Castlemartin Firing Range in 19 clicks

Aye travellers!

The Tour de Wales goes on! As promised we are back on track again and ready to report about our adventures during the summer. Good news is that November is almost finished and we will be greeting the much more people-friendly December in less than a week! Christmas spirit, better weather and lots of festive markets to go to! We cannot wait to visit the Victorian Fayre in Worcester, and this year we are also planning to see the German Market in Birmingham. As usual, so much to do, so much to see and so little time – oh well, the life of a cultural blogger is a difficult one. Choosing between the places to go can be a heart-breaking task indeed J

Have you missed previous stops on or tour around Wales? Use the links below to see where we have been before:

Ogmore-by-Sea Review Part 1: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea/
Ogmore-by-Sea Review Part 2: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/one-castle-a-day-ogmore-by-sea-part-two/
Saundersfoot in 20 clicks: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/saundersfoot-in-20-clicks/
Barrafundle Bay in 30 clicks: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/barafundle-bay-in-30-clicks/
Broadhaven South in 27 clicks: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/broadhaven-south-in-27-clicks/
St Govan’s Chapel: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/one-castle-a-day-st-govans-chapel/

All right, our last destination was the St Govan’s Chapel – beautiful, tiny place of worship near the village of Bosherton. The chapel is located at Castlemartin Fining Range, a piece of land now owned by Ministry of Defense that once belonged to the posh landowners, the Earls of Cawdor. Castlemartin is worth visiting for its breathtaking sights and truly impressive limestone cliffs but it also has a rich history. Interested? Follow us!

Have you ever wondered where the name Castlemartin came from? If you think it’s a combination of two words “castle” and “martin”, you are very close. The village built on a sandstone peninsula was founded around 5th or 6th century. It had an impressive motte-and bailey castle erected by Norman and Scandinavian invaders in the 11th century and large farms that supplied food for local residents and Marcher Lords. The castle didn’t survive to our times but the remains can be seen even today. They are quite extensive and measure 70m x 60m. Well preserved remains of a ring-bank and remnants of the outer ditch can also be located. Amateur archaeologists will be delighted to know that Normans have used foundation of an earlier building to create the castle, probably an Iron Age Roman fort.

Excellent photographs of the castle remains can be found here:

http://map.coflein.gov.uk/index.php?action=do_details&numlink=305415&cache_name=cG5tcnNuYW1lLGhhZm9kIGNvcHBlcndvcmtzX3NlYXJjaHR5cGUsYWR2YW5jZWQ

The village grew steadily around the castle and in the 13th century a Catholic church dedicated to St Martin has been added to the community. Within few years, the village became known as the Martel Castell, the Castle of St Martin, or Castlemartin for short. The church is still standing and has been renovated in the 19th century thanks to the generous donations by the Cawdor family. Today the parish is known as St Michael and All Angels. There is a different church also known as St Michael and All Angels in Stackpole. In Wales things just cannot be simple! We haven’t seen the churches yet, but next time we are in Pembroke, Rita is going to photograph them from every angle. You have her word for that.

Once again, please visit the website of Royal Commission on the ancient and historical monuments of Wales. This excellent site offers the best and most accurate information on almost any listed building in Pembrokshire:
http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/308940/details/ST+MICHAEL’S+CHURCH,+CASTLEMARTIN/

Castlemartin nowadays is a sleepy village that offers good BB accommodation to tourists and climbing enthusiasts. It may not be impressive but not many people realize that it is one of few remaining places in Wales that has been entirely English-speaking for the last 900 years or more.

