Cresswell Quay is well and truly up the creek.
This is not written in any derogatory sense, but rather in a complimentary way, for it is quaintly situated at the tide’s limit in a picturesque arm of the Cleddau estuary, and is the haunt of many tourists seeking peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings.
Almost as many visitors to Cresswell Quay arrive by boat as by car. They come up the Cresswell River from both sides of the estuary to spend a few hours on the quay and in the Cresselly Arms, which overlooks it, eating, drinking and chatting in relaxed style al fresco with a splendid backdrop of parkland trees and a beautiful view of the river before them.
Although Cresswell Quay is nowadays a quaint and quiet retreat for locals and tourists, it was once a bustling river port lying at the head of the Cresswell River, exporting coal from some 50 small pits not far inland. The scale of the now almost indiscernable coal folds, where stocks were stored to await the arrival of the small barges which took them to Lawrenny for export in larger sailing vessels to destinations near and far, demonstrate how busy it was. And downstream, where the Cresswell River joins the Carew river and then the estuary of the two Cleddau Rivers (Western and Eastern), was more sail traffic taking limestone from the highly productive quarries which finger into the southern bank at West Williamston. This limestone was not only shipped to the multitude of lime kilns all around the Pembrokeshire coast and inside the estuaries of the various rivers feeding Milford Haven waterway, but also for use as road mending material by the highway authorities.
This network of quarry creeks are now a wonderful source of exploration for small boats and canoes, many of whom end up at Cresswell Quay for refreshment in the Cresselly Arms where licensee Maurice Cole has become an iconic landlord. The area is full of listed buildings, which include the recently restored mill, a hip-roofed building, and the adjacent Miller’s House, both Grade 11 Listed. The old quay and the bridge are also Grade 11 Listed and the ruins of many old industrial buidings also testify to the importance of the village’s industrial heritage.
Ask landlord Maurice Cole about Welsh rugby international John Taylor and his 1971 conversion which defeated the Scots by one point, giving them a 19-18 victory, and he will show you a piece of the goalpost off which the kick bounced in. It was sawn off in a daring night-time raid by local boy Fred Mathias, who brought it home in triumph for display in the bar at the Cressely Arms. One sports journalist described it as the greatest conversion since St Paul. It is almost as famous as the armada of ducks which, with timetable precision, swim up daily to the quay to be fed.