Tuesday, 3 November 2015

I must go down to the seas again . . .

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.


Yesterday we felt the call of the sea again.  That mini-heatwave was still with us and it would have been foolish not to take full advantage of it.  We had business to do in Carmarthen, and that sorted, headed towards and past Kidwelly, and paid our £2 entrance fee to get into Pembrey Country Park.  Down the years we have been here many times, especially when our children were smaller.  There are woodland walks, the fantastic beach, the sand dunes (now sadly battered from the sea surge we had early last year) and there's a good childrens' play area and a little miniature railway too.  The fabulous beach - Cefn Sidan, which translates to "silken back" is about 7 miles long, and never crowded, especially once you get away from the main entrance point to the beach from the car parks.

The beach here is very flat and the sea goes out a long way.  However, what is good for beach-goers was not so good for shipping in the past and there are records of some 180 wrecks registered as being swept up on these sands, and a further 380 guessed at.  The 7 mile long beach holds on to her secrets well though, although one wreck in the dunes was revealed for a short while after that huge storm, noticed by one of the Rangers, but then shifting sands hid it from sight again and the Ranger was left cursing himself for not marking the spot.  

Here is one of the wrecks which stays put.  I believe this is the wreck of the Paul, which was blown onto the sands of Cefn Sidan in 1925.  It's hard to imagine a wooden ship with masts and sails still in use at such a late date.  HERE is a link to its story.  DiscoverCarmarthenshire says: "The vessels that perished carried cargoes ranging from Juniper berries, indigo, copper and cochineal, rum and silver bullion bars to whale oil, seal skins, brandy, buffalo hides, cotton and coffee. "  That sounds so exotic. 

Storms threw up lots of shells from deep water, which were crusted in barnacles.  I couldn't resist bringing a pocketful home with us!

My darling husband starting to get warm!  Temperatures were well up again - amazingly so for November.

A view across the sands to the wrecked dunes.  Still, what the sea has taken away, it will bring back again as it has done down the centuries.

The bottom of this robbed dune shows a solid compacted layer - how sandstone is formed over the millennia.

For some the attraction of the beach is worms for bait.  I liked the reflection of the sun on the car onto the wet sands.

A bright splash of colour amongst the Marram grass.

Probably Sea Lavender in full flower.  Sea-something anyway (I need to go and check my botany books).

More rubbish and robbed-out dunes.

Sea beet.  I believe it can be cooked up and is a bit like a superior Spinach.

Above and below, views of the beach.  Top one shows the hills of the Gower in the distance, including Rhossili where we were earlier in the year.

Above - looking back towards Kidwelly.

Lots of discarded fishing nets  fetched up on the beach.

More rubbish (far too much plastic) on the remains of this stretch of dune.

What I am VERY tempted to go back and collect - berries of the Sea Buckthorn.  I remember Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall making something (alocholic?) with these.  I ate one and they are lovely, and very health-giving and high in Vitamin C, and a medicinal oil can also be made.

Finally back at the car park.  As you can see, there is plenty of woodland (about 500 acres) to explore too, if the beach gets too hot.

Now, surely that must be our final seaside day this year?  Watch this space!


  1. We have yet to visit Pembery, but will at some point, I love the wreck fascinating, I remeber cooking up some sea beet with mussels on the beach lovely it was too :-)

  2. I think it could be the last 'summer day' this year; certainly today is vastly different from the sunny, hot day on Sunday. We currently have fog - thick fog - and it's several degrees cooler. But it is November after all and the sunshine was much appreciated.
    I hate to see all the rubbish on our beaches, whether left behind by visitors or discarded at sea; we have the same problem here in Cornwall.

  3. My Auntie Maida lived at Johnston, near Milford Haven. We used to cockle pick on some of the enormous beaches around there

  4. Those sea buckthorn berries are the most beautiful colour - would love to know what they taste like.

  5. Ah one of my favourite poems and also one of the most beautiful parts of the coast and good weather to boot. We have had lingering cold damp fog for the past couple of days been a bit clearer today but still bone chilling. The Sea Buckthorn is tart and delicious all at the same time. Its best to make a cordial with it - I tried jelly and the set was not good so if you did make sure you use sugar with pectin or add additional pectin. Very nice for a wild Kir on Christmas Day. I also found that the easiest way to harvest them is either cutting the branches and bringing them home and then using tweezers to pick the berries (there are very sharp thorns in between). Sadly there were not enough berries this way to harvest, Hopefully next year.

    Good photo of your OH - what a beautiful day.

    Take care



  6. Thanks for the photos of Pembrey and the memories they evoke. I lived in Trimsaran in the sixties as a young teenager.
    What a pity the park doesn't have a volunteer group that could organize a clean up.

  7. Hi there Shady - small world eh? You're a long way from home now! I thought the beach needed a good tidy up too. When we used to take our (now grown) children down there, I am sure they used to keep the beach tidy - I seem to remember a big tractor or something trundling up and down (or was that Pendine?)

    Pat - I tried one - sweet and sour together I think I'd describe it. Certainly a very different flavour to garden fruits.

    Pattypan - I think the Rangers might have taken a dim view of me advancing on the bushes (plenty of them though there were) with my secateurs! I will have to find them growing outside of the Country Park. Thanks for the tip about the jelly and cordial.

    Simon - cockle picking is still taking place around the Welsh coasts, though I noticed that the Llanstephan (and presumably Ferryside) cockle beds are now closed for the winter.

    Rambler - rainy and miserable this morning, so you could well be right!

    Dawn - there is a lot along the shoreline which can make a meal, whether it's trotting about wearing a shell or growing. You will love Pembrey and when your daughter and the smalls visit again, lots of room for them to hurtle about and a good childrens' play area.