We have mentioned in our previous entry that Castlemartin Training Range has been established in 1939, just before the start of WW2 as a place where the British Army and fleet could train undetected. This remote coastal location was perfect for this goal and Ministry of Defense used every possible legal trick to take the land away from the noble family. The range covers 2,390 hectares and 12 nautical miles off the coast. It consists of two parts: Range East available to tourists (this is where St Govan’s Chapel is located) and Range West that is closed off to visitors and you need a special permission to enter. The permission is granted quite often these days and many organized climbing groups come here to conquer some of the most impressive limestone walls. We have seen several red metal climbing poles on Range East but we didn’t have the chance to see the climbers in action. Rita is secretly planning to team up with some local climbing expedition and go with them to take some pictures – we tell you it will be some truly magnificent photo-session. If you’d like to enter Range West, be prepared for a 40 minute military style briefing about security and safety! Here’s another very interested link and several times when the briefing will be held in 2015: https://www.thebmc.co.uk

Range West is known for its wonderful fauna (you can spot rare wild orchids there as well) but Range East is also very interesting. There is an old training ground used by military personnel, tanks and vehicles during the war, Cold War helicopter landing pads made out of stone, antishelters, bunkers and even small rail tracks for heavy cannons. Urban legends mention that several secret weapons were tested in those shelters but the data is classified and nobody knows anything for sure. Our guide has mentioned several big transmitters and radars being created here in 1950’s and 1960 but majority of them went out of use before our birth and what remains are the stone pillars and bare foundations. Those who like reading about military equipment will be delighted to know that Range East is considered unique and is preserved for its historical and educational value. An excellent article about the can be found here: http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1qcir/PembrokeshireMilitar/resources/15.htm

Here are our favourites pictures from the Castlemartin Range tour:

1.

Castlemartin Range

Castlemartin Range

2.

View from the top

View from the top

3.

Castlemartin Range near the St Gowan's Chapel

Castlemartin Range near the St Gowan’s Chapel

4.

High Cliffs

High Cliffs

5.

Beach below with a sharp rock knowns as The Beacon or The Lighthouse

Beach below with a sharp rock known as The Beacon or The Lighthouse

6.

Closer look at The Beacon

Closer look at The Beacon

7.

Large beach at the other side of the Range

Large stone beach at the other side of the Range

8.

Red climbing post near the old bunkers

Red climbing post near the old bunkers

9.

Stone circles - they were used as a practice targets for military planes

Stone circles – they were used as a practice targets for military planes

10.

Closer look at the circles, this one was made in early 1960's

Closer look at the circles, this one was made in early 1960’s

11.

Don't look down!

Don’t look down!

12.

Old bunkers from The Cold War era are not longer used by the military and their entrances have been bricked up.

Old bunkers from Cold War era are not longer used by the military and their entrances have been bricked up.

13.

Castlemartin Range information board for the tourists. The range is closed for 44 weeks a year

Castlemartin Range information board for the tourists. The range is closed for 44 weeks a year

14.

Long ravine with derelict train tracks

Long ravine with derelict train tracks

15.

Old navigation station is actually still operational and is being used to monitor the weather conditions alongside the Pembroke coast

Old navigation station is actually still operational and is being used to monitor the weather conditions alongside the Pembroke coast

16.

Rockly plateau is now home to hundreds of rabbits

Rocky plateau is now home to hundreds of rabbits

17.

The magnificient coastline looks splendid in the sun

The magnificent coastline looks splendid in the sun

18.

Cracked stone surface crates mini lakes and rock pools

Cracked stone surface crates mini lakes and rock pools

19.

It may look nice and calm, but the ocean is very dangerous around the range with many hidden vortexes and strong currents

It may look nice and calm, but the ocean is very dangerous around the range with many hidden vortexes and strong currents

You want to know more? Look no further, we have selected the best websites to give you more information about the subject:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castlemartin_Training_Area
http://www.milfordmarina.com/castlemartin-range-1/
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/castlemartin-firing-notice–2
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/27471/Castlemartin.pdf
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/43344/dte_info_leaflet_pembroke.pdf
http://www.pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk/website/m/enjoy/mEnjoy00.asp?a=106

http://cy.nationaltrail.co.uk/pembrokeshire-coast-path/blog/national-trail-officers-survey-7-castlemartin-range-trail

And if you meed something extra: A great info about the range – print the map if you want to discover all roads and walking trails – castlemartin_range_trail

We are leaving Castlemartin behind and moving onto something bigger and better (in our humble opinion of course). The last stop on our Tour de Wales will be the lovely town of Pembroke. If you haven’t seen the grand castle there, you haven’t seen the beauty and splendor of medieval Wales!

Return soon
XXX
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz

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