About: mariondavies

Marion is a Wales Blue Badge tourist guide who lives in wonderful Tenby and loves to show the areas many delights to visitors each year. Enthusiasm and learning something new everyday are a part of her job description! Frequently seen on Coach tours, cruise excursions and private tours she is best known locally for the Story of Tenby and the Ghost Walk.

Posts by mariondavies:

  • Holiday for the holiday hosts, 22 Nov 2018 in Culture&News
  • Plygain and Poems at Christmas in Tenby, 15 Nov 2018 in Culture&Heritage&History
  • The Pembrokeshire Promise, 24 Oct 2018 in Culture
  • World UFO Day – 2nd July 2018, 22 Jun 2018 in History
  • The secrets buried beneath Pembroke Castle, 14 May 2018 in Culture&Heritage&History
  • Smugglers and Wreckers, 08 Apr 2018 in Culture&Heritage&History
  • Walking on Water, 01 Apr 2018 in Culture&Event&History&Sport
  • Year of the Sea – Mystery Sea Creatures, 05 Jan 2018 in Art&Culture&History
  • Mari Llwyd or ‘Y Gynfas farch’ (The Canvas Horse), 26 Dec 2017 in Culture&Event&History
  • From ‘Year of Legends’ to ‘Year of the Sea’, 2018 approaches, 12 Dec 2017 in Culture&History

  • Holiday for the holiday hosts

    Well in reality the season has come to an end, or gotten so substantially quieter generally speaking, that the lowly self employed sole trader can finally embark on their own holiday. Obviously this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while as I try to enhance my visitors and clients vacations through the summer, but what to do come November? I mean of course usually one would be thinking about Tenby Blues Festival for a start, but this year it is something different . This year the destination has been selected for me,  I have thrown out the boat and am enroute to Barbados as we speak.


    Let me just qualify by saying this is a friends wedding I am go to, so not my first choice (Bognor Regis), but I think in a few minutes or so I will come to terms with it. Like everyone, I ran through the usual rigmarole as I walked to the train, did I turn off the lights/turn off the alarm/change the times on the central heating/ put the rubbish out and turn off the iron? I don’t know why I worry about the latter, the iron hasn’t been out of the box since 1996, it’s almost vintage. I LOVE YOU SPANDEX! I packed everything I need, and a few things extra, knickers obviously, more clothes than I will wear and a few things to read…. Probably…, although one book is a bit work orientated…. I may glance at it. Having slept for nearly two hours before the taxi arrived to get us to the airport it was relatively trouble free, apart from the return journey to retrieve the forgotten items….. it was only a few miles across London.. 

    Interestingly the alcohol is free on the plane! We are not travelling Ryan Air! Naturally I felt obligated to have a G&T, and it seemed churlish not to have the wine…Generally speaking, if I were presented with a main meal, that measured 10cms x 8cms and a pud that I was only 3cms sq and less than 5 teaspoons of culinary delight, I might feel cheated, and consider that nouvelle cuisine had sunk to new depths of incredulity, but because it is on an airplane it seems utterly acceptable. Is that the wine speaking I wonder? (as I consume the accompanying pack of 6 pretzels?) Nah! I think I am finally on holiday!! Whoopee!

    Across the aisle is a two year old child with her iPad. Normally of course I would ask a teenager, but, I think she may be able to help me with some social media issues I’ve been having, I’ll wait till she’s finished her kiddie meal….BARBADOS POOLSIDE

    Plygain and Poems at Christmas in Tenby

    Plygain means ‘morning light’ and was a traditional religious service held in the local Parish Church. It commenced at 3 a.m on Christmas morning to watch the daybreak of Christianity and commemorate the coming of Christ.

    The service would attract large crowds, even though they may have to walk several miles in the dark and cold.

