Tracing Y Ddraig:
There isn’t much left of the once thriving little harbour at St. Bride’s. Calamitous storms have washed away the deep soil that only centuries ago came down a hundred yards nearer the sea.
On her red soil once stood a small stone chapel. It is written that it was dedicated to St. Bride; though it may have gone by her Welsh name, Sant Ffraed. As this is Little England it is hard to know, especially as, peculiarly, it looks like there is very scant historical information about the village of St. Bride’s Haven and its neighbourhood. What I have come across appears to be mostly assumption, or even intentionally inserted misdirection.
So far I can only find documentation of one rigorous archaeological survey conducted in March, 2009, and that was centred on the remains of the soil between the beach and the church wall. For centuries the encroachment of the sea has not only taken the chapel but has relentlessly been exposing and carrying away the last resting places of St. Bride’s inhabitants.
The village and the environs of St. Bride’s Haven are a deeply mysterious and shrouded scene thats pall has only slightly been dissolved by the actions of the sea. The locale remains, for the most part, a place of hidden secrets that, like its once buried coastal foundations, are going to come to light.
The tiny beach at the haven of St. Bride’s was busy. Families and couples spread across the rocky foreshore basking in its sea-lighted sanctuary. Not many venture into the hinterland, and when they do it is only for a short while. I wonder, do they question their cursoriness and impulsion to not tarry there?
On this day neither did I but that was for a different reason. I already knew what was beyond the beach because I had been there a couple of times a few years back, once with a doctor who was on the verge of retiring. A lovely guy who’d had become increasingly interested in alternative subjects, including all things so-called paranormal; but that’s another story.
The trip from Martin’s Haven to St. Bride’s Haven had taken me over four hours. The time was now 3.30p.m. and it was time to head back.
Hurrying back up the bumpy uneven path, Ffraed well below me running around the rocky coastline, I’d only got a couple of hundred yards and had just passed two groups of walkers going the other way, when I twisted my ankle. Thankfully only slightly, I had over 4 miles to go and no other way of getting back to my car. I decided to walk through the pain and was doing well, going at quite a gallop. As I was passing the long stone wall I spotted what might be a marker stone with a possible depiction of a person in a boat engraved on it.
I continued on. Down a particularly steep incline and up the other side I noticed some anglers on the rocks way below. Nobody else was about, behind or in front of me.
I’d only gone about another 100 yards when I turned to admire the view and was surprised to see an elderly couple on the path, at the top of the incline. They were dressed in hikers gear with sticks, and they both wore sunglasses. They both had grey hair and looked to be in their late 70s, the sort of close couple you’d see helping each other across the street. The man was tall and his wife only a little shorter. They just stood there looking out on the bay. I was perplexed at how they could have got there as there are no feeder-footpaths close by except for one at the very bottom of the steep comb I’d just struggled up myself. If they had come from that direction then I would have seen them because I had stopped to look around there, and no way could they have climbed that steep gradient quicker than I had.
Anyway I pressed on, fairly romping along and after about half a mile I turned to look at the view again. Less than 50 yards behind me, were the elderly couple! Like before just standing there and gazing out to sea. Now this wasn’t possible.
Still nobody else was about, and I thought to myself, ‘Get to Ffraed’. I had to keep going. I picked up my pace even more and sped along the twisting and undulating path.
As I passed a bush on my left a dense cloud of Skipper butterflies burst out of it and flew around me back and front. Some kept landing on the footpath and trying not to step on them, they slowed me down. The group, dozens of them, kept with me for 100s of yards, and then just a few.
I once again stopped and looked around. The strange couple were nowhere to be seen, but after about 30 yards the pathway was concealed by bushes. Were they still there? I didn’t go and look, I was still at least a mile and a half from the sanctuary of Ffraed.
When I reached the summit of the next rise, not long afterwards, I turned around…and there they were slowly ambling along the footpath about 150 yards behind. The woman’s hair colour had changed, it wasn’t grey anymore and she looked shorter and stockier. This seemed very odd,. They had to be the same couple though because I hadn’t passed any other feeder-paths. Could I ever lose these people?
Off I went again, only one or two of the brown butterflies with me now. Up and down the rocky always uneven path, but my ankle was holding up well, and soon I was joined by more butterflies, just two. This time they were large and multi-coloured, one followed and the other led. I’m not sure what variety they were.
I sped along for another quarter of a mile, or so, and looked back again. Less than 40 yards behind me, from behind the bushes and just sauntering along the path appeared the aged duo.
I was nearly with Ffraed, and I felt a strong urgency to pick up speed even more…and then I reached Her. I looked back and the couple were nowhere to be seen. I looked back several times. They still weren’t there. At one point I could see hundreds of yards of the path and I waited to see if they came into view again. They didn’t.
Arriving at Martin’s Haven, now off Y Ddraig again, a group of 6 people and two dogs were climbing the footsteps towards me. As there was only enough room for them I waited till they got to the top. From here I had a clear view for a long way again and the elderly pursuers were still nowhere to be seen.
Very soon I was back at my car, which was parked on the track to the harbour, very close to the footpath, but not on Ffraed. I got in, looked at the clock, it was 5:20, turned the key and looked up. Slowly walking towards me, one looking to the right, the other to the left, were the elderly couple. The man was hiding his face.
I pushed the gear stick into reverse, backed to the turning point and drove off. The soreness in my ankle had gone.
Tomorrow I would be returning to St. Bride’s Haven…and though I didn’t know it then, another spooky encounter.
3rd September 2017