Big House Landshipping

Personal Reflections on the Big House Landshipping Pembrokeshire Restoration Project

Landshipping Letters 2009

working on the old black tarred fishing boat 

The Editor’s Prerogative

Welcome to the 2009 newsletter, writes club sec Sarah Hoss, 

and thank you for the excellent contributions that have been written. I hope that you enjoy the articles we have put together –and will be inspired to contribute to the next one..

I've been looking back in the 40 year history of the club - through the dusty old files that still hold the correspondence. Back in the day, events were organised, letters posted and trips held—sometimes within the space of the same week. A quick call around the members was often all it took to gather a fair number and off we go! Club founder Watkin Jones has written an excellent article again for us about the good old days (p8).

My predecessor Robin Lucas (whose excellent article on childhood boating memories can be read on p4) did much to develop our systems as the club has grown. Robin raised the profile of the newsletter by making the document much more substantial and a very good read; some excellent photographs too. I have tried to raise our game again with the magazine style that it is today. I enjoy this sort of project— although I think I inevitably under-estimated the amount of time it would take to do! Our creative writer Dinnella Shelton has composed two beautiful poems for the newsletter(p12 & 18); new-ish member Colin Russell shares some of his family's history which brought him to Pembrokeshire to live (p9). Another member, John Mason, reveals some fascinating family history too, on p22.

As we document the past, the club wrestles with the counter pressures of keeping up with the times and our commitment to protect and preserve the magic of Landshipping. We are delighted that the club membership has grown—and yet worry that creeping commercialisation could damage what we all hold dear. A 'quick call' to all you all can take me up to three days to achieve.

To assist with the administration of our events, we now have Andrew Wilson on board co-ordinating our events. The idea is that if you wish to attend a certain trip, by registering an interest with Andy, you will be on a contact list to be called in case of a change of plans. Hopefully this will reduce the amount of phone calls to be made while keeping people better informed of what is going on. We also hope this will increase attendance at boat club sailing trips, which do tend to be populated by a band of hardened regulars, who would love to welcome new members along (as long as the weather doesn't scupper our plans as it has done with annoying frequency in recent seasons.)

It's been a tough time for the club since I last wrote to you. Debate is healthy, but can be exhausting. Committee meetings and our last AGM have been characterised by some heated debate and the raising of some serious issues diplomatically dealt with by chairman Malcolm John, steered us through some rocky waters but then found that he had to resign due to personal family health issues. 

Please refer to Chris Hedger our mooring officer's information on p21, and I hope that by the time this newsletter arrives the issues will have been sorted and that we are all getting set for a sunny and fair-weather season full of happy sailing days! I'm banking on it.

On a personal note, thank you to all of you for your kind support and friendship which means so much. Mind you that creates quite a pressure on me to deliver a better-than expected newsletter—I hope I have not disappointed! Thank-you, Joe Reilly, for the excellent reportage again this year—and photos.

I have exercised my prerogative by using one of my own pictures for the cover—taken on my £20 mobile phone— as I sat at the front of the Big House on my favourite spot, on a rough old beam of wood (that Watkin had let us borrow to make a bench at the end of the quay wall), watching the sun set, as I have done many times in the last eight or so years. Watching the sun rise and fall over our wonderful river is something I have always treasured. 

I consider myself most fortunate to have seen that virtually every day as the children have grown up around me, as I have referred to in my Tales of the Riverbank on p20. I hope that we keep the magic safe for them and future generations to enjoy and I am sure you all agree with that. Well, until we meet on the slipway or in the village, happy sailing!

Tales from the riverbank

Family life at the Big House site, Landshipping

By Sarah Hoss, LFBOA Sec

March 2009

The years seem to roll by with ever-increasing speed. I am somewhat shocked to report that the winter of 2008-9 was the seventh that the children and I survived in our little shack by the river. As the children have become bigger and stronger, our world has expanded and our enjoyment of and appreciation of the magical place that we call home has grown too. We have front row seats to the magnificent and ever- changing river.

We find we are more able to explore the outdoors and connect with our natural environment as well as going out on various jaunts locally, to the beach, theatre and cinema. Freya, now six and a half, is showing more and more interest in the 'fairy-land' that she believes we live in. She watches the changing seasons and the starry skies with awe and amazement, and couldn't quite believe it when Harry Potter’s magical Shell House turned up on one of our favourite beaches at Fresh West. 

Geraint, 8, benefits from the security that our Landshipping routines have given him; from the support and friendship of friends and neighbours and simply being away from the dangers of crowds and roads. Elaina who recently turned 21 hosted a black and white themed party up at the Snooty Fox, which was an excuse to get family, locals and old friends down for the weekend. Elaina has become a real Landshipping girl. She’s still based at home and commuting to her Swansea University course and undertaking local clinical placements around Pembrokeshire.

I went back to school too a couple of years ago and did the studying I’d had to put on hold until the youngest had started school. In the summer of 2008 with family and friends – we went to the University of Wales, Newport, to attend my graduation ceremony. On the way home Freya looked at my cap and gown and stated ‘I didn’t realise my mummy was a vicar!’ With a family to pay for, my newly-gained teaching qualification has saved the day, providing me with interesting and engaging employment which works around my family commitments. 

I brought a party of students down to Landshipping last summer on a glorious sunny dy to show them the miners' memorial and talk about the history of the village. They spent a couple of hours picking up piles of litter from the foreshore before adjourning to the pub for lunch. 

Gethin's all grown up now – the little ones and I were delighted to attend his 18th – and he’s up at the college too, studying plumbing and working with his mother’s family firm on the other side of the river. 

The summer of 2008 was something of a damp squib (again) putting boating and sailing on the back-burner for many of us. But we had lots of excursions around the coast and onto the beaches. And the sun did shine (eventually) on the Landshipping raft race day which coincided with the club BBQ, which was attended by about 20 people. 

We used Watkin's horsebox to house the BBQ in case the weather turned, but as it was, the day was fine. We managed to squeeze in a few more BBQ's out on the quay during the summer too.

But winter soon arrived when we were still feeling short-changed by summer. We decided to celebrate Christmas up with Watkin, as we have done for several years.

Wat had refurbished his sun room and we were very fortunate when the sun shone on us through the glass on Christmas Day. Don joined us and we had a roasted Landshipping-raised turkey with all the trimmings, bathed in winter sunshine.

But winter was unrelenting, and snow arrived. It became so severe that we ended up snowed in. When we came home one night we had to tackle a blizzard in Quay Street, as we struggled down the frozen lane to our home. Ground water that had been pouring everywhere, was suddenly silent and frozen. We all ended up at home, really enjoyig the unusual conditions. We also went on a jaunt in Watkin's Landsrover up into the Preseli's to see the heavy snowfall. 

Come the thaw, come the burst water-pipes. I returned from work to hear the deafening sound of water rushing everywhere. It soon became clear all our pipes had burst. Luckily, Gethin had popped over to see us and soon rolled up his sleeves and got it sorted, putting his newly- acquired skills to some practical use.

We were blessed with a sunny Easter, as we had just about had enough of cold weather. The kids enjoyed an outdoor Easter egg hunt. But as I write this, gale force winds are blowing again...

Oh well! We are always optimistic for the forthcoming season! I look forward to seeing you all this year.


Landshipping Letters 2008

Sarah's Tales From the Riverbank

Christmas cheer: (photo)Taking all the children out on a cold winter’s day to Llys y Fran restaurant: Gethin, 17, Elaina, 20; Freya, 5; Geraint, aged 7.

So much has happened that was not expected since my last riverside letter to you, writes newsletter editor Sarah Hoss, that I think I will remember this year for many to come. As that great philosopher, my mother, says: ‘God smiles when you make plans’.

Instead of grand designs and big plans, it has been a year of living each day one at a time, looking after the important stuff—like the kids, the animals, friends, keeping warm and well- fed and getting on with it.

