The outside of a motorbike engine seen up close near the exhaust

Home Travel StoriesSouth Wales 2017

Exploring St Davids - On Foot

By Ren Withnell

There'll be none of that motorcycling malarkey today. Today is a day on foot. Today we advance into the city, we might need public transport if we're to cover the whole metropolis. Yes, St Davids is a genuine city and I hate cities. There is one thing to note though - St Davids is the smallest city in the UK apparently. According to Visit Pembrokeshire the population is just over 1,600. That's barely a village let alone a city.

The motorcycles next to the tent, they're staying put today
Sorry bikes, you're staying exactly where you are today.

If anyone tells you it's a 10 minute walk to St Davids from the campsite they're a liar. More like 25 into town. However we don't have helmets and bike gear to carry so it is a comfortable walk. 

St Davids is a fabulously strange place. There's more shops than any little village deserves although they're nearly all small local affairs save for a "Nisa" supermarket. There's a one way system too but we could walk all the way around it in less than 20 minutes. It is definitely geared towards tourists which resonates as high prices in the cafes and delicatessens yet there's no kiss-me-quick hats or cheesy postcards. 

The cathedral can just be made out behind trees and grasses
Sharon, I think I've found the Cathedral.

St Davids' main feature - The Cathedral - doesn't dominate the town, rather it hides down in the valley around the back. It is not massive either, more of a big church rather than a small cathedral. What it lacks in volume it makes up for in splendour, particularly the ceilings. It also ooozes character, it certainly is not formulaic with add-ons, antechambers and annexes. Little information notes suggest that everyone of local distinction has had a hand in altering, appending and adjusting the place. 

Exploring cathedrals and walking around towns (or cities, however small) isn't usually my thing but today has been a pleasure and a welcome change of pace. We did the right thing by leaving the bikes and using our feet. St Davids is certainly worth a look, if you're in the cathedral be sure to look upwards.  

Here in the UK most campsites are way out of town and camping is considered a countryside pursuit rather than a cheap form of accommodation. In France it is not uncommon to find campsites either in or close to town. I wish there were more campsites close to towns in the UK, this would allow people like myself to explore towns on foot rather than having to take the bike or the car. Campsites on a bus route into town are a good idea too.

The weather has held off for us so far, a little drizzle here and there that's all. Hopefully tomorrow's weather will be glorious sunshine for tomorrow we explore this time on two wheels. Of course I enjoy my motorcycling but today's walk was the best way to explore St Davids. 

By Sharon Parker

Today we are exploring on foot. It will does us both good to have a walk and get some exercise. St Davids is a city and I do not like cities. But I have an affinity with this one. It is small like me, in fact it is the UK's smallest city.

The rain has stopped so we start our walk into town. I quickly realise I am however not dry. My right foot is squishy wet. It seems I have finally walked my favourite trainers to death. The sole has become a hole and it is letting in water. Yes that song that just popped into your head also popped into mine, so I delight Ren by singing it to him. Why is he suddenly walking faster? Trying to be a lighter traveller these are the only shoes I have with me. I shall just have to suck the wet into my socks and get on with it.

Apart from the annoying wet foot the walk is most pleasant. St Davids is a charming city. Cute cottages and a array of shops selling a variety of goods at tourist prices. Being hungry I find a stall selling pasties. The price on the board of £2:50 seems a bit steep but like I already noted these are tourist prices so I go to buy my pasty. Only I find out that the £2:50 is not for a pasty but a small sausage roll. The pasties are £4:00. Oh well I will go hungry then until I find something at poor person's prices instead of top end tourist prices. A trip to the local Nisa finds a hot pasty for £1:25. Tasty too.

The jewel in St Davids' already pretty crown is its awesome Cathedral. It dates from the 12th century and has gone through both destruction and reconstruction during its long history. A church has reportedly been on the site since the 6th century. The present day Cathedral has been added to and enlarged over time, resulting in a collection of rooms and chambers in a variety of styles all encapsulated in one building. It enthrals me as I explore it's numerous rooms and chambers. 

St Davids Cathedral lies in a shallow valley and here is seen from high up
St David's Cathedral. 

