In late June this year I visited the Pembrokeshire coast for the first time and had the good fortune to walk part of the newly opened Wales Coast Path.
The Wales Coast Path officially opened on 5th May 2012 and is heralded as the longest continuous coastal path incorporating 870 miles of walking route from Chepstow in the South to Queensferry in the North.
It has been reported that Wales is the first country in the world to offer a dedicated footpath along its entire coastline. The path runs through 11 National Nature Reserves and through (or alongside) 32 local Wildlife Trusts (link to map) and also includes a number of the 11 RSPB reserves in Wales.
This coastal path has not been without some controversy. Due to some landowners refusing access to their land, some of the path is not strictly coastal. 170miles (270km) just over 20% of the whole route is on roads and although mainly rural, some of the roads do not overlook the coast. However this aside, it’s an extraordinary achievement and when I visited, the coast path was being appreciated by many walkers, rock climbers and families alike.
Protected coastal paths are a fantastic place to find local wildflower flora and the Wales Coastl Path did not disappoint.
I noted fields of Birds Foot Trefoil, Thrift and Kidney Vetch. All visited by a host of bees and Hoverflies enjoying the sunny aspect of the coastal fields.
Common Valerian and Wild Honeysuckle and stunning Vipers Bugloss alongside Greater knapweed created a pretty picture amongst boulders. Making my walk even slower as I stopped to take more photos.
I was also delighted to see Razorbills nestled on the cliff ledges, and Choughs, Wrens, Field Thrushes, Finches, Linnet, Black headed gulls, Oyster Catchers and Wagtails all going about their business along the coastal walk. It was also my first experience of seeing a Skylark protecting a ground nest by using its distraction technique. The Skylark darts upwards and flies away from the nest site singing at full voice, when disturbed, to lead any possible predator away from the vulnerable nest.
An absolute must if you visit the Pembrokeshire coast section of the Wales Coast Path is to enter via the Lily Ponds at Bosherton, which is the Eastern side of Castlemartin Peninsula.
The 100 acres (0.42km) of lakes were created by damming three narrow limestone valley rivers and the lakes can rise and fall in depth by 2 metres between winter and summer. Each pond has a slightly different eco system and some support an extensive colony of lily plants which flower in early summer. The management and protection of the ponds is complex and is now the responsibility of the National Trust. Walks around the ponds and across the dam bridges are a delight and a small parking area has been provided in the village at the start of the walk.
The juxtaposition of lily ponds to your left, woodland to your right, culminating in sand dunes and open sea ahead is extraordinary. Leave the car park at Bosherton and take the path alongside the lily ponds towards the beach at Broadhaven South onto the coastal path to experience this truly gorgeous walk.