I think it was the Lebanese poet Gibran who wrote that ‘work is love made visible’. With the kids needing my attention and support more than ever, I hope that is what they have felt.

With the constant responsibilities of raising the Big House brood keeping me on the straight and narrow road, mainly heading for Narberth and Haverfordwest on the routine runs to school and work, I have strangely enough become so much more at ease with life and appreciative of the wonderful environment in which to raise this little family.

For many, Landshipping is a magical place of boats, mists, birdsong and mystery. For me it is all that and more— it’s six miles from the nearest pint of milk, the doctor and the petrol station. It’s a million miles away from civilisation when the trip switch has popped, the torch doesn’t work and the fuse box is a climb across the yard into a pitch black derelict cottage.

But it’s also my inspiration in so many ways: when baskets of lavender-sweet laundry need hanging out in the sunshine the view from my washing line takes my breath away.

Just a peek through the curtains or a quiet moonlit walk alone is really quite enchanting. This year I have managed to film some excellent footage of the barn owls nesting in the cottage chimney. One night there were three of them. They seemed to be quite unperturbed by my presence and almost showed off to me when they got the chance.

I saw my first harvest moon this year. The photographs were not as impressive as I’d hoped, but the moon looked like it was an orange balloon, floating above its own reflection looking up-river to Slebech. It was a magnificent image, a golden orb shining over me in the chilly night air.

It’s a land of adventures, pets and long walks, picnics and bbq’s in the summer; cold, damp foraging missions in the winter: We’ve picked blackberries and hazel nuts, damsons and mush- rooms and had the first wild crow garlic leaves chopped into freshly-made cawl.

Despite the lack of creature comforts, the kids love our Landshipping life and even little Freya seems aware of how special this place is, as we go on our regular expeditions across the shore- line or in the woods and fields. We go riding locally now, having both attended lessons to grasp the basics and build confidence.

As I reflect upon the seasons in Landshipping in the last year, I am reminded of the roaring heat-wave we enjoyed in May, when I showed off my new gazebo and gas-powered BBQ by preparing a full Sunday Roast al-fresco, and collapsed with heat exhaustion the next day! I had been so busy plying every- one with extra fluids I’d forgotten about me and paid for it.

It felt like Al Gore’s predictions had come true and this would be another boiling summer, but in fact it was a bit of a wash- out and our BBQ’s were few and far between.

Highlights of 2007 include little Freya being the Carnival Princess in Narberth. She sat so gracefully in her carriage with a group of beautiful young ladies all enjoying their moment of glory. We all had a fabulous day out.

The Food Festival went off well too, many from Landshipping attended what was again a lively event. The Landshipping raft race was a wash-out and the rain seemed to go on forever, threatening plans for a huge birthday party we were planning to celebrate our combined ages of 75.

Birthdays during school holidays can make organizing traditional parties difficult, but with a bit of forward planning we decided to hold a joint party for all of us in the middle of the summer holiday. Watkin suggested his field overlooking the river as a safe and suitable location. Freya and Geraint wanted to dress up as princesses and pirates, so had a theme for the day.

Watkin, Elaina and I thrashed out the details on a cold winter night but August came fast and we were in the thick of it before we knew it.

Remarkably, it rained torrentially until 3.45pm and then, with almost impeccable timing, it stopped. 

The first hardy guests arrived at 4pm. With a ‘real’ Captain Hook (a dead ringer for Watkin Jones, I thought) and lots of silly party games; 200 fairy cakes floating on a seven-tier stand; a proper BBQ as well as party boxes. Hoards of friends and family arrived from far and wide and made it all such fun, including my parents who came from Cambridgeshire and were a great help. With 17 of us staying overnight to make a weekend of it, a jolly good time was had by all.

2007 saw my dear Elaina take up her place at Swansea University to do her degree in nursing, after a gap-year which saw her touring in Spain with the Three Counties

Big Band, working at Pembrokeshire College on work experience and some part-time child- care experience at the Bloomfield After-School Club, in Narberth. Elaina did really well in the recent ‘Pembrokeshire Idol’ competition which has further raised her profile as a singer.

Step-son Gethin is now an apprentice in his mum’s family’s plumbing business and attending Pembrokeshire College part-time. 

He’s enjoying his teenage to the full, but still keeps in touch and catches up with us when he can.

I’m nearly through my University of Wales teaching degree at the college too, (you can’t teach without being qualified these days) which I’ve juggled with working on various pro- jects to keep the family afloat.

I was very touched by the support and help through what has been a challenging year. I was delighted when asked to stand as club secretary and only hope I can maintain the standards set by my predecessor Robin Lucas—a very hard act to follow, but also a great mentor.

I consider it to be a special respon- sibility that has further fostered my sense of belonging and feeling at home here.

I hope we all have a fabulous 2008 season—if you ever have a spare seat on your boat let me know— and don’t forget to call in—we are still here, tucked in behind the ruin in our ‘eco-home’.

Sarah's Bluestone role 2007

From the Western Telegraph

New generation jobs for county’s new generation

Up to 500 students attended a Bluestone recruitment event hosted by Pembrokeshire College recently, revealing considerable interest among our county’s future workforce in the new holiday venture.

As part of its commitment to open up career opportunities locally, Bluestone’s management team were on hand to meet students and talk about specific job opportunities when they attended the day, organised by the college’s Bluestone Academy.

The tourism industry is Pembrokeshire’s largest employer and is continuing to grow as holiday trends change. The college has responded by setting up a concept ‘Bluestone Academy’, to identify, develop and provide relevant training and support at the college.

‘It’s an exciting challenge,’ said Sarah Hoss, Pembrokeshire College’s Bluestone Academy co-ordinator:

‘With opportunities in beauty and complimentary therapies, catering, child care, sports science, retail, construction and maintenance and graduate-level management posts, many students are already learning the skills which will be needed at Bluestone.

‘The college is keen to promote the key skills this business will require to deliver a five-star service. With all-year round job opportunities and strong links with the college, it’s a new-generation opportunity for Pembrokeshire College’s new generation’.

Bluestone’s director of HR, Debbie Rainbow, herself a former Pembrokeshire College student, provided an insight into the business; the facilities currently under construction and the sort of people the company are looking for.

With the development rapidly taking shape and the promise of hundreds of job opportunities, students were keen to hear about the company’s plans – and what it might mean for them.

The first phase of recruitment is well underway, with assessment days being planned for short-listed applicants. Bluestone will be recruiting staff in phases until their planned official opening in July 2008.

first published in the Landshipping-Ferry Boat Owners' 2007 Newsletter

Tales from the Riverbank

By Sarah Hoss, Big House Caravan, Landshipping

Five years have passed since we moved to Landshipping. As I contemplate this from the cosy confines of my caravan bedroom, I realise that as much as this place dictates the pace and point of our life, it is becoming more about the people. Landshipping looks so quiet, even sad, at this time of year, as I splash through muddy potholes, but the thought of seeing everyone again, and that shared affection we all hold for this place, keeps me cheerful.

It’s been quite a journey for this city girl. I had anticipated that our development plans would have made much speedier progress, but learning to slow down and accept that things will happen when they do, has been a worthwhile lesson.

I have learned a few lessons in the last 12 months. Determined to embrace my country life, I enrolled for horse-riding lessons at the Dunes stables, Cross Hands. A year down the line I am really enjoying this new activity, having become more confident in the saddle and enjoying the social element of riding. If I can become competent enough to trot up and down the lane on a summer’s day I feel I will see Landshipping from a different perspective.

The most notable triumph I have to report in the last year was the fun I had in the garden. Most gardeners had a difficult year and ours was no exception. The weather played tricks on us. The season was really late to establish itself and then we had that amazing summer. It seems a lifetime ago, but it was so hot and sunny.

