Marloes and St Brides

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GATEHOLM  This small island at the western end of Marloes Sands has many traces of ancient habitation  - here is what Wikipedia has to say about it. It has been the subject of various archaeological digs and was the subject of a Time Team investigation in 2011 which was broadcast in January 2012. More information about the logistics of doing the dig can be found here.

The “Rough Guide to Wales” recommends Gateholm as an excellent spot to camp, but this is not advised - access is difficult, even dangerous, and it is important not to disturb cliff-nesting birds.

ALBION BAY  Just to the west of Gateholm, Albion Bay is a sandy and sheltered spot, though difficult of access. It is named for the ship called the Albion which was beached here in 1837 after striking the Crabstones on passage through Jack Sound. All the people and animals on board were saved. Parts of the ship can still just be seen at low tides. Read more here.

NAB HEAD At Nab Head just along the coast from St Brides there was a Neolithic flint factory. Some 9,500 - 7,500 years ago, when sea levels were much lower than at present, Mesolithic people camped on this rocky outcrop, overlooking a broad coastal plain full of game for them to hunt.  

IRON AGE FORTS  An Iron Age fort is situated where the coast turns sharply southward on the far side of St Brides Castle at Tower Point. It was excavated in 1970. There is also an Iron Age Fort on the coast just opposite Gateholm, at the western end or Marloes Sands. This was also investigated by the Time Team in 2011. The Deer Park was also the site of a large fort - the boundary ditch can still be clearly seen and encloses most of the headland.

WOOLTACK POINT  The western end of the Deer Park is known as Wooltack Point. A very good view of Skomer and Jack Sound can be had from here, with Grassholm far out to the north west and Ramsey with St Davids Head to the north.

The small white hut is the old coastguard lookout. It is manned by voluntary members of Coastwatch - see National Coastwatch Insititute Wooltack Point. There is also a weather station there.

JACK SOUND Jack Sound is the turbulent stretch of water between the Deer Park and Midland Isle, which is the island just east of Skomer. The tide can rush through here at up to 7 knots at Springs. At low water the various hazards either side of the sound can be seen - the Crabstones off Midland Isle, the Blackstones just south of Midland Isle and Tusker and Cable rocks on the Deer Park side. The underwater profile of the sound is very interesting - it is a shallow ridge with deep water either side which helps explains the very fast tidal streams. Jack Sound is perfectly navigable at suitable states of the tide, using the correct leading lines to avoid the hazards. However it should not be attempted in strong tides or winds.

ST BRIDES BAY St Brides Bay is the stretch of water between Wooltack Point and the St David’s headland, to the north. It provides a safe anchorage sheltered from the all directions between the south west and the north. There will usually be several small tankers anchored here waiting for their berth in Milford Haven. If you are interested to see what sort of vessels they are have a look at the Automatic Ship Identification information on the Dale Yacht Club website. The bay also provides shelter for the Irish Ferry when conditions are too bad for it to dock at Pembroke.

THE SMALLS  This small group of rocks and lighthouse lie west of Wooltack Point. The lighthouse was erected in 1861 by engineer James Douglass to replace a previous lighthouse which had been erected in 1776 on the same rock. The lighthouse is the most remote lighthouse operated by Trinity House.

More disturbingly, the old lighthouse brought about a change in lighthouse policy in 1801 after a gruesome episode. The two man team, Thomas Howell and Thomas Griffith, were known to quarrel, and so when Griffith died in a freak accident, Howell feared that he might be suspected of murder if he discarded the body into the sea. As the body began to decompose, Howell built a makeshift coffin for the corpse and lashed it to an outside shelf. Stiff winds blew the box apart, though, and the body's arm fell within view of the hut's window and caused the wind to catch it in such a way that it seemed as though it was beckoning. Working alone and with the decaying corpse of his former colleague outside Howell managed to keep the lamp lit. When Howell was finally relieved from the lighthouse the effect the situation had had on him was said to be so extreme that some of his friends did not recognise him. Until the automation of British lighthouses in the 1980s lighthouse teams were changed to rosters of three men.