Nolton Haven Beach
Nolton Haven is a small, sheltered cove with a nice sandy beach, right beside the coast road between Broad Haven and Newgale.
From the top of the beach, only yards from the road, one is struck by the outlines of the two headlands which close the narrow bay, for they resemble faces looking across the beach at each other. And their conversation is more than likely to be about war, for Wellington’s large-nosed silhouette on the right and Churchill’s chubby profile on the left make one think they would undoubtedly be reminiscing about their triumphs over the French at Waterloo and over the Germans in World War Two.
The pristine condition of the beach today belies the fact that this little cove was once a port exporting coal from the nearby coal and culm pits dating from 1439 around Nolton and Newgale. Quite large sailing vessels beached here to load cargoes of coal and culm for distribution around St Brides Bay and even further afield. The cargoes were brought down to the shore by carts and waggons drawn by teams of horses and, during the late 19th and early 20th century, by traction engines towing pairs of eight-ton trailers the six miles from Haverfordwest Quay for export by sea. The coal from Haverfordwest was the local anthracite shipped up by lighters from Hook colliery. Trefrane Cliff colliery, half a mile north near Newgale, was the biggest pit in the vicinity, and its ruined buildings and tall brick stack are prominent features beside the National Park Coastal Footpath to this day. This mine was worked from 1850 to 1905 with a 300-foot deep shaft slanting under the sea, and a steep tramway up which the coal was winched to the top of the cliff near the coast road.
Mining ended in the area before World War One because of the hazards of working under the sea, where the weight of water at high tide often broke through into the sloping shafts. It is amazing to think that there is a reserve estimated at 230 million tons of coal still unworked under St Brides Bay.
Not far from the beach at Nolton there is a house known as The Counting House, where the exports were administered, and a short distance inland are the remains of several old culm pits. Just north of Rickets Head, at Black Cliff, are the signs of zig-zag paths to the clifftop mines which can still be clearly seen.
Geologists often visit the area where, at the southern entrance to Nolton Haven, near Churchill’s prominent profile, there are igneous boulders which are erratics dropped by melting glacial ice.
The village of Nolton with its church and old school building is about half a mile inland, where there is a large Riding School, whose horses are regularly seen taking patrons along the narrow lanes to the coast and down to the beach at Newgale to exercise on the spacious sands at low tide.