Freshwater West Beach
The outline of the South Pembrokeshire peninsula, seen on a map, resembles a hippopotamus, its massive gape seeming poised to take a great gulp of water out of the Irish Sea.
Facing west as it does, this gaping mouth with its snout at West Angle Bay and its chin at Linney Head, takes the full might of the Atlantic swell when a south-westerly gale batters the coast. Little wonder then that the hippo’s bite, which takes in the bight of Freshwater West, is a highly-favoured surfing venue.
Freshwest, as it called locally, is one of Wales’s top surfing beaches and the base of the Outer Reef Surf School who offer surfing lessons for adults and youngsters, instructor courses and lifeguarding awards. It is also a commemoration site for one of the worst sea tragedies off this coast during World War II.
During a violent storm in 1943 two landing craft packed with men left Belfast for Cornwall to test their seaworthiness in preparation for the forthcoming landings in Sicily. Sadly, Angle Lifeboat was off service under repair and the landing craft were denied a docking at Milford Haven. They both foundered in mountainous seas and 79 soldiers died, and another six crew of the HMS Rosemary which went to their rescue. Only three men survived, and in April of this year commemorative plaques were unveiled and dedicated in a moving ceremony overlooking Freshwater West beach. The men already had a memorial in Milford Haven cemetery where the few bodies that were recovered are buried.
Not far from the memorial plaques is a small wooden building which is a reminder of a past occupation carried on at the beach. Restored as an historic monument is a seaweed drying hut, for laverweed was collected off the rocks there for the table. Laverbread, is still available in shops and markets where it is regarded as a delicacy, known as Welsh caviar for its black, shiny appearance.
The wild and rugged shore at Freshwater West has recently become a popular film location. In May 2009 “Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows,” was filmed on the dunes and a replica of Dobby’s Shell Cottage attracted as much attention on the beach as the visiting film stars. A month later another film located there, and the beach was the noisy and animated scene of battle for the Scott Ridley film “Robin Hood,” with Kate Blanchette and Russell Crowe. Locals not only enjoyed a feast of battle action but also had the opportunity of some interesting work as extras.