Monk Haven Beach

A stone arch over the path leading down to the shingly beach of Monk Haven, on the northern shore of Milford Haven Waterway near St Ishmaels gves the place an air of mystery whch has appealed to artists over the years.

The beach looks south towards the harbour entrance, with Dale Fort on the right and the tip of the Angle peninsula and Thorn Island to the left.

Monk Haven got its name from the fact that there was once a monastic settlement there, but the high stone walls on either side of it, are not ancient structures, rather some ornamental adjuncts to the landscaping of the Trewarren Estate. for which this was obviously a private beach. The landowners, the Warren-Davis family, who formerly lived at nearby Mullock, built the mid-19th century mansion and surrounded themselves with walls and a watchtower, with gardens and woodland and obvious signs of an orchard not far from the beach. The church of St Ishmael is half a mile inland of Monk Haven and nearby is Monk Haven Manor, built in 1835 as the Vicarage. It is unusually ornate and copying a Tudor design, says Pevsner, which suggests it was a design in a pattern book, probably copied by the noted local builder and cabinet maker William Owen of Haverfordwest, who built many of the Victorian mansions and civic buildings in the area. Trewarren was sold in the 1940s to the Llewellin family, who have farmed it ever since, specialising in early potatoes and store cattle for many years. The area is in the frost-free belt along the shores of the Haven Waterway where the south-facing fields are an ideal location for growing early potatoes, once the staple crop of Pembrokeshire.

Two 20th century artists who fell under the enchantment of Monk Haven and made sketches and paintings in the vicinity, were former war artists Ray Howard-Jones and Graham Sutherland, whose work reflected the mystic, brooding atmosphere of the place.

It was a busy landing place in the Dark Ages and during the medieval pilgrimages to St Davids, the road to the shrine of St David was regarded as a safer alternative to the long and hazardous voyage round the rock-strewn western coast of Pembrokeshire. This ancient road, of which very little trace survives, was probably used in Stone Age times, crossing the Marloes Peninsula and following the coast of St Brides Bay round to St Davids. A quicker alternative would have been a crossing from St Brides or Little Haven to Solva or Porthclais, keeping to the sheltered inshore waters of St Brides Bay.

Few people visit Monk Haven today, for it is a tranquil retreat rather than a bathing beach. However, artists and photographers, sea anglers and bird watchers still find it appealing and the walk down through the woods, still colourful in spring with the rhododendrons planted by the Warren-Davis family, is an experience enjoyed by many locals and visitors who discover it.

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