Some photos of the recent blue skied, yet deserted Tenby streets and beaches. Fear not, they’ll be ready for you when you’re ready for them.
Some photos of the recent blue skied, yet deserted Tenby streets and beaches. Fear not, they’ll be ready for you when you’re ready for them.
When the first Civil War broke out in 1642, Richard Vaughan, Earl of Carbery, was the most powerful nobleman in south-west Wales. However, Carbery took little interest in national affairs and his allegiance was unclear. Both King and Parliament tried to commission him to raise forces on their behalf. Eventually, Carbery declared for the King and raised a regiment of foot, which he sent to join the Oxford army in January 1643 under the command of his uncle Sir Henry Vaughan. In that April, the three south-western counties of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire were allotted to him, and he was expected, as lieutenant-general, to raise troops, gather money and to secure the region for the King.
Apart from a Parliamentarian enclave centred on the town of Pembroke, most of south-west Wales was mainly Royalist in sympathy, or neutral. Lord Carbery, a reluctant hero, made no move against the Parliamentarian supporters in the region and was content to allow an informal truce to prevail so that for most of 1643, the area was unaffected by the civil war.
The strategic situation changed in September 1643 with the signing of the Cessation of Arms, negotiated between the King’s Lord-Deputy in Ireland and the Irish Confederates. The cease-fire allowed government troops stationed in Ireland to return to England to fight for the Royalist cause. The seaports of Pembrokeshire took on a new importance as potential landing places for the returning troops. Already on 18 August, Carbery had summoned the leading Pembrokeshire gentry to Carmarthen and persuaded them to sign a declaration promising to obey him and to support his efforts to secure Tenby and Pembroke for the King. On 30 August, the Mayor and Corporation of Tenby signed a second declaration promising to obey Carbery and refusing to assist Parliament, as did Haverfordwest on 18 September, when Carbery summoned the trained bands of Pembrokeshire to a rendezvous there, and, according to the Royalist newspaper Mercurius Aulicus, he also persuaded the Mayor and corporation of Pembroke to declare for the King during October.
Carbery’s campaign of diplomacy and persuasion to avoid bloodshed in the county had apparently secured all the ports of Pembrokeshire by the end of 1643. Unfortunately, his delicate balancing act started to fail around the beginning of 1644.
Then, the Parliamentarian leader of Pembroke, John Poyer, captain of the town militia, succeeded in overthrowing the Royalist mayor, seized Pembroke Castle and declared for Parliament. Poyer was supported by Colonel Rowland Laugharne, Parliament’s military commander in Pembrokeshire, and a small force of about 100 soldiers. Carbery responded by mustering all available Royalist forces from the counties under his command. Rather than risking a direct assault, however, Carbery imposed a blockade on Pembroke by establishing garrisons in Tenby, Haverfordwest and every castle and mansion around the town.
On the North side of Milford Haven, his brother, Sir Henry Vaughan, supervised the building of an artillery fort at Pill to dominate the approach to Pembroke by sea and to deny the use of the Haven to Parliamentarian ships. However, while Carbery made his preparations for starving Pembroke into submission, a Parliamentarian naval squadron of six warships under the command of Captain Richard Swanley arrived in Milford Haven.
Swanley offered to evacuate the Parliamentarians of Pembroke, but Poyer and Laugharne were determined to seize the opportunity provided by these reinforcements. With armed seamen from Swanley’s squadron, Colonel Laugharne stormed and captured the manor house at Stackpole, four miles south of Pembroke, and followed this up with the capture of another fortified manor house at Trefloyne, Penally, near Tenby. This lightning campaign was completed by capturing the new artillery fort at Pill on the north shore of Milford Haven, together with its garrison of 300, 18 guns and two Royalist ships. The collapse of the Royalist cause in Pembrokeshire apparently frightened the Royalist garrison of Haverfordwest so much they abandoned the town and fled to Carmarthen.
