Pembrokeshire Coastal Path: A new way to explore the path

Walkers can explore the entire coastal path on Google Street view before travelling to Pembrokeshire.

Google Street view makes me easier to decide the path that I would want to walk before arriving at Pembrokeshire

Walking along the narrow and slippery path from Tenby to Manorbier, my first thought was, this was not what I expected. When I was ‘walking’ the entire coastal path on Google Street view to plan for my journey at home, my expectation of this part is mainly flat with gentle ups and downs. As a novice walker, I was sure that it will suit my physical ability the best compare to the other parts of coastal path.

On the morning that I went for the walk, with a pair of comfortable trainers and a small rucksack that had sufficient water and snacks. I was confidence that I would finish the whole 12 km walk within three hours.

Soon after, I walked up to the slope, I knew that it was impossible to finish within the time that I expected. The wet mud on the path became the biggest challenge that I had to think thoroughly before each step to keep my balance from slipping over.

While trying my best to keep my balance from these wet mud on steep slopes, I was very impressed on the work of Alex Payne and Ainsley Corp, the national park authority wardens, who film the entire 299km coastal path into Google Street view in 2016. It took them almost a month to walk the whole coastal path.

The awkward shape of camera makes Alex felt a bit hard to balance while walking the path

To film the whole coastal path Alex and Ainsley had to carry a backpack-mounted camera that weight 23kg. As the camera was like a ball extended from the rucksack above their heads and it became a challenge for them despite, they are experienced walker with good physical abilities.

“The weight was not too much of an issue, the issue was you felt awkward. Because the backpack-mounted camera was extended from my shoulder so that I felt like two foot taller. It felt weird and hard to balance in first few days,” said Alex. “When it came to some stepper path, it would become inconvenient, and we had to use sticks to balance ourselves.”

During the filming process, there were many hard times happened to Alex that affect his comfortability in the walk such as having blister on the heel and his left knee was fed up the whole-time walking. In the last two weeks were extremely challenge for Alex to finish the filming.

“The weight of the camera started to become a problem after week three and all the weight were sat in my hips, my hips were really aching. Week four, Ainsley had something on his knee, so he had a week off, and I did all the filming on my own that week which was a tough week,” said Alex.

When I was catching my breath on the top of a slope, I could not imagine how much tougher would it be for them with all the additional gears and the changes of weather to finish the whole path. In the beginning of the walk, I found it hard to understand what makes the coastal path so powerful that they had never regretted to involve in the project despite of the challenges.

Slowly after walking a small distance of the path, I started to understand the motivation of Alex and Ainsley to finish the whole walk even though there were so many challenges waiting for them .

“You almost reach the top of the mountain and then you will enjoy the beautiful view of the coastline and reach your destination,” a walker from behind said.  

Without the motivating support from other walkers, I would not be able to enjoy the beautiful scenario from the top of a mountain

While I was struggling to walk through a large area of wet mud on the path, a gentleman coming from the opposite direction said, “There is another route to Manorbier that is not covered by that much wet mud. I can show you the way.”  

On the way walking together, this gentleman would greet everyone passed by him, sometimes he might even stop there to chat with the walker.

“I moved from Birmingham to here three years ago after retiring. Apart from the beauty of nature, the bonding between people is something that you can’t experience when living in the big cities,” said the gentleman. 

“Unlike big cities that people only focus on their own works, and everyone is just a stranger within the small community. In the community that I am living now in Pembrokeshire, even we just bumped into on street, we are still able to chat for at least half an hour.”

Thanks to Alex and Ainsley, it makes us easier to decide which part of the coastal path we would want to go. With the street view, we might even be able to see the same beautiful scenarios of the coastline, different spices and finish the entire path without leaving our home.

The attractive thing that makes me finish the part was not the beauty of the nature but the people and their remarkable stories that you would not be able to hear from the Google Street view.

“There is one girl I met who was Dutch, her daughter died at the aged 4 and she decided to walk the entire Britain coastline to remember her daughter. I bumped into her, and we walked together for a couple hours to share her stories,” said Alex.

“There were a few people like that during the walk and I met different interesting people that have various reasons to walk the whole path. This made my job becomes more interesting and enjoyable. Even until now, I still find this experience very fresh and always tell others they should walk the path to meet new people,” he said.

Despite the whole filming journey had a lot of challenges, besides of he finally has the chance to finish walking the whole path which he wished to try for it a long time ago. Alex thinks that he had also gained a lot which made him felt enjoyable during the journey.

“Talking with people from all over the world and having their supports is one of the most enjoyable things in this journey. In the first few days, I had to stop and talk to everybody, explain to them what we are doing that they might be filmed. If they didn’t want to be filmed, they could just pass through it. Luckily, most of them were happy to be part in the filming and didn’t get cross,” said Alex.

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During the entire walk, I got couple moments struggling whether I should continue my walk to Manorbier or just turned back to Tenby and enjoy the rest of my walk on Google Street view within 5 minutes in my room.

Every time, when I had such thought, there would have a walker bumped into me with their care and remarkable stories. This made me look forward to the next walker that I would bump into and continue my way to Manorbier. The love and care from the local people have made me reflect on the purpose of journey is not only to show off on social media that where I have been to my friend but also the importance of interacting with other people.

The pandemic situation has stopped us from meeting each other face-to-face over the last year. With the travel restriction is being lifted, it is the time to take a break from the screen and get out of your house to meet new people.

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