All posts by mjptna

Land Management in Pembrokeshire – a talk by Mark Underhill, Countryside Manager for National Trust Pembrokeshire 18/11/21.

Mark was our after lunch speaker at Wolfscastle Country Hotel. He told us how the National Trust has a declared aim to be Net Zero for Carbon by 2030, restoring habitats along the way.
The latest acronym is RACE.

Starting with REDUCE, the target is to lower carbon release by 5% per annum. Heating buildings tops the chart, but vehicle use features, and three new vehicles in the local NT fleet will be electric powered, this year.

Then there is ADAPT. The example offered was the proposed new road by passing the coastal road at Newgale. The existing road is threatened by the inward progress of the shingle bank. Mark stressed the importance of regarding the plans as an ecological evolution with a flooded river valley, improved habitat and carbon sequestration, rather than just a “new road”.The new highway would traverse parts of the Southwood Estate.

For CAPTURE, several examples were given. Magnificent Meadows are now to be found across many parts of the county, thanks to the National Trust working with other organisations. In season, the fields are buzzing with insect life.
Rhos Pasture at Southwood is an area of land that escaped the attentions of the drainage contractor, many years ago. It now provides the best habitats on the site, and the aim is to allow the scrub to spread, enhancing carbon sequestration.
The plans at Mount and Barn Fields, north of Colby, are more ambitious. Only in spring of this year, the land came back into NT control, having been tenanted. The intention is to plant 27,000 trees, without tree guards or stakes, by spring 2022!

To end the acronym, ENGAGE. That was what Mark was doing with us, explaining the plans to local people, and listening to their responses.
The large number of questions at the end showed a high level of engagement.

Mark was handed a cheque for £1000 from PNTA. The money will be used to purchase a professional quality battery powered chain saw for Colby Woodland Gardens – one less petrol engine. Every little helps.

Report by Andrew Weaver

Mark Underhill accepts a cheque from PNTA towards a battery powered chain saw, for Colby Woodland Gardens.

Photo by Alan Mason

Thanks to Jim and Margret Price.

At the recent lunch, at Wolfscastle Country Hotel, Jim and Margret Price were given vouchers as a small token of appreciation for the big part they have played as supporting members of PNTA, and their key roles on the committee for many years.
They are in the process of moving house to the Bristol area. We wish them well, and will miss them.

Photo by Alan Mason

Tourism-The Benefits and Challenges it Brings. November 4th 2021

Ian Meopham has been a National Park Ranger since 1983 covering the area from Newgale to around Fishguard

Forty masked members, well wrapped up to cope with the open windows policy, gathered at Crundale Hall for the first indoor PNTA meeting for over eighteen months, since the onset of the COVID pandemic.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Warden, Ian Meopham, took us on a verbal and photographic celebration of the county, expressing his own opinions. We share our magical corner with wildlife, such as the peregrines, whose numbers are recovering well, after past persecutions. He recalled a day on the coast with a specialist in snakes. Normally Ian regards himself lucky if he sees one adder per year. With this expert as a guide, 30 adders were sniffed out, in one session.

He referred to the special part played by the National Trust, as owner of much coastal land, some purchased as part of Operation Neptune.

He highlighted places such as Amroth, Newgale and Freshwater West, where rising sea levels will have significant impact.

Agriculture has dominated the scene for generations, but now farming is on its knees, with small farms disappearing and farmers turning to tourists as their cash crop.

It is said that Pembrokeshire is twenty years behind Cornwall, in relation to tourism, but as a Cornish friend told Ian, “the Perranporth I knew has disappeared”.

With places like Stackpole seeing a recent rise in visitor numbers by 30%, inevitably the popular spots, such as Barafundle and Porthgain, become overwhelmed.

Skomer Island can control numbers visiting, by limiting the number visitors landing per day. That is harder to do on the mainland.

Discussion ensued. The topics of tourist taxes, dogs and transport options all had an airing.

Ian urged us not to let the nature of the area we value, slip through our fingers.

Report by Andrew Weaver

“Pwll Deri looking beyond to Stumble Head. Furniture in a wild place”

Photos by Andrew Weaver.

Evening walk and talk Thursday 15th July at Stackpole.

Haydn Garlick describes the smokehouse.

We met at Lodge Park Wood car park on a beautiful evening. Our walk leader was Haydn Garlick, Lead Ranger for Stackpole Estate. Haydn started his talk by explaining that the Lodge Park Wood was the nearest wood to Stackpole Mansion and was originally laid out as an Arboretum of predominantly Beech, Home Oak and Scots Pine trees within which were several paths and seating areas for the family and visitors to enjoy.
From the car park we made our way to the main drive of the mansion and stopped at The One Arched Bridge. There was a pond on one side, but this was being taken over by a large reed bed. The other side was completely overgrown. Haydn feels that a major regeneration programme is needed to reinstate the lake system originally designed by John Campbell who had also worked for other estates in Pembrokeshire e.g., Picton and Slebech.

