Pembrokeshire in the southern corner of Wales is a particularly scenic part of the British Isles. I went there twice – not on holiday, but on field trips whilst studying biology at university. We stayed at an isolated field centre, alternating between lectures about ecology and suchlike, laboratory work, and trips out into the relatively wild countryside and coast to observe, collect, measure and study the various types of fauna and flora there present.
Now I don’t know if it was the first or the second time that I went there, but being of adventurous spirit, I decided to go a couple of days early in order to steal some time on my own for an explore and an adventure.
This might work in big cities where accommodation is readily available, but was a bad mistake in tiny Pembroke. I arrived alone sometime in the early evening without having booked anywhere to stay, expecting to be able to find somewhere, but was soon advised that the few bed and breakfast places available were all full up with workers from some oil refinery or other, and there were no rooms to be had!
Who knows how this might have ended up, if some kind lady hadn’t suggested to me another place to try, and I was put up by someone, as far as I remember, in their private home!
So much for adventure! Anyway I must eventually have joined the field course and remember the atmosphere of a big white house, and a quiet library where, either on this or another occasion, I sat alone in the evenings writing up my work, as I was eager to get it finished before going off on another summer of travelling, either to Switzerland or New York, can’t remember which. (Everyone else left the writing up until the last possible minute before term time, which I guess shows that I did have some degree of application and forward planning at quite an early age.)
I’d like to go back there again to experience some of the wonderful places we visited. I think we did things like seeing how many species of plants we could identify on damp Welsh hillsides and setting traps in the fields for mice.
But what I most remember were the wild, unspoilt, rugged bits of coastline – definitely off the beaten track, and frequented only by a few hardened ramblers, maybe, and the occasional group of bedraggled biology students.
There was one amazing clifftop thick with sea birds – the only other place in Britain I’ve seen anything like it is the Farne Islands. A bit of cliff jutted out into the sea, and I think we walked over this grassy peninsula to get a better view of the vast numbers of gulls and similar nesting on the cliffs.
There was a boat trip of some description out on the rough sea – not at all a pleasure cruise, but some sort of fishing boat so that we could see what creatures lived beneath the waves.
And there was a broad wet beach with rocks and rockpools – and lugworms. We dug up, counted, bottled and probably later dissected them. Never seen one before or since but there were certainly plenty there.
How will I ever find that lugworm beach again?
It feels so distant, both in time and space, and so inaccessible. And yet it’s there somewhere, probably only half a day’s drive away.
Have to put it on the list of things I could do if I ever had the time and money to do what I wanted with life. Go exploring the Pembrokeshire coast line, looking for places I might remember.