Dale Fort Blog Number 51

20 10 2017

This blog simply records some of the glorious vehicles that Pembrokeshire Vintage Motorcycle Club arrived on/in when they visited Dale Fort.

Dale Fort Blog Number 51

Thanks to Jooligan Inglesius for the music.

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Dale Fort Blog Contents 1 – 51.

19 10 2017

 

 

 Number 46
They’ve got anything up to 100 blue eyes and they’re jet-propelled.  They’re in
danger.  Help them.  Read this blog.
Number 47
Amazing Autumnal starling-related shenanigans at near Steve’s house.
Number 48
Walk around the Dale Peninsula and stay dry.  Part 1:  Dale Fort to Mill Bay.
Number 49
Number 50
More on the history of Dale Fort.  Concerning the building of the present structure.
Number 51
Some lovely vehicles at Dale Fort




Dale Fort Blog Number 50

19 10 2017

The Construction of Dale Fort

   The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser of 23rd of August 1850 carried the following report:

FORTIFICATIONS IN MILFORD HAVEN, –

On Saturday last Lieut., Colonel Victor and the Officers of the Royal Engineers department, stationed at Pembroke, went down the Haven in her Majesty’s steamer Prospero for the purpose of reporting on various sites for the construction of harbour defences for the port.  In addition to a large Martello Tower on the Stack Rock (the contract for which has already been taken, we hear) Thorne Island, Dale Point and other commanding locations are likely to be fortified.  Simultaneously with these works another barracks at Pembroke Dock, for the increased number of men necessary to garrison these posts, must be erected, the existing accommodation there not having sufficient room, even for the present force, numbers having to be billeted in the town on the various publicans.

 

Confirmation that the construction of Dale Fort had begun can be found in the Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser of April 7th 1854 in the following report: 

 THE FORTIFICATIONS AT PEMBROKE: The battery at the western end of the dockyard has been completed, the guns received having all been mounted. They are 32’s and 68’s, the latter being mounted on traversing carriages.  The requisite shot is expected almost daily.  The fortification on Thorne Island is advancing rapidly, and will be completed without delay.  This is essentially necessary as its guns command the entrance to the Haven and will cross their fire with the battery at Dale Point on the northern shore, where considerable works are in course of progress.  £20,000 are required to complete these defences, which will be mounted with guns of the heaviest calibre on traversing carriages.  A Company of artillery will be required to work the ordinance.

Almost a year later on 12th March 1855 Charles Davies writing to his brother Vaughan informed him thus: The works at the Point are getting on very rapidly and you would scarcely know the old Point after being mangled in the way it is.

There is also a long and spirited correspondence between the military authorities and the squire of Dale Castle Estate, who had owned the land and did not want the development to take place. The commander at Dale Point wrote to the squire to ask him to remove his cows, as they were in danger of being blown up during rock blasting operations.  They had been herded there deliberately to inconvenience and delay the building works.

The forts around Milford Haven were built by contractors and not (as forts had been elsewhere e.g. Portland, Chatham) by convict labour.  Lieutenant Colonel Victor RE was probably the engineer responsible for both Dale Fort and West Blockhouse.  The contracts for building were often short-term and the builders changed a lot.  Thorne Island had its design changed four times during construction.  There are some mysterious incongruities in the structure of Dale Fort that seem to indicate a similar history.  For example, the barrack blocks are of a later date than the outer defensive wall.  This is evident from the fact that the outer wall is battered with its lower courses sloping outwards in the manner of a mediaeval castle, the better to deflect incoming missiles.  The barrack blocks are not battered but are to be found outside the battered wall.  This makes no sense unless the barrack blocks were added after completion of the wall.  Many of the stone courses do not match up, particularly where the barrack blocks join other walls. In places expensive dressed stones disappear behind the barrack blocks.  Even more pertinently, the decorative stringcourses and quoins on the corners of the walls sometimes do not match up where they abut other walls.  The stonework itself is of very high quality, especially for what is essentially a functional structure.  It seems unlikely that the builders would have left untidy stringcourses and quoins unless it was impossible to avoid.  If for instance the plans were being altered as the building was being erected and/or the contractors were being changed repeatedly.

