sunrise from plumstone pembrokeshire

Plumstone sunrise – Winter walks in Pembrokeshire

plumstone mountain pembrokeshire in november

There is a supermoon aching in the sky, it makes the nights restless and full of strange dreams. As an antidote to the weird, and it has been a weird few weeks, we get up and get out early into the fresh Pembrokeshire air.

The last stars are still visible in a dark blue sky when we load sleepy but definitely up for it dogs into the car and drive the ten minutes to Plumstone mountain, just the other side of the Landsker line, between Hayscastle and the sea.

It’s not cold. This long lingering autumn has been unusually warm and sunny. In the unruly hedgerows of my garden confused campion are flowering and the blue rose has bloomed. Expecting to be burnt by frost it bravely budded and then burst open in a heady rush of saturated scent. It has been a strange but welcome easy entry into winter.

At Plumstone, a gentle sweep of a hill overlooking the coast towards Newgale and inland to the heart of Pembrokeshire, the dawn is hesitating, drawing a ring of light around the horizon but hiding the details of the landscape.

The buried pumping machinery of a covered reservoir is rumbling away next to the small car park and amongst the peaty puddles a line of rusting manholes cut into the black soil bounce the bass around.

A short, wide track leads to the summit.

I walk ahead whilst Nick wrangles the dogs that are insistent on investigating every new scent.

The grass is crew cut at the summit. The rocky outcrop that crowns the hill is still dark but when I stand on the rounded remains of an old tumulus and look to the east the sky is on fire.

sunrise from plumstone pembrokeshire

In Richard Fenton’s ‘Tour through Pembrokeshire’ (1811) Plumstone is described as three rocking stones and a cromlech “in the midst of this convulsed chaos.” The land must have been wilder then, either that or I have seen more convulsed geology in my travels. Still, Plumstone feels deep, all black peat ground, clear shallow pools and a perfect view point over coast, mountains and particularly the wide open moor.

From the jumble of pre-Cambrian rocks at the top, cold as ice ages, I watch the dawn slide across the moor below. Energised by the sunrise a small herd of wild ponies breaks into a canter, their shadows stretching out across the furze and heather. I wonder what ghosts ride them.

view of moor from plumstone mountain pembrokeshire

As Richard Fenton remarked, this is “the scene perhaps of many a bloody conflict; and from the numerous remains, undoubtedly of druidical superstition; here I say we must have expected to have found tumuli of every description, whether we consider them sepulchres of such as fell in battle, or of those whose rank and merits entitled them to the eminent distinction of such memorials in hallowed ground.”

He was ever in search of the mystical, Richard Fenton, fond of grubbing in cromlechs and casually desecrating graves. Born in St David’s, long time resident in London, buried in the pleasant valley of Manorowen near Fishguard he was a man who despite a strong sense of humour (he wrote an anonymous comedic work on his life as a barrister) searched for the connection to the ancient in the landscape. He writes about examining the cromlechs at Plumstone, ferreting in what he takes to be an old tomb, finding only cremated remains, ashes grown dank and damp from a long time drowned.

plumstone dawn walks in wales

I watch the ponies disappear into the sunrise. The rocks I lean against are golden now and amongst the blue tone curves of the Preseli hills I can see the ridge of Foel Cwm Cerwyn, where, so they say, Arthur Pendragon’s men ranged in battle order against the Twrch, a magical boar, and lost their lives to be buried under the tooth sharp crags of Cerrigmarchogion.

dawn on plumstone rocks pembrokeshire in November

The legends reach out to touch the now. I remember that the old tales tell that Arthur came ashore near here – “We will run down the Twrch and his brood,” said Arthur grimly. “I will not waver until I have put to death the Twrch and honoured my promise to my kinsman Culhwch.” And he lost no time in pursuing the beast in his ship, Prydwen.

Does Prydwen ride at anchor at Porthclais this bright winter morning? Will Arthur’s men gallop across this moor on their hardy ponies? Is that the squeal of a pig I hear? And amongst the scent of cold wet grass and dew flick is that the hot fleck foam and stink of the Twrch passing in the dawn?

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Hardly, but it easy to feel it, the vibration of the legends in the land.

I photograph the sunrise, the rocks and the pools, the long shadows and the tiny details the shifting spectrum of light draws out of scrub, thorn and winter dry stalks. Then we go home, to a warm house and a good breakfast and leave the ghosts heroically galloping endlessly across Plumstone moor towards the mountains and Richard Fenton watching on amidst the old stone burial markers.

christmas-ornament-banner

christmas-ornament-banner

What are you doing for Christmas? Festive season breaks in Pembrokeshire

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I was going to call this an Adults Christmas in Wales as a bit of a riff on Dylan Thomas’ much loved work (I read it every year) but that sounded a bit iffy in this entendre rich world so instead I’ll just ask, what are you doing for Christmas?

Undoubtedly you have been asked already – I have, about five times – and this year the answer is, we’re going to host Christmas breaks in Pembrokeshire. We’re going to cook loads of food, chop loads of logs, light lots of candles and just be welcoming and relaxing and laid back and friendly to anyone who wants to come and have a non-gaudy, non-forced, peaceful and calm Christmas away from it all.

Back in mid-summer, when the garden was lush and green (it’s now orange and artfully strewn with leaves) and the coast path was encouraging walkers to tackle one more headland, we decided to open a couple of rooms as B&B. They were immediately booked and booked and booked again. It was fun, just like when we did it in Turkey. From America and Australia, mainland Europe and happily other areas of Wales, the guests came and we talked and we suggested and offered food cooked with love and rooms really cared for. People liked it. We liked it.

