St Anne's Head

St Anne’s Head is the northern gateway to Milford Haven Waterway, one of the UK’s major oilports, formerly an important fishing port and a deepwater harbour, which Lord Nelson praised as “the finest in the world next to Trincomalee in Sri Lanka.”

When Henry Tudor and his uncle Jasper landed at Milford Haven in August 1485, they took no chances sailing up the Haven Waterway, but landed as soon as they entered the shelter of St Anne’s Head, the French flotilla that brought them dropping anchor in Mill Bay. To have ventured further up the harbour would have raised the alarm far earlier, so, with the small party of French troops who accompanied them, Henry on his way to claim the crown of England and Jasper to regain his Earldom, they got ashore as soon as was practically possible.

History does not tell us whether or not their approach and landing were veiled by one of St Anne’s Head’s characteristic summer sea mists, but it is more than likely, and they were on the march before a waiting party of loyalists led by Sir Rhys ap Thomas met them a couple of miles inland at Mullock Bridge. At one time a supporter of Richard 111, the Welsh nobleman had pledged that Henry would challege the crown “over my body,” so, in order, to keep his oath, he crouched under the bridge as Henry rode over, then joined him.

Henry gathered support as he rode via Haverfordwest and through Wales to Bosworth Field where he met and defeated Richard to take the crown. By the time he reached the Leicestershire battlefield, he had gathered a small but well trained army, as effectively as the Pied Piper gathered rats.

Observers on the clifftop at St Anne’s Head today will see no French flotillas, but can watch the comings and goings of the supertankers that serve the Haven’s two oil refineries, Amoco and Valero, and two LNG terminals at South Hook, formerly the Esso oil refinery, and at Waterston, site of the former Gulf oil refinery. They can also watch the Pembroke to Rosslare Irish Ferry taking its twice daily trips across the Irish Sea and observe the passing flotilla of small fishing boats and yachts that use the Haven.

Near the disused quarry on the western side of the headland is an interesting feature for the geologically-minded. The down- and up-folding of the rock here, which is faulted on the landward side, demonstrates in miniature the large-scale folding underlying the whole of the south of the County. Replaced by a new lighthouse a couple of decades ago, the old St Anne’s lighthouse was bought by a local entrepreneur who turned it into a very desirable and unique residence with magnificent views up the Waterway, and out to the offshore bird sanctuary islands.  Peaceful in summer, St Anne’s Head can be so violent in winter that it is difficult to stand up in gale gusts of over 100mph.

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