Seedlings went in late, and many of us lost potatoes and tomatoes to what looked like the blight. But in the middle of all this tribulation, my Brussels sprouts seeds took, grew and grew. With no pest control, the plants were completely stripped bare by slugs and snails, but I left the plants alone, and on Christmas Day harvested a mini-tree of sprouts for the table. We also had blackberries picked by Alun and the kids, which are still coming out of the freezer looking as good as new. With melted home-made damson jam poured over the top, that makes for a fabulous wild fruit salad.

We had some success with rows of onions, beetroot, beans, carrots and lettuce. Even the blackened potato plants brought forward a small harvest of my first ever spuds. It was such a pleasure, taking Freya and Geraint into the garden to check progress and eventually let them pull up food for the table, even if the veg they harvested often didn’t make it as far as the kitchen!

The little ones are so much more fun now that they are big enough to be out in the thick of it and we enjoyed the summer here immensely. But isn’t all rural idyll.

I popped back to Cardiff to see the 1990s ‘boy band’ Take That, (who are now all grown up but still able to hold a song and dance at the same time). Paula, Elaina’s godmother, and I joined 60,000 other screaming housewives in the biggest event the Millennium Stadium has ever staged. A chance to book tickets over the internet months earlier had paid off - the tickets had sold out within minutes of going on sale, and I struck lucky. It was a superb night and the first time I’d set foot in the impressive stadium of my home town.

My big girl Elaina had been invited along but it clashed with one of her exams. It was worth the sacrifice - she did well in her A’ levels, and is now half way through her gap year. Having experienced a lot of change and travel throughout her childhood, Elaina is enjoying her year off at home, and we are enjoying having her here. Thank you to all who supported Elaina at the fund-raising concert she gave at Burnett’s Hill Chapel. Elaina also toured Spain with the Three Counties Big Band, performing to 5,000 people at the San Sebastian Jazz Festival, which included Bob Dylan, Bill Wyman and Herbie Hancock.

With the children coming out of the baby phase, we spent a lot of our time outside, meeting friends and visitors on the slipway, or when people call in, either on their way in our out on their boats. We had a busy season of boat bookings taking Alun away on the Cleddau King, leaving me to hold the fort back at base. The children and I spent many happy holidays on the beaches of Tenby and Saundersfoot or even further field as I am becoming more confident of taking them around the Pembrokeshire coast. On days when the boat wasn’t booked, we made sure we dragged Alun away from the house project to join us for beach picnics.

We also had help from two local stonemasons who laid more than a thousand concrete blocks. With Watkin’s help, Alun installed much of the steel needed to support the roof structure of the Big House. Even the kids helped, and we all had a go at clearing huge piles of debris which had been dislodged from the top of the walls. Alun carved all our names into the concrete lintels that he made for the windows.

Now that winter is upon us, the boat is in demand at the LNG site. We had marketed the boat to the construction contractors and this has proved a much-needed alternative use for the boat during the off-season period.

With Alun working in Milford and our youngest, Freya, starting school, I took up an offer made earlier in the year to do some part-time lecturing and study a PGCE run by the University of Wales, at Pembrokeshire College. Having spent five years driving up and down to town twice a day to do the school run, I am enjoying going to ‘school’ too now! Bookings are starting to come in again for the forthcoming season, and with the days becoming brighter and longer, the new year beckons. In the time it has taken me to write this, the weather has cheered up no end and spring is definitely in the air. To all you fair-weather Landshipping fans - don’t forget to pop in!

from the BBC website 

Narberth Food Festival

Sarah & children

Last updated: 07 September 2006

Narberth is arguably becoming the 'culinary capital of west Wales'. On September 23 & 24, 2006, it's hosting its eighth annual Food Festival. Here Sarah Hoss, mum-of-three and a member of the festival team, explains why she's so passionate about Welsh food and how Narberth is flying the flag for small scale producers.

"It was the love of real, fresh food that first brought me to Pembrokeshire when I was producing a television series on Welsh food. Being a city girl who relied on supermarket produce, in the process of travelling around Wales reporting on food, I was meeting for the first time, small scale food producers, from cheese makers to fishermen to beef farmers, who were telling me that the traditional way of food production was disappearing from Wales fast and in some cases they were leaving agriculture altogether.

"A lot of the people I had met and ideas I had heard and reported on really came together when I was asked to assist the Narberth Food Festival. In the last seven years the festival has outgrown its former home in the Queen's Hall as more and more people have wanted to become involved. This year we are holding the main festival weekend in a huge marquee on Narberth town moor, and we have a busy timetable planned.

"I am glad to be able to do something to help, because as a consumer I am worried that we were losing something irreplacable. Visiting Ludlow, on the Welsh border, I was struck by how a town had turned itself into a centre of excellence when it came to food, by backing its local butchers, green grocers and delicatessens. Local residents and the business community had fought against big supermarkets coming to the town, and had made a name for themselves within the international Slow Food movement.

"In Narberth we have built up our relationship with Ludlow, they are now our official 'twin town', and we have set up our own branch of the Slow Food Movement. Ludlow has always enjoyed a cultural interchange with us, for example, my partner and I were invited to give a talk at the Ludlow Food Festival, about our life in the Pembrokeshire National Park. Bus loads of visitors come to and from Ludlow these days, especially around festival time, so this has been a real success story.We also swap chefs and have some of Ludlow's top chefs coming to our festival.

"The festival in Narberth also has a strong education theme, which is so important. As a mum, I know that kids are missing out on so much not having a proper understanding of and love of food. We've all heard anecdotes about children not knowing that milk comes from cows, or that oranges are fruit. Well this year food education will be firmly on the menu with food producers showing children how they make their food and where it comes from.

"And during the main festival weekend, we're sure that that visitors' tastebuds will be tempted - we'll have everything from organic beer to goat's cheese fudge...a Wild Boar BBQ, Caribbean chicken and reggae spicy sauce from Notting Hill Gate Carnival."

from BBC South West Wales Website:

first published in Pembrokeshire Life Magazine, August 2006

Narberth Food Festival Goes Large

By Sarah Hoss

Narberth, the ‘culinary capital of west Wales’ is hosting its eighth annual Food Festival on the third weekend in September, (23/24) with a brand new location, a high-profile patron, a record number of food stalls and plenty of music and street entertainment.

Quality food producers will be tempting the taste buds - from organic beer to goat’s cheese fudge and including a Wild Boar BBQ; there's a busy schedule of food-related talks, from a scientific look at chocolate to top chefs cooking in the Food Theatre.

The food festival has grown out of its traditional base at the Queen's Hall, and with ever increasing demand for space from food producers the main festival days have moved up to the town moor .

The celebrated food writer Elisabeth Luard, who harks from nearby Ceredigion, is the festival’s new patron. Elisabeth Luard, author and illustrator, is the author of cookery books including European Peasant Cookery, Family Life - Birth, Death and the Whole Damn Thing, and Sacred Food: Cooking for Spiritual Nourishment which won the International Gourmet Award for best historical food-book in 2003.

Elisabeth says: “I am delighted and proud to be patron of the Narberth Food Festival which, I’m happy to say, I have observed progressing from strength to strength each year.

'Wales is important to me for many reasons, not least of which is the energy and dedication of those who believe, as I do, that centres of excellence, such as that already taking shape in Narberth, really can make a difference. A food festival also serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas - an aspect which is sometimes overlooked.’

Festival founder and chairman Jackie Palit, a professional caterer in Narberth said: ‘We are a community-based festival, aimed at families and food-lovers, with the focus very much on making good, healthy food fun again. We are also trying to open children’s minds to new flavours and choices in the food they eat. We are fortunate in the this part of the world to be surrounded by superb food producers - and this festival aims to give them a showcase.’

