Foundation stones lie in a circle unmoved and half buried in the grass*
Beyond the Whitesands Bay car park lies an apparently barren headland. In sturdy walking boots, we tracked away from the car up the narrow, but well-worn, path to St David’s Head.
I had learned that for thousands of years, man had trodden this way to a place described in 1793 as ‘most suited to retirement, contemplation and Druidical mysteries.’ Perhaps the oak groves, long gone now, helped. Today, the headland is bare for except for low stubby heather, grass and yellow-flecked gorse. All around the blue-grey sea pounds the rocks below.
There are stones large and small everywhere. It takes a sharp eye to spot Arthur’s quoit. A large capstone angled onto a stubby rough pillar, stands unannounced and anonymous. Any bodies departed long ago.
Alongside my wife, I walked on the cold January day, breathing crisp cold air and wondering how Neolithic man survived in such a place, for we know it was a settlement. A warriors fort – clawdd y milwyr – Baring Gould termed it during his excavations in 1899 on account of the rampart of boulders mounded into a defensive wall and the six circular stone huts whose foundation stones lie in a circle unmoved and half buried in the grass*. The habitation or fort had a long life for pieces of iron and glass beads have been discovered among the tools of new stone age man.
We walked on after admiring the mile-distant view of St David’s golf course with its undulating green sward and men – blacks dots- standing around in groups of four.
Carn Llidli beckoned high above us. Its rocky slopes throwing off the gorse at its highest and steepest points to shine white in the sunlight. In World War One, a submarine hydrophone listening station stood here. Today, only a concrete base crumbling at the edges like a giant cheese nibbled by mice remains. An old tarmac and concrete track leads to two rusty columns six feet high. The last signs of the World War Two radar station stand proudly upright.
We tramped cheerfully downhill along the old road built for the military installations to Upper Porthmawr Farm and Tân y Garn. Porthmawr Farm’s new whitewash gleamed in the sunlight ready to impress any new arrival, while the smaller Tân y Garn, a former cattle shed, looked pleased with its pointed stonewalls and double-glazed windows in openings where once cows breathed Pembrokeshire’s salty air.
Down the private road onto the public road and into the car park, we strode with the prospect of a cup of coffee in the new (2004) cafe.
We had come full circle. I wondered what the former inhabitants, who must have made the same journey countless times from the Neolithic period through the bronze to the iron age and finally the last millennium, would have thought of the state of the place today.