minutes to squish and squelch our way back to camp through long damp grass and by  the time we were back we were soaked to the skin!  No harm done though – we dried off and headed to the pub! 

Stepping stones home in the rain
That was to be one of only two wet afternoons over the whole ten days, not bad for British Bank Holiday weekends, let along in Wales!  We spent our days walking along the cliff path, enjoying some fabulous lunch spots and eating delicious barbecued food.  We visited St David’s, the smallest cathedral city in Britain, which is, in reality, a small and picturesque village.  The cathedral itself really is very beautiful, with a very high and delicately carved wooden ceiling, which, at the altar end is brightly painted.  Definitely worth a visit.  Solva and Porthclais are two inlets with high cliff sides ending in a tiny harbour.  They wouldn’t look out of place in the Norwegian fjords or a Mediterranean fishing village as the sea was so calm, blue and crystal clear.
 

Our Porthclais lunch spot

 But a visit to Pembrokeshire isn’t complete for climbers without a trip to the seacliffs, and if you’ve never been, what are you waiting for?  The bottom of the routes are reached either by scrambling down the cliffs or, more commonly, by abseiling down.  Most climbers are not big fans of abseiling other than as a means to an end.  I’m not sure why this is but I think the notion of descending when most climbers raison d’etre is to get higher means abseiling is anathema to them!  The rock has a great varierty of grades including slabs and the rock is mostly full of friction.  The holds can be a little ont eh crimpy side, even on the easier end of the scale but I’d been practising inside so it wasn’t too bad!  We climbed a variety of routes but my highlights were seconding Gareth up “The Fermenting Telescope” (HVS 5a) and seconding Hannes up “Beyond the Azimuth” (E1 5b) – 18m of diagonal crack and not much else – and is longer and harder than anything else I have climbed to date – even indoors!  I’m so proud of the fact that I climbed it without any falls, even though the many facial contortions that the camera recorded clearly showed I found it tough going!  I’m already looking forward to going back with the friends that couldn’t make this trip (you know who you are!!) 

Me climbing at Porthclais

Beyond the Azimuth (E1 5b)

 

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