Day 6 Steep hills and a Cathedral

Just as Buckingham isn’t the county town of Buckinghamshire so neither is Pembroke the County Town of Pembrokeshire. That honour belongs to Haverfordwest which is where I spent last night at the appropriately named County Hotel. Sian the receptionist had phoned me en route to say that she was closing up at 10 pm and if I hadn’t arrived by then I’d be on the street. I assured her that I’d be there by 6pm and just made it after a longer than expected reroute. She put my bike in the Dining Room and explained the form for breakfast and re-iterated that the front door would close by 10pm but I had a key to get in after the witching hour. I cleaned myself and my kit and went in search of food as there was none to be had at the County Hotel.

The upper reaches of the Cleddau river, which I had already crossed earlier in the day, at Pembroke Dock flows right through the centre of Haverfordwest and I crossed it and headed for The William Owen one of J D Wetherspoon’s best. Now say what you like about Wetherspoons (some say full of fat families and alcoholics), for a man that needs to be fed quickly and cheaply they provide a great service. Having eaten with them previously I have the app on my phone and, after signing in for Covid purposes with a cheerful and helpful member of staff I was directed to table 15 where I put in my order on the phone. As it was Friday JDW offer fish and chips + a pint of beer for about £8. With a couple of slices of bread and butter the bill came to £9.14 and the Doom Bar arrived immediately followed very quickly by the fish and chips. I ordered a further pint for £1.79 and Apple Crumble with ice cream for £3.85 (both with the app). All was served well cooked, quickly and efficiently by smiling staff for under £15 – what’s not to like?

The room was a bit dated but the bed was comfortable and the bathroom ok. Bed and breakfast was £57.30 which was reasonable value. There were about 10 people in the dining room for breakfast whilst I was there and we helped ourselves to cereals, toast, pain au chocolat, croissants, cheese, ham and boil your own eggs: you could eat as much as you wanted and I did myself well knowing I was in for a hard day on the bike.

I got packed up and was on my way by 0915, straight into a climb out of the town. For the last few days I have been plagued by a squeaking noise when I pedal sitting down but it goes away when I stand up. I’ve been meaning to tighten the bolts that hold the SPD clips into my shoes and stopped after a mile or so to do so; it made no difference and I still can’t work out the problem. Later in the day I tried tightening the bolt on the saddle but no change. It’s annoying rather than critical so I shall just have to live with it. At least it means I don’t have to use the bell as walkers can hear me coming!

For the first four miles out of town there was a dedicated cycleway in good condition but I was not feeling good. I lacked energy and the slightest hill was taxing me. About 8 miles in I swooped down the hill to Nolton Haven, a small bay like several others along this coast.

Nolton Haven

There were a few people on the beach but it was early in the day. I climbed excruciatingly slowly up the inevitable hill and then down to Newgale beach which was busy with surfers and walkers with a coffee shop that seemed to be doing good business.

Newgale Beach

The hill out of Newgale was the first of many today that defeated me and I pushed the bike up the steep incline for half a mile. I remounted and had about 8 miles of up and down, occasionally pushing, before I reached St David’s, the smallest City, by population, in the UK. Here I stopped to look around the Cathedral which has a tenuous family connection in that the current Bishop of St David’s, Joanna Penberthy was previously Rector of Cucklington where she christened my three grand-daughters who still live in the Parish. She is the first lady Bishop in the Church of Wales but sadly wasn’t there today.

It is a lovely Church, nicely intimate and interestingly decorated and sits alongside the ruined Bishop’s Palace, which can be seen in the background, once part of the monastery that has been on the site since the sixth century.

The current Cathedral dates back to 1181 but has been substantially modified even during the early 20th century. There were lots of visitors enjoying the sun outside and the building inside. I stopped and stared for a while before moving on to Whitesands Bay, St Davids-by-sea. It was heaving with people, the car park full by lunchtime and more people coming down the narrow hill

Whitesands

There was a cafe serving veggie food and I had a baked spud with beans and cheese and a cup of tea to keep me going.

Another climb up from the beach and then a slow and steady climb along the cliffs before the road descended sharply to Trefin, necessitating another GOAP. Same thing again a couple of miles further on at Abercastle, this time marked as 20% so no shame there even if I’d been on top form

Abercastle

The roads were a roller coaster, diving down into wooded valleys and emerging on top of cliffs so going was slow. I was making for Strumble Head lighthouse but had managed to put a footpath into the navigation so gave up the idea before I plunged back down to sea level from 600 feet, knowing that I would have to climb all the way back again.

Strumble Head

I carried on to Goodwick which is where the so called Fishguard- Rosslare ferries dock. Fishguard is just around the corner up yet another step hill which was, at least on a well made cycle path. I looked out across the mud flats

Fishguard Bay

before carrying onto the port of Fishguard

Now only about 8 miles to go I vainly hoped for a flat road but the hill out of Fishguard was too much for me and the last few miles were very hard work.

I’ve slightly altered tomorrow’s route to reduce the climbing but will miss out some of the coast as a result. I’m not sure I can take too many more days like today: I’m hoping I feel better tomorrow.

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