On a fine June day in 2009 the peace and tranquillity of an idyllic beach in south-west Wales was shattered by the sound of charging, whinnying horses, the clashing of swords and yells and shouts from a fleet of longboats out at sea. The cause of this spectacle, which must have provided a frisson of excitement for both visitors and locals who were allowed to watch from a distance, was the filming of a scene from Ridley Scott's 2010 version of the story of hero of English folklore Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. The scene depicts a battle against French invaders with Robin leading his men into the fray and slaughtering his arch enemy, Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong), who has pledged his allegiance to the French side. Considering the scene formed only a small part of the film as a whole, there were a staggering number of people and animals involved in making it: 800 actors and 130 horses, not to mention the dozens of boats and the helicopters flying overhead for the shots from the air. There were also ambulances on hand in the quite likely event that someone might get hurt. This was the second time that year that Freshwater West had caught the attention of Hollywood: the previous month the beach was used as the backdrop for Dobby's Shell Cottage in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
|Freshwater West beach. Photo by Jeremy Owen, via Wikimedia Commons|
The beach at Freshwater West is just one of many in Pembrokeshire, a county in south-west Wales which has more than its fair share of stunning beaches and coastal scenery. It feels miles from anywhere, although the town of Pembroke is only about five miles to the east. Walkers can reach the beach via the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which passes through here. The mile-long beach is a diverting mix of sand dunes and rock pools, making it a fun place for families, although swimming is unsuitable for all but the most experienced swimmers and in particular surfers, who flock here to brave the strong waves. The beach is the venue for regular surfing tournaments, attracting contestants from all over the world. Further round the coast is the National Trust run area known as Stackpole, with yet more lovely beaches, clifftop walks and a delightful complex of small lakes known as Bosherston Lakes, created 200 years ago for the now demolished mansion of Stackpole Court. There are walkways around the lakes leading from the car park down to the beach, and the whole area is a haven for birds, dragonflies and even otters.
Map of the area.
Tourist information about Pembrokeshire.