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A tail of a walk in Nevern

Pembrokeshire Tourism - Monday, April 01, 2019

A tail of a walk in Nevern

As we drove into Nevern, a village in north Pembrokeshire, the daffodils were gleaming and the sun was shining in a clear blue sky. We parked near Nevern Church and I waited for my owner to let me out. ‘It’s a beautiful day for a picnic,’ she said, as she put my lead on. I jumped out of the car and had a look around. The first interesting thing I saw was a stone structure near the entrance to the churchyard. It had five steps going up one side, a flat top and five steps going down the other side. I tugged at my lead and padded over to it. I walked up the steps and sat down. Apparently this is a mounting block which was used by the gentry to get on and off their horses. I lifted my nose up, sniffed the air with a nonchalant disdain and waited for a horse to arrive. But none was forthcoming. ‘Come on,’ said my owner, ‘let’s have a walk in the churchyard’.

The original church on this site was founded by a pilgrim called Brynach in 540 A.D. But as we walked in I made a point of first looking up at the tower because this is the earliest part of the church which exists today, having been built in 1380. The chancel and nave were built between 1420 and 1450, during an architectural period known as the late Perpendicular, which is characterised by vertical lines. And you thought I spent all my time reading only dog magazines.

Either side of the path leading to the church is an avenue of yew trees.  We stepped off the path to have a look at the second tree on the right. This is known as the Bleeding Yew because of the red liquid which oozes from its side. There are lots of myths and legends as to what causes this phenomenon. But it is probably rainwater seeping out which has been coloured red by the dead heartwood at the centre of the tree. The churchyard has some very old monuments including a 10th century Celtic Cross and also the so-called Vitialanus Stone from the 5th or 6th century. There were plenty of interesting smells in the churchyard which was not surprising as there are many different types of flowers - a survey in the 1980’s identified 147 different species.

My owner thought it best not to take me into the church although we met a couple who came out and they said there were lots of interesting things to see inside and also helpful information booklets. We walked out of the churchyard and my owner sat on a bench by the mounting block watching the stream flow by just below us.

After a while I was beginning to feel a bit hungry and was happy when my owner said: ‘Let’s get the picnic from the car.’ We went over and she took out her bag which I knew included some of my favourite chews as well as her sandwiches. I started to tug her back towards the bench, but she said, ‘No, we’re going to eat at the castle’. Castle? What castle? Next thing I knew we started to walk up the steep road which goes out of the village.

We hadn’t gone far when we saw a sign off to the left, saying, ‘Pilgrim’s Cross’. ‘Let’s have a look’, said my owner. She obviously wasn’t as hungry as me. Anyway, about twenty-five yards along this path we came to a cross about three feet high which was carved in the rock. At its base we could see that the rock had worn away where people had knelt. They would stop here before going on westwards to St Davids. But we walked back to the road and continued up the hill. Eventually we came to a gate on the right with room for a couple of cars to park. We walked through and read the information sign about the castle. But I couldn’t see a castle anywhere. 

We walked down the path with a sort of pond on our right and a big hill behind it. Then the path curved up to the right and the full site came into view. The main grassy area had a large motte in the far corner. My owner let me off the lead and I ran up the steps to the top of the motte and explored the remains of the round tower. Today it is only two or three feet high. Its structure is unusual, being made out of slate which was bound together with clay. The first castle, made of earth and timber, had been built around 1108 by the Anglo-Norman lord, Robert Fitzmartin. It was later replaced with stone structures, including the tower.

I ran back down to my owner who had sat down at one of the picnic benches and was eating her sandwiches. When I had eaten a couple of chews I ran off again, this time to explore a rocky outcrop where the inner castle had once been. I sniffed around on the top and in the rock-cut ditch below. I even spotted some chisel marks left by the workmen all those centuries ago.

After more exploring I heard my owner calling me. It was time to make our way back to the village. As we left the castle site I decided that I would definitely add it to my list of favourite places in Pembrokeshire.

Note: This blog is part of a series written for the Visit Dog Friendly Pembrokeshire Project. The project has received funding via the Tourism Product Innovation Fund (TPIF) supported through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government, the Fund aims to encourage new innovative product ideas working in partnership which will have a greater impact and attract more visitors.

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