'Third Star' inspires Spring getaway

Sunday morning, Freshwater West was truly breathtaking

Helen Rushbrook is a Hertfordshire-based photographer, and inspired by the location of the independent film Third Star she headed west with a group of girlfriends for February getaway.

As a child growing up in the Midlands, North Wales was a familiar landscape in my family holidays, with many Whitsun breaks being spent on the Llyn Penninsular.  West Wales, however, remained entirely unknown to me until, in May 2011, my friend and I went to see the newly released independent film, Third Star.  While the 4 central actors turned in wonderful performances, it was the Pembrokeshire coastal landscape, against which the film was set which, for me, shone the brightest.

It was Whitsun 2012 before I got to visit that landscape for the first time and despite the mist and the drizzle that met our arrival on the Dale Peninsular, I was instantly captivated by the rugged coastline, the narrow winding roads with native hedgerows that at times almost met in the middle; and by the sense of space and peace. It reminded me of parts of Cornwall, but without the hoards.

My husband and I returned in September 2012, and spent 4 days walking, photographing and exploring - based at Stackpole - and again marvelled at the unspoiled beauty and quiet - most notably one early morning as we swam in complete isolation at beautiful Barafundle Bay.

This year I have three trips to the west of Wales planned - 1 again at Whitsun, to be shared with family and friends; 1 in the height of the school summer holidays; and the first – and proper subject of this blog - was in early February, when I once again travelled to Stackpole for a weekend of walking, photography and good food with 3 friends: two of whom were making their foray into West Wales.

An early start saw us at Stackpole Quay in time for lunch, and fortified by The Boathouse Café’s beef stew, we set out to walk across the headland - first to Barafundle Bay and then on to Broadhaven South, the Lily Ponds at Bosherton and from there back to Stackpole Quay. The circular walk from Stackpole Quay makes a fantastic half day’s excursion with a great mix of coastal, woodland and aquatic landscapes with the chance, if you are lucky (we were not) to spot Otters. It was an unseasonably warm February day, and rather than piling the layers on, we found ourselves shedding them as we approached Barafundle Bay in beautiful sunshine. It is without question one of the prettiest beaches I have visited, and as the winter sun hit the incoming tide its magic once again worked wonders as I felt myself decompressing from the week just passed, and from the more recent 5 hour drive.

Overnight accommodation and a superb dinner and restorative breakfast (which was much needed after a late night celebrating Wales’ win over France in the Six Nations with the locals) were provided by The Stackpole Inn, and Sunday morning saw us headed first for St Govan’s Chapel, before Freshwater West.

St Govan’s sits precariously halfway down the cliffs at St Govan’s Head and is accessed from the Castle Martin firing Range (you will need to check when they are firing, as the access road is sometimes closed). The Chapel was constructed on the site of a holy well that once attracted pilgrims, and the legends that surround it are many. Perched, as it is, almost at sea level and surrounded by huge rocks on which waves crash and seals sometimes bask, you feel it to be shrouded in magic and mystery, and could well believe suggestions that St Govan was one of King Arthur’s knights turned hermit.

Freshwater West is a short drive from St Govan’s Head, and also abuts the firing range. Backed by a network of dunes, and with strong currents it is one of the area’s main surfing beaches - but unsafe for family bathing. It does however, have an interesting and rocky shoreline, and had we nets with us we could have spent a happy hour or two rock-pooling.  The dunes also provide the potential for energetic games of hide and seek for younger visitors, and if the wind on the day we visited is anything to go by, kite flying is also a distinct possibility! I’ve learned from previous visits that if anything this stretch of coast is enhanced by stormy and dramatic weather, and this particular Sunday morning Freshwater West was truly breath-taking!

With a long stretch of the M4 ahead of us, it was with reluctance that we turned for home; I to return in May with my family; and the others - newly entranced by the beautiful and dramatic landscape that this stretch of the Welsh coast offers - destined no doubt to feel and respond to its draw at some point in the future.

Planning an early spring getaway? Read our 48 hours in Pembroke for more ideas for exploring the area.

  We used to go to Cornwall until we discovered Pembrokeshire :) The most gorgeous place...So much to see and do. And the coastline...Oh wow! 
Nicky Berry
Barafundle Bay

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