This left Tenby as the only Royalist port in Pembrokeshire. The Parliamentarian campaign climaxed with a joint land and sea attack on the town. Three of Swanley’s ships opened the attack from the sea on 6 March 1644. The ships, the ‘Prosperous’, the ‘Swallow’ and the ‘Crescent’ had arrived from Milford Haven, and in the words of John Vaughan from Trawscoed “Summoned them to yield the town”. The garrison refused and the ships started their attack, by ‘‘Storming it violently from the sea with their ordnance”. The following day, Laugharne’s forces arrived and set up artillery around the town, probably in the Deer Park area of Tenby. For three days, Tenby was bombarded from land and sea.
A desperate attempt was made to break this Parliamentarian stranglehold by the despatch of a Royalist ammunition ship from Bristol. Unfortunately for Tenby, the ‘gun-runner’ was sighted by a lookout on board one of Swanley’s ships and intercepted. A sea chase followed until finally the Royalist ship managed to escape by putting in to Llanelli, which was probably still loyal to the Crown. Here, its Bristol master would have been more familiar with the treacherous sandbanks of the Burry estuary than the commander of the ‘Crescent’.
It seems that the failure of the supply ship to get through was crucial to Tenby, which fell on the 9th of March. On that day, the North Gate was blown in and Laugharne ordered an assault. The Royalists resisted fiercely, fighting in the streets after they were driven back from the gate, until the military governor, Commissary Gwynne, was mortally wounded. The discouraged Royalists surrendered. Three hundred prisoners were taken and Tenby was plundered.
According to John Vaughan who wrote on the 12th of March 1644, “A ship with some ammunition arrived from Bristol and ventured to relieve the town, was chased by a frigate of Swanley’s and hardly escaped by putting into a creek at Llanelli, and is safe. Had Tenby been saved the country had been easily commanded with horse”.
People might say Tenby Castle is certainly real. After all, you can see it and walk round it. It’s a castle in Wales like all the others, isn’t it? A military defence built by the Normans when they invaded Pembrokeshire because they needed to defend Tenby. Who were the enemy? Well, it’s obvious….. Welsh attackers trying to take back their own land. Logical. End of story….
…. And that was how most historians looked at castles up until recently. All the books and guidebooks stressed the military side. They were built for defence and gradually improved with ever more elaborate defences. Wooden walls gave way to stone, outside ditches got deeper and wider, perhaps with stretches of water, concentric plans appeared with one higher set of walls inside an outer circuit, keeps were built and then seen as unnecessary as gatehouses became stronger and more elaborate. There was a gradual development as castles got bigger and more formidable until gunpowder called a halt at the end of the Middle Ages. The only people who lived there were the lord and his servants, and his knights and soldiers to man the walls.
Except it’s not so simple or logical. What are you really looking at when you look at Tenby Castle?… Is it a real major fortress or an aristocratic country house? Is it like Harlech Castle, a magnificent stronghold in a similar position, or does it have more in common with the clifftop Georgian and Victorian houses in Tenby but older by eight hundred years?
Modern research suggests that castles were able to be defended, of course. More important, they were places for comfortable living and to show off how rich and powerful the lord was. The aim was to awe the peasants and to impress the neighbouring lord, or even king, who might come to visit. The suites of rooms, the hall for dining and the kitchen, the stables for visitors’ horses, how smelly (or not) were the garderobes (toilets); all were as important as the height of the walls. The view from the castle was necessary to survey the surrounding country and spot the enemy coming. More important were the features which made the castle a great place to live in: a pleasant view with deer parks or woods to hunt nearby, looking out over the lord’s gardens with perhaps even a sea or mountain view.
Which of those two ideas fits Tenby Castle better?
On the one hand the main entrance is very impressive. A visiting aristocrat would see a powerful fortress as he approached the castle. To get into the castle our visiting lord would have to climb a steep hill to reach the main gate, needing close attention to his horse. The castle walls loomed over the path to the left, and there was another wall to left, now gone. He is hemmed in. On top of the walls would stand the garrison, perhaps to honour the visitor but also to imply strength. The main entrance gate was a semi-circular bastion in the latest military fashion but quite small. The gate would be either closed or open. If the visitor was high status, the gate would be thrown open and the visitor could ride in. If he was lower in rank, he would have to dismount and go in through the small door in the main gate. In any case, our visitor is again hemmed in by walls but he also has to turn sharp left through another gatehouse in order to gain access to the castle itself. He cannot see the interior at once. Above him are portcullises and murder holes above and firing holes on either side of the passage.