Peter Gartell of the Clive restaurant, Ludlow, will be one of several chefs providing the live cookery action in the Food Theatre.

Talks and taster sessions, from Indonesian cooking to traditional baking, will take place throughout the weekend. Yunn Hider from the Mountain Food Company, will be providing one of the talks. Yunn came to prominence after his foraging was highlighted on the BBC‘s ‘Great British Menu’ cookery programme competing to cook for the Queen’s 80th birthday lunch. Yunn lives in Pembrokeshire and supplies Michelin -starred chefs including Bryn Williams, from North Wales, whose fish dish made it onto the royal menu.

Peter Cook, a Ludlow Master Baker who was featured as one of Rick Stein’s Food Heroes and was a Stoneleigh Bakery finalist, demonstrates the art of bread making and talks about his career.

There will also be street theatre and music in and around the marquee from the ‘Hot Potato Syncopators' offering a delightfully tongue-in-cheek 1920's-30's musical show; while Cirque Bijou’s ever enthusiastic stilt characters footballer Willy Wreckham and irritatingly accurate referee Bernard Bookem will recreate magical moments from the 'beautiful game'. And look out for the moving statues known as the Gargoyles.

On Saturday night, the festival atmosphere moves on to the Queen’s Hall for the ‘Go Lem System’, dancey world beat from Barcelona. Tickets for this critically-acclaimed band from SPAN Arts 01834 869323.

A free creche will be available on Saturday and Sunday to leave your purchases safely for later collection. There will be a wide variety of produce to try and buy, including Pembrokeshire shellfish, seafood, organic meats, cakes, preserves, an array of Welsh cheeses, wines, Dutch-style waffles and pancakes, honey ice cream and even a chocolate fountain and flavoured honey.

Foodstuffs from around the world include Sri Lankan spices, olives, coffee, spicy sauces, nuts and dried exotic fruit -something for all palates. Or just fill your festival shopping bag with the freshest locally-grown vegetables, bread, cakes and cream.

There will also be an array of quality cookware, food hampers and herbal soaps on sale and an array of craft stalls.

The festival will be operating a Park and Ride scheme from Heron's Brook car park: Buses will run every 30 minutes throughout the day between 10.00am and 4.00pm on both the main festival days Sat & Sun. Parking is free but there will be a small charge for adults on the bus.

Children's workshops will be held at Narberth’s Queen’s Hall on Friday, September 22. Workshops in the Queen’s Hall will be open to interested members of the public. International students attending Pembrokeshire College will showcase the home cooking of their native countries. Kicking off the Food Festival in the Food Theatre on the moor in the afternoon, Ludlow Chef Peter Gartell and Pembrokeshire College Hospitality students will be cooking for groups from Pembrokeshire secondary schools.

The Narberth Food Festival committee also run a Food Club offering events and a newsletter to keep people with a passion for food in touch regularly, rather than just at the annual food festival.

On Thursday night, a Charity Dinner is being held at the Plas Hyfryd Hotel, Narberth. Elisabeth Luard will be the guest speaker. In aid of the British Red Cross, the dinner will be held at the Plas Hyfryd Hotel, Narberth at 7.30pm, with classical music from the Live Music Now scheme. Tickets £18 per head. (Bookings Pat Jones 01834 860038.)

Enjoy the festival, and take time to browse around Narberth’s independent shops, many of which are open on Sunday. With excellent rail/road and public transport links, accommodation from hotels to self catering are available in the town and in the surrounding villages, and many offer cut-price short break offers at this time of year, the Narberth Food Festival is an ideal off-season event for locals and visitors alike.

 restaurant review first published in Narberth Food Festival Newsletter 'Narberth Nibbles' April 2006

‘Coast’, Dock Street, Porthcawl  Reviewed by Sarah Hoss

On a perfectly sunny, spring Sunday, I took my parents and smallest sproggies to Porthcawl for lunch at ‘Coast’ a modern and stylish establishment close to the seafront. We’d agreed to meet there to save my parents the journey further west.

 Having researched Porthcawl restaurants to find a suitable place via the internet, I chose Coast because it was recommended by a BBC ‘good food’ guide and had its own website.  I was able to make a reservation via e-mail, and received the sort of personal welcome when we walked in I would expect if I was a ‘regular’.

 The spacious atmosphere, contemporary crockery and artistic presentation didn’t stop the chef from serving up a wholesome menu, including home-made fishcakes, wild mushroom risotto and a thumping portion of fish and chips, with mushy peas.

 My toddlers enjoyed quality sausages and home cut chipped potatoes—done nice and gently with their skins on, and a simple but delicious pasta dish with a generous portion of salmon fillet on top. Ice creams and coffees, and one drink each and the bill came in at about £10 per head, which just goes to show that value, style and good taste can go hand in hand in Wales. Definitely worth the hour or so down the M4, and the sort of place that can help elevate the image of this south Wales resort.


  first published in the Landshipping-Ferry Boat Owners' Club 2006 Newsletter

Tales from the Riverbank

By Sarah Hoss

How heart-warming it is, to spend a gloriously warm and sunny day at the beach with the children, paddling in the retreating tide, looking for baby crabs and fish in glistening rock pools. Chasing two excited toddlers across the sands and serving a hearty picnic lunch, eaten round our fold-away picnic table; making a washed-up fish box into a sledge to pull the kids around the damp sand in, amid their screams of delight and passers-by’s smiles. And meeting other Landshipping residents taking the sea air in the sunshine.

 A good omen surely—since that was Coppett’s Hall Beach, Saundersfoot, on January 14 2006.

 Of course, Landshipping can become a bit bogged down in the winter months. But step away from the muddy paths, beyond to the riverbank and all is safe. Cloaked under that veneer of damp, decay, mustiness and muddiness our magical little world is dormant but not defeated. The birds seem oblivious to the cold and instead enjoy the now empty landscape with a sense of freedom as they swoop and swirl from one side of the river to the other. Lapwings flash black and white across the half-exposed mud banks, catching the sun in their fast-moving wings. It is a truly magnificent sight, even when I’m simply collecting discarded tea mugs and switching on the washing machine in the outbuilding.

Another year has passed. The kids are bigger, cheekier, bolder and keener than ever to explore their immediate environment, as is the way with kids. And I am less anxious about their personal safety now that they are a little bit older and wiser. It’s such fun, seeing our world through their eyes. One night, we were driving up the lane and spotted a barn owl, resting on the Landshipping village sign. It seemed oblivious to us, and was a wonderful opportunity for the kids to see up-close what they often hear screeching round our home in the middle of the night. And one morning a Kingfisher flashed by, as we headed out on the school run.

 2005 will be remembered for being the year Alun and I finally obtained the planning permission we have both worked so hard to obtain since first coming to ‘Big House’. Perhaps because we had experienced so many delays and hitches along the way, there was no celebratory drink when the paperwork finally came through—just an absolute determination to at last create a permanent home for ourselves. We started work in September, and Alun has made sterling progress on the west wing, which is big enough to create a home in without having to win the lottery to pay for it. It is wonderful to finally see the spectacular view from the upstairs room—right up and down the eastern Cleddau.

It was also the year I ventured into what was totally unchartered territory for me: vegetable growing. Alun’s advice was: ‘throw some seeds into the ground, stand back and watch them grow’. I took a slightly more scientific approach: researching; planning; writing down ideas; asking advice and undertaking a fair amount of head-scratching. Eventually, after a hefty mound of well-rotted manure from farmer Roy Eynon had been spread and rotavated in by Alun on Watkins's tractor, it was over to me.

