Caldey Island has been inhabited since the Stone Age, and has been home to various orders of monks since Celtic times. It is now owned by monks of the Cistercian Order, whose picturesque monastery overlooks the Village Green and the pretty cottages of the islanders.
Small pastel coloured houses, perched high on the cliff top, watched us, as we left Tenby in a small boat, headed for Caldey Island.
With few inhabitants other than the closed order of Cistercian monks, Caldey Island has a chocolate factory, a lighthouse, a tea room, a perfumery and gift shop. As we arrived the tide was out and a huge shard of sand pierced the sea. We could see driftwood and more beach abstracts as we set off at a pace to explore the island. There were huge jellyfish on the beach and we were unsure whether they were dead or alive. Wild orchids grew on the sand hills and with the sun shining it felt like we had been abandoned on a magical deserted island. We climbed the steep slope to the lighthouse where Diane found an artist capturing the scene and I sat quietly admiring the view. We explored the old abbey and spent at least an hour taking multiple exposures of rusty old machinery. Caldey Island is a truly beautiful place and I can see why people would wish to enjoy a quiet retreat there.
As we boarded the boat back to Tenby the sea was much rougher and whilst I enjoyed the swell others clearly didn’t. The artist Diane had watched and photographed travelled back with us and kept moving his picture to avoid the spray.
We enjoyed exploring Tenby which seemed much more able to cater for tourists than Milford Haven. There was a bandstand, an imposing statue of Prince Albert and a stunning view wherever we stood. We also enjoyed a great Thai meal at the Coach and Horses where, allegedly, Dylan Thomas once got so drunk he left the manuscript of ‘Under Milkwood’ on a stool in the bar. ( I suspect this story is told in every pub in Tenby and Swansea)
Before returning to Milford Haven we returned to Freshwater West beach for one more attempt at shooting a sunset. Once again I struggled to get my settings right, but the sunset was lovely and this time we found solid sand! We rushed back to Milford Haven with the aim of capturing the lights on the oil refinery. Diane got some great pictures but I became far too absorbed in how to get the Olympus to display the long exposure as it was taking the picture! It was a case of technology distracting the photographer!
Whilst eating our very ordinary breakfast on the last day, Diane checked once more to see if the boat was going to Skomer Island. It was with a mouthful of tea and shock that she proclaimed the wind had dropped and it was definitely going. We rushed like mad to pay our bill, pack our suitcases into the car before heading off at speed towards Martin’s Haven. We hoped to get there just in time to book a place on one of the three boats that stop at Skomer. Negotiating the narrow lanes when you are in a total rush is very frustrating. There were tractors and coaches and 4 by 4’s all trying to get somewhere in the opposite direction and all thought they had the right of way! As we finally parked up at 9.30, Diane ran to the booking office as if her life depended on it, but sadly the last ticket had been sold ten minutes earlier. Disappointed we decided to head home. Diane drove while I tried to look for somewhere interesting to stop on the way back.
Like it was for many who grew up in the town of Port Talbot, the dystopian mesh of pipes, turrets, chimneys and constant smoke was considered a viable career prospect and, for some, a certainty – a safe bet.
Blood, Sweat and Steel: Life in and out of the steel works – David Burgess
In the distance we could see smoke and a stunning landscape of metalwork and chimneys as Port Talbot steelworks revealed itself to us. Both excited by the photographic opportunities we approached the security gate to ask if we could take pictures. The security guard said we would have to contact the media office. We got back into the car and decided to find public land to shoot from instead. We stood on the edge of a busy road, lay down on a grass verge and waited for cars to pass before eventually making our way down to the beach for a different angle. The wind blew, smoke billowed and once again tiny people appeared on the beach. We shot multiple exposures, single exposures to layer later and thoroughly enjoyed the views and the photography. It was a far cry from puffins, but there is always next year if we are lucky!