Sleeping Bay Beach
Sleeping Bay is a rocky and rather muddy beach on the western side of Sandy Haven on the northern shore of Milford Haven Waterway.
Its name is relatively unknown, except to the locals, as it is only accessible at low tide by wading across Sandy Haven Pill round Sleeping Bay Point near Triple Stones near where the estuary is crossable by way of three slippery stepping stones.
It is no place for family beach-going as it is mainly Red Sandstone rocks and seaweed-strewn sand with an ever-present danger of being cut off by the tide, and no means of escape up the cliff. However, it is sheltered and, for those adventurous people who understand the tides and are prepared to watch the clock, it is an ideal sunbathing spot. The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Coastal Footpath passes the southern end of the bay after crossing a field from Sandy Haven House and Skerryback Farm, so someone trapped there would be hard put to attract anyone’s attention. Neighbouring beaches which are rather more hospitable are Lindsway Bay, Monk Haven, Longoar Bay, Butts Bay, Kilroom and Wenall Bay.
Sea anglers sometimes risk the tide to fish off Sleeping Bay beach and birdwatchers frequent the area ‘twitching’ for the waders and seabirds which have become accustomed to solitude along the tidewrack. Oystercatchers, dunlin, turnstone, sandpipers and ringed plover are often seen there together with nearly all the gull family and occasionally offshore the odd gannet from the 70,000-strong colony on the island of Grassholm will patrol up the Haven in search of a shoal to dive on. Of passing interest to the maritime-minded are the two modern transit towers overlooking Butts Bay and Great Castle Head to guide the supertankers and other vessels up the channel on their way out of the Milford Haven Waterway. Just round the corner to the east of the beach is the former site of the first oil refinery to be built on the north shore of the Haven in 1959, the Esso refinery, which was offcially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1960. Esso has long gone, but in the last few years the South Hook Liquid Natural Gas Company has taken over the old Esso jetty and developed a terminal there for its massive LNG tankers.
The Esso refinery had a rather inauspicious start when the very first crude oil cargo was being unloaded in the summer of 1960 and five massive explosions ripped through the 36,000-ton tanker Esso Portsmouth, which had berthed the previous day dressed over-all with bunting to celebrate the historic occasion. Amazingly, but thankfully, only one crew member died in the blast, which was heard seven miles away in Haverfordwest and Pembroke. The accident was caused by a spark from one of the jetty loading arms as it struck the ship, which was badly damaged in the disaster. It was, however, rebuilt, with an added mid-section to make it even longer.