    In Tenby the young men of the town would escort the Rector with lighted torches from the rectory to St Mary’s Church for Plygain. On arrival they extinguished their torches and left them in the porch.  The service consisted of prayer, praise, thanksgiving and carols were sung.CHRISTMAS STORIES

    After the service the torches were re-lit and the congregation escorted the Rector back to his home with the church bell ringing continually until the time of the usual morning service.

    The rest of the day was devoted to pleasure, including hunting hare, woodcock and especially the squirrel.  Games of football were played and old quarrels ended.

    Unfortunately disorder brought about by men under the influence of alcohol put an end to Plygain in most places!

    Perhaps the very early start and the hangovers might be a little hard to deal with on Christmas morning nowadays although of course not uncommon, but something we could resurrect are the carols …. It seems that in days gone by, the local bards might be expected to compose a carol, indeed a poet was not considered a poet unless he could sing a carol! I think we should get our talented local bard Nicky Lloyd to pen something festive for us this year!! We could all join him for a sing-song in a local pub or pubs?…Sounds good to me!


    The Pembrokeshire Promise

    For those of you reading this blog and who have perhaps moved into the area you will inevitably eventually come across the Pembrokeshire Promise sooner or later.

    PROMISEIn order to give you newbies an example (and whilst I could not say definitively), I think some of the people who know and cultivate the art of ‘the promise’ best of all, are trades people. I refer here to electricians, plumbers, builders etc. They promise they will turn up next week on such and such a date but fail to show. When at last you manage to get hold of them they are full of apologies and promise to come the following week and so on. Although it can seem very frustrating you have to understand that they mean no slight upon you.

    They are not being deliberately difficult. They have every intention of doing the work, it’s just that next week is not a definite date. Actually any named day can be altered to suit the weather as well as more pressing jobs, which have certainly been subject to the same promise some weeks ago…

    The Pembrokeshire Promise is not a new phenomenon, and in fact even in the twelfth century Gerald of Wales, the great writer and cleric wrote at some length about it, remarking that with regards the Welsh, ‘ a formal oath never binds them’ and  ‘They are always prepared to perjure themselves to their own convenience and for any temporary advantage which they hope to gain by concealing the truth’.

    You see it is a temporary situation. Behind the scenes they are working to an agenda that will mean that when they are down to the wire, suddenly it all falls into place, everyone turns up in order to fulfil their promise so that suddenly the job comes together and it is done with speed, skill and a smile. Well in my experience anyway.

    Another example of the ‘promise’, I stated unequivocally that I would complete this blog by the 17th– oops!

    World UFO Day – 2nd July 2018

    Although it maybe hard to believe, in 1977 one of the most famous series of sightings in British UFO history became known as The West Wales flap and refers particularly to the ‘Broad Haven’ or ‘Dyfed Triangle’.

    Subsequent to some earlier sightings in 1976 a local UFO expert predicted that this would herald a spate of similar events in West Wales. However no one could have imagined that on 4th February 1977, there would be a mass sighting of a silver cigar shaped UFO by 15 school children at Broad Haven Primary School.

    Aged from nine to 11 years, the children claimed that they had seen a silver man with pointed ears emerge from the craft that had landed in the fields behind their school. Initially dismissed as fantasy, their head teacher eventually asked them to draw the UFO. He was amazed at how similar each of their pictures was.

    The event became an overnight sensation with journalists and TV crews flocking to the Welsh coast from all corners of the UK!

    A variety of other events compounded the phenomenon including the terrified Coombs family at Ripperston Farm who were plagued with repeated close encounters with UFOs and their occupants which resulted in a number of chases, apparitions, burned out cars and TV sets and horrendous electricity bills! Not to mention a herd of cows that were inexplicably teleported from a locked field into to an adjacent farmyard!?

    Subsequently, documents released in 2005 have revealed that a secret military investigation was launched into claims that alien craft and their tall humanoid occupants were taking a particular interest in the Welsh coastline.

