The Mare Rocks

The Mare is the smallest of a trio of rocks off the entrance to Solva harbour in St Brides Bay.

Apart from ornamenting the beautiful coastline sweeping round the northern side of the bay, and, like its companions Green Scar and Black Scar, serving as a navigational aid for mariners and fishermen sailing in and out of the narrow entrance to Solva harbour in foggy weather, it also provided a useful seasonal ‘larder’ for the locals. The Vikings knew these rocks and must have used them as markers to find the almost hidden entrance to Solva, indeed, the word Scar is derived from the Norse word Sker for rock.

In the days when there were many poor country folk ekeing out a precarious livelihood from the food nature provided: foraging for the fruits of the hedges, the plants and seaweeds growing on the foreshore (Solva is the Norse name for Samphire, whch grows in profusion around these shores), and the fish they could catch in the sea, the islands provided an extra dietary dimension in the form of seabirds and their eggs.

Right up to living memory, the rocky islands and islets all round the Pembrokeshire coast provided a rich harvest of eggs and bird meat, and Solva, Marloes, Dale and St Davids were known for their island foraging. Some of the larger islands also had rabbits to provide tasty meals for the tables of the poorer classes. The Mare and its sister islands were no exception. One history of Solva refers to the seasonal and part-time occupation of the fishermen who also used the opportunity to harvest seabirds and their eggs from the islands to supplement their diet. Both the meat and the eggs could be preserved in various ways to last into the winter. It records that Green Scar and its sister islands had remained such a source within living memory. Seagull’s eggs, which were an acquired taste, were not the only target. Puffins, guillemots and razorbills also had their eggs collected for food, and Although St Brides Bay is used for shelter, it can be an inhospitable place in rough weather, particularly in a south westerly gale, and many ships which have got into trouble further off the coast have eventually foundered there. On October 17th 1862 the Oak of Belfast was wrecked off Solva and six seamen took refuge on one of the trio of rocks which includes The Mare. They were brought ashore after a rescue line was fired to them by means of a Manby Mortar life-saving apparatus and taken to the Cambrian Hotel by the local Lloyd’s Agent, Captain John Rees. To Solva’s shame their clothes were stolen and a record of the events reveals that clothes were eventually donated by other more sympathetic local folk.

In 1874, the Liverpool ship Alaric foundered in a dreadful storm off Solva. She was sighted keel up a mile west of The Mare and later sank with the loss of all hands.

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