Finally, he reaches the main courtyard. There are buildings to the right above the cliff but he can just see other buildings on the other side of the hill. There are lots of doors. He doesn’t know which he should go through to find his host. At this point a senior servant, the constable, seneschal or butler would appear, take his horse and any servants and have them led away to the servants’ hall and stables, perhaps on the left. Depending on how important he is, the nearer his accommodation is to his host – a single room in the gatehouse is good enough for a squire or local knight. If he is higher status his rooms, with en-suite garderobe, are near the hall on the right, overlooking Castle Sands, perhaps with a view of St. Catherine’s and St Margaret’s Islands with their chapels and Caldey with its monastery. A pleasant place for the religious medieval man to wait, as his military brain admired the steep cliffs protecting the castle on that side. How long he had to wait would depend again on how superior he was. Sooner or later the higher or lower servant would guide him to meet his host, somewhere at the end of winding passages to confuse attackers and also our visitor. Of course, if the visitor was very important, the prince or king, the host would meet the king outside the main gate and escort him inside, no doubt pointing out how strong his castle was.
It appears here that the military side was important, but with a strong hint of showmanship, precedence and ritual. So, how effective was it as a fortress?
Well, as a stronghold Tenby Castle was a bit of a failure. It was successfully attacked at least twice. If it was designed to protect Tenby then it is in the wrong place, inside the town. As it is on a headland near the harbour, perhaps it was put there to defend against attacks from the sea? When the first assault on Tenby by the Welsh came, it came by sea, in boats they boarded at Amroth. After they sacked the castle and burnt the town they handed the remains back, almost as if to say, that’s what we think of your puny excuse of a castle.
And puny it appears now. So perhaps this was all for show? What other evidence is there that Tenby Castle was more a country house than a fortress?
Firstly, there is the site. A modern estate agent would go into purple prose to describe its many advantages: magnificent situation, superb views, comfortable accommodation on the sheltered south side of the peninsula with healthy sea air, kitchens, stables and other smelly occupations on the exposed north side, downwind and out of sight, English servants available from the village outside, easy supplies of fresh fish on Fridays, (very important for the medieval Catholic), superb facilities for hunting in Coedrath Forest beyond Northcliff, easy passage by boat to Pembroke, the heart of the earldom or farther afield to Bristol and England. A paradise. Then there are the walls which appear magnificently strong, a credit to any lord wanting to display his high status. But are they what they appear?
The strong main gate has already been described. But there was another much weaker and more vulnerable gate, a postern. If you were a tradesman delivering a side of beef or venison carcass, or a fisherman a basket of fresh mackerel for the lord’s table you were too low status to go in through the main gate, you went in through the servant’s postern past where the former Paxton baths are now, continued inside the low wall on the left overlooking Butler’s Hard and then turned sharp right back on yourself to go up the narrow climbing path directly to the kitchen. Defensively it is weak, to keep the riff-raff hidden it is perfect.
No one is quite sure if the wall continued around the headland from where it now stops near the Old lifeboat station. Those who wish to stress the military defence aspect will say the cliffs meant a wall here was unnecessary. They were un-scaleable. At eight years old the author proved that contention untrue.
Rather than an impressive keep on the highest point like that at Pembroke Castle there was a mere tower, usually called a lookout tower but which may also have been a medieval gazebo and which had a stair tower added to the side of the original tower with ladder to ease access, perhaps for the aged and infirm, or perhaps for women and children.
So far reference has been exclusively to men. What about women? Certainly there would have been women in servant roles but there is one last intriguing possibility. Perhaps Tenby Castle was designed or adapted for an important woman? There is a candidate.