    Obviously, most of us locally are engaged in tourism and I personally welcome interest in the area by extra-terrestrial beings. My main concern is that they will be bringing their own accommodation and not actually increasing the per capita spend in the immediate locality. I can see this would be a challenge in the local supermarkets and indeed restaurants, but I have certainly enjoyed a few out-of-this-world delicacies at a number of local eating establishments. I think as ever we will rise to the challenge.

    Suffice to say, that on World UFO day on 2nd July many of us will be scanning the skies for signs of life and any suggestions as to where we can send the brochures will be gratefully received!UFO

    The secrets buried beneath Pembroke Castle

    Archaeologists are planning to excavate inside Pembroke Castle.

    In 2013 aerial photography around the county revealed all sorts of archeologically interesting features owing to a dry weather period that left parch marks in the grass indicating underlying masonry and disturbances. In Pembroke Castle this was further confirmed by geophysical surveys, using sensing equipment to map the features beneath the surface in 2016.

    Mr Ludlow from Dyfed Archaeological Trust said: “The geophysical survey carried out in Pembroke Castle, funded by the Castle Studies Trust, showed a large, winged building that resembles, in plan, a late-medieval manor house. This is an unusual find within a castle, and has additional significance at Pembroke as the possible birthplace of King Henry VII. But this is still guesswork, as nothing else about the building is known. All we really know is that it was excavated in the 1930s without records. Thanks to the support of the Castle Studies Trust, some of these questions will be answered as well as learning more about later medieval high-status living.”PEMBROKE CASTLE

    This is thought to be a property built by Jasper; it is likely that Margaret Beaufort gave birth to her son in the house owing to the building being more comfortable than the old castle rooms and towers. Henry was born there on January 28, 1457. His father, Edmund Tudor, had died two months before his birth to his 14-year-old mother. This Welsh-born English king ended three decades of dynastic wars by marrying Elizabeth of York and brought prosperity back to the country.

    Little research has been done on Henry Tudor’s birthplace, but experts looking for the remains of the late-medieval manor house will be excavating the outer bailey or ward by digging two trenches which they hope will help them understand more about the form, date, context and function of the remains.

    Interestingly, this dig will have some resonance here in Tenby, owing to the fact that Jasper was the Earl of Pembroke responsible for having the walls of Tenby built up to their current height, for the parapet walk and the digging of a dry ditch around the walls. Also, it is said that he escaped to Brittany from Tenby with his 14-year-old ward Henry on one of the mayors’ boats!

    Smugglers and Wreckers

    In Pembrokeshire, the coastal names of places such as Brandy Brook, Ogof Tobacco and Ogof Whisky (“ogof” meaning cave) testify to the presence of smugglers along the coastline. Offshore islands such as Skomer and Skokholm were major smuggling depots for everything from brandy to tallow.

    Other places strongly associated with smuggling, included Manorbier and its Castle, St Bride’s Bay and Solva, whilst the coastline north of Fishguard became a particularly well known haunt of salt smugglers, a most valuable commodity.

    In 1770, local smugglers even had the audacity to attack and scuttle a Customs and Excise vessel called The Pelham Cutter off St Davids, plundering everything on board. Various coastal localities are still reputed to have secret tunnels, used for moving and storing contraband. Solva was once especially well known for its concealed stores and shafts.

    However the coastline can be treacherous and many boats met their end on the rocks around the coast and indeed south Wales generally was notorious for wrecks and also the wreckers who would deliberately lure boats to their doom.

    A classic example locally of deliberate wrecking concerns two fine mansion houses of Scotsborough, owned by the Ap Rice family and Trefloyne, owned by the Bowen family that were on either side of the Holloways Water just outside Tenby. It was said, that they were well known locally to be involved in the terrible trade of wrecking, placing out false lights that would lure unsuspecting ships to sand banks and rocks where they would be wrecked. However their good fortune was due to change. There was only one heir in the Ap Rice household and one daughter of the Bowens. It seems they had been abroad, many said eloped and married. They were returning to their families, who sadly, wrecked their vessel on this dark stormy night, and both lovers were drowned and that after this time, only sadness and misery descended on both families.


