Wiseman's Bridge Beach
Around the time of the Battle of Trafalgar the best quality anthracite was being loaded from carts onto beached sailing ketches on the Pembrokeshire coast to be shipped to small ports all round South Wales and the Bristol Channel area.
Clean, smokeless and efficient, the top quality local anthracite was far-famed and in great demand in cities like Bristol and Bath, Swansea and Cardiff, and the coal mines across the coalfield from Saundersfoot to St Bride’s Bay were working feverishly to meet the market.
One beach which was as busy as any was Wiseman’s Bridge, between Saundersfoot and Amroth, for there were innumerable small pits fairly close to the shore around this coast, and the coal measures extended under the sea in Carmarthen Bay. Wiseman’s Bridge lies midway between Monkstone Point and Telpyn Point in the broad curved sweep of Saundersfoot Bay. Today it is a little village behind a pebble ridge and a broad sandy beach ideal for family outings. There is safe bathing, ample room for beach activities and a limited amount of car parking, and its close proximity to Saundersfoot makes it easily accessible on foot along the National Park coastal footpath, which joins the village street here on its way east to the Pembrokeshire border with Carmarthenshire at Amroth. Flanked by rocky areas, it is also rich in rock pools full of crabs, prawns, shrimps, sea anemones and the occasional stranded lobster. This is one of those interesting parts of the Pembrokeshire coast where rough seas and exceptionally low spring tides frequently scour the sand away to reveal the blue clay in which the drowned forest appears with its petrified tree stumps and occasional finds of buried antlers, bones, skulls and prehistoric artefacts.
The Wiseman’s Bridge Inn can claim the distinction of having been visited by Winston Churchill in 1943, when he came down with other top war leaders to watch Operation Jantzen, the spectacular rehearsals for the Normandy Invasion on the wide expanse of the local beaches between Saundersfoot and Pendine. The US Army and British and Commonwealth troops numbering around 100,000 literally invaded the area which swarmed with beached supply ships and barges, landing craft, amphibious vehicles, jeeps, guns, barrage balloons and all the other paraphernalia of a seaborne invasion. Prophetically, as it turned out, the weather was rough as it was for the real thing, and there were many mishaps involving piled up barges and landing craft and submerged equipment. Churchill arrived in a large staff car, driven by his daughter Sarah in ATS uniform, with the union jack on the bonnet, He was given refreshments, including sandwiches and Welsh cakes, by the licensee of the Inn.
The coal industry has long gone, but there are legacies to remind people of it. The tunnels through which the coal trams rumbled to the beach, drawn by the little locomotives of what was facetiously known as the ‘Miners’ Express,’ are now short cuts for holidaymakers and locals between Saundersfoot and Wiseman’s Bridge.