Robens fans are a broad church yet all are outdoor adventurers in one form or another. And it is never too late to take the plunge into the exciting world of outdoor living.
Meet 52-year-old Nick Goodwin from Bewdley. He has always walked locally but it was more to get out of the house for a couple of hours than anything more serious and certainly wouldn't have classed it as a hobby. Yet he started ‘serious’ walking in February last year when he joined the Ramblers and then things started to happen!
Regular trips to nearby Wales saw Nick discover the big hills/ mountains – and he was hooked. He says: “I remember a trip to the Berwyns and looking over to a snow-capped Cadair Berwyn from the summit of Moel Fferna way off in the distance. I knew I wanted to wild camp there. Later that year Cadair Berwyn became home to my first wild camp.
“2014 saw me do some of the major mountains in Snowdonia which included Snowdon itself, Moel Siabod, Tryfan and the Glyders as well as a number of the peaks that make up the Carneddau. Locally the Wyre Forest keeps me in touch with nature and offers me the solitude I seek on occasion. A little further afield I have easy access to Brown Clee Hill, The Wrekin and The Long Mynd where I spent many hours this year preparing for my walk along the Pembrokeshire Coast.”
And it is his Pembrokeshire trip that we’re going to cover here to prove you’re never too old to take up backpacking…
The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path – June 2015
Some years ago I had the opportunity to do some work in Pembrokeshire and whilst there managed to take in some of the views. It’s a beautiful part of the world and I always felt I would like to go back some day to do the full Coastal Path. The path itself was fully opened in 1970 and as well as offering some of the most beautiful coastal views in the UK it provides glimpses into a bygone age with disused limestone kilns, fishing villages and ancient churches dotted along the path. At 186 miles long and with a combined ascent great than that of Everest it’s no walk in the park and depending on fitness levels most guide books suggest it can be completed within two to three weeks.
Me at Hereford Railway station all packed up and ready to go
The plan was simple enough. On 30 May 2015 I would catch a train from Hereford to Kilgetty and with rucksack on my back and nothing particularly planned other than a few loose ideas in my head I would walk the three miles from Kilgetty to Amroth. There I would set up camp for the night after a pint in the local, and hopefully wake up refreshed on the Sunday morning when the real adventure would begin.
The intention was to camp all the way so what went in my rucksack was important, or should I say what I left out was important to ensure I kept the weight down. You need to be able to rely on your equipment 100 per cent and for me some products from the Robens range have played a major role in my walking/camping adventures over the past year. In particular the Robens Buzzard tent which for me is the perfect compromise between durability, weight and cost, a tent that gives me the space I need when having to sit it out in bad weather and the durability of knowing that it’s going to stand up to pretty well anything nature is going to through at it. At night I use the Caucasus 300 sleeping bag to keep me warm and for cooking the Titanium Cook set. These latter two products are new additions to my kit list and certainly helped me to reduce weight.
The campsite at Amroth
Starting the walk you sense that you are embarking upon a true adventure; beautiful rolling countryside to one side, steep rugged cliffs the other and the feeling that you are starting a rather special journey that will stay with you forever.
Amroth to Penally would take me through some popular seaside resorts, notably Tenby with its colourful houses, ancient walls and gateways leading to a holiday destination that has it all including the huge expanse of golden sand that is South Beach.
Left: Approaching Tenby Right: South Beach as seen from The Esplanade, Tenby
Heading North and a couple of days into my journey I moved into more rugged countryside and the threat of 50mph winds, but knowing I had the Buzzard packed in my rucksack provided a great deal of comfort. Manorbier was not my original goal for the night but as the storm hit finding a local campsite was the safer, more sensible option to take and later, tucked up in my tent I felt happy that I could let Mother Nature do her worst…
Heading into Manorbier
Running for cover in stormy conditions is always the sensible thing to do and for me it was justified when meeting three different groups of people whose tents had been destroyed that night; not just expensive but a huge inconvenience as camping supplies in this area are very limited. Making the right call meant I got a great night’s sleep tucked in behind a fence and Outwell Tent.
The next day the clouds lifted and I was set for beautiful sunshine for days to come, with a strong northerly breeze to keep me cool during the miles ahead.
Moving up the coast the terrain was great for walking and I was really looking forward to visiting the beach at Freshwater East. I wasn’t disappointed and as I rounded the headland I got a great view of a grand stretch of golden sand and the previous days winds had churned up great surf, too. Looking back I got spectacular views of where I had walked that day.
Left: East Moor Cliff, Priest’s Nose and furthest away Old Castle Head - Right: And in front of me Freshwater East Beach
For some time on the horizon the oblong shaped profile of Stackpole Head had been looming way off in the distance. Now as I got closer I was able to make out the detail of this iconic lump of rock and as I approached Stackpole Quay and the headland that forms Barafundal Bay the beauty of this area was really beginning to show.
Left: In the distance the square edge of Stackpole Head juts out into the sea - Right: Barafundal Bay beach; considered by many to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world
Having negotiated the ups and downs of this section I eventually rounded the headland of Stackpole Head to be presented with breath taking views of the full force of the Atlantic smashing against the Western side of it its weathered profile.
I’d decided early on in my trip that I would where possible stick to campsites; it just made sense as I was sometimes finishing my walks by 4.00pm. Wild camping was always an option but if I followed the code I would have to pitch late and pack away early and at this time of year it just didn’t seem practical with the sun setting at 9.40pm. Besides, if I’m honest I prefer a shower at the end of a hard days walking.
A campsite above Broad Haven proved to be the perfect setting for my next camp though a little exposed to the Northerly winds I was glad of my Robens Caucasus 300 sleeping bag. Weighing in at 980 grams it’s lighter than my other four-season sleeping bag, but I was in no way disappointed with the warmth this bag offered. In fact there was not one night during the entire adventure that I felt cold, so a definite thumbs up for my new sleeping bag!
Talking about kit, before I started I took the opportunity of purchasing a luxury item in the form of a lightweight chair and to my surprise I was able to sit in the tent without my head touching the top. For those wondering I’m just about 5’ 10” and yes you do have to mess about with the position of the chair a little, but it was a godsend when forced to be in the tent due to bad weather.
The coastal path meanders through some beautiful countryside but for a couple of days the views became quite industrial as you head through the estuary known as Milford Haven. The guide books seem to brush over this area as if it’s an eye sore and to some it may well be, but I loved the back door glimpses into industries that you don’t normally get to see.
Left: Angle looking across to the oil refinery - Right: The Cleddau Bridge provided great views of Milford Haven
Once this section was completed it was back to cliff top walking and the stretch that some would consider the hardest part of the entire walk where the cliffs would eventually rise to 175m (574ft), but that was for another day.
Sometimes you would just have to sit, take a breath and simple look in awe at nature’s carvings