At least one of the main protagonists is known.  He was William Williams of Liverpool.  Williams was a builder/civil engineer of some substance.  He was involved in major projects with Brunel and built bridges, tunnels, warehouses and did some marine engineering.  Williams invented a flexible, waterproof joint for pipes, which was used in sewerage.  He also devised a scheme for a tunnel under the English Channel using his pipe design.  All of Williams’ papers and models were destroyed in the Liverpool blitz in 1941.  A man named William Fleetwood was also involved but currently very little is known of him.

The Pembrokeshire Telegraph of 16th July 1925 states that the contractors were the firm of Jones and Son, Pembroke Dock.  This article however has some known factual errors and the level of involvement of Jones and Son is neither given nor known.

Some major works were now being constructed around the shores of the Haven.  Even so the local press was still not happy about the state of the defences, the editorial comment of The Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph of 6th June 1855 read as follows:

Milford Haven – its lamentably if not culpably neglected state of defence – especially by the new Board of Admiralty.  Here is Milford Haven – one of the finest ports in the known world – with its magnificent dockyard of valuable stores.  Its Customs House – Its Ordnance Dept. with expensive supplies etc.  All left in these uncertain periods without a Man of War on the station or a single gun afloat for their protection.  Did she but know of its perfect destitution in means of defence, what would Russia care, if, in losing a small ship she could accomplish the destruction of such invaluable property. Tis, true the Haven is on the opposite side of the island, but the force required for its entire annihilation is so insignificant, that not a day should be lost in sending a ship – one of the block ships for instance – there to protect it.  What a reflection it would be on those in power should any casualty arise.  There is not another dockyard in the kingdom so situated.  What are our members about? They cannot surely be aware of the fact? No – for it is not very long ago since the honourable member for the county was informed that a powerful steamer would be placed on the station.  She once and certainly not more than TWICE put into the harbour and has since never visited even the locality.   

However these remarks will no doubt reach His Lordship’s eye as well as those of our other members and let us hope that they will bestir themselves in the matter, or when “too late” all may have to regret their supineness.  Long after the conclusion of the late war there was always an Admiralty cruiser on the station, whilst now in actual war, no such protection is afforded it.  From the numerous fishing towns along its shores such a ship would become a nursery for seamen.  Even in this respect the Navy would be benefitted, let alone the protection so necessary to be at once provided.

A week later the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph adopted a more optimistic tone:

13.6.1855.

Fortifications at Milford Haven: – the various works and fortifications at Milford Haven are making considerable progress.  The Stack Rock is now fully armed and garrisoned by the Royal Artillery.  The fort at Thorne Island has recently been armed with 68 pounders mounted on traversing carriages and this heavy metal from the commanding position at the very entrance of the Haven, will be able to sweep every point of approach thereto.  The works also commands the roads towards Milford; and when the important erections on Dale Point are completed they will be able to crossfire with the guns on Thorne Island to which they are nearly opposite.  The new works at Dale are progressing rapidly, and being on the northern shore their guns can have a clear range of the waters up to Pembroke Dockyard.

     Construction of the battery at Dale Fort must have been nearing completion by November 1855.  The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser reported that an ordnance vessel had delivered the guns for the battery to Pembroke Dockyard by mid-November.  The end of the month saw the arrival of the steam ship Prospero which spent the last week of November ferrying guns from Pembroke Dock to Dale Fort.  As late as June 1856 there was still a lot of construction taking place at both Dale and West Blockhouse Forts.  A report in The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser describes the arrival of a small steam ship at Pembroke Dock to be used to tow barges carrying construction materials to the forts at Dale.

At some time during 1856 or 1857 Dale Fort was occupied by the army and began its military career.  The builders had completed their work and were selling off surplus materials.  The Pembrokeshire Herald & General Advertiser of 4th of September 1857 carried the following announcement:

SALES BY GEO. N. HASSELL.

On Friday the 18th of September, 1857.

AT DALE, in the parish of Dale, Household Furniture, China, Glass, Dog Cart and Harness, Mare Etc., Contractor’s Plant, the property of William Fleetwood Esq. The purchase monies to be paid to Geo. N. Hassell.

 A week after the above sale, the same journal carried the following:

The Pembrokeshire Herald & General Advertiser September 25th, 1857.