Well, I stuck those seeds in the ground, stood back and yes, watched them grow. Don, Watkin, David and Mary often came over to watch them growing with me. Lettuces, herbs, onions, beetroots, carrots, spinach, chives, courgettes, beans, peas, tomatoes (planted by Watkin), raspberries, everything we like to eat. And did we eat—freshly-picked veggies for months. I had enough produce to give boxful’s to family and friends. And in the middle of November, Alun discovered some beautiful butternut squashes hidden under what we’d assumed to be a large weed. The ignored courgettes turned into mammoth marrows, which make a lovely Mediterranean –style stir-fry with lots of garlic, and they are still going strong now. We even ate runner beans on Christmas Day.

  Of course Alun and I still need to earn a living. The Cleddau King, which I’d marketed as much as possible during the winter without spending money on advertising, was booked up for most of the summer, thanks to some excellent weather. We work closely with the county council during Fish Week, and thanks to a lovely ITV programme made by Landshipping son Hywel James, which featured Alun and I doing our ‘Cook Your Catch’ cruise, we had a great platform to show potential customers exactly what fun it can be spending a day with us on the boat.

 I  still do some freelance work when the boat business allows, such as my now fairly regular invitation to speak off the cuff on BBC Radio Wales’ morning magazine programme. There’s always an eclectic mix of guests on the show. Last month I was lucky enough to be talking to Rolf Harris about his recent portrait of the Queen. Then home to Landshipping in time to make Alun some lunch. I sit on my tod, in a broom-cupboard of a studio in Haverfordwest, but I’m told it sounds as if we are sitting around the table in Broadcasting House in Cardiff. That’s the magic of radio. It is also a lovely opportunity to keep in touch with old colleagues while carrying on with family life here in the middle of the National Park. The boat business keeps us busy all year, but I managed to fit in some work with Pembrokeshire Tourism Ltd, putting together a brochure promoting Pembrokeshire’s attractions to the low season customer to generate more business for all-weather attractions in the county. There are a surprising number of us who operate tourist businesses throughout the year.

 TV chef Angela Gray, who is a regular visitor to Pembrokeshire, invited me to perform with her at the Royal Welsh. I caught the Heart of Wales train from Haverfordwest, and, with my mother safely installed in the caravans on sprog-watch, Angela and I enjoyed a few days promoting Welsh food produce, meeting old pals and soaking up the unique atmosphere of the show. There were so many local food companies there, many of whom later picked up True Taste awards. This is the Oscars of the food world and Pembrokeshire should be really proud of its quality local food producers. The Narberth Food Festival was featured in the Times, the Food Club is going from strength to strength and the Slow Food Movement now has an official Narberth convivium, promoting and celebrating the best local food. It is an exciting time for people turned on by real food.

 But the biggest thrills are still when out on the water. One particular river cruise we ran up to Cresswell Quay sticks in my memory as a truly wonderful trip. 100 or more boats were there, stacked up, tied up to each other as the quay wall filled up. We clambered across several decks to head for the bar, on a perfect summer’s night. Landlord Maurice Cole said it was the busiest night in the pub that anyone could remember. One of our passengers, who lives in Pembrokeshire, emailed to say it was one of the most magical experiences he’d ever had in the county. Many Landshipping boat owners had cruised up there to enjoy the carnival atmosphere, before we all headed back as the sun set.

The most spectacular trip of all was experienced by Alun and a party of fishermen out on a shark trip, when they came across what was possibly the largest pod of dolphins and an orca, which is so unusual that it made the television news. Alun saw a group of about twenty dolphins, seemingly on patrol, chasing off a killer whale, before the real show began: Alun recounted how he heard them first, then saw the sea literally boiling with an estimated two thousand undulating, leaping and spinning dolphins. Lucky man. I was back at base, manning the phones and collecting the kids from school, which is the reality of having a family, running a business and living here.

A day later, dear, dear Jeremy Philipps, of Picton Castle, phoned me to ask if Alun would take him out to see the dolphins. Jeremy loved going out on the Cleddau King since his health problems had stopped his own boating activities.  Jeremy was our neighbour across the river who would delight in letting us into the castle grounds via his garden to avoid paying the entrance fee. He had shown great interest in our plans for the Big House and would drive over to see our progress. Alas, Jeremy passed away last week and his loss will be a great one, not just to our community, but to Pembrokeshire.

 I don’t want to end my review of the year on a sad note. In this, our fifth year here, I feel a great sense of excitement and expectation and of our challenge ahead of us. The children are thriving, and have all their summer days ahead of them. Alun and I are determined to make real progress on the development front this year, as well as taking the kids to the beach on a regular basis.  Thank you to everyone for your continued support and friendship. Stand by to be amazed!                           


Countryside Council for Wales (link no longer exists).

Basket Traps

The Basket Trap was used on the River Conwy and consisted of a simple metal basket placed between two rocks, below a obstruction. Fish failing to clear the obstruction are caught in the trap as they fall back into the water.



Compass Netting

On the Eastern and Western Cleddau the last compass net fisheries in Britain can be found. The compass net is a net that is hung between two long poles that are lashed together forming a V-shape. The net is fished, from a stationary boat moored in mid channel across the tide. The net on its cantilevered triangular frame is lowered under the boat to catch fish in the bag which forms and bellies out in the current.

Compass Netting on the Cleddau
Compass Netting on the Cleddau

 (photo by Sarah Hoss)

This form of fishing can be seen on the Eastern Cleddau (from the mouth of Minwear Pill to the A477 road bridge over Milford Haven Estuary) and the Western Cleddau (140 metres above the mouth of Bedwas Pill and the A477 road bridge.)

Pictures courtesy of Sarah Hoss.



Wade Nets

Wade nets, last fished in Wales on the River Taf estuary, consist of a single sheet of short netting attached to a pole at each end. It is fished by pulling along the foreshore parallel to the beach, by two persons, one of which wades in the water and the other walks along the beach. The net is beached at regular intervals or when a fish hits the net.

10 June 2006:

Happy Sunny Days

 The sun is shining - and has been for about a week! Alun is away on the boat, leaving me 'minding the shop', which is fine, with the kids being such a delight.

Last night, having put them to bed, I was able to watch Jonathan Ross before cracking on the housework. When I felt tired, I simply went to bed. Luckily, Geraint didn't wake up too early (he's been up before 5 most mornings, so with Alun getting up at 3 or 4 o'clock to go on the boat, a proper night's sleep has seemed like a long-forgotten acheivement).

Having some sleep - even just one undisturbed night, makes a huge difference. As our new neighbours were saying, Geraint is 'full on' and so he is, so one really needs to be on the ball the whole time.

The children are playing with their toys, the dogs are sleeping on the verandah. Washing is piled up all around me, but we've got some on the line, some in the machine, and the rest ready to go in, so it is progress! The dishwasher is on the whole time - and both kids have been helping me unload (with nothing broken - first time we've managed that).

Freya and I have just baked some delicious apple muffins, which were hot, sticky and yummy toeat after we'd had our lunch of pasta and sardines. Flies are buzzing around me, the place is fairly chaotic, but I am gradually making progress and feeling less oppressed by it all.

Alun is going to be away all weekend with a diving party. Lucky boy! I just get to set up the deal, make the sandwiches and send the emails. I look forward to the day I can join him in the fun bit.

The ducks, geese and chickens are all hiding from the sun and splashing in the fish boxes I have filled with water to keep them cool.  

Watkin popped in for two minutes, and Tim, the doctor was at the gate this morning trying to talk to me until Freya's ear-splitting scream of 'where's my mummy' broke up the conversation. But for the first time since we came here, at least I can walk away from the caravan for a few minutes, to put in washing or grab something from the freezer, and generally the kids are OK about it now.

Freya wants me back in with her now, so I will sign off.