Nest ferch Rhys (c. 1085 – before 1136) or Nesta was the only legitimate daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, last king of Deheubarth in Wales. Given as a valuable hostage she was held at the court of William Rufus where she became the mistress of the future King Henry II and bore him a child. She was afterwards married off to Gerald de Windsor (c. 1075–1135), constable of Windsor and later Pembroke Castle, with whom she had another five children, one of whom was the grandmother of Gerald de Barri, better known as Geraldus Cambrensis. The nineteenth century legend goes that in 1109 Nest was abducted by her second cousin Owain ap Cadwgan. According to the Brut y Tywysogon, Owain and his men entered the couple’s castle home and set fire to the buildings. When Gerald was woken by the noise, Nest urged him to escape by climbing out through the drain-hole of the garderobe. Owain then seized Nest and her children and carried her off. Some sources suggest that she went with him willingly. Eventually Gerald got his wife and children back and later still killed Owain in revenge.
Historians generally assume the castle in question was Cenarth in North Pembrokeshire. Perhaps, much nearer to Pembroke, the castle was Tenby? Or perhaps Tenby was where Gerald confined Nest after the abduction to make sure no other man could get his hands on her?
Tenby Civic Society started as the Friends of Tenby in the 1960s. It was set up to campaign for the reinstatement of the trees outside the town walls along South Parade and St. Florence Parade. Since then its activities have expanded to cover any activity which the Society feels will benefit Tenby and the lives of those who live, work and visit the town. To give a flavour of how the Society’s work has developed until recently here is a sample of our activities from our website.
WHAT WE DO
Tenby Civic Society aims to make Tenby a better place to live, work, shop and visit by promoting high standards of planning and architecture whilst preserving and protecting historical features yet allowing sustainable and thoughtful development of existing and new features ultimately resulting in prosperity, wellbeing and civic pride.
The Society discusses and makes active and direct contributions to the National Park Planning Authority and Pembrokeshire County Council on all new planning and licensing applications in Tenby.
Other business covers the design and installation of new, and refurbishment of old, Blue Heritage Plaques, highlighting new dilapidations, such as Scotsborough House, to Cadw and PCC, and ongoing fund raising and grant applications to fund new projects undertaken and managed by the Society such as the Tenby Characterisation Study which began in March 2017.
The Society was bequeathed Allen’s View some fifty years ago. Allen’s View is a hill top garden alongside the Pembrokeshire (now Wales) Coastal Path towards Saundersfoot, at the top of Northcliffe. It was gifted by Jessie Allen, the landowner, in 1965 to the Friends of Tenby (now Tenby Civic Society) and represents a significant ongoing project both in terms of responsibility as a Trustee and a major use of funds. The views are breath-taking but managing the planting and overall landscaping when vehicle access is limited can be time consuming for volunteers and expensive when specialist help is needed. Have a look at the Allen’s View BLOG to see what has been happening recently.
The Society also provides welcome advice, information and support to other local bodies such as St Catherine’s Island Trust and the Brynhir Action Group as well as attending to the usual Committee business.
We make charitable contributions to deserving local groups, societies and individuals.
For some years we have run an annual award scheme to reward building developments and improvements which make a positive addition to look of Tenby. About five such properties have received certificates to display and we are waiting for one renovation to finish so that we can congratulate the owner who has worked for many years on a difficult scheme for a visually prominent building. (Watch our website for updates).
All of this work is low key, behind the scenes work, depending on a lot of time-consuming toil by a small group of volunteers. It struck the committee some time ago that worthwhile as this work is, it concentrates on the place, the buildings, the background rather than the people. Then came an idea for an award for deserving residents arising from a post by Dave Bolton on Plastic Free Tenby’s social media.
The Civic Society took up the idea and started a scheme to recognise “Local Treasures”. These are people, Tenby residents, who contribute hugely through their charitable and other work to the life of the town, frequently unrecognised, certainly unrewarded and over a long period. We aim to present a framed certificate to those people at a public ceremony, with the press present, so that as many people as possible know how much they contribute to the town by their unselfish activities. Frequently they tend to be people who would turn down a certificate if it was suggested to them, so an element of secrecy is necessary to get the recipient, their friends and family, the press and the presenter together at one and the same time to make the presentation.
So far, we have presented two certificates. The Tenby Observer reported as follows:
On Saturday 7th July, 2018 Michelle Watkins was hoodwinked into visiting St Catherine’s Island under the
pretence of being at a photographic shoot for her son’s recent wedding. On entering the fort Michelle was
astonished to be greeted and applauded by a very large group of family and friends, representatives from
Tenby Civic Society, Plastic Free Tenby and Island staff.
