Long time readers will know that we’ve spent a lot of time down Castle Pill Woods with the kids over the years. Since Covid-19 we’d not returned, meaning as in the case with many places we used to go, we found we hadn’t been down there in over a year. We saw from friend’s photos that a new path had been made, making the route more accessible for all, so we decided to return to one of our favourite local woodlands and see the changes for ourselves, take a look:
Castle Pill Woods Circular Walk
When we walk through Castle Pill Woods, we tend to walk into the woods, let the kids play for a while, eat and then walk back. However, for those who just want to walk, there is a lovely little circular route you can take through Castle Pill Woods and Blackbridge. Another more frequently walked route is the Blackbridge Circular Walk from Milford Marina, this route begins and ends at Milford Marina, which has free parking, so this may be a preferable route if you’re travelling by car.
For locals, find your way into Castle Pill Woods by walking up the path, just off Steynton Road, which you’ll find in between Bunkers Hill and Mount Pleasant Way, Milford Haven. This used to be just a field but in recent years a pathway from the pavement to the woods has been built. Continue straight ahead and you will come to the new path as you see in the photo above.
As you can see the new path is wider, even and more accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
If you look carefully, you can see the original narrow path below the ditch. They have completely landscaped the original route.
The original path was so beautiful and special. It made for a magical walk. However, it wasn’t accessible for all and it did need a lot of repair work. During every walk, we’d notice more and more of the boardwalk was damaged. We will always have fond memories of this trail. It was so narrow when walking with Toby (dog), he’d often jump off into the shallow water and marshland. When pushing the pram the wheels would only just fit on the path so it was like crossing a tightrope. It was often overgrown and I’d always be covered in scratches and bites but I’ll miss those days!
The end of the original path.
The new path is currently is more functional than beautiful, but I’m sure nature will soon claim it and the woodland will grow alongside, welcoming the track into these woods and one day people will walk the new route thinking it’s the only walkway that has ever been there.
The new path only goes so far. I think there are plans to keep extending it and I will keep you all updated. If you can’t manage the unstable path, turn back when you need to. This part of the woods is often muddy too so wear wellies, old trainers or boots.
Ceri had sent us a quick scavenger hunt to complete during our walk and leaf was one of the items. Of course, there were lots of leaves (more than 100, Jo! Sorry private joke!) so I tried to find interesting ones.
We also had to find a feather.
When the kids were younger and we’d come down here to while away whole days during the Summer Holidays, we’d often set them Scavenger Hunts or Nature Trails to keep them amused. When you run out of ideas ask them to set the next task, they love having the chance to challenge the grown ups.
Myrtle Community Association‘s objective is to “sensitively manage and continue to develop the community woodland scheme and carry out related conservation activities in the interests of education, health and well-being.
Dead Man’s Lake
The girls had run through the woods ahead but we found them sitting on a bench, enjoying the view of the “Dead Man’s Lake” pond. It is said that about a century ago, in Cwm, a human skull was found with an iron ball in it, and this pond was found to be deeply tinged with the blood of the victim, thereby getting the name Dead Man’s Lake.
The fish was put there by the local Beaver’s pack. It was all water at the time. When the water is high, we have seen people kayak in here before. Danny has in the past.
The wood carving signs were made by the talented Dave from Animality. Sadly, I don’t think all five original signs remain but correct me if I’m wrong.
There is a lot of wildlife within the pond.
The Grass Covered Shelters
Sadly, one of the Grass Covered “Roundhouse” Shelters was found to be down on the ground. I know it’s safer for it to be down if it’s damaged. It would be amazing if a project could come together and rebuild these again. We never used to come to this one so much as we preferred the one on the lower path next to the stream, but it was used by others.
This walk is popular with dog walkers as it’s a lovely walk. These dogs running towards us just epitomised happiness.
Remember, as the sign, says (and as a common courtesy), to always take your dog poo home!
We were relieved to see that our beloved shelter was still there, just no longer grass-covered. I’m hoping this is because they’re repairing it and it will be re-seeded again in the future. It looks bare!
How it used to look, in all its green grass glory.
The picnic benches remain. Sadly, we didn’t have a picnic. After “not going out” for so long, first I had to get used to going out again (I honestly shook during our first walk around the block!) and I still haven’t got back in the habit of packing for a day out. I keep thinking, bring a flask, bring a picnic (as I would have done without thinking about it in the past) but it seems like an effort I’m not ready for yet. I’m sure I’ll find the energy for picnics soon!