21 Feb 2005

Published by Gomer Press and reproduced in the Western Telegraph

From 'Magic Harbours'

By Jamie Owen

Under the bridge we sail, past Burton - the fairy tale Benton Castle hiding in the trees - around a bend in the Cresswell river and on to Lawrenny, famous in Tudor times for its oysters. We progress onwards up the Daucleddau. We used to motor up here in a little dinghy when we were kids. The cheap outboard engine would generally overheat at this stage and then we'd face the long row back to Pembroke Dock. My father said it was character-building, and he was right: I've made a point since of not buying clapped-out secondhand outboards. At Llangwm we drop anchor. John, Paul, Will and I haul the punt over the side of Mascotte for the short journey to the shore. Thirty feet off the beach the punt's outboard motor breaks down, its propeller wrapped in thick, green weed. It is just like old times. Ellen Skirm is in her 90s. Sitting on the bench looking across Llangwm beach, she remembers this village when it was a busy little port. Her grandmother was one of the original Llangwm women who still have legendary status in these parts: the Llangwm Cocklewomen. In her childhood, she says, the men of the village would fish and collect cockles and mussels, but it was the women who would trudge around the towns of Tenby, Haverfordwest, Pembroke Dock and Tenby selling their wares, gone for days at a time. The men, she said, would remain in the village or on the boats. Further up river is Landshipping. Set back beyond high-water line, in amongst the trees, is a huge, centuries-old ruin of a once great house. This will one day be home to Alun Lewis and Sarah Hoss - they live in a couple of mobile homes behind their restoration project. But before I tap on their door, I wander around to see what they've let themselves in for. They are braver than me - this will take a lifetime of love and lots of money. Alan bounces out of their temporary accommodation with all the conviction of a man who knows there's no going back on his grand design. He runs diving and fishing trips. Sarah was a former colleague of mine in television, but she's given it up to come and live the good life on the banks of the Cleddau. Watching their children play in their huge garden on the side of the river, who wouldn't desert city life? Sarah offers to make dinner for us on the condition that we go and catch it. Alun and I wander over their garden to the wooden fishing boat his father and grandfather used. Watched intently by his spaniel - with its head cocked to one side - Alun pushes us off the mud and we spend an hour fishing with compass nets as generations of his family have done.

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From the Western Telegraph
© Newsquest Media Group 2005

 A vision of home

From the Western Telegraph, first published Thursday 16th Jun 2005.

Take the crumbling ruin of a country manor, a determined pair of visionaries intent on restoring this once grand Pembrokeshire property and a planning authority standing in their way and you have all the elements of a gripping saga.

This real-life drama is set among the ruins of 15th century Landshipping House and the central characters are chartered boat operator Alun Lewis and his partner, ex-BBC producer Sarah Hoss, who gave up her glamorous city life for love. Their adversary in this complex tale is the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

The story began when Alun and Sarah bought the crumbling ruin of Landshipping House with the intention of converting derelict outbuildings into holiday accommodation. Central to this plan was the restoration of Landshipping House where they planned to live and bring up their four children.

Three years and a series of planning hurdles later and the family is still camped out in a mobile home next to the ruin.

National Park planners have objected to the rebuilding of an old granary on the site because they insist it is new build. This has held up the entire project and a less resilient couple would, no doubt, have crumbled along with the ruins.

Sarah admits the project has been considerably more challenging than could ever have been anticipated but she has no regrets about taking it on.

"Even if we could have foreseen what was ahead of us we would still have gone ahead because we had a vision we both strongly believed in and that has never left us,'' she says.

"There has never been a single word of objection to our plans from the local community; everyone has voiced their support, everyone except the National Park Authority.'' Landshipping House is set in one of the most striking locations in Pembrokeshire. Visitors are more likely to spot an otter, a Golden Plover or a rare bat than other human life.

The history of the property, originally called Landshipping Mansion or Ty Mawr (Big House) by locals, is a bit sketchy. Part of the house is known to date back to the 1600s but what is interesting is that it now stands in a different spot to its original location.

"It was initially up the road, but as the Owens of Orielton accumulated their wealth as colliery owners they wanted a grander home. They decided it would be cheaper to rebuild the house at another location rather than extend and repair it,'' explains Alun, who has lived in Pembrokeshire all his life.

Stone from the house was transported down the road to the waterside site and formed part of their new home. Tantalised by the sight of Picton Castle and Slebech Park across the water and keen to mark their elevated status in society, the Owen family included castellation in the design.

The house was eventually abandoned and fell into disrepair before it was bought by a property developer. Family reasons meant he was unable to pursue his intended renovation project and the property was offered for sale.

Prospective buyers were queuing up for what Alun and Sarah saw as a once in a lifetime opportunity. Fortunately for them, the seller was keen to relinquish the property to a local family.

By now, the couple had hoped to be generating an income from the holiday cottages to fund the restoration of the main house.

Dismayed but not defeated, they are determined to realise their dream. "We want to create a sustainable business and a home for us and our children. It might take ten years to get there but the house will eventually be restored to its original design,'' says Sarah.

Archive Home

From the Western Telegraph
© Newsquest Media Group 2005

Narberth Food Festival

Food Festival tempts kids with tasty treats...

Taste buds were tingling at our special schools’ event, writes Sarah Hoss, when Pembrokeshire school children tried out a veritable cornucopia of foodstuffs from around the globe. From Dragon Fruit to Sushi, Sri Lankan spices to natural garlic-flavoured honey, the budding gourmets enjoyed flavours of Arabia, Welsh cheeses, blue ice-cream, mango and banana smoothies and a wild herb picked from a secret Pembrokeshire location and recently served to the Queen.

Creating a healthy lunch box

image: lunch box and water bottle

Whetting the appetites of the youngsters was just a part of the education day at the Narberth Food Festival. There was also the message that food can be fun and that variety makes for a balanced and healthy diet. Pembrokeshire Junior schools had prepared for the day by  putting together their ideas for healthy, tasty lunchboxes, using seasonal, local produce that children like to eat, and their entries were judged on the day by Pembrokeshire College hospitality lecturer, Mark James. The college is keen to encourage the next generation to enter the catering and hospitality industry, and explained that there are real career prospects for people willing to undertake professional training



  Wild food forager Yun Hider of the Mountain Food Company, gave a fascinating talk about where food used to come from before the mass production and distribution of produce. Children had the chance to taste Wood Sorrel, a wild herb still available growing wild in ancient woodlands. Every child had the opportunity to eat their greens - and did so enthusiastically, after Yun explained that the herb had been used as a garnish on a salmon dish prepared as part of a birthday lunch for the Queen.  


  Local ice-cream company, Upton Farm, had perhaps the most avid fans, as children had the opportunity to design their own ice-cream sundaes. Richard and Maggie Francis wanted to put across the message that food should look good in order to encourage youngsters to eat it. As well as ice-cream, Upton Farm also kindly handed over a cheque for £250 in sponsorship to assist the Food Festival in setting up the education day.  


