Deer Park

The Deer Park at Martin’s Haven, near Marloes, which overlooks the point of embarkation for pleasure boats taking visitors out to Skomer Island or round Grassholm, is a favourite grandstand for bird and seal watching.

Separated from the mainland by a deep ravine, It is almost an island, and its name is somewhat misleading since it is not recorded that any deer ever populated it and the terrain does not seem capable of sustaining any.

It was intended as a embellishment of the nearby Edwardes estate, from which family the wealthy Kensington dynasty stemmed, and who built St Brides Castle. The Edwardes also had a large mansion at Sealyham where one of the family bred the famous Sealyham Terrier, designed specifically for hunting badgers. The Kensingtons also owned large and valuable estates in London, notably Kensington, where Pembrokeshire names like Edwardes Square and Marloes Road reflect places in their Welsh estate.

The Deer Park has a flourishing seal colony and many visitors use the viewing point on the high western cliffs to watch seals and their pups on the inaccessible pebbly beaches in the rocky coves below, Seals are there all year round, and usual oblige observers by popping their sleek heads above water to watch the watchers watching them. October is the best time not only to see them suckling their young but to hear their mournful songs, seemingly in close harmony, wafting up from beneath the cliffs on a cold and windy autumn day.

Choughs nest and feed on the cliffs, which are also the breeding site for gliding fulmars. People unversed in things ornithological can miss seeing the choughs, for they closely resemble their cousins the jackdaws at a distance, except that their calls are more asthmatic and their flight more erratic. At close quarters there can be no mistaking them, for the chough has a vivid red downward-curving beak and orange legs. From the cifftop at Wooltack Point or Anvil Head views of the bird-sanctuary islands Skokholm and Skomer are visible and, on clear days, distant Grassholm and the candy-striped lighthouse on The Smalls rock.

The rocks, cliffs and seascapes all around have been immortalised by a former war artist, who lived at Martin’s Haven, first in a caravan and then in a cottage nearby. Ray Howard-Jones, who lived well into her nineties, was an eccentric lady who haunted the area, in summer clad in the briefest bikini, her skin tanned to a mahogany hue. With her partner, the London artist David Jones, she also lived on Skomer for long periods, and the two thought nothing of clambering up and down the cliffs, finding their subjects, which included a virtual bestiary of animal-shaped rocks. Ray Howard-Jones lived very basically in the cottage once owned by the last Skomer farmer Reuben Codd. Her table was an orange box and she shared her food with the mice that were her only companions. Many of her paintings - including the mice sharing her plate - are on display in Tenby Museum.

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