West Wales Walks : Benton Woods.

Benton Castle footpath

A woodland walk near the river.

Take the turning for West Williamston Nursing Home between Hill and Mountain and Burton and there are a few wider parts of the lane where you can park. At the farm and castle entrance parking is discouraged due to farm vehicles needing access and further down the verges are very muddy and deep. There is a footpath up the hill and through the farm, but the farm collie very gently but determinedly escorted Cwtch Collie and I back down the lane so we chose the footpath leading to Benton Castle instead!

Despite their ‘mountain’ ambitions neither Burton Mountain or its neighbour, Williamston Mountain rises to more the 55 metres (180 feet). Beyond Williamston Mountain Farm most of the route is through woodland, a mixture of broadleaf trees and conifers that runs along the eastern side of the Cleddau as far as Port Lion. Look out for large flocks of blue tits and great tits searching the treetops for food on winter days. In summer the woods ring to the song of warblers like the wood warbler and the chiffchaff, which fly in from Africa to breed in the wooded valleys of Pembrokeshire.

The Daugleddau waterway has several castles that were built as strongholds but over the years became fortified residences – Benton Castle is one. The castle is thought to have been built to defend the lordship of Rhos and may have been a home of the powerful De la Roche family. The remaining tower dates from the 13th century. From the end of the Civil War in the 17th century the castle was a ruin, but in the 1930s it was refurbished and it is now a private home and not open to the public.

It is a small 13th century castle with one tall round tower, and one smaller round tower each side of front. There was an irregular courtyard behind, much depleted, now rebuilt and roofed over. The main SW tower had no floors (originally timber), no fireplaces, no stairs in the tower walls but garderobe chutes. The entrance had no portcullis or defences. Its medieval history is apparently unrecorded. In ruins when painted by Sandby in 1779, it formed part of the Owen of Orielton estate at one time. The ruins had been stabilised before 1920 by the Scourfields of Williamston. Bought in 1932 by Ernest Pegge (1896-1940), civil engineer who repaired the castle as a house. After his death the work was completed by his nephew Dr Arthur V. Pegge, who built up and roofed the courtyard, completed by 1954. He was aided by J. A. Price, the county architect. Sold in the 1960s and further restored for Col. and Mrs J. A. Sulivan. Col. Sulivan was High Sheriff of Dyfed 1974, his wife a great-grand-daughter of Sir Hugh Owen of Orielton.

The long winding path through the woods up to the castle is used for vehicles and is almost a concrete road, while after the castle and the small cluster of other buildings, the path leads into the woods and footpaths. There are some gates and stiles, but it is easy going. There are plenty of very discouraging signs reminding walkers that all the land is private and that vermin shooting is likely as well as prohibiting any climbing on the log stacks. The woodlands are quiet and beautiful so just enjoy the glimpses through to the river and the wildlife around you.

 

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Suzanne Ashworth

Suzanne Ashworth

Suzanne is now enjoying realising her long-held ambition to work as a Community Photojournalist and to celebrate her passion for the beautiful county of Pembrokeshire. Usually accompanied by her Pembrokeshire border collie, Cwtch.

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