  Local company Princes Gate Bottled Water also provided free samples, to allow children to try their plain and flavoured water as perhaps a locally-sourced alternative to sugar-laden pop.
Narberth butcher Andrew Rees gave children the opportunity to try out sausage-making. Andrew and chief sausage maker Derek Pierce, were launching their new spicy chicken sausage called ‘Selsig Sir Benfro’ at the festival. ‘We come up with a new sausage variety every year for the festival and this year we have gone for chicken, with Sichuan pepper for an extra kick and parsley to balance the flavour. ‘The kids really enjoyed having a go at making the sausages and we wanted to show them that we use quality meat, herbs and spices in our sausages’.
Kid Hugs, a Darlington company, kindly gave a fascinating taste and talk, with their naturally flavoured honey. This unique product uses only natural food flavourings and source their honey from independent beekeepers throughout the country. The children enjoyed trying out a totally fat-free chocolate sauce as well as the more unusually-flavoured honey such as lime and garlic.
Ambalama Spices brought wonderfully aromatic dry spices from Sri Lanka for the children to try. Jean and Nigel Sturtivant set up their company after holidaying in Sri Lanka just prior to the tsunami disaster. Desperate to help the country in the aftermath, and keen to promote trade, not aid, they now import spices direct from the growers and sell to specialist shops. ‘We show kids the label of brown sauce to show them that exotic spices from all over the world are used in every day foods,’ explained Keith, ‘we were pleasantly surprised with the amount of knowledge the children had about spices on the day, and how keen they were to try out unfamiliar tastes’.
Ultracomida delicatessen in Narberth provided a cheese stall, showcasing Welsh and Spanish cheese for the children to try. Rose Butler, of Pembrokeshire College, ran a ‘guess the fruit’ stall. Pat and Llinos Jones, from Narberth, made fresh smoothies from Welsh organic yoghurt and freshly-cut fruit.
Dawn Taylor from Wisebuys presented a colourful display of fruit, wild mushrooms and vegetables from around the world for the children to try. Lucy Curtis and Stephen Wood, from Vicar’s Mill Trout Farm, Llandissilio, brought along a couple of their Welsh brown trout in a large aquarium, to bring home the message of where fish comes from, and gave an interesting talk about how they rear fish for the table.
Pembrokeshire College brought their team of international students, this year from the United Arab Emirates and Japan, to bring a truly jet-set taste to the day, with traditional dishes from both countries. For some of the Pembrokeshire children, this offered them their first taste of Sushi, and delicious Beduin lamb stew, called Makbous.
In the afternoon, it was the turn of local secondary schools, who as well as enjoying all the food producers’ stalls, had a master class in the Science of Chocolate, including plenty of tasters. Ray Newberry, a senior lecturer in food science at UWIC, wanted to inspire some enthusiasm amongst the students and explained that there are many career opportunities for food scientists in the UK. ‘People are often surprised when I tell them that food is the biggest manufacturing industry in the UK with a turnover of £69 billion’, Ray explained, ‘It’s not all casual, low paid jobs either - food science graduates are earning big money and have exciting jobs. Experimenting with chocolate is a great way to get that message across!’

23 July 2005:

Royal Welsh

I have been away for four days, working for the WDA at the Royal Welsh Show. What a busy time! The show was packed and very busy, the weather was glorious and I had the chance (for the very first time) to cook and talk at the same time in front of a pubic audience.

We did some telly, too, (HTV and S4C) but best of all was catching up with so many friends. The Welsh contingent of the SIAL show in Paris was there, Angela’s fan club were in full force, we met up with lots of pals from the media and even the girls from my new part-ttime job as Project Manager at Pembrokeshire Tourism. Chefs Colin Pressdee and Dai Davies came for a chat, and the lovely Paula arrived on the last day too. Great fun.

We worked very long days, up at 6am and arriving in by 7.30. We cancelled our restaurant bookings and just bought fantastic Welsh meat and bread from the food hall and made our own meals back at Pat’s bungalow-caravan up the road. We did have a lovely meal out on the first night, but I made an early night of it and was in bed before 10.30. I managed to go to bed early every night, despite being the ‘nominated driver’ when the girls got together for a drink on Wednesday night. We were still off to bed by 10.30, aware we had another long day to follow.

On the last day, we were all on a high – tired, looking forward to going home, but pleased the show had gone so well. I didn’t leave the show until 7pm having managed to organise a lift as far as Crymmyrch with a colleague who was working promoting Welsh cheeses. It was a fabulous drive back west, chasing the sun across the hills in the evening sunshine.

Home to my lovely little sproggies! I took a huge bag of goodies home for everyone. I also bought chocolates home to send to mum, who had stepped in to cover for me and care for my family in my absence. This was also a good opportunity for mum to see how we live, spend time with her grandchildren and get to know Alun better.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

It's a blustery, billowy day in Landshipping. I know that Autumn is peeking its head around the corner, but the place is still so green and alive, I want to keep believing its summer a little while longer. Today is wild, warm and not very welcoming. Neighbours' boats are rocking on their mooring chains in the metal-grey water. The tide is rushing in over the lovely, muddy riverbanks and into the pond. It's too rough to be out on the water, but that hasn't stopped an intrepid party of divers who set off on board the 'Cleddau King' with Alun at the helm early today.
As I look out to my gentle trees, their muscular branches tipping in the wind and still laden with leaves, I feel a little sad because soon they will be bare and forlorn and the wind will whip past them silently when their summer lushness has passed.
Wet windy days are tough when all the children are at home. The older ones want to watch MTV and sort out their school work and wardrobes, the little ones want to go out and spend their time plaguing the rest of us with demands for stories, toast and drinks, that are promptly discarded and spilled on the floor when something else catches their attention. One minute I'm reading aloud about 'Allie with an alligator in her attic', and my favourite - Unwin with an Umbrella bird in his Underwear, the next I'm discussing the properties of water and how nature has benefited from them. Yesterday I had a 'day off'. For the first time, probably since our son Geraint was born (over four years ago), Alun and I headed out of Pembrokeshire, just the two of us, for a pleasant day away. We were headed for Ludlow, for their famous Food Festival where we had been invited to give a talk and cookery demonstration.
At 8am Alun drove our eldest up to her school life to Haverfordwest, at 8.50 our lovely little Geraint was collected for his 20 minute ride to Templeton to his school, and we then left with darling Freya, aged 2, and took her to her nursery in Tenby. With Grandad all set to gather our little brood back in the afternoon, Alun and I were let off parenting duties for the rest of the day. Ludlow is one of my favourite market towns. I had never visited until I was sent up to the town to interview a then not well known chef called Shaun Hill. My brief was to take a culinary tour of Ludlow, with the intention of highlighting to a then somewhat cynical audience, that real, local food, purchased from quality producers and cooked with flair and imagination, might just be an alternative to ready-made meals and supermarket fare. I was taken with the atmosphere of Ludlow, with its beautiful Tudor and Georgian houses, small, real butchers and food shops, with game and cheese and locally grown fruit and vegetables proudly on display. It was quite a revelation and made a change from the then belief that the only decent restaurants were in London and the rest of us were making do with substandard food prepared by poorly-trained chefs. It was therefore very satisfying to be going back to Ludlow, this time at the behest of the Food Festival committee, to talk about my love of real, slow, wild food and to give Alun a platform to publicize his activities, from the ancient and sadly nearly extinct art of compass net fishing, to running fishing and pleasure trips on the 'Cleddau King' to foraging for and hunting food from the wild. But more about that later.
For now, I want to say that Alun and I have spent the last year running our little family, driving the children from one end of the county to make sure they all did exactly what they wanted to do, running our boat and welcoming many visitors and friends to landshipping for parties, boat trips and bbq's, and coping with the daily challenges of living in a temporary home while we find a way through the planning regulations which protect this ennchanting place and drive mere mortals mad. Since moving to this incredible waterside location, I have learned that only the very wealthy, the very childless or those willing to live in rented accommodation, can have access to an area which for generations supported ordinary folk doing ordinary jobs and raising their families. In living here with our family, Alun and I are determined to pursue a lifestyle not requiring a huge income or hours locked away in airless offices, but to find a way of living a low-mantenance life while enjoying, every day, the wonders that are on our doorstep.
We were delighted with the response to our talk in Ludlow, and spent the rest of the dy being accosted by members of our audience, as we wandered, child-free through the marquees and tasted some fabulous produce along the way. Wild, smoked salmon, Indian lamb kebabs, real Somerset cheddar, perry, cider, goat's cheese, artichoke hearts - after all that we had no need for a meal, and instead adjourned to the Church Inn with fellow Pembrokeshire friends who were also flying the Welsh flag in the marches and our good friends and colleagues from Ludlow. When he finally headed west at dusk, it was great to be coming home. It's good to see home from a different perspective to remember what makes it so special. As we drove over the river Teme a heron swooped down in front of us, showing his undercarriage in all its glory and it reminded me of my river and why I needed to go home.