 Dale Point Fortifications

Geo. N. Hassell.Has been instructed by William Williams Esq., Who has completed his contract, to offer for sale at Dale Point on Wednesday, the 30th of September 1857, The whole of the Balk, Sawed Planks, & other Timber at that place; also several thousand North and South Wales Slates, Bridgewater Bricks, and a large lot of Wheelbarrows, with all the other surplus materials.  Also, the Smack ‘LADY OF THE LAKE’ 25 Tons Register – now thoroughly repaired and fit for sea.  Several Sailing and Ferry Boats, all in excellent repair, varying downwards from 21 feet keel; as well as the hulk of a Large River Flat, now lying on Dale beach.

  Bay Mare, seven years old, perfect in saddle or harness, black gelding, Irish jaunting car, set of harness, saddles, bridles, etc., etc., 

Sale to commence at 11 o’clock precisely.

Three months credit will be given, when the purchase monies are paid to Geo. N. Hassell. Cambrian Place, Haverfordwest, Sept. 18, 1857.

The New Fortress

Potters Electric News of February 1861 states that Dale Fort had seven 68-pound guns and two 32-pounders.  The earliest known plan of Dale Fort is by Lieutenant Sandford (1866) According to this plan the battery at the point comprised seven guns.  The curved bastion (the round structure at the top of the ditch, projecting into it to allow flanking fire) has no gun emplacements marked on it, but it does have shell recesses and two artillery embrasures enabling enfilading fire down both sides of the defensive ditch.  This implies that the bastion was the location of the two 32-pounder guns mentioned earlier.  These weapons were for the landward defence of the fort.  The slope of the ground away from the bastion is also a defensive feature known as a glacis.  The natural slope of the ground has been enhanced to encourage incoming artillery to either bury itself in the slope or to bounce off out of harm’s way.  The gentle slopes on top of the granite blocks forming the bastion perform a similar function.  The glacis also makes it more difficult for an attacking force to approach the ditch.  Anyone coming within 50 yards of the ditch would have provided a target for what is known as grazing-fire.  As their heads came into view above the lip of the slope, they would have been blasted with balls fired from the bastion.  There is very little soil on the slope today implying that it has been re-profiled.  There was also a drawbridge and in addition to the timber main gate still in place today there would have been an armoured gate with loops for musketry.

Below is my redrawing of the earliest plan of Dale Fort that has so far come to light.  There is probably a set of original plans in a library/storage facility somewhere.  Does anybody know where?  Please let me know if you do:  steve.df@field-studies-council.org

sandford jpeg

 

That’s the end of Blog 50.  More to follow if your author is spared…





Dale Fort Blog Number 49

19 10 2017

Some Highlights of a Walk Around

The Dale Peninsula

Part 2:  Mill Bay to Dale Village.

Thorney Pit:

The mysterious steps and masonry on the left are the landing place for boats supplying the light house at St Ann’s head.  There is more to Thorney Pit than this though.  Much of the work looks to be of WW2 vintage.  I know little of this though, so any information (email to steve.df@field-studies-council.org) would be gratefully received.

The Walled Garden:

Just before St Ann’s head there is a collection of cottages that were occupied by The Coast Guard.  They all left years ago and most of them are now holiday lets.  The walled structure on your left was to provide shelter for the vegetable plots of the occupants.  This is one of the windiest, saltiest spots in Britain and as you can see from the rampant growth inside the walls they continue to do their job. 

St Ann’s Head:

(On the way, notice the plaque on a rock on the left towards the top of the southern exit from the bay.  This tells you even more about Henry Tudor and his landing at Mill Bay).

The navigation system:  Large ship channel to the east, small ship channel to the west, mid-channel rocks.

There’s been a light here since at least 1485.  Before that a chapel to St Ann was used as a navigational marker.  The chapel has gone and the present lights date from 1800 (the taller one) and 1844.  The lower one was built because the taller one was often lost in fog.  During World War Two the higher lighthouse was Milford Haven Fire Command Headquarters, which is why it has a concrete box on top.  It went on to become the HQ of Milford haven Coastguard until the late 1980s.  Nowadays it’s been converted into holiday accommodation.

