Going west – St David’s Head

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It is a beautiful walk along the cliffs towards St David’s Head. The land is covered in an incredible variety of wildflowers, from the pink pompoms of thrift to the tall spires of foxgloves. The starry flowers of sedum nestle in every nook and cranny and little spotted orchids drift through the short, sturdy grass. It is a gardener’s paradise, especially on a glorious summer afternoon.

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The sea was a changing pallette of blue and turquoise, clear as glass and sparkling in the sunlight. I am a northern lass and the shores of my home county wear grey like a faded memory. Where I now live, the sea is simply too far away, so for me the day was a delight. Even the rocks wear the ochres and green of lichen; colour is everywhere. It does the heart good just to be in such a landscape, as if Nature responds to need with her entire armoury and a refusal to let the grey pall of the workaday world remain. You cannot help but be present in face of such beauty.

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The area is rich in wildlife too, both on land and in the sea and sky. Gulls fly above and below as you walk the cliff path, wild Welsh ponies graze on the hillside and there are often seals and porpoises in the bay. I have seen seals here before, but sadly, no amount of looking would reveal them this time.

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As if the land, sky and sea were not enough, there is a wealth of history too. It is impossible to say when mankind first came to this rocky headland. It was already known when Ptolemy write his Geography nearly two thousand years ago in Alexandria and, as his book was based upon the even earlier writings of Maucan, it may have been known long before Ptolemy’s time. The Geography calls the place the ‘Promontory of the Eight Perils’ an intriguing name that makes you wonder just what the ancient ones were doing in this landscape.

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The area is rich in archaeology.  The first really visible site we encountered were the stone foundations of hut circles…and suddenly we had slipped back in time thousands of years. The tip of the promontory is an ancient stronghold known as Warrior’s Dyke, bounded on the landward side by what remains of a ditch and rubble bank and the natural stone outcrop. What is left today might easily be missed, blending into the boulder strewn landscape, but once the stone and earth fortifications were over two hundred feet long and over eighty feet high. The hut circles are part of this ancient settlement, built in a place that had long held importance in the minds and hearts of men.

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There are cairns and prehistoric walls, earthworks and tombs…everywhere we looked there was something that needed exploring. It would need much longer than a day to do it justice. It was overwhelming. We sat on the tip of the rocks for a long time, just watching the light on the water and listening to the poetry recited by one of our Companions. We ask that those who join us on such weekends bring a short reading of some kind, to be read…or not…when and if the moment feels right. The time we spent on the uttermost edge of the land, where sky and sea meet stone, was a perfect moment…and ended, as such moments often do, in laughter.

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There was still much to see though going back even further in time and, with some reluctance, we turned inand, following the cliff-top path, back towards the slopes of Carn Llidi, watching the changing outline of the hill against the sky. There is a ‘feel’ about such places. It is somehow easy to attune to the land and its people, even those long gone whose lives we understand but little and whose culture and technology raise so many questions. All it takes is an openess to the moment and a stilling of the mind that, in our busy world, is always tense and alert to the demands of our own social and cultural interactions.

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We were stepping away from those demands for a little while, just a small group of travellers sharing a path and we were heading for a place that marks a journey that is common to us all…

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11 thoughts on “Going west – St David’s Head

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