In Michelle’s case the award has been made for “her continuing voluntary effort over a number of years to
keep Tenby South beach litter-free“. Mr. Tudor Thomas presenting the certificate, bouquet and small
hamper on behalf of the Tenby Civic Society stated… “For a number of years the Civic Society has made
awards for buildings which improve Tenby. But a town is much more than buildings It is those people
throughout Tenby who deserve our gratitude and thanks for their voluntary efforts for the town. We hope
that this, first of a kind award,will be one of many as we look for further nominations and proposals”.
The second presentation in 2019 was to Cllr. Trevor Hallett, long-serving Tenby Town Councillor, Mayor for
numerous terms of office and well-known to everyone in Tenby. That presentation was more low-key but
easier to arrange as Trevor is also a Tenby Civic Society committee member.
Both Michelle’ and Trevor’s surprise and delight was more than enough reward for us and confirmed the
scheme was worthwhile. We haven’t had anyone refuse to accept an award or walk away yet. We have our third worthy recipient
already lined up and we are in the process of organising a presentation. Let’s hope our sneaky scheme for
the venue and presentation doesn’t leak out and it goes well. Wish us well and watch this space!
I was asked to do a blog on local traditions of Pembrokeshire. This could have ended up as some rehash of other people’s work. However, I decided to concentrate on one tradition which has personal connections. When I was a child of about eight my father told me that as a boy of the same age, growing up in Tenby pre- and post-First World War, he took part in the Tenby tradition of the “Cutty Wren”.
He said that on “Twelve NIght”, which was twelve days after the 25th of December, he and other boys went down to the marches and burrows behind the South Beach to look for a wren. If they found one, which was difficult in itself, and caught it, again difficult, it was put in a wicker cage and paraded round the streets. They would knock on doors and sing a song about the wren. In return they would get hot milk and mince pies. Eventually the wren would be released, no doubt a bit shocked but unharmed.
I thought no more about it until Steeleye Span, a folk/rock group those of a certain age will remember, had a song called “The King” on their second album in 1971. The lyrics sounded very familiar….
Joy, health, love, and peace be all here in this place
By your leave, we will sing concerning our King
Our King is well dressed, in silks of the best In ribbons so rare,
no king can compare We have travelled many miles, over hedges and stiles
In search of our King, unto you we bring
We have powder and shot to conquer the lot
We have cannon and ball to conquer them all Old Christmas is past,
Twelve-tide is the last And we bid you adieu, great joy to the new!
Not the same as my father’s song but similar enough to make me investigate further. I discovered that the tradition of the Wren and Twelve Night was common throughout the British Isles but Steeleye Span had collected the song from Pembrokeshire. It was in English because it came from the Englishry of South Pembrokeshire but there are also versions in Welsh.
The original tradition was much, much older and much darker. The wren represented the old year and the robin the new. They were the King and Queen of animals and birds. The old year had to be killed so the new year could continue. In other words it is the ancient tradition of sacrifice of an animal to appease the Gods. So the robin and wren would fight. The robin won and the wren was killed but the robin’s redbreast was a result of the blood from the fight. (Told you it got darker).
It is interesting that “Twelve NIght” is very close to the old New Year in the Julian, now Orthodox, calender. It is also interesting how many innocent old customs and songs have more sinister roots. Think of “Ring a ring a roses” which is about the Black Death. Sing it to yourself and it will become clear.
On the happy note, everyone, please, have a very happy New Year. Jenny Wren has been released and is now safe in her nest.
Back in January 2019 the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, announced £2.2 million for 23 projects across Wales, to improve the visitor experience and develop “high quality destinations”. Tenby, Marloes and Broad Haven were to be among the county’s tourist hot spots to receive part of a £323,000 funding boost, of which Pembrokeshire County Council would receive £128,000 to replace the Tenby Harbour sluice entrance stop logs with an electronically-controlled gate that could be easily opened on demand. This would extend the operating season and create a year-round harbour excursion offer.
