St David’s Head is not quite the most westerly point of Wales. Located approximately 3 miles northwest of Britain’s smallest city, St David’s is named after David the Patron Saint of Wales whose resting place is St David’s Cathedral.
St David’s Head is reached by travelling to St David’s then following the narrow B4583 to Whitesands Bay. There you join the coastal path. Lots of Davids!
Staff in hand the coastal path follows the cliff just far enough from the edge for me to avoid discomfort. ‘St David’s Head’ is the farthest point on the above image.
Porthmelgan Beach before the final stretch of pathway.
The first thing that struck me as I approached the tip of the peninsula was evidence of a substantial settlement in a past time. I hadn’t read any information about St David’s Head before the visit but my observations were confirmed in the Wikipedia article.
I suspect that in such an exposed area where hardwood was likely difficult to obtain the dwellings would have been constructed with stone and sealed with turf. I’m certain that the inhabitants would have possessed the necessary skill to interlock the stones tightly without any need for a binding material.
According to ‘official sources’ St David died in 589. The question arises at what period was St David’s Head inhabited and by who? The Coetan Arthur burial chamber, which I managed to miss, allegedly dates back to 3000 BC. One thing is certain that these ‘prehistoric characters’ were smart enough to be able to lift a piece of stone that in its current location could only be achieved with the use of a helicopter.
Further research indicates I can be forgiven for missing Coetan Arthur as it is not actually at the tip of the promontory but a few 100 metres back on the opposite side from the path.
It was not possible to see whether the lower area of darker stone was connected to the mainland. Before investigating it seemed appropriate to sit quietly and absorb whatever I was entitled to receive at this magical location.
From left to right, Daufraich, Carreg Rhoson, North Bishop. These belong to a grouping known as the ‘Bishops & Clerks‘
Looking inland, the Coetan Arthur is to the left over the crest. The hill is named ‘Carn Llidi‘ elevation 181m or 594 feet. Apparently with a clear sky it is possible to see Ireland from its summit.
Closer to the edge
Was a good scramble for an old man!
Am not overly fond of cliff edges!
As explained in the previous article, ‘Do pictures speak 1000 words?‘ the surname Edwards is the most frequently occurring in Cardiff, the Welsh capital. My father who was actually born in Scotland, was named David Edwards. His grandfather was a Welsh sea captain who migrated in the late 19th century. My middle name is David.
Part of me is surprised we never visited here given the adventures we made in our Volkswagen camper van between 1968 & 1971. My parents are from a generation that tended to revere science and materialism more that the spiritual dimension. Perhaps that explains why.
The rest of the visit to Wales was a joy. It would have been easy to stay longer. There is something mystical and magical about the place that could take pages to define.
Only today while writing this article did I discover that the place I camped that night, Llan-nan, 60 miles up the coast is named after St David’s mother St Non and is the place traditionally viewed as where St David lived during his childhood.
In the 1870’s Dean Borsch was head of Kars Military Cathedral. In his book ‘Meetings with Remarkable Men’ George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff who was a pupil of the Dean quotes him.
‘In order that at responsible age a man may be a real man and not a parasite, his education must without fail be based on the following ten principles. From early childhood there should be instilled in the child:
Belief in receiving punishment for disobedience
Hope of receiving reward only for merit
Love of God – but indifference to the saints
Remorse of conscience for the ill-treatment of animals
Fear of grieving parents and teachers
Fearlessness towards devils, snakes and mice
Joy in being content merely with what one has
Sorrow at the loss of the goodwill of others
Patient endurance of pain and hunger
The striving early to earn one’s bread
Gurdjieff goes on to describe the high esteem he held for the Dean concluding with;
‘Rest in peace, dear Teacher! I do not know whether I have justified or am justifying your dreams, but the commandments you gave me I have never once in all my life broken.’
Indifference to the saints? What did the Dean mean by this? Saints are appointed by men. As we should know by now man is not the most reliable creature. The only reliable thing about man is that he is unreliable. I’m sure there have been saints that were admirable just as I am sure there were those less admirable.
If the dating of the Coetan Arthur is reliable, St David was just a ‘Johnny come lately’ in the area. There had been so much happening on this coastline for centuries before he appeared. We are still left with the question what happened to the citadel on the rock? Why is it not with us today other than its ruins? Maybe it deserved to perish. Is there anything manmade that avoids corruption? You might have noticed that with the exception of Canterbury Cathedral there are no castles or churches featured in the previous article ‘Do pictures speak 1000 words?‘ There were a great many en route. What do all those ‘imposing buildings’ symbolise?
For me there was a special energy at St David’s Head. I am certain that in the past people were there who wished the best for us all but nothing lasts forever. Maybe I am wrong about demise from within. There is as much chance that envious outsiders were unable to let those at St David’s Head or whatever it was called in days gone by, live in peace.
Whatever happened in the past I am grateful for a moment in my current life at this magical place. St David’s Head, Wednesday 25th August 2021