The Black Mud of Sandy Haven

As a teenager in Milford Haven, my old grannie Newman worried about my roaming about looking at rocks in strange places as this was regarded as rather bizarre behaviour. She was always afraid of Sandy Haven tidal inlet and warned me never to go there. The reason was she explained that in the old days (meaning the early 20th century) there used to be a horse and trap service between Milford and Dale. Before her marriage she was a Phillips and she used to visit her relatives in a cottage on the roadside just as one approaches Dale. The cottage has gone now but a few remain nearby. The cottage overlooked the bay and beach at Pickleridge and was distinct because the family had a collection of 11 ships wooden figure heads in the garden that they had collected from Pickleridge beach after storms. The old road did not follow the routes used today but part of the old road can still be driven from Herbrandston village. Just past the school heading for Dale is a small turning to the left which is a cul-de-sac ending on the shores of Sandy Haven tidal inlet. A few people go there to walk their dogs in the upper part of the tidal creek and others to fly tip. There is an overgrown crumbling lime kiln and the remains of a small stone spring that is being vandalised today although the fresh water continues to flow. This is the old road and it crossed directly over the tidal creek and resumes on the other side as a rather muddy overgrown unsurfaced lane.

The old spring there is of interest as the small community of Sandy Haven in the 19th century used it as their source of drinking water. They would row there in dinghies at high tide to fill their water containers and return by boat across the creek to Sandy Haven. Much later drinking water was piped to Sandy Haven. The crossing of the tidal creek at this point is direct and usually straightforward on sand. However on the Milford side just before reaching the middle, there is an area of soft black mud. Sometimes it is covered with sand. My grandmother reported that one day the horse and trap from Milford was crossing the tidal inlet and became stuck in the black mud. It could not be removed and both the trap and horse sank into the mud and were lost. I guess they are still there today.

The old Victorian days of fear of the environment are long past and today people assisted by all sorts of later inventions now greatly enjoy the outdoors. Children are taught to swim in indoor heated swimming pools. Most visitors have wet suites to overcome the cold water. Surfboards turn rough seas into pleasure. Kayaks, water scooters, fibre glass sailing dinghies, kayaks and motorboats now safely patrol the waters. A few years ago there was even a young lady from Pembrokeshire who successfully wind surfed from Ireland to Pembrokeshire. So my family learned to enjoy and grew to like the tidal creek.

One day a fairly large group of us including our children and some of their friends brought to Wales had been on a walk up the creek to visit the wooden remains of the old quarantine wreck of World War I. It was a hot day and as we walked back I stayed on the Milford side intending to cross over the foot bridge. The teenage boys with me would not do this and decided to walk back directly down the middle of the creek. Our youngest daughter Alice then aged about five insisted on following the boys. I explained that there was a patch sticky black mud out there and she had to be careful. Sure enough the boys ended up in the mud but managed to get out easily. Alice unfortunately had never met mud before and promptly fell over on her face in it. There was a terrible wail and this small black muddy figure stood up. We all ran to her assistance and I carried her to the stream in the middle and washed her down. But she had had a fright and was inconsolable. Eventually I wrote a children’s story for her about the event and we still talk about it today.

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