Compass Net Fishing June 2001

This article was published in Pembrokeshire Life magazine

By Sarah Hoss


Echoes of Pembrokeshire’s past: Compass Net Fishing


Fishing for pleasure can be such a romantic affair. We have perhaps forgotten that local fishing methods were relied upon to provide an income and put food on the table of families living at the mercy of Mother Nature and the elements. However, some of those practises survive and supply fish, despite the advent of modern fishing methods.


Compass net fishing is one of these. Although it’s fast becoming a museum attraction, a small band of Pembrokeshire men still practise the art, for the sake of keeping it alive and for their own pleasure. If you are ever lucky enough to spot one of them working you’ll be watching a piece of history which connects them with their past and reminds them of the toils of their forefathers. They’re a rare sight. So how has it managed to survive?


“It’s the memories we have, coupled with the tranquillity of the river that keeps us going,” explains Hook compass net fisherman Jim Richards,


“The catching is a bonus, but it’s being there, and experiencing something which is in the blood and the hope that it will continue after you’ve gone.


“I started going fishing with my father when I was seven and went back to it at 17 and once I had a taste for it and liked the solitude; the sights and sounds of the river, I’ve just continued since then.


“I finally took my father’s licence on when I was about 38 and intend to keep going until my last days.”


What is compass net fishing? you may ask. The name comes from the type of net used, which it is hand-knotted and strung between two 20-feet long wooden poles hinged together at one end, resembling a huge draughtsman’s compass with the net in the middle.


The wooden poles are hewn from local larch, spotted in the forest and harvested for the job. They are then buried for many years in the salty mud of the river to season them.

Fishermen use small wooden rowing boats, traditionally waterproofed with molten black tar, although this method is very rare these days, since the old methods have by and large given way to the fibreglass alternative!


Compass net fishing was introduced to the fishermen of Llangwm and Hook villages on the Cleddau in the early 1800s by two miners who brought their methods from

Gloucester when they arrived in Pembrokeshire to work in Landshipping colliery. Ormond and Edwards have two fishing stakes on the eastern Cleddau named after them commemorating their fascinating contribution to the Welsh fishing industry.


The method used remains quite a mystery, even to the locals. In keeping with other heritage fishermen, they fear their way of life will gradually disappear as regulations restrict their licences and the length of their fishing season.


 To meet them is to realise the river seems to flow through their veins. Their methods have never been written down, but are learned by being on the river, usually from childhood. The oldest fisherman is now in his 80’s, and he’s one of just eight still licensed in the country.


There are younger men trying to preserve it, men who would have first met the senior members of the group as boys. Alun Lewis began that way, learning much from older members of his family during his Llangwm childhood. Alun has continued to fish this way every season: “it’s a lovely way to spend a few hours and is about much more than just catching fish,” says Alun, “I’ve learned so much about the river by being out there, it’s something people miss in today’s fast pace of life. You can’t hurry it!”


So what exactly is the method? Alun explains:


“To begin to fish, we need to anchor the boat across the flow of the tide. This is done by attaching a warp (long rope) to a stake fixed on one side of the river and anchoring the rope to the opposite side.


“I then position the boat on the warp and open the poles, like opening a draughtsman’s compass. The net is attached to the poles so that when in the water, it forms a funnel under the boat. The poles are held open by securing a spreader pole between them. I then check the depth and flow of the tide.


“If the water is too deep, or the flow too strong, and I attempted to lower the end of the poles to the riverbed the force of the tide would overturn the boat and I’d be thrown into the water into the net and I’d be lucky to escape with my life.


“As the tide drops, the poles are raised so that I can slide the boat across the warp into slightly deeper water aiming to be in the centre of the channel at low water.


“The net attached to the wooden poles is lowered into the water. Fish swept in by the tide simply swim in and are caught. We detect their movement against the net by three strings or ‘feelers’, which run from the net and are loosely held onto. At the sign of a catch, the poles are pulled up and the net hauled aboard.


If I’m lucky, there’s nothing I like better than preparing my own catch for the table and then cooking it by my own special recipe using three simple ingredients - fish, foil and fire.”


On a good day during the fishing season there will be fresh fish for tea and maybe


some for sale to local chefs. On a bad day, while the nets will be empty, the fisherman will have had the pleasure of three hours of peace and solitude away from the rush of everyday life, with just the river and wildlife for company.


If you don’t catch sight of the compass netsmen on the river, Scolton Manor museum has an excellent exhibition on the subject, including a replica boat and they also show a film made in the 1970s that captured all of the men fishing at that time. Alun Lewis still uses a traditional tarred Llangwm boat, which has been passed down through several generations.  Like his forefathers, Alun hopes to pass on the knowledge to his sons as they grow up. Otherwise another fishing tradition stands to be lost forever.


How to find out more:


Read the tourist information board at Landshipping slipway


Visit Scolton Manor Museum


The compass netsmen are licensed to fish from June 1 and September 1, Mondays 12 noon until Saturdays 6am. They can be seen from 2 ½ hours before low water on tides ranging above 6.3m at Little Milford on the Western Cleddau and upstream of Landshipping on the Eastern Cleddau.

My BBC programme proposal - 2000

submitted Dec 22 2000 (by Sarah Hoss)

‘The Big House’


6 x 30mins


Set on its own private quayside overlooking the river Cleddau in the heart of the Pembrokeshire National Park, The Big House, Landshipping, has been in ruins for over a century.  Surrounded by 3 acres of walled gardens, now overgrown, and with two habitable cottages originally built as servants’ quarters, the old mansion has been left to quietly decay behind its wrought iron gates, witness to the changing fortunes of this fascinating, as yet undiscovered part of Pembrokeshire.


Built in the 1750s using stonework from an original Jacobean mansion, The Big House was altered in the 1830s to echo the style of Picton Castle which lies on the opposing riverbank. It was turned into a fashionable house, with large bows providing spectacular views over the Cleddau. Also known as Landshipping Mansion, the ‘new’ Big House became a family home for 37 year old Hugh Owen, his wife Angelina and children William, aged 10, Angelina, 11 and Frances (4) and several servants.


The Big House is now set to become the new home of Pembrokeshire-born Alun Lewis aged 39, his partner Sarah and their children, Elaina, aged 12, Gethin, 9 and baby Geraint. The couple are moving into the property in early March to begin what will become a huge building, restoration and research project to breathe life into The Big House once again.


With elements of ‘The House Detectives’ and ‘Home Front’, The Big House follows the project from the very beginnings, as Alun and Sarah set plans for recreating the former glory of this three-storey, seven bedroomed house and adjoining cottages and outbuildings, as well as breathing new life into the walled orchards and gardens which surround the house on three sides. The Soil Association will be advising on organic horticulture, the Centre for Alternative Energy will be consulted about ‘green’ development and renewable energy projects. Experts in historical architecture and design will help bring the house back to life while paying respect to its past.


Alun has spent much of his life fishing on the Cleddau and is one of the last licensed compass-net fishermen of Llangwm, a former fishing village located nearby. The river was known as the highway of the county and has witnessed a gradual decline since it’s hey-day as a mining, fishing and boat-building centre and boasts a wealth of local folk-lore and history, recently documented in Dr Robert Davies’ Millennium book ‘A River Never Sleeps’. You could say that the river runs through Alun’s veins, and he’s determined to combine work and family life on the river. Indeed, the couple first met on the banks of the river. They hope to live and work at The Big House and raise their children there. To that end, Alun is currently completing renovation on his 40ft fishing boat which will be berthed at The Big House and will take the name of a former local ferry The Cleddau King.


The Big House provides an appropriate metaphor for the changing fortunes of the area, a common experience felt by many rural communities in Wales. Can a new generation innovate and develop in harmony with the environment and create a sustainable lifestyle in such an idyllic setting? 

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