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Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire. The haven opens with two smaller bays, Angle Bay and West Angle Bay, the second at the mouth, the first an inlet, of the haven itself. The inlet is muddy; West Angle is a reach of broad sands; and both lie about the charming village of Angle, so named because it was In Angulo, or at the junction of these doors that opened from Milford. Angle Bay clearly shows what importance was attached to the entrance to this fine natural harbourage, which Defoe, on his l7th century tour, described as one of the greatest and best inlets of water in Britain. “Mr. Camden,” he adds, referring to an even earlier traveller and antiquarian in these parts, “says it contains 16 creeks, 5 great bays and 13 good roads for shipping, all distinguished as such by their names; and some say a thousand sail of ships may ride in it and not the topmast of one be seen from the other.” This was the principal feature that made Pembrokeshire an object of desire for the Norman adventurers, and the settlers sent by the first two Henrys of England were concentrated along the North of it. The great Castle of Pembroke commands the landward creek that runs into it; today on the South shore is Pembroke Dock, and on the other side is Milford Haven the town. The more westerly approaches were watched by Angle, where Henry VIII set block-houses to defy all possible assault, and the ruined peel-tower still stands over its moat. Its West Bay holds an island, the Thorn, with an obsolete fort upon it. The last military service the haven performed in British internal history was to shelter the Parliamentary fleet from storms just at the time when Royalist attacks might otherwise have taken Pembroke Castle.

Milford Haven is an interesting town to those who have an eye for the unusual. In spite of the military and naval importance of the area it commands, it was famous in the great days of the British fishing industry for being fourth among the reapers of the seas' harvest. Skate, hake, and conger were its customary catch, which it varied with beasts peculiar to the place, if not in kind, then certainly in description, for “megrims” and “witches” are surely rare enough. The town is set against a smooth but steeply rising hill, and its houses are ranked rather like barracks, in a square, low series of terraces that seem generally to date from the days of Nelson. He is in fact remembered in the Castle Hotel, since he came that way in 1808 to lay the foundation-stone of the parish church. And Lady Hamilton stayed in Milford too; as Emma Hart, she was mistress of one man who bargained her away for a price that was laid out in founding Pembroke Dock, the once important base for the Navy and for seaplanes. The area is now important for its oil-refineries; one working plant strikes against the sky over the low hills that face Milford across the water. There are monuments to former Sea Lords at the bottom of the hill below Milford town; but the place seems now to have withdrawn itself into the magnificent geography of the whole haven.

This is a submerged and sunken valley, widening to a breadth of 2 miles and 20 miles long. Going westward brings you to St Bride's Bay, a remote and beautiful area with more wild flowers and sea-birds than it has humans, with astonishing scenery of ocean and cliff and the long beaches of Little Haven. Broad Haven, Nolton Haven, and Newgale stretching North towards St David's. The bay can be seen from the pleasant village of Dale and the road that goes from Dale Bay to St Ann's Head, itself at the head of the haven. Close to it is Mill Bay, where Henry Tudor first landed in 1485 and waited for the word that the Lord of the South, Rhys ap Thomas, would come to his aid. After the fatal Battle of Tewkesbury, Jasper Tudor had fled with his young nephew Henry for shelter to Pembroke Castle. There they stood siege, till they were rescued by the brother of the man who was investing the castle with Yorkist troops. The young Tudor was recalled from his exile in Brittany by his former tutor in arts and sciences. Dr Lewis, a Welshman who now proposed to teach him politics too. Master of South Wales was Rhys ap Thomas, a man who had sworn deep fealty to Richard III of England; never would Henry come to claim the Crown of England through Wales, he swore, except over his body. But when Henry and his Uncle Jasper landed with their 2,000 men, Pembrokeshire rose to greet them, and the Bishop of St David himself informed Rhys that he was free of his oath, since Richard was himself perjured, a murderer of an infant king, and a usurper. Rhys, with all his following, went to meet Henry, and (it is said) thought it as well to make his own interpretation of the oath by lying before him and inviting him to step over his body. The result was that the army of liberation moved in two parts, one under Rhys through Brycheiniog (Breconshire) and one under Henry through Ceredigion, pausing a night at Machynlleth. The two sections conjoined at Shrewsbury, the old capital of Powvs. From there the way to Bosworth was short. From Shrewsbury, Henry bore before him the rouge and passant dragon standard of Powys, and all Wales felt that the House of Cunedda was at last justified. The leaping song “Tros y Gareg” is a shout of praise for him.

Marloes, 2 miles from Dale, has memories of even earlier days in the Rath of Marloes, a prehistoric fortress with a triple bank of defences and, out from the ideal sands of its bay, the small island of Gateholm, once much inhabited, since on its narrow area more than 100 hut circles are to be found, but now mainly possessed by primroses in early spring. It is companion to the remoter and larger islands of Skomer and Skokholm, the first of which is also covered with relics of ancient hutments of a population much larger than its resources could ever have supported. The industry it engaged in does not seem to have been the usual one of tool-making or copper- and gold-prospecting; it may have lived as a centre of ship-masters, a harbourage for navigators in the dawn of seamanship. Now the only sea-steerers are kittiwake and cormorant, petrel, puffin, razorbill and guillemot, shearwater and fowl more familiar to land, buzzard, peregrine, raven, and chough. The still further island of Grassholm, wholly uninhabited, is abandoned to the gannets, whose families make it a solid drift of snow upon the grey waters. Marloes village has a name that seems to echo the parallel names of Morlais in Cornwall and Morlaix in Brittany the Sea-Stretch; and, apart from its fisher interests, it still carries on one of the ancient food-gathering practices of ancient Wales. There the tide leaves on the rocks the long, bubbled strands of seaweed, brown and leathery, that are gathered and boiled into the green mass called layer bread. It is a delicacy peculiarly Welsh, and much enjoyed about Gower and points West and East. Its full flavour can he appreciated only when taken with bacon or gammon, though some say it is even better with porridge. In either case it has to have the condiment of custom; for at first one's reaction is doubtful. Its delicacy is the reward of courage; and courage is needed.

Nearby towns: Haverfordwest, Neyland, Pembroke

Nearby villages: Angle, Bosherston, Boulston, Broad Haven, Burton, Castlemartin, Cosheston, Dale, Freshwater East, Freystrop, Haroldston West, Hasguard, Herbrandston, Hubberston, Johnston, Lamphey, Landshipping, Langwm, Lawrenny, Little Haven, Llangwm, Llanstadwell, Marloes, Paterchurch, Pembroke Dock, Rhoscrowther, Roch, Rosemarket, Saint Brides, Saint Ishmaels, Saint Twynnells, Stackpole, Talbenny, Uzmaston, Walton West, Warren

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