Sunday, May 2, 2021

Abereiddy folly

Near to my house is the beach and former quarry of Abereiddy. The works have long since gone, its slate not of the best quality and the difficulties of extraction adding to its demise. Indeed, like the neighbouring village of Porthgain, the quarry is arguably more successful as a post-industrial beauty spot; their crumbling relics a picturesque and poetic reminder of the immensity of the sea. 

You either get it or you don't.

The quarry itself is now flooded and universally known as the blue lagoon on account of the water's aquamarine colour. It's become a popular spot for coasteering and tombstoning and more recently the putative sport of wild swimming. At their highest point, the walls are more than a hundred feet high and are occasionally used for extreme cliff diving championships.

Most visitors come to skim stones, to walk the cliffs to Ynyss Barry or perhaps on to the Sloop Inn for a pint and crab sandwich. It's a magnificent stretch of coast, the arc of the sea on your shoulder, choughs rising and falling in the breeze if you know where to look; the rock doves watchful for a peregrine overhead.

But I wonder what percentage of visitors ever visit the derelict round tower on the headland? It must be in almost every one their photos, however, is difficult to reach, requiring a short scramble that deters all but the most nimble—or the knowing, for in fact the scramble hardly merits that name and the view from the point is the one of best there is of the St David's peninsula. I went there this week, keeping tight rein on Oscar, as we climbed the loose steps to this remote West Walian oddity.

The origins and purpose of the tower are unknown. It's possible it was a sort of pilot house, but more likely a folly for the quarry owner's pleasure. Built of fieldstone, it has windows which frame the views and a fireplace that once kept the occupants warm. What a writing shed it would have made! Perhaps the wife of the quarry owner came here to paint or to crochet? Maybe his children used it for nineteenth-century sleepovers... or picnics... or like me, simply to watch the sea, quietly, alone.

Except for Oscar of course, who'd been in two minds about the headland scramble and was now eyeing the gulls with an intent that confirmed he was staying on the lead.  We settled down on the rocks, warming our backs in the sun, thrifts and campions flowering for the first time this year. How different this place must have been when it sounded with blasts and sirens, the clatter of trucks and hammering of picks on stone. The quarrymen's cottages were abandoned after its closure and later washed away in a storm. If you look carefully you can still see the old fire grates... ashes to ashes, dust to dust...

Heading back to the path I stopped to tie my laces. The car park by the beach was almost full, a line of walkers making their way to the lagoon. Two boys were jumping into the gelid pool below me, their friends cheering from the shore. A girl in a wetsuit was donning a swim cap for a 'wild' dip in the water. I smiled. It's good to see folks back I thought; it felt hopeful—and appropriate for a place that thrives on renewal.


  1. I must say it looks very inviting for a swim on a warm day. I love that photograph of Oscar (my German short haired pointer was called Oscar - I miss him still) presumably a greyhound?

  2. Hari OM
    My sister is into the wild swimming. I just like swimming in the sea...

    One wonders about the tidal flow of that inlet (the risk assessor at work!) - or is there a natural breakwater lurking beneath that narrows?
    YAM xx

    1. Yes, at high tide the rocks which seal off the lagoon are not visible. Depending on the colour of the sky, the water can be amazing colours, hence the Blue.

  3. Been there many times, wandering along the top at Porthgain down to that old quarry but true I have never been up to the little tower. The small street of ruined cottages at Aberridy always sent my mind in a spin. Both villages were thriving communities at one stage.

  4. What a lovely spot. Post industrial beauty spots are fascinating as well as beautiful, the sense of history can be tangible.

  5. I recently watched the Blue Lagoon and the wonderful Pembrokeshire landscape on Susan Calmans Grand Day Out on Channel 5. You live in a magical place.

  6. Beautifully written again. Two words that I have never previously used stood out for me - "fieldstone" and "gelid". It is funny how so many arable fields I cross or circumnavigate are littered with "fieldstones". They are everywhere and deep inland they will often show evidence of marine erosion long, long ago.

  7. I love the place where you live. Filled with ocean views and magical places to sit and daydream. I wished for many years to see the ocean in the winter, when it was cold and sharp and gray. I got my wish about four years ago. It really was lovely.

  8. Our only regret in moving so far inland is we have lost those lovely sandy Carmarthenshire beaches, but we have views and hills and better walks.

    Fieldstones - yup, we have a few of those here. In establishing an orchard, everywhere I have tried to plant one of the small apple trees we brought with us has fieldstones. In fact, I believe I am trying to plant in/on what used to be the field-stone paved track across the old paddock, from the stables and coach house here to the Big House up the slope.

    There's an inviting pool like that one down on the Gower. Being a landlubber, I would not have been tempted to leap in, even in my younger days.

  9. I have been brewing a comment on this all week. Writing like this makes me sad that I didn't (or couldn't) visit all those special spots in UK when I lived there, and I wasn't a complete slug about getting around. I have therefore thought about the difference between visit and know. You know this place. With the best will in the world I could only visit it. I knew places in Hampshire, in the South Downs behind our home, in London where I lived during the week (and probably knew more strange corners of London) than many people who had loved lives there. I explored London from its rivers and canals as well as landside and found some really interesting history, and unexpected nature reservoirs in concrete jungles. I had explored all sorts of backwaters off the Thames, the Medway and rivers in East Anglia. I had a book on London's hidden rivers and set out to see them all for myself. You could spend a lifetime in a country with as much history as UK and never do more than just 'visit' a mere fraction of what there is to experience. The depth of connection that comes with knowing a place can only be achieved in a smaller personal zone - something I hope to regain on my return to my roots in a year or two.
    That pool looks worth a 'visit' just the same.

  10. I think you're spot on in the distinction between visiting and knowing. In wales there is an expression Dyner filltir sgwa, which means 'man of his own square mile'. I wrote about this years ago on the blog - it's one of the top hits on google for the expression - ha ha. You can see it here.,skimming%20the%20surface%20of%20many.