Marloes and St Brides
LANDSCAPE AND FARMING
The land around Marloes and St Brides is on a plateau about 60 metres above sea level. There are relatively few trees apart from small woodlands at St Brides, Broadmoor and Slate Mill, though there is plenty of scrub consisting mostly of blackthorn and sallow. The soil is fertile and has been used for farming for many years. There are many small streams and marshy areas and the landscape is dotted with irrigation ponds which are used for watering the potato crop and also provide an important refuge for wildlife.
One of the notable feature of the local landscape is the hedge-bank, the traditional form of field boundary. As its name implies, this is a bank made from earth and stones and and topped with a hedge. They are strong, last for a long time and are a valuable refuge for wildlife. They are covered with blossom in early summer - blackthorn, red campion and cow parsley - then provide harvests of blackberries and sloes in the autumn. Shorter hedges with bracken provide a home for the Great Green Bush Cricket.
Situated right in the centre of the peninsula are the extensive marshes and pools of Marloes Mere. The Mere was once used as a source of medicinal leeches - they were exported to London to be used for bleeding and for cleaning wounds. They seem to have died out about 100 years ago. These days the Mere is more popular as a bird-watching locations - there are two hides and good long distance views from the car park. Marloes Mere belongs to the National trust and there is more information on their Marloes Peninsula Wildlife page and also on the Pembrokeshire Bird Group Site Guide.
A number of clifftop fields are currently being converted from arable land to open grassland and heath. Various techniques are being used in order to try to return these areas to their original flora - for example, the National Trust uses grazing ponies to keep back bramble, coarse weeds and coarse grasses and they can often be seen on the Deer Park or at St Brides. Along the clifftop between Marloes Mere and the Deer Park, experiments have taken place using sulphur pellets to increase the acidity of the soil. Where the dosage was high, there are a number of rather bare-looking patches, but in other areas, such as in the fields near the Youth Hostel, there is good re-growth of plants such as heather. The resulting areas of short grass and small plants are proving very popular with winter flocks of larks, pipits and finches and are providing new feeding areas for Choughs. Read the report on this experiment here.
Pembrokeshire in general, and the Marloes area in particular, still practices a mixed farming regime, with sheep, cattle, potatoes and spring cereals. All the farms in the area were once part of the Kensington estate until it was broken up between 1914 and 1920.
As the peninsula is surrounded by sea, it has a very mild climate (frosts are uncommon, and late frosts are very rare) and rich red sandstone soil. This provides ideal conditions for potato growing, both early and maincrop. Excellent new potatoes can be bought at the farm gate at Trehill Farm and in the Marloes shop in season. The potato crop is often followed immediately by grass, turnips or some other fodder crop to provide food for sheep in the winter. These sheep may be either owned by the local farmer, or may be “tack” sheep which are brought down from the hills (often some distance away) for the winter. In the following spring the ground my be ploughed for spring cereals or may be left as grass for silage. In this way it is possible to get three crops in a year. This style of farming is unusual in the UK as there is little use of winter cereals. In the wetter spots there are areas of permanent pasture, which are used for sheep and beef cattle. There are also two dairy herds on the peninsula.