Marloes Peninsula

Marloes Peninsula

 

Martin’s Haven is a small bay in Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK. It is located on the Dale Peninsula, with views across St Bride's Bay towards St David's. Its tiny pebble and shingle beach has a stone slipway which acts as an embarkation point for the ferry which visits the nearby island of Skomer, a national nature reserve, during summer. Martin’s Haven lies within the Skomer Marine Conservation Zone and is popular for scuba diving. Grey seals can be seen basking on the rocks. The land is owned by the National Trust.

There is a short but spectacular walk around the end of the Marloes Peninsula. Classified as moderate and dog friendly, it is one mile long and will take about 30 minutes. Start at Martin's Haven car park.

At the far end of the car park go through the gate on your left and follow the path along the field edge behind Rath Cottage. Follow the path round the coastline of the deer park, enjoying the views of the off-shore islands. Skokholm lies to the south (on your left), and Grassholm with its gannets is on the horizon. The treacherous waters of Jack Sound lie between the deer park and Midland Isle. If it's not too breezy, sit for a while and watch the seabirds.

Welsh mountain ponies graze the deer park to keep this important habitat in good condition (although they are probably not aware that is why they are doing it). The rocky bays below the cliffs are used by seals. Look out for seal pups in late summer and autumn. About 50 Atlantic grey seal pups are born each year on the beaches around the peninsula. You can view them from the cliff top without disturbing them.

Turn right and walk inland crossing the park with the coastguard hut on your left. The coastguard hut is now an active coastwatch point operated by the National Coastwatch Institute. Enjoy the views - this is a great place for a picnic on a sunny day. At the far corner of the deer park is Wooltack Point with spectacular views across St Bride's Bay.

Follow the path along the top of the ramparts of the 3000 years old Iron Age coastal fort. At the bottom of the valley you can see the Skomer Marine Conservation Zone information centre and there are also toilets. Across the valley is the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales' visitor centre, Lockley Lodge. Follow the path back and return towards the car park.

 

Skomer

Skomer (Welsh: Ynys Sgomer) is an island off the coast of Pembrokeshire in west Wales. It is well known for its wildlife: around half the world's population of Manx shearwaters nest on the island, the Atlantic puffin colony is the largest in southern Britain, and the Skomer vole (a subspecies of the bank vole) is unique to the island. It is also known for its archeological interest: stone circles, standing stone and remains of prehistoric houses. Skomer is a national nature reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area. Much of the island has also been designated an ancient monument. It is surrounded by a marine nature reserve and is managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. There is now a hostel on the island so visitors can remain on Skomer after day trippers have taken the boat home.

The volcanic rocks of which Skomer is comprised date from the Silurian period around 440 million years ago. A series of basalts, rhyolites, felsites, keratophyres, mugearite and associated sedimentary rocks (quartzites, etc.) are grouped together as the 'Skomer Volcanic Series'. The series which is up to 1000m thick also includes trachyte, dolerite and skomerite which is an altered andesite. Basalt is the most common component of this sequence; some of it appears as pillow lava indicating that it was erupted under water. Other basalt flows show signs of contemporary sub-aerial weathering.

This same suite of rocks can also be traced eastwards on the mainland along the northern side of the Marloes peninsula and extends almost as far east as St Ishmael's. The entire sequence on Skomer dips between 15° and 25° to the south-southeast. It is cut by several faults, notably those responsible for the erosion of the inlets of North Haven and South Haven. A NW-SE aligned fault stretches between Bull Hole and South Haven, offsetting the strata on either side. Skomer was cut off from the mainland by rising sea levels after the last Ice Age.

There is evidence of human occupation—field boundaries and settlement remains—dating back to the Iron Age. The Skomer Island Project, run jointly by the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales (RCAHMW) with archaeologists from the University of Sheffield and Cardiff University, started in 2011, investigates the island's prehistoric communities. Airborne laser scanning together with ground excavations continued in 2016 and established that human settlement dates back 5,000 years. Rabbits were introduced in the 14th century and their burrows and grazing have had a profound effect on the island landscape.

It was last permanently inhabited by the Codd family (all year round) in 1950. After the Second World War, the owner had offered the West Wales Field Society, now The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, the opportunity to make a survey of Skomer which was accepted and Skomer opened for visitors from April 1946. The farm buildings in the centre of the island, now housing visitor accommodation, were refurbished in 2005. David Saunders MBE was in 1960 the first warden of Skomer.