The sluice was originally built in the early 17th century to store water at high tide which could then be released as the tide went out to scour out any build-up of sand and debris from the harbour. Since then it has been rebuilt a number of times, notably in 1763 when the landward side was built to make a wharf to unload ships. It retains some old features such as the three blocked arches which originally allowed boats under Sleeman’s Stores, now Tenby Sailing Club, to unload goods. The sluice is listed Grade 11 as an unusual harbour feature.
The stop logs do a useful job but the outer wall is not strong enough to hold water at high tide as it was originally designed to do. They also provide some shelter during the winter for some boats from Northerly winds and tides. However, many boatmen choose not to use it as there is insufficient protection from the flow of water created on an incoming tide; this water could cause boats to slam against the sluice walls.
There are also other developments mooted for the sluice area. Mr. Jim Cornwall’s, secretary of Tenby Sailing Club, understanding of the situation is that permission has been granted to cover one third of the sluice starting from the Mayors Slip. The ribs and dinghies that are currently housed at that end would be moved onto the covered area. The sailing club is also still in negotiations with the PCC about extending the balcony above the sluice thus enjoying the evening sunshine.
Nothing appears to have progressed since the beginning of the year ……………
Andrew Davies, Town Clerk to Tenby Town Council wrote to a number of Tenby organisations last October saying that the Council had been concerned about the maintenance of the town walls for some time. Pembrokeshire County Council is responsible to Cadw for maintaining this Grade One listed structure but due to austerity cuts has a very limited budget to cover maintenance for all the historic buildings in the county.
Tenby Town Walls are of national importance and, internationally, Tenby is the founder member of the Walled Towns Friendship Circle (Now European Walled Towns).
Cllr. Caroline Thomas, a former Mayor of Tenby had heard that a volunteer trust had taken over the maintenance of Pembroke Town Walls. Tenby Council wanted to find out whether any group or individual might be interested in forming a similar voluntary organisation which could take over the Tenby town walls from the County Council, as they would have access to sources of charity funding not open to either council.
The aim in the first place would be to make sure the walls were maintained for future generations. There are then a number of proposals to make the walls a greater attraction for tourists and to involve local people more closely with a worthwhile project close to home. Obviously, if a voluntary organisation were set up it would need a proper constitution and a wide number of people and talents to make sure that it was well-run and effective. Among the skills and experience needed would be people with business knowledge, architectural expertise, an appropriate historical background, fundraising experience and practical skills like stone masonry and gardening. More important is enthusiasm, common sense and a desire to commit time and effort.
So this article is in a way an appeal. If you are a Tenby resident, or a frequent visitor to the town, and you feel that you have skills and expertise to offer and would like to get involved, then please get in touch.
Advance notice for all you foodies and munchers on the hoof!! …. Pembrokeshire Street Food Festival returns for another year. It will happen at the South Beach Car Park, Tenby from Friday 14th June starting at 12:00 and going on to finish at 22.00 on Sunday 16th June. Expect another sell-out glorious weekend of fantastic fresh food and delicious drinks! All the smells, tastes and fun of last year, but even bigger and better!
With an outstanding array of different food on offer, from fresh delicious hot dogs to gooey gourmet Mac ’n’ Cheese, to crumbly cheesecake, to banging bao buns. Come and enjoy a range of mouth-watering food from all over the world alongside an ice-cold pint of beer or fresh zesty Mojito! Confirmed vendors:-
Assembelly – Seafood and Wild Food, following Toby’s labour of love we’re sure his food is going to blow your minds!
Pakora Pod – Spice up your life with this all vegan and vegetarian Indian cuisine.
Spicers Meat Wagon – Low and Slow – Smokin’.
The Dog House – Delicious gourmet hot dogs with a choice of tasty toppings!
Clark’s Kitchen – Lovely Clark with his lovely halloumi fries!
The Gourmet Street Kitchen – Cheesey, gooey and oh so moreish Mac and Cheese!
Makasih – Cravin’ Malaysian!
Meating Point – Greek BBQ time!
Street Food South West – Moroccan deliciousness!
Orgazmic Milkshake – The best milkshake you will ever taste!
Chock Shop – Melt in your mouth brownies.