Come October and the sunlit flush of a spectacular autumn and with the year turning we decided to offer Christmas and New Year breaks. We thought about it, imagined it, planned it and now we offer it to you. For people who don’t want to be thrown into a full on itinerary, complete with sing songs and gala dinners, and who just want to relax and enjoy good food and wander around our beautiful corner of the world our Christmas and New Year breaks are a way to get away and enjoy the Christmas they need.

Three Night Christmas Break

Arrive on 24th December, depart on 27th December.

With only two rooms available you won’t be over crowded, instead read, write, relax, think about the year you’ve had, wonder where you will go next year. Eat well, enjoy the calm, make new friends and be, for once, genuinely welcome where you are.

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Enjoy long, leisurely breakfasts each morning on the dining gallery or in bed if you’d prefer.

Come home to afternoon teas with festive homemade cakes after exploring our beautiful coastline.

Take your time over a four course Christmas Lunch of favourites I have been cooking for thirty years.

Spend your evenings picking from generous buffets to share and enjoy.

Twixmas Breaks – for those who have done everything for everyone else over Christmas relax and recharge between holidays.

Available from 27th to 30th December.

christmas-830460_1280Give your overloaded system a chance to recover!

Enjoy lighter food, nourishing and clean, tons of fresh air and down time to just lie around, read those Christmas books and plan what resolutions you might want to break in January.

Lie in every morning, there is no set time for breakfast.

A sharing tray is provided at supper time so you can enjoy an early night.

Two Night New Year Breaks

Spend New Year at the famously friendly street party with fireworks and live music in Fishguard or just quietly enjoy a cosy evening with your loved one at a country house, the choice is yours on this New Year break that lets you set the pace and celebrate how you choose.

hot-chocolate-1068703_1920Arrive on New Year’s Eve to cakes and nibbles in your room.

Whether you go out and party or stay in and relax there will be a midnight snack to round the evening off before you retire to bed. Sleep in on New Year’s morning before taking your time over a New Year’s day Brunch.

Look forward to a flavour packed three-course supper on New Year’s Day to end the festive season and welcome 2017.

Spend a cosy second night between crisp sheets before enjoying another leisurely breakfast before departure on the morning of 2nd January.

strumble head pembrokeshire

Strumble Head Summer – Pembrokeshire in July

Looking down the coast
Looking down the coast
Strumble Head was quiet when we dropped a picnic over to our latest guests on Saturday afternoon. In the glorious sunshine a few photographers quietly worked their way around the view whilst a trickle of hikers arrived off the Abermawr to Strumble section of the coastal path. There isn’t anywhere to get food on the path between Abermawr and Fishguard and so we thought a picnic delivered to their half-way point was a great incentive for the guests.

We parked at the lower car park and stopped Indie, daughter’s portly Labrador, from beetling off up the road in search of a BBQ to snaffle – she often comes here for an evening walk with daughter and knows there are rich pickings to be had from kindly walkers.

As our guests ate their picnic and relaxed in a sheltered springy grass hollow off the path (they later fell asleep there – too much food!) Nick and I took the dogs for a walk.

A light north westerly breeze was ruffling the run of the tide off Ynys Meicel, the rocky outcrop the lighthouse is built on, and a single small boat made its way along the orange lobster pots strung just offshore.

Strumble Head Pembrokeshire
Strumble Head Pembrokeshire
Warm in the sunshine we sat on the slippery slope of rabbit cropped grass above the sea and listened to the bird colony squabble overhead. I rolled onto my stomach and counted the lighthouse flash as I have counted it so many times before in so many ways – from shore, from sea, from sky – four white flashes.

I remember the horn at Strumble sounding through the fog on a long flat calm crossing from Ireland in our yacht Sirocco.

I remember the tick of the radio direction finder in my headphones as my Dad taught me how to use it to find Strumble, sending out her unique this is me code.

I remember the light across the sea, shining 26 nautical miles across the dark tides, almost home. Three white flashes, almost home. Dad plotted the course, brought us in right on the nose.

Sometimes I think the light at Strumble signals in my blood. I can feel it on transatlantic flights, calling me home.

We came here as children, when the storms came, to watch the waves break over the lighthouse, all foam and reaching energy. Never turn your back on the sea; the wave can overwhelm you, look and learn.

Strumble was still manned when I was a child. It wasn’t automated until 1980 although it was fully electrified in 1965. I have a nagging memory that Dad was somehow involved in that, but it was before I was born.

From Garn Fawr
From Garn Fawr

The original revolving lens system which weighed 4½ tons was supported in a bath of mercury to reduce friction. Rotated by an impression clockwork mechanism and driven by a quarter-ton weight that dropped gradually down through the tower it had to be re-wound every 12 hours.

In 1980 the metal bridge that crosses the narrow sea boiling gap between the Pembrokeshire mainland and the island was closed off and Ynys Meicel was left to the sea birds and the light. I swam through that rocky channel once, on a gentle tide, and the kelp stroked my bare legs with silken fingers and I was half terrified, half delighted as I raced through.

Now we hang over the edges of the stone walls to wave to the seals bobbing head high in the waves below – I still have to stand on tiptoe to look over, not quite grown up yet!

Funny how the memories all come back. Funny how these places stick in your mind. Funny how they become part of you, an immutable part of the Pembrokeshire home. Strumble Head, funny name really, but tattooed onto me, part of me. It is always good to see its light again.