Skomer is best known for its large breeding seabird population, including Manx shearwaters, guillemots, razorbills, great cormorants, black-legged kittiwakes, Atlantic puffins, European storm-petrels, common shags, Eurasian oystercatchers and gulls, as well as birds of prey including short-eared owls, common kestrels and peregrine falcons. The island is also home to grey seals, common toads, slow-worms, a breeding population of glow-worms and a variety of wildflowers. Harbour porpoises occur in the surrounding waters. The Skomer vole, a sub-species of bank vole, is endemic to the island.

Atlantic puffin. There are around 10,000 breeding pairs of puffins on Skomer and Skokholm Islands, making them one of the most important puffin colonies in Britain. They arrive in mid-April to nest in burrows, many of which have been dug by the island's large rabbit population. The last puffins leave the island by the second or third week in July. They feed mainly on small fish and sand eels; often puffins can be seen with up to a dozen small eels in their beaks. After a period of declining numbers between the 1950s and 1970s, the size of the colony is growing again at 1–2% a year. By 2004, there were numerous puffin burrows on the island and adults flying back with food run across the walkways oblivious to the tourists.

Manx shearwater. An estimated 310,000 pairs of Manx shearwater breed on Skomer, with around 40,000 pairs on the "sister" island Skokholm. These colonies jointly comprise around half the world population and make the islands the world's most important breeding site for the species. The birds usually nest in rabbit burrows, a pair reportedly using the same burrow year after year.

Shearwaters are not easy to see as they come and go at dusk, but a closed-circuit television camera in one of the burrows allows subterranean nesting activity to be seen on the screen in Lockley Lodge on the mainland at Martin's Haven. The remains of shearwaters killed by the island's population of great black-backed gulls can also be seen. An overnight stay in the hostel run by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales allows guests to hear and see the shearwaters.

The Manx shearwater has a remarkable life. After fledging the young birds migrate to the South Atlantic off the coasts of Brazil and Argentina. They remain there at sea for five years before returning to breed on their natal island. On their return they navigate back to within a few metres of the burrow in which they were born. As they are ungainly and vulnerable on the land, they leave their burrows at dawn for the fishing grounds some fifty kilometres north out in the Irish Sea, not returning until dusk. Thus they attempt to avoid the gulls to which they would fall easy prey.

Skomer has one unique mammal: the Skomer vole (Myodes glareolus skomerensis), a distinct form of the bank vole. The lack of land-based predators on the island means that the bracken habitat is an ideal place for the vole, with the population reaching around 20,000 during the summer months. Then the resident short-eared owls may be seen patrolling the areas close to the farmhouse in the centre of the island for voles to feed their young.

Boats sail to Skomer from Martin's Haven on the mainland, a sheltered 10-minute trip every day except Monday (Bank Holiday Mondays excepted) from April to October between 10am and noon (actual times may vary). Return sailings are from 3pm but the boatman will advise on the day. There are limits on the number of people allowed to visit the island (250 per day). Advance booking is not permitted and reservations are strictly on a first come, first served basis at Lockley Lodge in Martin's Haven and long queues can develop early each morning.

Areas open for visitor access are restricted to pathways. The Neck, an eastern area connected only by a narrow isthmus, is entirely out of bounds to visitors. In 2005–06, there was a renovation project of the farm buildings which included the old barn for improved overnight visitor and research accommodation, the volunteers' quarters were rebuilt and the warden's house at North Haven was also rebuilt. Solar power provides hot water and electricity for lighting. Self-catering visitor accommodation is now available from April to October.

AUDIO Playlist

Marloes Deer Park - 5.30

Skomer Marine Conservation - 9.29

Skomer Island Wildlife - 9.40

 

Assistance dogs are welcome as are dogs on a leash. Access is not easy for the disabled. There are toilets available along the walk which is an uneven cliff top path, mostly short grazed turf. Disabled access is limited for the walk. Please seek advice about the suitability of wheelchairs.

 

Location : Marloes Peninsula, Pembrokeshire, SA62

Transport : Haverford West (National Rail) 12 miles OR Milford Haven (National Rail) 9 miles. Bus Routes : Service 400 Puffin Shuttle, from St David's to Marloes Haven.

Opening Times : Daily, Dawn till Dusk

Tickets : Free.

Tel : 01437 720385