Sunday, 3 May 2009

"What... is your name?"

Finishing a lovely (and well deserved) pint at the Newport Boat Club in Parrog I dart across country from Poppet Sands to arrive at the Lobster Pot Inn at Marloes. Preparations are to be made here for a second day’s paddling down in Pembrokshire.

I meet up with a merry band of paddlers to indulge in a few beers, late tucker and to browse over maps and charts, before paddling proceedings begin in the morning– a trip out to Skomer Island.

The last time I was here, apart from being filled with anxiety over Jack Sounds reputation, I was also a little late to take in the ground tunnel antics of the nesting puffins at close hand. Not so this time, on both accounts. This time it’s earlier in the season and I expect to see the puffins up close and personal.

Morning sees myself, Claire, Mark, and Chris launch from Martin's Haven. I'm trying out a glass version of my trusty plastic Capella. Shiny and rigid, I quite like the feedback that the boats stiffness gives me.

We go down with the flow of the ebbing tide, through the Sound, before crossing over to the south side of Skomer. This way we have by-passed the more confused larger water of the tide race, and begin to explore the base of the cliffs.

Plenty of different bird life to observe and get close to on the water.


Puffins taking off and landing are most comical to watch

It's not long before we reach Seal Hole, where we quickly become the observed, and followed.

Grey seal in pursuit - at a distance

Mew Stone

Once we reach the Mew Stone, the ground swell that has been building up over the last day makes its presence known. We decide not to go around to face the brunt of the Atlantic and return in the relative sheltered water.

Paddling through the cave on the east side of The Neck will take you from the southern shore to northern side at the right state of tide and with some lucky timing. (This explains the little 'overland' track on the gps track - was in fact underland.)

Climbing up the steep path from the jetty to the top of
Skomer I saw the sight of a man running at full speed to intercept us.
The man now stood at the top of the winding path like the bridgekeeper from the Python’s Holy Grail - Bridge of Death scene. . . . the comedy of it, I half expected
What . . . is your name? What . . . is your quest? and What . . . is your favorite colour?”
No such thing, it was the resident warden, receipt book in hand, demanding our landing fees. Some extortionate price was mentioned. . . good grief, didn't he know we had just taken our life in our own hands and paddled here. . . from the mainland as well - for gods sake do we have to pay? Neither of us had any cash. Diplomatically Chris put the warden at ease - negotiated our payment when we returned to Martin's Haven. So on trust we were let onto the island. Our puffin quest now unhindered we meet up with the remainder of the group who had taken a leisurely trip over on the boat, and go to watch the comical puffins come in to feed their young.

For puffin good photos

The trip track

Saturday, 2 May 2009

In search of The Witches Cauldron

Richard's description of his journey to the Witches Cauldron provided the inspiration for this trip.

Arriving at Newport Pembs, I was surprised to find the place full up with kayakers! Should have guessed really that on a Bank Holiday weekend down here there may be a bit of sport on. It was the Newport Bay Spring Festival.

We followed a mass of kayakers out of the Nyfer estury, where we parted company by heading up the coast north towards Cardigan, as they went south on their race.

What an interesting coastline we had in store for us.

Towering cliffs, in places over 150m in height, lined the coastline. They have fantastic cross sectional patterns. The wavy strata looks to have been buckled under great forces of some other time.

I know nothing about rocks, but even so, it didn't stop me being transfixed by these weird shapes in some child like way.

With only a few exit points between the almost continuous cliff line, this is a committing trip.

A few caves were dotted along the way to provide the usual distraction,

and a well formed arch to shoot through with the swell.

The swell and wind had picked up quite quickly. Stopped to take a few photos and to start to look for the entrance to the cauldron, before I knew it I was a fair way behind the group, so aborted the cauldron seek to do a bit of catch up. Hywel, Adrian and Steve had continued on to get around Cemaes Head for some shelter.

We woke up a few seals who were asleep bobbing at the back of the cave.

Arriving at Poppit Sands, our journeys end, the swell had picked up enough on the incoming tide to provide a good sized wave to end with a bit of surfing. What more could you ask for at the end of a very picturesque paddle. Shall have to return another day to find out if there is any broth in that Witches Cauldron!
10Nm (19km)