Marloes Sands, round the southern tip of broad St Brides Bay is a wide, curved stretch of golden sand between Hooper’s Point and Gateholm Island.
Although it is a bit of a walk from the nearest carparks at Marloes Mere, Martin’s Haven and West Dale, those who frequent it think it well worth the effort.
Above the cliff behind the northern side of the beach is Marloes Mere, a nature reserve where rare flora and fauna has been recorded. The latest bird to add to the ‘twitcher’ tickbox is the Spoonbill.
With its rocky outcrops in the sand it is reminiscent of the beaches of Connemara in the West of Ireland, and that is from no less an authority than a native of those parts, the famous actor Peter O’Toole, who noticed the similarity when he was filming there 45 years ago. It was a James Goldman award-winning film ‘The Lion in Winter’ in which O’Toole starred with Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins (in his film debut), Timothy Dalton and Nigel Stock, and it told the story of Henry11’s preference as his successor to the throne of his youngest son John while his estranged wife Queen Eleanor favoured their oldest surviving son Richard 1st (The Lionheart). Marloes sands was chosen as the ideal place for the battle scenes in the surf, with horses and men milling about in a sunlit sea and many local ‘extras’ taking part in the hazardous proceedings. After a web of intrigue, Richard eventually succeeded and was later followed by John.
From the cliffs above Marloes Sands the coastal path walker has a grandstand view of the two bird sanctuarys of Skomer Island and Skokholm Island, the former separated from Midland Island and the mainland by treacherous Jack Sound which has claimed many a victim from the ships that pass this coast. Over the centuries and right up until the 1960s, daring ships’ masters chancing a short cut through Jack Sound have come to grief here.
A path leads down onto Marloes Sands via the little cove of Mill Bay to the west, but there are no signs of a mill, although traces of a leet are discernible. Geologists journey here to this remote spot from all over the world to take a look at an exposed stretch of Silurian rocks known as The Three Chimneys - near-vertical beds of alternate sandstones and siltstones demonstrating different states of weathering. Geological Surveyors have carved in the rock a small arrow, not difficult to find, to mark where the Silurian rock ends and the Old Red Sandstone begins. The Skomer Volcanic Series has within it some rocks known as Marloesite and Skomerite, which are found nowhere else. The complex faulting just east of Martin’s Haven, includes parallel groups which have in this location produced four rift valleys, separated by square headlands or ‘horsts’, the westernmost being Martin’s Haven itself.
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