Sunday, 21 November 2010

St Brides Bay, A Journey Back In Time

St Brides Haven
I leave St Brides Haven with the aim to bridge a section of the Pembrokeshire coast I have yet to complete from here to Solva, otherwise known as St Brides Bay.

Stack Rocks from Halfway Rock (the Camel formation is clear to the left of Stack Rocks)
Forecast wasn't the best but with five kids currently over my house I take my chances and escape the madness. Force 4-5 possible 6 North Easterly, sea state moderate, showers. I figured this section of the coast should be mostly sheltered from the worst of the winds.
Syncline fold in the Old Red Sandstone
The geology either side of St Brides Haven is mainly Old Red Sandstone, which make the cliffs really stand out.

Nearing Mill Haven you can clearly see where the Old Red Sandstone ends and is replaced with the Grey Igneous Rock of the Pre-Cambrian period. It was a really dull miserable day, not good for taking photo's.

Through Howney Stone opposite Stack Rocks the sea state picked up with brisk wind causing waves to break. A lone Razor Bill was bobbing about in the waves, most have now migrated for the winter.

The grey igneous rocks are now distinctively different to the deep red cliffs near St Brides. This irregular belt between Mill Haven and Little Haven is known as the Johnston Series and are the oldest rocks in Pembrokeshire (well over 1,000 million years).

The old igneous headlands are more typical in the north of Pembrokeshire, Dinas Head, Stumble for instance. South Pembrokeshire is mainly made up of sediments which are much younger.
From Musselwick just before Little Haven the geology turns to 'coal measures' made up of Sandstone and Shales, Millstone Grit and thin Anthracite Coal Seams. These are the youngest rocks in Pembrokshire (280 million years old).

I got very close to an Otter in this cove, I don't think he saw me. Although by the time I removed my gloves to get my camera out he disappeared beneath the water.

Layers of alternating stone can clearly be seen here up on the cliff. Black Mudstone collected on the sea floor then as they shallowed a thin layer of fine sandstone sits on top. Thick layers of Sandstone lay on top of that from delta deposits, bleached due to leaching in a tropical environment.

Extreme folds in the sediment can be seen at either ends of the bays at Little and Broad Haven.

Shag Rock with Broad Haven in background
It's now easy to understand how St Brides Bay has been formed. The brittle softer rock has given way to the ongoing pounding of the sea forming shallow bays cut into the coal measures leaving harder sandstones at the headlands.

Sleek Stone
At the end of Broad Haven beach is an impressive Monocline formation (asymmetrical up-fold in the strata) known as Sleek Stone. The rock resembles a huge beached whale with a big bite out of it!

Following the coast toward Druidston, named after a 12th century knight who settled here, the cliffs show more evidence of the erosion that continues to eat away at the cliffs.

Haroldston Bridge
It is now low tide so I am unable to pass under Haroldston Bridge, a natural arch linking a small rocky outcrop to the main cliff.

I stop off at a small inaccessible bay just prior to Druidston Haven but it's too cold to stop for long. I don't know why maybe it's the miserable weather but I didn't have the motivation in me to carry on any further. So I continue on a little further with Rickets Head south of Newgale in view before turning back.

I paddle into the small sheltered lagoon under Haroldston Bridge on the way back for a cuppa to warm me up.
Whilst having a cuppa I caught a sight of a Peregrine leaving the cliff with what looked like a small bloodied rodent in it's talons.

Passing Broad Haven the surf which was more evident earlier had ceased so I landed at Small Haven in front of this impressive looking cave.

Continuing my journey the sea state got worse the further south I went. I decide not to make the small detour out to Stack Rocks.

I chased this Curlew most of the way back, every time I got within shooting distance he flew off. I finally managed to get this shot.

It made for some good rock-hopping opportunities amongst the red stones with the tide being so low. It also kept me out of the wind.

Typically the sun decided to show it's face when I got back to St Brides Haven so I took a short walk up the coastal path to The Nab Head.

St Brides Bay and Stack Rocks

Ramsey Island basking in the sun

There was a Kestrel hovering above the cliff who didn't seem bothered about my presence. A bit further along two pigeons flew down amongst the cliffs at break neck speed quickly followed by another Peregrine. Good day for wildlife!

So I didn't get to my intended destination but I had an enjoyable paddle none the less. I saw my first otter and got a few glimpses of some fascinating birds that occupy this coast. Please correct any of my geological jargon if I'm wrong, I'm learning.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Another late afternoon paddle, trying to make the most of what light remained. The reflections were great for taking photo's.

I did a lap around the bay before heading back up the River Taff. I kept myself entertained listening to my VHF, there was a boat on the other side of the barrage in need of assistance from the lifeboat.

Under the bride near the Millennium Stadium there was a flashing glow at the other end.

I reached the stadium and turned back.

Reaching the slipway it was now pitch black. The link road bridge was now lit up like a runway. Another relaxing paddle on the water to get me away from the commotions of life.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Power of the Tide 06/11/10

It was mid afternoon, low spring tide at Sully Island. The tide was already in flood and flowing north east.

There was no plan, but it was going to be a one way trip. The tide was due to change about 19:00 well after sunset. It started to rain and was probably not going to be an exciting paddle but at least I was on the water, no better place to be!

I tread carefully down the beach trying not to slip or sink. Spot the mud? That isn't water in front of my boat!

Flat Holm was divided by a sand bank.

I made good progress averaging between 6 and 7 knots with the help of the tide. There was a little confused water around Lavernock Point (above). I had a little play turning in an eddy and trying to fight the tide, no chance it was too strong.

There was no question to which way the flow was going!

Under Penarth Pier my paddle blade were scraping the sea bed.

I ferry glided out from the pier and dropped onto the outer wrach buoy.

Cardiff barrage was alive with boats constantly coming out and going in. Oh and that's not water in front either! Nearly caught me out.

I paddled past the water outlets, that shows you how high up (or low down I was) the water is on the other side.

I was thinking about hopping over the barrage into the bay but it was a long climb up with the water so low.

Hannah wasn't ready to pick me up, to busy watching the rugby! So it was either sit on a muddy Penarth beach and await my lift or test the power of the tide.

It started to rain again, Flat and Steep Holm were disappearing under the weather. Progress past the pier was slow, averaging about 2.8kts, but it picked up again further along.

Flow was about 3.5/4hrs in now so was in full swing. Reaching Lavernock Point the flow was moving fast. I stayed close to the shore and went for it powering through the flow. That wasn't too hard!

In fact that was easy as I relax looking up ahead at Sully Island. I glance down at my GPS...2.5kts and increasing...backwards! "bugger!" I paddled my arse off and got to break even point 0 knots. I lifted my skeg and aimed slighty to the shore hoping for an eddy of sorts?? At last 0.8 knots, at least I'm moving in the right direction. Very slowly I made it closer and closer to the shore and my speed picked up.

Looking out to Flat Holm the rain had moved on. I crashed out on the back of my boat, exhausted!

The fight wasn't over I was still only managing around 1.8 to 2 knots. It was getting late and with the cloud cover, ever increasingly darker. My first night paddle maybe?

Finally I made it into Sully sound, I could walk it from here if I had to! The tide was ripping through the middle of the sound but was slow moving close to the mainland shore.

I was contemplating a play but I was shattered. I felt like I had done a massive paddle not Penarth and back.

At least the walk wasn't too far now.

Packing up the van the sky turned a reddish purple for a few small minutes as the sun was setting. Turned out to be a good paddle after all.