Walking further along the drive we came to the road. Haydn pointed out that the hill straight ahead used to be the main road to Pembroke although nothing remains of it now. The first Deer Park was also in this vicinity.
We crossed the road and walked up what was quite a steep track known as the Army Path. Walking along members noticed several trees with large red painted dots on them. Haydn explained these trees have Ash Dieback Disease and will need to be taken down. A tree is identified as having the disease if it has 50% or less foliage, it is a fungal disease and Pembrokeshire is one of the worst areas for it. Approximately 500 trees need to be felled on the estate. Evidence of coppicing was also seen as we continued on through Castle Dock wood.
Reaching the top of the path we came to the Belvedere. The Cawdors had a tower built here and used to entertain guests to tea and it enabled them to show off their large estate. The view was spectacular looking across to the sea, Stackpole Village and several farms. This is where the seat sponsored by the PNTA to celebrate The National Trust’s 125 Anniversary will be placed. It is being made by Anthony Griffiths from Stackpole Village.
Starting our return journey through the woods we passed Hill Lodge, previously a gate lodge on the main drive, now privately owned. A short detour was made to the smoke house where fish from the estate were smoked. Haydn explained that The Cawdors used Stackpole as a shooting lodge while their main estate was in Scotland although at one time, they were also the largest landowners in Wales with a motto “Be Mindful”. Unfortunately, after the mansion was sold on, use by the American forces in WW 11 it fell into disrepair, and it was eventually demolished except for the stable block which has been converted into accommodation.
Continuing our return journey we came into Caroline Grove named after John Campbell’s wife who was Caroline Howard and had been brought up at Castle Howard.  We saw  a large arch and a grotto made from Karstic  weathered limestone with an unusual local name of”Babaluobie”. The last feature we came to was The Hidden Bridge. This acts as an over flow bridge for the lake system and if people are seen walking along it from The One Arched Bridge where we stopped at the start of our walk it appears they are walking on water !!
We arrived back at the car park where members thanked Haydn for a most interesting and enjoyable evening and wished him and his team well in continuing with the huge task they are undertaking for The National Trust.

Pat Morgan

Haydn points out features of the landscape. The memorial bench, soon to be put in place, will have a similar view.

Summer walks and Talks

A booking system remains in place. The maximum number of members who will be able to attend each walk has been set at 20 and because of this they will be strictly for members only. When booking your place you will need to give your name and a telephone contact number to enable pre or post walk contact if necessary. Your place will be confirmed. Please ensure you cancel if you subsequently find you are unable to attend. If you do not receive confirmation your name will be placed on a reserve list and should a cancellation occur you will be contacted. Members who turn up on the day without booking will not be able to join the walk. 

For those who have not been on our walks before they are not arduous and seek to inform as much as exercise us. You may like to bring a picnic chair and light refreshments to enjoy some time together after the walks. 

The booking contact for both walks
is :-Pat Morgan
Email or Phone/text 07866242924 . 

Thursday June 17th 3pm to 4:30 pm(approx)
The Pembrokeshire Coalfield and the Amroth coal seams with Chris Evans . Chris ,a knowledgeable and enthusiastic geologist will lead a walk in the Amroth area.His walk will take us on a stroll along Amroth beach to the west side and include facts on the Amroth coal seams, the rocks of the western cliffs, their fossils and faults, and evidence associated with The Colby Estate. 

We will meet at the roadside car park opposite the Templebar and Smugglers Pubs/ restaurants at 3pm. Booking for this walk opens on Thursday June 10th. 

Thursday July 15th 7pm to 8:30pm(approx)
A visit to Stackpole Estate with Lead Ranger Haydn Garlick.
Haydn will lead us from Lodge Park Wood to the Belvedere where the new seat sponsored by the PNTA is being sited. Work has started on the seat so it may be in situ for us to see. We will return by walking through Castle Dock Wood.
We will meet at Lodge Park Wood car park at 7pm. Booking for this walk opens on Thursday July 8th. 

Please note the following guidance.
If you have any COVID-19 symptoms you must not attend the guided walk, When attending a guided walk you may wish to bring your own alcohol based hand sanitiser, face covering and basic first aid kit. Please always follow the Welsh Government’s guidelines on physical distancing. You are encouraged not to share food, drink or equipment such as walking poles. If you develop symptoms of possible Covid within 10 days of the walk, please let the organiser know, and arrange a Covid test. 

