About Pembrokeshire – Britain’s only coastal National Park

The Preseli Venture eco lodge is located deep in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.  Pembrokeshire has a truly inspirational coast, which in 2010 was voted the second in National Geographics ‘top rated coastal destinations’ feature.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, established in 1952, is the UK’s only coastal National Park. At 230 square miles it’s also one of the UK’s smallest National Parks, and it is certainly one of the longest, taking in 180 miles of the Pembrokeshire coastline as well as all of it’s offshore islands.

See the gallery for more Pembrokeshire pictures.

Much of the coastline consists of natural cliffs, broken up by Wales’ most beautiful sandy beaches and small picturesque rocky coves.

The Preseli Venture eco lodge sits nestled in a green valley, just up from the secluded beach at Abermawr. Abermawr is a beautiful sandy beach, and is just a 10 minute walk from the eco lodge.  This walk takes you through beautiful National Trust woodland, which is carpeted with bluebells in April and May.

Our nearest village is Mathry, a small and friendly Welsh village on a hilltop, commanding impressive views of the Preseli Hills.   Here you’ll also find our local – the Farmers Arms pub.

If you stand on top of the ancient Preseli Hills, source of the “bluestones” of Stonehenge, you will see spread about you one of Britain’s most beautiful and magical landscapes. The north Pembrokeshire peninsular thrusts out into the Atlantic Ocean, at the southern end of the Irish Sea, an area thankfully left unspoilt by the ravages of industrial society. The ancient iron-age field enclosures are still remaining, as are the neolithic burial chambers and the bronze-age standing stones. Hedge-rows covered with wildflowers and supporting a rich and diverse wildlife criss-cross the area. A Pilgrim’s route, which leads to St. Davids cathedral, drops down from the hills and here you can enter the hidden Gwaun Valley, thick with ancient oak woodland, and maybe pause for a jug of beer, noted for its unusual properties, in Bessie’s pub.

Continuing on to the mouth of the Gwaun, it’s possible to paddle out of the Bay in a kayak and drift with the tide around Strumble Head lighthouse. Here you’ll find places where “wreckers” would bring ships in on the rocks using false lights, to plunder their cargo. This part of the coastline is renowned for its seal colonies, and habitats along the high cliffs where razorbills and guillemots, the rare chough and beautiful peregrine falcon breed. On a lucky day you could even see porpoise and dolphin swimming close in-shore in the clean waters.

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park – Flora and Fauna

Preseli Venture is situated right in the heart of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, on the wild and rugged north Pembrokeshire coast. Situated just 5 miles from Fishguard town and Harbour, for the Irish Sea crossing to Rosslare county Wexford, the Pencaer peninsular extends northwards with Strumble Head at its apex.

Pembrokeshire is internationally renowned for its plant and animal life and due to its position at a kind of ecological crossroads; it is the farthest west on the fringe of the European landmass marking the western limit for many land animals, while the Atlantic Ocean coastal waters are the eastern limit of many aquatic species. Again, this area is the most northerly point reached by many marine creatures dependent on the warm waters of the Gulf Stream that lap around these southern British shores, and the most southerly place in which several Arctic species of fish and sea birds are to be found. The coastal zone from Abereiddy, 5 miles west of Preseli Venture, to Fishguard Bay, 5 miles to the east, incorporates superbly rich and varied coastal habitats and wildlife.

The Pembrokeshire climate is very mild, remaining largely frost-free and with relatively long daylight hours, and low rainfall along the coast.

Conservation

Pembrokeshire contains one of the highest densities of protected environmental sites in the UK and the only Marine Nature Reserve in Wales. The National Park is aided in its bid to protect this environment by a number of bodies. Parts of the coast have been designated as Heritage Coast, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and Special Protection Areas (SPA). In addition the National Trust owns large areas of the local coast including the Abermawr valley right on our doorstep. This pristine wooded valley and wetland habitat leading down to Abermawr beach is home to badgers, foxes, otters, specialist wetland plants and bountiful wild flowers. We call it the “bluebell woods” and to enjoy this natural blue carpet visit us in April-May.

Birds

The Pembrokeshire coastline is home to a wide variety of seabirds. Guillemots and razorbills are members of the auk family and they nest on rocky ledges on the high sea cliffs from March to July. Cormorants and shags, prolific fish-feeders due to their ability to swim underwater, and the noisy oystercatcher are often seen on the lower cliff slopes of the coast. Kittiwakes and fulmars, with their dramatic straight wings, also nest on grassy cliff ledges and along the shore rock pippits flit among the rocks. The rare chough nests in holes and crevices on the cliff and feeds on insects on the grassy cliff-tops. Ravens can often be seen from the coast path, and often you’ll hear skylarks with their beautiful song!

There are two birds that may only occasionally be seen on this stretch of coast, but are hugely important in the National Park area and if you’re lucky you may get a sighting of them during your adventures. The first is the impressive white gannet with its huge wingspan, of which there are 30,000 breeding pairs on Grassholm island, 15 miles off the coast. Gannets can often be seen passing by on summer evenings as they return to their colony after a day out fishing. The second bird is the colourful puffin, again a brilliant underwater swimmer, which burrows on Skomer island and the rocky islet of North Bishop.

Birds of prey haunt the cliff tops too, with peregrine falcons diving at incredible speeds upon their prey. Buzzards are seen up high, often bombarded by crows, and kestrels and sparrow-hawks hover low over the grassy slopes and inland hedgebanks.

Cetaceans

Cetaceans, the collective word for whales, dolphins and porpoises, can be seen along the coast, particularly off headlands such as Strumble Head. From Strumble Head it is possible to observe bottle-nosed dolphins and the smaller harbour porpoise swimming past the headland. Other larger cetaceans, such as the fin whale, basking shark and bottle-nosed whale, are found further offshore with occasional sightings close to land.

Grey Seals

Seals are our most sighted sea mammal and they gather and breeds around the rocky shores, inaccessible coves, sea caves and rocky islands from summer to autumn. There are over 5000 individual Atlantic grey seals around the Pembrokeshire Coast and islands. The largest population is on Ramsey Island off the St David’s peninsular, and the highest number of mainland animals are found here, in our “playground” between St David’s Head and Fishguard.

These playful, inquisitive creatures and their pups are a joy to see on our coastal adventures, but care must be taken to avoid disturbing the white beach-bound pups and their mothers who suckle their young for the first 3 weeks. Once weaned, the pups moult their white coat and then venture into the sea to start fishing for themselves. Seals are amazing divers and can remain below the surface for up to 30 minutes.

Wildflowers and Lichens

From March to July wild flowers appear in a beautiful colourful succession on the coastal slopes and inland hedgebanks (stone walls covered in earth banks). The most common are spring-squill, sea campion, pink campion, kidney vetch and rock samphire. These plants flourish in the salt-laden winds and clean air, as does the community of lichens and mosses which pattern the rock surfaces all along the coast.

Bordering the lanes and in the wooded valleys close to the coast, primroses, lesser celandine, pink campion, lesser stitchwort and foxgloves bloom, as well as the beautiful bluebells, particularly found in the Abermawr woods and coastal area.

Like more information?

Whether it’s myth and magic, culture and history, wildlife and natural world, or adventure and party that you’re after- the North Pembrokeshire coastline has it all. We hope that you enjoy exploring it with us! Please call us on 01348 837709 or contact us for more details of the wildlife you might see on a stay with Preseli Venture