Making sure you do not fall off the cliff, proceed down the sign-posted path to The Cobbler’s Hole.  This has some spectacular geology with synclines and anti-clines and faulting in the old red sandstone caused by the Hercynian orogeny.  On the crumbling very edge of the terrifying 60m precipice there is a useful sign advising you not to proceed further.

The Islands:

Skokholm is ORS, why has it survived while all the surrounding ORS has eroded back to the present coast?  I don’t know why this is so.  Could it be that the attitude of the rocks are just right to avoid erosion by wave action?  Could it be a harder lump of ORS than the rest?  Could it be a bit that has escaped severe bending/folding and it therefore more resistant?  You’ll need a better geologist than me to answer this one.

Skomer is made of Silurian larva flows getting older to the north.  This is very hard and resistant to erosion and forms the southern end of St Bride’s Bay.  The northern end which is visible if the weather is OK is formed of even older very hard rock from the Cambrian and even some pre-Cambrian up around Ramsey.

Grassholm is home to 38,000-odd pairs of gannets (the third biggest population in the northern hemisphere).

All the islands are National Nature Reserves and the seabird populations are of world importance (manx shearwaters and gannets) and part of the Pembrokeshire Special Area of Conservation.  What will happen to that when we leave the EC is not known by me.   Also the underwater Marine Conservation Zone (what will happen to that when we leave the EC?) and the only protected species (scallops, what will happen to them when we leave the EC?).  Also of course Atlantic grey seals, porpoises and several species of dolphin and basking sharks and many, many more.

Kete:

This was home to The Royal Naval Aircraft Direction Centre and Meteorology School of WW2 and beyond (up to 1960). The National Trust purchased the site in 1985 as part of Enterprise Neptune and bull-dozed the lot.  Should they have preserved it as a unique historical site?   Is it better to return it to grazing and maybe improve the biodiversity of the area?

Extra stuff about Kete:

During World War Two it was a Chain Home Low radar station (part of the radar system for detecting low flying aircraft).  It later became part of HMS Harrier, which was a Royal Navy Fighter Direction School and Meteorological School.  The establishment closed in 1960 and in 1985 the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park flattened the lot.  They then piled up the rubble to make earth banks around the site.  Also on this site is a Royal Observer Corps bunker.  This would have been used by the ROC to survive in while they monitored bomb damage and radioactive fall-out in the event of a nuclear conflict.

Great Castle Head Promontory Fort:

This is a very large Iron Age earthwork.  Charles Hill (an early timber castle expert) reckons that structures such as these might have been occupied much later than The Iron Age, possibly up to early Norman times.  Later structures being constructed on top of an existing Iron Aged defence.  Pete Crane (Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Archaeologist) also came to this conclusion.

The entrance has probably been lost to erosion (to the north).  The dominant feature is the huge landslip in the middle.  This might well be why the site was abandoned, possibly around 1300 AD.  90% of the interior has eroded away.  Orpiment, (an arsenic sulphide pigment) was found here.  This must have been imported from Kurdistan and implies a high status site, because it was used as a pigment in producing illuminated manuscripts.  The find pretty much confirmed mediaeval occupation of the site.  (Or it could have been dropped by a passing monk?).

Great Castle Head and Dale Point Forts allow control of the whole peninsula.  In 2015 an aerial photograph showed the mark of a large round structure on the round hill at Mullock.  It is tempting to think this was part of the same group of defences.  After the landslip, there is no evidence of attempts to repair the bank, so that is another reason to suppose that this was when the site was abandoned.  Pollen analysis revealed some evidence of crops from around BC/AD conjunction.  There may have been a front palisade from the mediaeval period.  It’s suggested that the site of the current Dale Castle was occupied from around this time.

West Dale Bay:

Why is there a bay here?  If you look at both sides of it you can see that the rocks on the northern side are more jumbled about and confused.  The southern side has less dip than the northern side but even this side has some abrupt changes of dip.  The fault planes of the northern side are shattered more than the south.  What we are looking at here is the beginning of The Ritec Fault, another feature caused by the Hercynian thrust.  This fault is the reason Milford Haven exists because the shattered rock is easily eroded.   It extends right across South Pembrokeshire to Saundersfoot.  It then extends right under Carmarthen Bay to The Gower.