Visit to Picton Castle Gardens 

10:30am on Wednesday 30th June.

Roddy Milne, the head gardener at Picton Castle is willing to do a special tour for PNTA members about the renovation of the walled garden. 

Although many projects came to a grinding halt due to the Covid crisis, the renovation work made good progress.
All being well, the tour will start at the walled garden at The cost will be £6 for the tour per person, plus the cost of admission to the grounds for those who are not Picton season ticket holders, or RHS, Historic Houses or Art Fund members. Pay at the entrance hut. The grounds open at 10am, and it will take time to pay and stroll to the meeting place. 

Places would need to be booked in advance. We will need a minimum number of 10 to make it viable, and Picton would prefer a maximum of 16, to enable social distancing.
If the weather forecast is bad, there may need to be a last minute postponement, but a bit of rain won’t necessarily stop play. Following the tour, you will be free to explore the grounds. 

Maria’s cafe offers tasty food if you want to linger for lunch, or it is fine to bring a picnic. 

The advice about booking and attending is the same as for the walks, but please book with Andrew by contacting him on or Andrew Weaver, Larks Rising, Kiln Park, Burton

Milford Haven SA73 1NY

Visit to Bishop’s Palace, St Davids

Monday 13th September : A member of CADW staff will lead a tour. Entrance fee of £4:00 to be paid on the day.

Contact Andrew (details as above.)

Bookings are  being taken now.

PNTA SPRING TOUR 17th -21st May 2020

Margaret Price, with help from Lyn Humphries, has liaised with Richards Bros to set up a tour to Cheshire in May 2020, based at Rowton Hall Hotel. The coach trip is likely to take in National Trust Properties at Dunham Massey, Attingham, Croft Castle and Tatton, as well as the Anderton Boat Lift and the Paradise Mill and Silk Museum.

More details and booking forms are available in the recent newsletter. If you have mislaid the printed version, it is available on our website. If you intend to come on the tour to Cheshire, it would help Margret Price a great deal if you could send your deposit before the end of October. The hotel needs an initial payment then, so we want to know, by then, whether we have a viable trip. Numbers are encouraging so far, but we need to have a few more signing up, for the trip to happen.


“Coach Trip to Llanelly House, Park Howard and Stradey Castle” – Thursday June 27th 2019

This was our first visit to Llanelly in 20 years and we visited three historic houses. Our first stop was Llanelly House. It was owned by the Stepney family in the 18th Century. They had moved from London to share in the wealth that Llanelly was creating with its local supplies of lead, tin and coal. The house was extensively renovated in the early 18th century and is seen to be the best example of early Georgian architecture in Wales. At that time the house was home to Sir Thomas Stepney, the 5th Baronet, and his wife Lady Elizabeth. They acted out the acrimonious state of their marriage for us, with Sir Thomas complaining about his lack of funds, and Lady Elizabeth talking about her latest trip to Bath that enabled her to buy all those things that would keep her up with the latest fashions.

The House was later owned by a number of families but as Llanelly’s wealth decreased it deteriorated and it was finally bought by the Town Council for use by local businesses. Its resurrection began in 2003 when it was runner up in the BBC Restoration series. Following a period of fund-raising, renovation commenced in 2011. This work was done with great care so that the House was brought back to its 18th Century design. However as a 21st century addition, it was fitted with splendid Audio Visual displays which included a court action against the Butler for inappropriate behaviour with one of the maids. It also has a very good café.

LLanelly House

Llanelli House Lady Elizabeth Stepney gives beauty tips.

Llanelly House Sir Thomas Stepney sees us leave.

Our next stop was Parc Howard, a. Victorian stone House built in 1885 by the Buckley family, the local brewers. It was gifted to the town in 1912. It is now a museum and art gallery which shows various facets of Llanelli’s growth through mining and shipbuilding, and becoming the largest tin plate centre of manufacturing in the world, acquiring the nickname of Tinopolis. It also houses the largest public collection of Llanelli pottery. This shows how the manufacturing of pottery progressed and the problem of balancing of quality and cost. Few local potteries survived into the 20th century.

Park Howard Approach.

The world’s first can of beer made for Felinfoel in 1936 – exhibited at Park Howard Museum.

Our final stop was Stradey Castle, built for the Mansel Lewis family around 1850. We were welcomed by the current custodians, Patrick and Claire Mansel Lewis, who have lived there since 2009, who were our guides. The House was built to impress, and has a grand staircase and large rooms. The pictures on display were also impressive. From the tower you have a good view down to the sea, but this was only achieved by moving another large house which blocked the view.