Pink Peppercorn – The notorious caravan of deliciousness.
Chai Street – A spicy, Indian bonanza!
Bao Selecta – Beautiful Baos.
Rue de la Cocotte – Bonjour to French food!
Taffys Treats – Fabulous Fudge.
Ice Green – Frozen vegan treats!
Dutty’s Cheesecake – creamy cheesey dessert goodness!
Toastie The Difference – The ultimate toastie experience.
Completely FREE and family friendly, bring the kids, Grandma and the dog – eat with us!
The event is organised by Street Food Warehouse
As many of you may know St. Catherine’s Island, Tenby, re-opened two years ago after the previous Tenby Island Project unfortunately had to close. We open when the tide is out, the winds are reasonable, the rain is not blowing horizontally and there are visitors in Tenby. We try to open most of the year but our opening times are subject to all the above plus daylight. You can find exact times on our website http://saintcatherinesisland.co.uk, our Twitter account and on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pg/StCatherinesIsland/posts/?ref=page_internal.
Assuming we are open, getting on to the island is an adventure in itself, lots of steps, a bridge and a few more steps before you get to our “we-are-open” Welsh flag on the Second World War gun emplacement. Wear sensible shoes for the uneven steps, take your time and be prepared to carry your dog over the open bridge. What you can see when you get to the top (and a chance to get your breath back) are the views – 360 degree views around Carmarthen Bay and the best view of Tenby. Then it’s just an easy walk to the fort itself. Inside, at the moment, we have open the main gun-deck of the mid/late nineteenth century Palmerston military fort. There we show our films and give regular half-hour illustrated talks on the history of the island and fort. This is originally where six of the huge guns were sited in casemates facing east and west to protect the anchorages against enemy ships. Three more guns, even bigger, were sited on the roof facing out to sea.
Finally, here we also have our regular events. The latest in our regular film shows was just pre-Christmas, six showings of the “Polar Express”, the Tom Hanks animated film. We originally planned one evening show but had 240,000 hits on our Facebook page and it turned into a major five-night event with about 500 visitors, staff in costume, refreshments, Father Christmas in his grotto and presents for the children. Our preparations were inevitably interrupted with a fire inspection but fortunately we passed. Fortunately, also, everyone who came seemed happy and we were only forced to postpone one day because of the weather. Our next major planned event will be in April with our Titanic evenings, ballroom dancing on our “promenade deck”, refreshments and a scramble for the lifeboats at the end of the evening to get off the island (Ship) before the tide comes in. (Only a limited number of lifeboats I’m afraid). We say planned event but at the moment we are floating ideas for an event for before Easter. Watch our Facebook page and in the meantime get your tailcoats and long dresses out of mothballs and pressed.
When we get the necessary permissions and finance in place we will be able to show you the rest of the fort – plans are prepared to show visitors three more areas: the gunpowder magazines set into the rock at the back of the fort (Re-flooring and lighting planned to start soon), the living accommodation for the 100 soldiers and officers of the Victorian garrison in the basement, and the roof with even better views. To open these two last areas we will need to install lighting, fire doors and a new staircase and safety features to the roof. Then, at parents’ request, we can lock the children in the old prison in the basement. Sorry, that should read: “show pirate films for the children in the old prison to keep them entertained and happy.”
I am sure I am not the only person noticing the way that the sand on the beaches around Tenby seems to be higher, lower and more or less rocky than before. For example, I seem to remember that when I was doing my bucket and sand heavy engineering , damming streams on the North Beach (Aged about 5 or 6), that the beach was much lower. I seem to remember many more rocks showing and plenty of water under the diving board on Goscar Rock.
Now some of the build up of sand on the North may have been a result of the “new” promenade in the 1960’s. But that can’t explain the loss of sand from the dunes at the Penally end of the South Beach. My impression is that the sand seems to be moving from west to east from Giltar, around the Tenby beaches and on towards Waterwynch.
Now this may be a temporary thing. Perhaps my memory is playing tricks. So is there any way we can actually see the difference in the height of sand on the various beaches at various times over the past fifty years or so? It may be that looking at postcards and photographs from then and now will show differences in the beaches. Have a look below and see what you think…