As you walk down the path to West Dale Bay you pass through about 60m depth of the soft, friable easily eroded material that fills the valley.  How did this get here?  It would have been scraped off by ice, so it must be no older than 20,000 years or so.  Look to see if the stones in it are rounded or angular.  They are mostly angular and Old Red Sandstone.  They are local and not water worn.  They were probably dumped there as the ice began to melt.  The bigger lumps falling first to the bottom of the valley.  As the slopes eroded and became less steep and more material was released from melting ice, less material would reach the bottom and more would stay on the sides, producing a u-shaped deposit with smaller lumps towards the top.  You can look for this in the sides of the cliff on the path up out of the bay.

Dale Valley towards the village:

Notice the lumpy bits of the surface on the left.  Some of these are all that remains of houses that were once here (possibly 1820s?).  There are also some signs of WW1 practice trenches.  One could easily misinterpret these features as being much older.

Dale Castle:

The first written record of Dale is from 1293.  It is in a document granting Robert de Vale permission to hold a weekly market and fair.  The weekly market and fair no longer take place but they lasted right up to George Owen’s time (1596) where he reported them as occurring every Wednesday.  George Owen wrote The Description of Pembrokeshire was born near Nevern and is known as The Father of English Geologists.  There is a ridge on the Moon named after him (Dorsum Owen).

Some of the walls and cellars are said to be of Norman origin, most of the house is probably early 18th Century.  It was heavily remodelled in the early 20th Century resulting in the mock baronial style building of today.  There is some information as to who occupied the house from the 13th Century but it is by no means continuous.  In 1823 the name Lloyd-Philips first appears in the church records.  This family occupied the building until the death of Osra Lloyd-Philips in 2005.  The estate was left to Osra’s nephew Martin Ryder, who now occupies the building with his family.

Dale Church:

St James the Great is said to have Norman origins like Dale Castle, but little of that era remains, although the square tower is at least the right shape.  The tower probably dates from around the 15th Century.  The whole building was refurbished in 1890 after it was struck by lightning and badly damaged.  The local Pevnser Guide says that F. R. Kempson was in charge and that all the bland detail is his.  To be fair, it might not be the most attractive church in Pembrokeshire but it’s pleasant inside and it occupies an agreeable site.  There are a number of unnamed graves in the churchyard, the sad legacy of shipwrecks and the casting ashore of unknown corpses. 

Dale Village:

In the 18th Century there were 7 pubs and the weekly market (see above) was still going.  Dale was the first sheltered anchorage you could find after entering Milford Haven.  Dale Street in Liverpool is said to be named after beer imported from Dale (quite why they didn’t brew their own is not known).  Jack Daniels who emigrated to America to make the famous Tennessee Sipping Liquor was born in Dale (maybe).  Dale is the closest place on mainland UK to New York City.

If you walk from the church down Blue Anchor way you could try to count the permanently occupied houses.  What are the signs of holiday lets?  What are the signs of non-occupation?  I tried this in 2015 and reckoned about one third of the houses had actual residents.  Is this good/bad/indifferent?  At least holiday homes are usually kept in good repair.  The houses on the right were built as Married Quarters for the lower ranks of Kete (see above).  They had just been completed as the base was abandoned (1960).   The houses on the left were council houses.  These were sold off by Thatcher’s government in the 80s and are now in private hands.  Most of the large detached houses on the north side of the village were built for the officers of Kete and are all in private hands.

As you reach the sea-wall you will pass what used to the Post-Office.  This met its demise in the late 20th Century and is currently a silver workshop.  The only surviving pub is The Griffin (The Three Horseshoes up until the 1820s), now more of an up-market restaurant.  As you walk up the road you will pass Dale Yacht Club on the right which also serves as a (slightly) less up-market restaurant and bar.  On the seafront is The Boathouse café which although unlicensed sells food at prices accessible to more moderately wealthy people.  These businesses are all seasonal, emphasising the current importance of tourism to the local economy.

 The Road to Dale Fort:

The buildings on the left as you begin the walk up the fort road are:

Morgan’s Cottage:  This was a general shop run by Polly Morgan until she died in 1938.  She is said to haunt the place (your author spent the night there on a few occasions in the 1980s and saw no evidence for this).  It is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Crowdy who rent it out for holidays and spend some time there themselves.