Patrick and Claire were very open about the financial constraints of running the House. When they took it over, the Insurers demanded that the roof had to be made weatherproof and there had to be up to date electrical wiring. This work was costly but has now been done. As with all historic houses, trying to bring them up to modern living standards is not easy.

Our tour finished off with tea and biscuits in the dining room prepared by Claire followed by a short walk in the garden.

Stradey Castle on a hot day when shade was much valued.

Stradey Castle where Claire Mansel Lewis gave us a guided tour.

Lunch at Dale, but no boat trip!-Tuesday 11th June 2019

Dale Sailing at Neyland Marina were willing to take us on our planned boat trip, but as it was pouring with rain, with little prospect of let up, they kindly let us cancel at the quayside following a show of hands, in favour of keeping dry.

Instead, after a warming cuppa at the nearby cafe, we drove to Dale to enjoy a sociable lunch at Coco’s @the Sailing Club, looking out at the grey skies with a wry smile.


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Lunch at Dale Sailing Club

Tour May 12th -16th 2019

Thirty nine members headed south east to the Connaught Hotel, Bournemouth. Some had been on many a PNTA tour before, others were new to the experience. En route we visited Lacock NT featuring the Abbey, the village famous for TV and film locations, and the museum of photography.

On the Monday we did not need to venture far to enjoy the delights of Kingston Lacy NT. The house offered art by famous names, whilst the grounds offered walks through acer groves and cedar avenues. In the afternoon most of the group strolled Compton Acres, with its selection of themed gardens. A grass snake was seen swimming in the waters of the Japanese area.

Tuesday saw us venturing further afield. The morning visit was to Nothe Fort, Weymouth. Constructed in the 1870s of Portland stone, it was built to deter Napoleon 3rd, like the many forts of Pembrokeshire. Now in the ownership of the council, enthusiastic volunteers have made it a historical museum of interest to all ages. Three such volunteers took us on guided tours. Amongst the many passages and nuclear bunker, the group sizes dwindled, but fortunately everyone found their way back to the coach at the appointed time. The afternoon was spent at Abbotsbury Sub tropical Gardens which offered views of Chesil Bank and Golden Cap. A splinter group went to see the cygnets at the swannery.

Fortunately the weather continued to be bright, if breezy, for our Poole Harbour Cruise, on the Wednesday. We saw the palatial retreat for John Lewis staff on Brownsea Island, learnt about the oil producing island. We saw terns diving and a dolphin swimming by. The afternoon optional visit was the Russell-Cotes Gallery, in Bournemouth with its personal collection of paintings and much more.

At the hotel, our tasty suppers were enjoyed at a leisurely pace, with much conversation, so there was no time for a quiz, despite travellers keenly absorbing facts across the week, ready to be tested.

The route home took us via Stourhead, where the National Trust gardens were looking fine, with the Rhododendrons in full bloom.

(Report by Andrew Weaver)

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Cedar Avenue approach to Kingston Lacy

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Acer Grove at Kingston Lacy

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PNTA crew ready to board Poole cruise

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Tour organisers Annie and Andrew – photo by Roger Tomlin

“Southwood Farm” with Andrew Williams, Area Ranger – Wednesday June 5th

Southwood Farm, near Roch and overlooking Newgale, was donated to the NT in 2003 and has become the Home Farm for all the North Pembs. Properties. The two previous walks we had there both started on the coast side of the farm but this time we began at the farmhouse. Andrew led us down the lane which runs through the middle of the farm and into an old wood. The wood had been properly surveyed but one old ash was the only tree to be registered. It had some enormous branches which seemed to be defying gravity.

Andrew then showed us the herd of 20 Welsh Black cattle which are based at Southwood. Their role is to be taken out in the summer to the different areas of wild coast owned by the Trust to munch the undergrowth to stop it becoming dominant. Ideally about 50 cattle are needed but Southwood can only provide winter quarters for 20 and are reliant on the tenant farmers making up the balance.

Southwood also has 34 Welsh Mountain ponies, also used for coastland grazing. Andrew showed us six plump ponies which were still at Southwood and enjoying grassy meadows. He said they would quickly lose their fat when they had to forage for food in the undergrowth.

Wild flower meadows are also being developed at Southwood and they hope to have established 71 hectares in the next three years. Work on covered wildlife corridors is also underway with hedgerows being widened and connecting corridors created.

Andrew finished by showing us around the Courtyard buildings which were advanced for their time but have no obvious current use without a large amount of money being spent.


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Welsh Blacks  at Southwood – photo by Ann Weaver

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Meeting the ponies close up at Southwood.