Places that soothe and inspire; postcards from Pembrokeshire

Pembrokeshire is a place I have spoken about many times, which has a very special place in my heart. I seek it out whenever things get tough and it all feels like a bit too much. A couple of months ago, we took ourselves off for a spontaneous week away, staying as usual in my parents' cottage in Croesgoch, near St. Davids. 

Our week away followed a difficult few weeks/months for me of feeling quite low and rubbish. It is something that I very rarely talk about on here, but from time to time over the last few years, I have struggled on and off with low mood, which often seems to coincide with the end of summer and the beginning of dark winter days. This time was worse than usual and made me realise that I needed to take a good hard look at what was making me miserable, and try to make some changes.

A week by the sea, detached from London life and work helped me to put things into perspective and overcome some of the fear and anxiety I had about making changes. And it also soothed the soul and gave R and I some space to relax which we really needed. I will talk more about some of those big old scary changes soon, but for now, some picture postcards of Pembrokeshire.

One of the highlights was a walk along the Stackpole Estate coastal path, starting at the Bosherton lily ponds and walking along the coast to the beautiful and isolated Barafundle Bay, with its dunes and pine trees, pristine sand and crystal blue sea. 

If you start at Bosherton as we did (there is a National Trust carpark there), the first part of the walk takes you alongside the Stackpole Estate’s vast lily pond with its still, mirrored surface, painted in hues of deep greens and greys.

The pond is fringed on all sides by tall reeds, overhanging willows and huge leafy horse chestnuts, and the sky reflects in the glassy water, filling it with smudges of white and blue. Here and there a heron can be seen calmly observing on one leg, and swans glide effortlessly by, leaving soft ripples in their wake. 

If you come in the summer, you can see the water lilies in bloom which must be spectacular, but even out of season, their waxy floating leaves, and long creeping underwater stems, jostling for space among the algae, are incredibly lovely and strangely mesmerising to watch. 

The walk also takes in the atmospheric Broad Haven beach, scattered with striped limpet shells, and criss-crossed with tiny rivulets of seawater that catch the light and create the most beautiful patterns in the sand.

We ate our sandwiches at the end of a crop of headland, looking out across the water, shaggy tufts of thrift rustling merrily in the breeze. And then we arrived at Barafundle, remembered fondly from my childhood, with its long stone steps down to the beach built by the former owners of the Stackpole estate to ease access it, and its soft white sand that almost glows on a summer’s day. It was a little too chilly for a swim this time, so we lay down among the dunes and fell asleep!

I was completely captivated by the grasses and dried flowers that we saw everywhere, on every verge and tuft, overlooking the sea, shivering in the breeze, catching golden rays. 

They were particularly beautiful in the early evening, as the light grew softer and the colours changed from blues and greens to gentle browns and taupes. 

Another highlight of our trip was a barbeque on the beach on our last night. The weather forecast looked good so we headed to Abermawr beach (my favourite) in the late afternoon and set up camp in a sheltered spot on the pebbles. 

After a very quick and very invigorating dip in the sea, accompanied by a group of surfers (who obviously thought we were mad!), we bundled ourselves up and lit a fire, and watched the sun go down, before lighting up the barbeque for dinner. 

We were treated to the most incredible skies - vivid shades of yellow and pink, all reflected in the silver sand like a great shining mirror.

We stayed until the light faded completely, then trudged back through the forest by torchlight, smelling of wood smoke, with grubby fingers and chilly toes.

I am continuously amazed by the effect that being outdoors can have on us, its ability to soothe and inspire, to distract and provide perspective and renewed purpose. Do you have places that you seek out when you need some calm and peace, or when you want inspiration? If so, I'd love to hear about them!