Next-door was a congregational chapel abandoned sometime after the 1960s and converted into a house in 1976 occupied by Professor Patrick Bunning OBE until he died in 2012.

Next to that is Artie’s House, occupied by Artie Reynolds who had an eye-patch, a beard and a dodgy reputation.

Next to that is The Brig.  This building dates from 1750. It began as a pub.  It changed names several times. Originally it was called The Ship, then The Royal William, it became The Brig in 1893.  I don’t know when it became a house but that’s what it is now.  It is currently occupied by Sean Keohe and his family.  His occupation will be obvious to you as you walk past the house.

A bit further up the road on the right are some cottage ruins known as Pussy Villas.  Whether this is an endearingly cute or slightly less couth, Mrs Slocum style double entendre name I could not say.  The Griffiths family who still live in the village were here until the 1950s.

Further up the road is Point Farm.  This has been a dwelling rather than a working farm for years and is now a camp-site (2015).

Just up from Point Farm in the woods on the right is a flat place where stood The Point House.  This was another pub of which remains only the flat place and some stones.  It is said that Portuguese sailors were butchered for their ducats by Dale ladies of ill-repute at The Point House.  Their ghosts are said to haunt the site.  Silver coins were found among the remains by soldiers based at Dale Fort in the 19th Century.  The Victorian Dale Fort was the world’s first marine field centre.  Despite the recent (2014) decision to make it a seasonally opening establishment, it remains the iconic field centre and there is no better place to study marine ecology.





Dale Fort Blog Number 48

19 10 2017

Some Highlights of a Walk Around

The Dale Peninsula

Part 1:  Dale Fort to Mill Bay. 

The original Dale Fort:

The ditch and bank cutting off the narrowest part of the peninsula (by the gate leading to the coast path) dates back to before The Iron Age.  A carbon fragment was dated to 790 BC, which is the earliest radio-carbon date from a promontory fort in Pembrokeshire.  The structure is at least 2700 years old and would have been used as an easily defended refuge when baddies attacked.  Professor Grimes and his teams found huge post-holes for a massive gate estimated at 4m high, in the middle of the bank.  Both bank and ditch are less impressive than they were.   In use, the bank would probably have been topped with defensive spikes.

More recent investigations have found the outline of a huge (12m) circular structure, other habitation surfaces, a possible track and some pot-boilers (stones heated in a fire, used for heating water).

The wooden bridge over Castle Beach Stream:

Did this tiny stream make this big valley?  If not what did?  It was made by massive quantities of melt-water pouring into the sea as temperatures rose at the end of the last Ice Age about 8-10,000 years ago.

The lime kiln:

Old Red Sandstone produces an acid soil.  It can be raised in pH and rendered more productive by the application of calcium hydroxide.   You can find similar structures all over the parts of Pembrokeshire that have acid soils and coastal access.  They were fuelled with coal mined in the middle part of the county and charged with limestone chippings (waste material from the limestone quarries of South Pembrokeshire).  Heating limestone turns it into quicklime.  (CaCO3 = CO2 + CaO).  Quicklime is nasty skin corroding stuff, but if it gets wet it turns into calcium hydroxide, (CaO + H2O = Ca(OH)2).  This is a less intimidating mild alkali that can be applied to the soil to increase its pH and improve yields.  Nowadays farmers buy their lime from agricultural chemical companies.

The irrigation pond just before Watwick Bay:

It is man-made, (you will probably be standing on the bund) and used for irrigation by pumping water up onto the fields with a tractor engine.  It’s very expensive but can get the early potato crop to mature a few weeks earlier and get in the shops before anyone else’s does.  This maximises profits as there is a premium on early new potatoes.  Well, it used to but nowadays aeroplanes import new potatoes from places like Israel and Egypt which have a mild climate and produce spuds all year round.  It still has a useful function as a cattle drink and as an extremely rich freshwater invertebrate sampling site for Dale Fort.  A human built thing with a biological conservation bonus.

Watwick Beacon:

Most of what you see as Milford Haven is shallow water.   As sea levels rose at the end of the last Ice Age the flood plain of the ancient River Cleddau was inundated, forming The Haven as we see it today; a ria.  The only really deep water (up to 30m) follows the course of the original river.  This structure when aligned with the central post of a further set of 3 similar lights at West Blockhouse Point (just up the coast) helps the Pilots of oil and gas tankers keep their vessels within the deep part of the channel.  The very long jetty of South Hook LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) Terminal reaches out across the ancient flood plain to the deep part of the channel.  This is the third highest lighthouse in Europe, a fact so obscure and unimpressive that I can’t have made it up (but I can’t remember where I got it from).