    Conversely, in Marloes a clergyman was preaching a sermon one Sunday at Marloes in Pembrokeshire, when suddenly someone burst through the door and said that a boat was being wrecked on the rocks nearby. Immediately everyone rose and began excitedly making their way out of the church. The Vicar shouted to his congregation to stop and show some restraint and ‘moderation in all things’, but when he realised that it really was no use-he added that he thought they really ought to give him a head start-since he was no longer as quick on his feet as he had once been!!

    It is still possible to see the remains of Scotsborough House on the public footpath from the bottom of Gumfreston Hill and of course  present day Trefloyne is a fine hotel, restaurant and golf course.

    Walking on Water

    At the beginning of the 20th Century the adventurous and enterprising Mr William Llewellyn having long cherished the idea of being able to walk on water and decided to make a further attempt at accomplishing the feat. A couple of years earlier his efforts had ended in a disastrous failure meeting with, in a very literal manner, a cold water reception!

    Mr Llewelyn was not daunted. He was determined to continue his labours towards the solution of the problem which he had set himself. So for a further period of several months he continued his investigations. Having made an apparently successful attempt at Lydstep the editor of the Tenby Observer laid the proposal before him that he should demonstrate his invention to the people of Tenby. Consequently at 3.30 on Saturday 25th October 1902 as many as 2000 people assembled on Castle Hill and the pier to view his demonstration.

    His water walking apparatus comprised a pair of miniature catamaran shaped boots. WALKING ON WATERAn accident seemed inevitable–the shaky state of the boots threatening more than once to precipitate the wearer into the water, but by skilful handling of the steering rod he succeeded in keeping with the catamarans close together thus maintained his equilibrium.

    The crowd looked on with growing interest if not astonishment as Mr Llewelyn with his apparatus well in hand began to move through the water with a half walk half slide sort of motion.

    After going 50 yards he turned and retraced his course, landing at the steps to the old pier. He walked for almost half an hour without mishap, his achievement is regarded as a remarkable one, proving as it does that water walking boots can be successfully constructed from wood and aluminium!

    This seems like an ideal opportunity to begin another brilliant Tenby tradition! The event -“Walking on Water” and the construction of various fun gadgets to do the same. It just needs someone to take it on!? Maybe we could compete for the Mr Llewellyn memorial prize to recognise his amazing enthusiasm and enterprise. What a man!!


    Year of the Sea – Mystery Sea Creatures

    I am in the throws of designing a walking itinerary for a small group of women next year and have selected a favourite walk along the cliffs from St Govan’s to The Green Bridge.

    I have to confess that I have not been further west but then, one starts to enter the bit of Castlemartin live firing range that still has restricted access.  Although it’s probably the firing thing, could it also be that this is Pembrokeshire’s own version of Area 51? Not only for the various sightings of UFOs in West Wales, but possibly the USOs (Unusual Swimming Objects!)

    Tenby had its own strange mystery beast washed up on the South Beach in 2013 that caused a huge online debate as to the type of creature it might be, with more than 65,000 people reached within hours of its picture being put on the internet!

    Back in 1782, a farmer called Henry Reynolds from Pen-y-holt, near Castlemartin was walking along the cliffs, when he spotted what he thought was someone bathing in the sea, and curiously visible from the waist up, in what he knew to be very deep water. Getting within about 10 to 12 yards of it, he realised it was a youth, about 16 – 18 years of age. The boy sat upright, floating on what looked like a brown substance below the water. When the boy moved, Henry could see that the brown mass was attached to this young man and resembled the tail of a large conger eel, moving continuously in a circular manner. The trunk and arms of the creature seemed entirely human, just a little shorter and thicker. The head seemed human too except that the nose was higher between the eyes, and seemed quite long. Its head was white like the rest of the body but without any hair as such, although there was a brownish ribbon like structure that went from his forehead, over his head and down his back. The creature swam about the rocks and stared intently at Henry, although it never smiled or made a gesture of any kind. Having watched for about an hour, Henry eventually decided to fetch his friends to witness the strange man, but by the time he returned the Merman had disappeared.

