William Marshall (the Greatest Knight) and his building of Pembroke Castle
William was born in France of an Anglo Norman family in 1147. As the son of a minor nobleman he had no fortune to inherit and had to make his own way in life. Aged 12 he went to Normandy to train as a knight and was knighted in1166. In 1170 King Henry 2nd asked Marshal to join his Court but allowed Marshall to go on a crusade. On William’s return he rejoined the Court and served as a loyal captain through Henry’s final difficult years.
Henry rewarded William by arranging his marriage to Isabel de Clare, the daughter of Richard de Clare (Strongbow), the Earl of Pembroke. The marriage brought with it large estates in England, Normandy, Ireland and Wales, and Marshall set about improving them. At Pembroke Castle he improved its defences by building the formidable keep which he made impregnable with a stone roof. He also dug out access steps to Wogans Cavern that enabled the castle to be supplied if under siege.
When Richard, the Lionheart, became King, William was one of the Barons appointed to the Council of Regency when Richard joined the third crusade. Following Richard’s death, he supported the unpopular King John, becoming his chief adviser and the guardian to John’s son, the future Henry 3rd. William remained loyal to King John throughout the hostilities with his barons which culminated with the signing of Magna Carta on June 15th 1215
In November 1216 John died, in the midst of a French invasion. William was appointed Protector of the nine year old King and Regent of the Kingdom. He produced an improved Magna Carta and declared he would rule under its terms.
Although William was aged 70, he prosecuted the war against the French with great energy. During the Battle of Lincoln he charged at the head of the young King’s army and gained a victory which caused the French to retire from England
In 1219, William was buried in the Temple Church in London. Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, stated ‘Behold the remains of the best knight who ever lived’.
The anniversary lunch took place at Wolfscastle on Friday 23rd November, with over sixty members attending.
The raffle, thanks to the efforts of Kate Waldies and Marilyn James plus the generous donation of prizes by several members, raised £97 (and a penny!), for local NT projects. Past chairmen Dick Coggins and Martin Drew travelled to Pembrokeshire to join us for the event. (See photo).
After the meal Jim Price, long standing vice Chairman, described the early days when the PNTA was first being formed.
On the display boards there were pictures of Jonathan Hughes, Manager of Pembrokeshire National Trust, receiving cheques at PNTA AGMs across the years.
Roland Edwards, a former treasurer of PNTA, has totted up the donations and the overall sum exceeds £40,000.
Jonathan afterwards talked about his recent secondment to Wimpole Hall NT, in Cambridgeshire, comparing the landscape and the people to Pembrokeshire. Although he enjoyed his time there, at the end of the temporary appointment, he was content to return to West Wales.
Julian Cremona again delighted us with his stories and photographs, this time from his trip from South Africa to Namibia.He was struck by how the array of plants changed repeatedly with every hundred kilometres or so, travelling north. At times the road surfaces were not great and the campsites were far apart, but the reward was the variety of colourful birds, and animals, such as the sociable meercats..
Dr Davies gave a talk about mining in the Landshipping area, and of the fateful Valentine’s day in 1844 when the ceiling of the Garden Pit, which extended beneath the Cleddau River, collapsed. Fifty eight workers were below ground at the time, and forty of them, including women and children, lost their lives.
In a bonus meeting, arranged at short notice Clare Flynn, (Outreach Officer, Bee Wild West Wales for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust) gave an introductory talk about bees in general, and went on to concentrate on the 20+ varieties of Bumble Bee.
Bees have an important role in pollination, but numbers have been falling, associated with the trend to more intensive farming, since the second world war. Increasing use of insecticides further challenges bee survival.
It was fitting that Colby NT was the venue, as the walled garden was a good place for Clare to whisk bees into her net before transfer to a container for us to see and have identification explained, before their release. Also, Colby is following the example of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in seeking Bee Friendly status, in recognition for it’s work in enhancing wildlife habitats.