The LNG plant at South Hook (to the north) can import and re-gasify up to a third of the UK’s gas requirements.  Each of the 5 big round tanks is about the size of The Albert Hall.

Watwick Bay:

Notice the angle of the layers of sedimentary rocks:  They tilt roughly southwards  on the North side of the bay and roughly northwards on the South side revealing a down-fold or syncline.  The rocks at the bottom of this down-fold have been crushed and weakened, which is why the bay has eroded here.  The rocks in the middle of the bay are very jumbled up for this reason.  You might also notice the raised beach, about 10m up the cliff, revealing a higher sea level in past times.

West Blockhouse:

If it’s not too misty you can see the remains of East Blockhouse on the coast opposite.  This together with the original West Blockhouse was a Device Fort.  These were the first defences designed for artillery on The Haven and date from the 1580s.  The earlier tower at West Blockhouse was lost when the current Victorian fort was built in 1852.  West Blockhouse, Thorne Island and Dale Fort were built to cross-fire with one another and deny access to The Haven.  They were designed to repulse sailing ships, which were becoming obsolete by the time they were completed.  (They are in fact the last structures designed with the repulsion of sailing ships in mind ever built in the UK).  The original armament was 6 smooth-bore sixty-eight-pound muzzle loading cannons (Dale Fort had 7 of the same type of gun).  In 1901, the battery was altered to house 4 five-inch breech loading rifled guns and 2 three pound quick-firing guns on the roof.  Then, in 1905, two 9.2” Mark X guns and three 6” Mark VII guns replaced them.   The later guns are concealed behind earth- banks at the rear of the Victorian structure.  In World War Two West Blockhouse was the Port Examination Battery.  Its function was to confirm the credentials of shipping wishing to enter Milford Haven.  The building has been restored by The Landmark Trust and you can rent it out for holidays (it sleeps 12 and costs A LOT more than Dale Fort).  (You can still find WW2 green paint and concrete lumps on the glacis installed as camouflage).

Mill Bay:

On the way notice the highly eroding parts of the cliffs.  Notice the remains of the old fence and coast path halfway down the cliff.  In 1485 Mill Bay was where Henry Tudor landed and less than a couple of weeks later ended the Wars of the Roses by defeating Richard III at Bosworth Field.

Extra stuff about Henry Tudor:

He was born at Pembroke Castle and had a tenuous claim to the English throne.  As a result, there was serious concern for his safety and he spent most of his early life in France.  On the 1st of August 1485 he sailed from Harfleur with 2000 French mercenaries and a few English exiles.  He had decided to stake his claim to the throne of England.

Some of Henry’s men knew the Pembrokeshire coast and Mill Bay, less than two miles from Dale Point was chosen as a landing site.  It is probably not too fanciful to suppose that the only Welsh king of England rode within spitting distance of where Dale Fort is now on his way to Bosworth Field.  Legend has it that he stopped for a drink at St. Ishmaels (from what was subsequently called “The King’s Well”).

Having landed on the evening of August 7th he and his men had reached Bosworth Field in Leicestershire and defeated Richard III by August 22nd.  A story survives concerning local landowner Rhys ap Thomas of Carew Castle.  Rhys had sworn allegiance to Richard III promising the king that only over my bellie would Henry Tudor get beyond his bit of Pembrokeshire.  Rhys did not want to be thought of as the sort of chap who would break his word to the king but as a Welshman he also supported Henry Tudor.  As a compromise measure, he waited for Henry and his men at Mullock Bridge on the road out of Dale.  As Henry reached the bridge Rhys lay down, bellie up, in the mud underneath the bridge, so Henry in crossing literally passed over his bellie.  Rhys then changed allegiance and joined Henry on the march to Bosworth.  He is one of several claimants to the ‘honour’ of having struck the final blow to Richard III.

