Running the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path; Episode 5 On to Dale, the dreaded Power Station and Freshwater West and East.

Another long hot day in the sun, concluding in the beautiful big harbour at Dale, boats of all kinds glistening in the setting sun by the time I got there. Well over 50 kilometres of the usual ascent followed by descent all day long. By now, this had become totally habitual – this is what I do from dawn to dusk –  just keep putting one front in front of the other, running the flatter sections, such as there were. An enjoyable day with some beautiful views again, although totally confused again by the supposed distances between places. Rounding St Anne’s Head seemed to take forever, but I resisted to take the obvious short cut across the headland which would have saved an hour or two I reckon. I can only think that the distances we had were as the crow flies because they seemed to be at least double what they were supposed to be. And I cannot emphasise enough the difference between 50 odd kilometres on a flat road and the same distance when you are simply going straight up then straight down again. These days feel more like 80 kilometre days than 50 and literally take all day from dawn to dusk.

Finally I could see the estuary of Dale Harbour, but hadn’t reckoned on its length! I started to run again, aware that Elvira had been waiting for me for hours longer than I had told her (mobile phone reception in this part of Wales is very very variable, so communications were often lost). I felt remarkably fresh as I ran into Dale Harbour to stop for the night with around 175 kilometres done.

The next day was by far the ugliest part of the trail, skirting around the industrial area of Milford Haven, over the bridge and past Pembroke Castle on towards the monstrosity of the Power Station which dominates the landscape for miles around and lights up beautifully at night. This day was a necessary slog in high humidity. The sun had disappeared appropriately for this grim section which took all day and there was a grey humidity overhanging everything. Drenched in sweat, there was little pleasure in this day but, by evening time I was close to the Power Station. You could feel the unhealthy radiation in the air, as I moved warily through fields of aggressive looking cows. I would not want to be drinking their milk, I thought, grazing as they were in the pastures just outside the foreboding edifice which is the Power Station, like a vision from hell. I really didn’t want to be there and couldn’t wait to get round the headland the next day and on to more scenic parts. However, I wasn’t going to omit any of this path and was determined to finish the job now with well over 200 kilometres done.

I slept well that night, although by now the blisters on my heel from the endless running in wet shoes, followed by heat, were becoming a serious problem. From Angle onwards this is one of the most beautiful parts of the trail but the blisters and the endless climbing had succeeded in locking up my calves completely and I was by now  just hobbling most of the time, completely unable to run because of the pain. My mood was worsened by two near misses. Firstly, I was attempting to do some running on the flat ground around Angle when a beast of a dog spotted me from a distance and hurtled towards me before its owner could react. It leapt up at my chest and I just felt its fangs make contact with my chest before its irate owner arrived. “Why didn’t you just say ‘no’? he inquired of me, clearly holding me totally responsible for his beast’s actions. I pleaded with him ‘ I did stop running’ I said. This was not enough to pacify him and he wandered off with his friend and wild beast, complaining about runners and shaking his head!

On I continued to Freshwater West, a beautiful beach but with a menace lingering in the sand dunes. Here I came within a whisker of standing on a substantial looking adder, adjusting my footing at the last minute as it slithered and hissed off into the dunes. Phew, that WAS scary.

On round the military firing range, really hobbling badly now and seriously wondering if I could get through the day, the pain from my locked out calf and blisters on the heels was so great. I had to stop at the other side of the firing range for a long break, massage and refreshment – the sun was really baking hot again now. However I knew that I had to get to Freshwater East by nightfall and indeed would carry on in the dark until I got there so the next day would be manageable and we could finish by late afternoon on the Saturday. This was probably the most tiring day of all due to the constant pain with every single step and it was a great feeling of joy and satisfaction to finally roll into Freshwater East just as the sun was disappearing.

I knew that somehow or other I would complete this mission now, blisters or no blisters, cramped calves or not, this was in the bag and I would hobble what I thought was probably about only 40 kilometres to the finishing plaque at Amroth.


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