The bridge leading to the shelter has been gone a while. This means it’s not accessible to all. The kids went back and for no problem, they had to hold my hand to get me over the logs safe and dry! If I’d had my Docs on I wouldn’t have had to try and keep my shoes dry. Yes, I’m the kid now!
The rope swing was broken/missing too but the kids still had fun playing in the woods.
The view looking out from the shelter. Just to the left of the girls is a little spring that they used to paddle in when they were younger. It’s fun to bring “pirate coins” or pennies and hide them in the water for them to find too.
Further on there’s another area to explore, but it was boggy during our recent visit.
Then the stream eventually makes its way into the estuary forming almost a beach as that end of the path. As I said earlier often we only walk this far and then return the same way home. However, if you want to continue on the circular walk, read on:
Castle Pill to Blackbridge
To make your way to Blackbridge turn right up the steps. As you can see, unfortunately, this path is not suitable for all but the walk to and from the shelters is lovely on it’s own.
After the steps, the path is sloped and narrow with a high ditch to the side, so take care.
Across the water, there is a Pembrokeshire Coastal Path route which we’re planning to walk soon.
Personally, we never come this way after heavy rain as the steep path is dangerous when muddy and slippy.
The girls trailed ahead and had time to rest on the bank, waiting for us to catch up.
Eventually, you get to Blackbridge. Carefully cross the B4325 and enjoy the view!
When we used to come here with our Nanny and Grampy as children, there were always lots of swans to feed. Dave and I used to spend a lot of time here too while he helped our friend rebuild his boat.
Again, the girls made their own fun. Outdoors, their imagination really comes to life. Of course, you need a shoe on a stick to mark your territory!
Blackbridge has changed a lot in recent years. RNMD Milford Haven is a decommissioned Royal Naval Armaments Depot, at one point one of its old buildings was used as an indoor sports facility where my sister used to attend Pembrokeshire Harriers. They are still going (training outdoors) but I don’t know if there is still a specialised indoor athletics facility in the area anymore, although the gymnastics club moved to Thornton and then to Milford Haven Leisure Centre. There are lots of new houses in this area now.
In the distance, you can see Valero Oil Refinery, formerly Chevron and originally Texaco. In July 1994, there was an explosion and fire at Texaco. It literally shook the whole town. The blast’s shockwave shook windows, doors and damaged properties within a 10-mile radius and was heard up to 40 miles away. Twenty-six were injured but miraculously no lives were lost. It was such a worry for workers and their families at the time. People in this area still ask, “Where were you when Texaco exploded?” I was fourteen years old and sitting eating dinner in the kitchen with my family- Mum, Dad, Grampy, Jo and Ceri. There was a huge bang and our windows caved in and went out again- without smashing! We all looked at each other, wondering what it was. One part of the story that still makes me chuckle is we went outside to check everyone was okay and our lovely next-door neighbour Chris, who is sadly no longer with us, said “Sorry, I think it was T (her husband) as he’s doing something in the garage!” Of course, we discovered he was fine and not to blame at all! Then, I think we must have turned on the radio to find out more. Eventually, it was on the main news, of course. I remember the Rath and streets this side of the water were closed for a while after.
Tragically, on 2 June 2011, there was another explosion, a 730 cubic metre storage tank exploded, killing four refinery workers and seriously injuring a fifth. They were all well-known people in the area, our friends and family, and will always be remembered. There is a memorial statue on the Rath in tribute to all the Pembrokeshire energy workers and commemorating those who have died in service. My thoughts are always with the families affected.
Back to the walk, the girls have a rest in their camp! The rock doesn’t look that comfy!
An interesting looking branch (or witch’s hand!).
The tide was in so we walked across the slipway.
We left Blackbridge “beach” and walked onto Coombes Road. Sometimes there are ponies in the field when we pass in the car but typical we couldn’t see them when we were walking. When I was younger there was a donkey kept there. We used to love seeing it from the alley.
We walked up Coombes Road, unfortunately, the pavement was blocked, a pet hate of mine, especially when out with a pushchair or wheelchair user.
Turn right at the top of Coombes Road and walk up Steynton Road until you return to the start of your walk. It’s a lovely route that you can extend into a day out with the kids by taking lots of picnics and play stops.
Have you walked this route? Have you seen the “new” path yet?
In case you’re interested, here is an old video from a day out at Castle Pill Woods:
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