An account of the Battle of Bosworth Field states that the body of Richard was subjected to many indignities.  If Rhys was happy to both bludgeon the life out of the old king and have a ripping time desecrating his corpse, why did he bother slithering about in the slime beneath Mullock Bridge?  A similar story exists concerning the Shrewsbury Bailiff, Thomas Milton.  Henry crossed the River Severn at Shrewsbury where Milton had vowed that Henry would enter the town only over his dead body.  As Henry entered the town Milton feigned death and allowed the King’s horse to step over him.  These symbolic gestures indicate that there was a fair body of opinion that Henry was going to win

Rhys was well rewarded for his efforts.  He spent vast sums on home improvements at Carew Castle and in 1507 organized a Royal Tournament.  This remains the biggest party that Wales has ever seen.  Henry and the court turned up and lots of people ended up with immense hangovers.

There are no records of Henry VII doing anything about the defences of Milford Haven.  This is not surprising in that most of Henry VII’s troubles came from within his kingdom, there was little threat of invasion from without.  Having dealt with the remaining Yorkists, Henry died in 1509.  On the whole Britain was a richer, more peaceful place than it had been before.  All the action happened the beginning of his reign.  In his irreverent history John O-Farrell sub-titles the section on Henry VII thus:

Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of accountancy!

If it’s low tide you might see a ship wreck.  It was a boom patrol vessel; Milford Haven had a protective boom with anti-submarine netting during WW2.  This ship patrolled the boom and opened and closed the gates.  It was being towed off to be scrapped which broke its tow-line and ended up here.  Nobody got hurt which is more than you can say for Richard III.

Venture beyond Mill bay in the next blog.

 

 

 





Dale Fort Blog Number 47

30 11 2015

Autumn Starlings at Dale Fort

Regular readers (if there are any) may remember Blog Number 18 which was all about the Pembrokeshire Island of Grassholm.

See:

https://dalefort.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/dale-fort-blog-number-18/

Grassholm is best known as the home of tens of thousands of gannets. It is the third biggest colony in the northern hemisphere with about 12% of the world’s population.

Grassholm is also enchanted (or it was in The Bronze Age) and Bedigaid Fran (well just his severed head actually) and his colleagues spent 80 years there some 2000-odd years ago. How he ended up on the island was at least in part due to a starling.

A detail that was omitted from the story given in Blog Number 18 (see above) is that Branwen (Bendigaid Fran’s sister) started all the trouble via a message sent from Ireland, delivered by a starling. The Mabinogion does not make it clear whether the starling carried a tiny message on its leg, or in its bill, or spoke to him directly. I suspect the latter.

The link below will take you to my video of huge numbers of starlings massing and murmurating and converting all the invertebrates into bird-poo fertilizer in a small corner of Pembrokeshire near Dale Fort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnbVTyGOgyw&feature=youtu.be

Many thanks to You’re Not Percy for the starlingy music.

Watch out for the next blog, coming soon.





Dale Fort Blog Number 46

27 11 2015

Scallops

Scallops: Delicious, expensive, take ages to grow (5 years or more) and extremely vulnerable to scallop dredging.

Scallop dredging involves dragging about half a tonne of steel sledge over the sea bed, churning it all up and provoking the scallops to shoot off (see the video below) and get caught in the dredge.  It catches lots of scallops and pretty much annihilates everything else.

Scallop dredging was banned in The Skomer Marine Reserve (now Special Area of Conservation) some 20 years ago.  There is a fine of £5000 if you are caught poaching them.  The population is still recovering.  Numbers are still climbing after two decades of protection.  The benefits of not being regularly blatted by scallop dredges are good for everything else too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF4MWoSDNpY&feature=youtu.be

Many thanks to Andy Davies for the use of his video and to Your Not Percy for the scallopy music.

There is a move afoot to expand scallop dredging in the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation.  This will not be good news for the scallops or anything else that gets in the way.  Marine conservation is really simple:  If you leave it alone it gets better.

I think if we are going to declare an area a Special Area of Conservation it would probably be better not to plough it to death with steel sledges.  If you want to put your views to The Welsh Assembly Government, you have until February 16th 2016 and you can do so here:

http://gov.wales/consultations/environmentandcountryside/proposed-new-management-measures-for-the-scallop-fishery-in-cardigan-bay/?lang=en

Look out for the next blog coming soon….