The Nave is light and airy. Its arches impressive and the floor sloping, eh sloping that can not be right? Closer inspection does indeed reveal a definite slope. I learn later that various theories exist for the slope, ranging from earthquake to man-made to bringing the congregation closer to God. The cynic in me believes that if man-made then the design was probably another indication of our sadly all prevalent class system. The rich would sit in the front row pews, enjoying an elevated position in church as in life. The poorest would be at the very back retaining the lowest position of all. As in heaven so on earth...hmm I hope not. 

Columns and woodwork and a massive organ and pews inside St Davids Cathedral
The Nave with the impressive arches each individually carved with a unique design. 
The outline of a knight is seen faintly on a massive column in the cathedral
The eerie outline of a long lost Knight
An arch with detailed and intricate carving upon it and in its overall shape
The intricate screen built by Bishop Henry Gower during the 14th Century. Partly to house his own tomb but also to divide the Nave from the Quire of the church.

I am amazed at the high levels of craftsmanship that surrounds me. Master stonemasons had been at work here rendering art into stone. As a place of worship one is expected to look up to the heavens and praise the Lord. Inside the Cathedral if ones eyes are raised to heaven they are greeted with a visual symphony of colour and breathtaking beauty. Each ceiling is stunning in its own right, a testament not only to the glory of God but the glory of mankind's artisans and their abilities to create such wonders.

A colourful ceiling with reds and creams and woodwork and masonry
Glorious fan vaulting in the ceiling, complex and detailed
Simpler but effective wood fan vaulting at the cathedral
High up in the tower more fan vaulting with colour, artwork, design and shape
Behold not the sight of heaven but the artistry of craftsmen. 

I have little interest in the like of so called modern art such as Tracey Emin's Unmade Bed. To me all that surrounds me in St Davids Cathedral is true art. I bow not to God but to all the unknown artists who managed through various ages to transform their art into expressions of love. I am truly spellbound. 

Back at the campsite later in the evening we take shelter from the returning rain in the kitchen and dining area. We are joined once again by the lady German camper. We talk more in depth and learn a little of Heidi's life story. I am amazed at her vigour and vitality to be exploring alone and camping at the the age of 67. Finally tiredness forces us to make a dash through the downpour to our tent and our sleeping bags. It has been a lovely day.

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Not Even Wales! With a storm set to cause havoc across the UK is this day the best day to set out on a camping holiday? Maybe not.
Into Tywyn Finally Sharon and Ren get themselves out of the house and onto the road. They've set out, but have they got everything?
Exploring Around Tywyn Mid Wales provides an engaging, gorgeous and sometimes challenging landscape to explore. With all the sea, hills, mountains, valleys and single track lanes that go nowhere, our explorers are exploring.
Bracing Winds And Wobbly Hobbits Between the rain and the beauty Sharon's riding is creating mixed emotions for her and Ren is getting giddy over a TV programme.
Exploring St Davids - On Foot It is time to leave the bikes for just one day and set out on foot to explore the tiny city of St Davids. The city is small and pleasant, the cathedral is just sheer delight.
Exploring Around St Davids In the land of a thousand coves Sharon and Ren are looking into a handful of them. There's a chance Ren's 500 might not be getting out of one of them though.
Is Tenby Really Utopia? Tenby has been much lauded to both Sharon and Ren but now it's time to see if the reality will live up to the hype. Will Tenby be amazing or an amazing flop?
Exploring Around Tenby Between the endless cute coves, splendid coastal resorts and curiosities there's time for some field repairs. The big worry now is the forthcoming weather.
Spoiled Rotten In Gower Sharon is for once actually preying for rain and Ren is wondering if Sharon is going to kill him. What on earth is going on?
Exploring The Gower Peninsula Considering the day was supposed to be a washout Sharon and Ren get to look around the Gower Peninsula in good conditions. There's only one problem with Sharon's perfect beach - the walk back.
New Friends And Llandovery While the weather is very much against them Sharon and Ren enjoy the day with new friends and a lot of hot tea. They're heading a little North in South Wales.
Exploring The Brecon Beacons After yesterday's deluge will the soggy campers get chance to dry out and actually see The Brecon Beacons? Sharon is bleating out some awful sheep puns too.
Epilogue - South Wales 2017 Once again another trip comes to an end and it is time to return to the reality of everyday life. Neither Sharon or Ren are ready for it to be over.

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