why Pembrokeshire in spring is a nature lover’s dream

<span>Following the headlands… a walker on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path at Whitesands near St Davids, Wales.</span><span>Photo: Michael Roberts/Getty Images</span>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/GUCgcINqZWUMKJl1uukuzw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/87a62149eeb63779d19af4a5 e9db6e69″ data-src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/GUCgcINqZWUMKJl1uukuzw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/87a62149eeb63779d19af4a5e9db 6e69″/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Following the headlands… a walker on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path at Whitesands near St Davids, Wales.Photo: Michael Roberts/Getty Images

Edward Thomas’s In Pursuit of Spring, published more than a century ago, is a classic in the nature lover’s library, a lyrical account of the poet’s journey from London to Somerset in search of signs of the coming season. Thomas set sail from a rainy Wandsworth in March 1913 and shook loose a long winter. Thomas longed for apple blossoms and cuckoo flowers, ‘the scent of the sunny earth’, and the song of the nightingale. “Would the bees be heard instead of the wind?” he asked worriedly.

This was a recognizable aspiration – in March we all lean towards the sun – yet we rarely think of spring as a ‘place’. For Thomas it was the rural southwest; for me, the return of spring is best embodied by Pembrokeshire.

Although, like Thomas, I grew up as a suburban Londoner, I have probably visited Pembrokeshire every year of my life. My mother was born in St. Davids, Wales’s westernmost town (or, technically, city), where my grandfather was a member of the cathedral clergy. The family later moved east to Carmarthenshire, but the coastal county remained a constant refuge throughout my childhood: memories of the beaches of Whitesands and Caerfai, and of following the headland paths and butterfly-fluttering hedgerows smelling of warmed ferns and haw blossoms.

And as my love of nature grew stronger over adulthood – as a gardener and writer of landscapes and travelogues – the appeal of Pembrokeshire only increased. The multitude of wildflowers, precious birds and varied topography continually draw me back, best of all in the spring months, when new life buzzes from all directions. Long weekend getaways from London, family camping trips, solo getaways to the islands: if I’m ever longing for springtime brightness, it’s always this coastline that beckons.

For those whose affection for picturesque Cornwall has hindered their introduction to Wales’ own stretch of unspoilt beaches and seaward waves, let me explain briefly. This still predominantly rural, agricultural county is dotted with Norman castles, Benedictine monasteries, prehistoric ruins and even a Viking shipwreck – and more than a third of it, around 400 square kilometers, makes up the remarkable and rugged Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. It may be one of Britain’s smaller national parks, home to neither the drama of the Cairngorms nor the granite-glittering wilderness of Dartmoor, but it is one of the most – if not the most – ecologically varied.

If I’m ever longing for springtime brightness, it’s always this coastline that beckons

Between the villages of Amroth in the south and St Dogmaels, on the border with Ceredigion, the park has impressive geology, with the 300km Coast Path National Trail taking in narrow headlands, limestone arches, isolated stacks and misty islands, breathtaking bays and beautiful bays included. beaches, lagoons and bays. It’s not without reason that National Geographic magazine rated it the second best coastline in the world in 2012, above Italy’s Cinque Terre and Hawaii’s Nā Pali Coast.

Crucially, however, the national park also extends inland, along the Milford Haven Waterway, the lowland Dale Peninsula and part of the vast and pleasantly vacant Preseli Hills: beach, cliff, estuary, river, reedbed, moorland, marsh, hills and hills. Heather, it’s all there.

This abundance of habitats sets the stage for spring to unfold, from the earliest brimstone butterflies visiting the roadsides and breaking beech buds in the Gwaun Valley, to the last Atlantic puffin coming ashore and burrowing in to nest. It is a landscape that is positively teeming.

Add to this some of Britain’s most beautiful coastal towns and villages – such as Newport, Tenby and Solva, whose west-facing windows open to the cries of curlews and sandpipers – and the rare luxury of regular shuttle bus services (with endearing names like “Poppit Rocket” and “Puffin Shuttle”), and you have a well-groomed, easily navigable nature playground.

My own quest for spring through Pembrokeshire would begin inland, and it would begin right now. Global warming has undoubtedly blurred the edges of the British seasons: according to the Natural History Museum, plants in Britain now bloom about a month earlier than they used to. Nevertheless, there is a bloom that is unique to Pembrokeshire and can be relied upon as a harbinger of spring: the Tenby daffodil, considered by many to be one of Britain’s two native daffodils.

The abundance of habitats sets the stage for spring to unfold, from the earliest brimstone butterfly to the last Atlantic puffin to come ashore

At this time the pointed, blue-green leaves stick above the ground; Soon – if not already – they will unfurl trumpet flowers brighter than the primrose. There were once fields of these attractive, low-growing daffodils north of Tenby; What remains of their graceful tufts can today be sought, as I have done myself, in the churchyards of the Cleddau estuary. I think of this as a season-starting pistol: soon to follow are the stellar white hues of campanula and wood anemone, and in the fertile soil of the nearby Upton Castle gardens the softly plumped petals of magnolia and tulips.

Before heading west for the wilder coastline, I might head south to the limestone lakes of Bosherston, where the sweet coconut scent of gorse has perfumed the narrow footpath for several weeks, but now across the fresh water a new greening of the famous water can be seen. lilies. At Bosherston I move quietly forward, waiting for an otter swirl or kingfisher flash, and wander into the remote, sand-covered bay of Broadhaven South, where the current meets the sea.

Then on to Newport, where it is too early to pick samphire from the salt marshes, but the scurvy grass underfoot is pinkish-white. On the headland, along the Parrog (the old harbor area), leaf rosettes of foxglove and sea campion also grow.

South again, to the flowering hedgerows of St Davids, yellowed by celandine, and the glittering sea view drawing your attention to the famous islands of Pembrokeshire. Of the five largest, one is assigned to a gannet colony (Grassholm), another to a Wildlife Trust bird observatory (Skokholm), but the rest are easier to visit.

From north to south it’s Ramsey, Skomer and Caldey, each their own wild wonder. Spring is declared on Ramsey with the arrival of the razorbills: the guillemots and razorbills returning to their precarious breeding grounds on the island’s steep cliffs and ledges. Overhead you may hear the distinct caw of a resident red-billed jackdaw; Below there is a chance to spot gray seals, which are temporarily on the beach for their annual spring molt.

I regard Tenby daffodils as a season starter: the stellar whites of stingwort and wood anemone will soon follow

From April, Skomer, next, can be reached via the launch at Martin’s Haven near Dale. Considered Pembrokeshire’s premier wildlife island, Skomer is home to the world’s largest colony of Manx shearwaters and extensive burrows of the country’s favorite seabird, the puffin. Time your visit just right – sometime around early May – and you can see these endearingly characterful birds waddling against a backdrop of violet bluebells and frothy cuckoo flowers: few spring spectacles have moved me so deeply.

The final stop on my spring haunt is the ‘holy isle’ of Caldey, site of an active Cistercian monastery and probably my favorite quiet corner of Pembrokeshire. Taking the first crossing from Tenby Harbour, I would head up towards the island’s abbey, through the plane tree forest beyond, vibrant with new foliage, and towards the high, empty coastline. There, at the mouth of a shallow cave, once a Neolithic shelter, you can sit among primroses as the sun warms you from the east, and listen to the seabirds calling over the muted waves below. When spring is at its peak, there will be the serenade of oystercatchers flying in and out of a nest beneath your feet, and the feeling that winter is long gone.

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