On another fine evening we strolled north from Lawrenny Quay, through the oak woods, taking in the views of Benton Castle, across the river. Alex Shilling pointed out the rare Wild Service trees, in the under storey. The path came out on the beach that led to Garron Pill, with the road taking us back to Lawrenny village. From there we took to the fields again, to climb for the view of the estuary towards Carew.
On another fine summer evening, Mark led us north from Abermawr. At the far end of Aberbach beach we had the excitement of walking the plank, across the stream, to access the coastal path beyond, which gave views of nesting sites for various sea birds.
The farmland of Treseissyllt is being let out to sheep farmers who are willing to conform to the strict organic principals that the National Trust require.
I think I can say that it was very successful, thanks to the beautiful weather, scenery and the fact that everyone, including Richard our driver remained hale and hearty for the whole five days.
We set off on Sunday morning, bathed in sunshine. This had been almost too much to hope for, as up until then our spring weather had been disappointing to say the least. The coach was full and the passengers were in good spirits. We were blessed with a very personable driver who’s driving skill was to be put to the test on the narrow winding Lake District roads
Our first stop was for coffee in Aberystwyth, then lunch in Chirk. The gardens were looking pretty and the rhododendrons and azaleas glowed in the sun. Our destination was to be an hotel just outside of Lancaster- the Lancaster House Hotel and we arrived in good time. The check in process was a little chaotic when we found that we had to make our menu choices for dinner at the same time. The chaos continued into the dining room as too few waiting staff tried to cope with our varied menu choices, but everyone was good natured and spent the time renewing old friendships or making new ones.
Monday saw us heading off for Coniston Pier to board the Steam Gondola, run by the National Trust after spending many years in a state of dereliction. It was as good as new, almost silent in its operation, and despite a touch of oil on pair of favourite trousers, everyone marked the trip as one to remember. A small splinter group disembarked at John Ruskin’s landing stage, where they were able to enjoy an interesting poke around his house, the stupendous views across the lake, strolls around the garden and a pretty fine cafe. The larger party went on to Grasmere, where a goodly number made a bee line for an unassuming NT property- Allanbank- and enjoyed a restorative hour or so -again enjoying views to remember. By now the splinter group had rejoined the majority and after boarding the coach we headed off for the last treat of the day- Holehird Gardens
Run by the Lakeland Horticultural Society, it is perched on a hillside with incredible views. The walled garden and its environs had many enthralled and would be sure to get a good rating on trip advisor!
Day 3 saw us Blackwell an arts and craft house standing above Lake Windermere. Split into two groups we learned the history of its coming into being, thanks to the architect Baillie-Scott and the first owner of this impressive holiday cottage, the wealthy Manchester brewer Sir William Holt. Everyone was struck by the attention to detail, the maximisation of light and the craftmanship.
A short journey brought us to Sizergh- a fortified house that had been in the Strickland family for over 700 years. Lunch, a tour of the grounds and house, brought the day to a peaceful end.
Day 4 saw us going back to Windermere, boarding a Launch for a trip to the southern end of the lake at Lakeside, counting the islands as we went- still in the sun and still counting our blessings. We finished the day at Holkham Hall- once the home of several Dukes of Devonshire -not .a NT property but highly recommended both for its house and amazingly varied garden. By now the small cubby hole in the coach that Richard had kept clear of any luggage, was overflowing with plants that had been purchased, by a very few members of the party. For this reason only it was just as well that this was to be the last proper day of the holiday.
Back to the hotel, nerves were
jangling in anticipation of the post prandial quiz.
A good three quarters of our number nailed their colours to the mast and in the end it was a close run result (- if only the rest of the team had accepted the Sahara desert!)
Too soon our little holiday was at an end- back on the coach the next morning with a final flourish in Powys Castle. We were treated to more wonderful gardens, some trying hard to avert their eyes from the plant sales. Another refreshment stop in Aberaeron and abracadabra we were home.
Bountiful thanks to Andrew for all his meticulous planning and ensuing insomnia and to Richard for bringing us safely back through tiny lanes filled with occasional would- be marathon runners, caravans and coaches. Those 5 days have filled our memory boxes with good humour and pleasing images to treasure until the next time.