Sir Benfro perambulations (Pembrokeshire perambulations)
A pint on the wind swept patio of the Overlander in Panalun (Penally) as the traffic roars by, crab fishing off Dinbych-y-pysgod’s (Tenby’s) harbour with children squealing in delight and a cycle ride over the wild Ridgeway linking Panalun to Penfro (Pembroke) are some of the agreeable aspects of my perambulations in West Wales this September.
Blame it on the covid but outside Tesco in Llanusyll (Saundersfoot) there were long queues waiting to enter and to buy their meal deals, wine or loo rolls for their caravan holidays while you have to book online to go to a café, visit a castle or take your empties to the recycle centre.
However the great British public are not be put off by a virus if the anorak clad couples frequenting Maenorbŷr (Manobier) beach were anything to go by. One elderly couple stopped and asked me to take their photograph with their mobile phone. “We last came here in 1976,” they said in chorus, “and we’ve not been back since.”
The last time I visited the beach with its split personality of jagged rocks and sweeping sands beneath the headland with its Neolithic tomb was in 1986 in an October that was so warm we went swimming most days. Overlooking the beach with its National Park public toilets, car park and dunes is the largely intact Norman fortress of Castell Maenorbŷr. I hadn’t booked so didn’t enter although I suspect the Normans haven’t made too many changes to the battlements since 1986.
A few years ago we saw a production of The Taming of the Shrew one evening in the grounds produced by a Welsh travelling theatre company which memorably cast the character of Christopher Sly as a gate crashing drunk who started shouting from the audience for the ‘bloody play to get started’ causing those sat next to him to call for the stewards to remove him.
Rising from Panalun is a long hill (which I pushed my bicycle up) to The Ridgeway – the ancient road connecting the village to Pembroke via Lamphey with its ruined Bishops Palace. No pre-booking required to enter the palace as there is no entry charge, visitor centre or even visitors. I strolled around the neatly kept grounds with its palm trees and fading signs explaining the past luxuries afforded by members of Catholic Church enjoyed pre-Reformation. Luxuries that needed crenellated walls to protect them from the serfs outside.
Pembroke was much as I remembered with its long Main Street running down the centre of the walled town from the castle on Westgate Hill lined with shops and boarded up businesses and ceaseless heavy traffic as it forms part of the A4129. The tranquil mill pond that partly surrounds the castle and park in the shadow of the walls were a respite from the lorries and caravans for one rather knackered cyclist.
Carew Castle and tidal mill were picture perfect in the autumn sunshine and surprisingly busy with visitors. A note of thanks to the village’s public toilets – still open despite Covid-19 – giving one great relief in these days of almost non-existent facilities.
Talking of picture perfect Tenby is everything a photographer can wish for with its harbour, castle hill, sandy beaches and a mixture of Georgian, Victorian and 20th century homes, hotels and bed and breakfast establishments teetering on the edge of the cliffs giving the town a series of – well picture perfect – silhouettes. We have been coming to the town on and off since the 1980s and although the cinema has gone and has been replaced by a hotel and pound shop not too much has changed. And perhaps that’s one reason why like so many others we keep coming.
For more from the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and God knows where else.