    Mermaids and Men are a popular theme now and in the past and there are even Mermaid tails available to buy, along with mermaid/man training!YEAR OF THE SEA

    The Royal Academician and pre-Raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse has painted several including this rather beautiful picture shown. Happy swimming all you budding mermaids and men!

    Mari Llwyd or ‘Y Gynfas farch’ (The Canvas Horse)

    The New Year period features various traditions and perhaps none are stranger than the Mari Llwyd.

    As someone who used to live in Cornwall I was a visitor to the Padstow Obby Oss festival, an exciting local event that has now become a major tourist draw for people around the world! Although they take place at different times of the year, there are definitely similarities between the two and indeed there are other variants elsewhere in the UK and Europe.

    Some people have speculated that the Obby Oss is a relatively recent invention, but the Welsh and Cornish have so many links and so much shared history going back into antiquity, it seems that it is likely to be a much older tradition like the Mari Llwyd and as maintained by many local Cornish folk.

    The Mari Llwyd is almost certainly a pre-Christian ceremony, and was once widespread in Wales and in Pembrokeshire it was called ‘Y Gynfas farch’ (The Canvas Horse). It could make an appearance at different times of the year varying with the county or place. In Pembrokeshire it was associated with New Year, but visits from the creature would take place over several days or even weeks!


    Making the Mari Lwyd was a rather gruesome task, as it usually comprised the skull of a horse that had been stripped of flesh by burying with lime.  Sometimes a wooden block was used; the lower jaws fixed with a spring so that it would shut with a snap and frighten the onlookers! The skull or block was fixed to a pole approximately 5 feet long with a white sheet draped over the head and attached like a cloak. There were bells and coloured ribbons sewn to the skull, glass eyes and cloth ears. A man would then stand under the sheet operating the mouth.

    The Mari Lwyd would be part of a group of men dressed sometimes as the leader and main singer, the Sergeant, the Merryman and Punch and Judy. This procession would approach a house and having knocked and being denied entry, would commence singing traditional rhymes. This would be a lighthearted battle of nerve and wits between the party outside and the householders within. Eventually entourage and the Mari Lwyd would gain admittance, the horse snapping and biting’  at all the women! There was then much fun and frolicking, with Punch chasing Judy, kissing the women, Judy sweeping the hearth and Merryman playing the fiddle.  Eventually all would sit down to eat and drink and be merry!

    From ‘Year of Legends’ to ‘Year of the Sea’, 2018 approaches

    It hardly seems possible that this year of 2017 with its legendary theme is now heading towards it close and 2018 and Visit Wales’ new ‘Year of the Sea’ project is about to begin.

    Preparations have already been in the pipeline for sometime and many organisations and individuals are already planning their events launch!

    Like the Year of Legends, the new nautical theme is ideally suited to a county like Pembrokeshire. We have some of the finest coastline in the world.

    Many years ago, whilst doing one of my historical walks, I chatted to a woman from London who had come to Tenby on the recommendation of her neighbour. The person in question, a travel editor of one of the big national newspapers, had told her that for work he had travelled all over the world but that he always came to Tenby and Pembrokeshire for his family holidays as it simply couldn’t be beaten for beauty!



    Well I’m probably biased but I think its true. I was looking out of the window at the crack of dawn this morning with the fabulous sparkling sea with Caldey across the sound and the houses and trees silhouetted against the peachy pink and gold of the sun kissed sky and I just had smile and think how lucky am I?


    Of course all the themes continue really as Wales has so much to offer for the adventurous, is totally legendary, surrounded by fabulous coastline and is always utterly epic!