Jonty Pearce finds tranquillity away from the bustle of Milford Haven and good shelter in the Upper Cleddau River
Don’t be put off by the name – the only sticky stuff here is the riverbed that gives such good holding. And, far from being black, this tranquil anchorage lies in the gloriously colourful Upper Cleddau River, where the only sounds come from cows lowing in the fields.
This is our place of refuge when the wind or waves of the open sea have us longing for flat water and good shelter, and is the ideal spot to spend the night when seasick-prone visitors come aboard. Milford Haven has many faces, and whilst some would shy away from the industrialism of the refineries below the Cleddau Bridge, this anchorage epitomises the flip side.
Motor or sail upriver, pass Lawrenny Yacht Station and its wooded shores, turn the corner into Beggars Reach and the moorings off the village of Llangwm come into view. Black Tar was formerly the site of the traditional fishing industry of Llangwm, but now there is only a cluster of houses and a concrete slipway leading down to the sheltered tidal shore beyond the bay of the village. My favoured place is at the end of the moorings off the western shore, where the wooded cliff gives way to the mudflats of Sprinkle Pill. It is not marked as an anchorage on the chart, but there is plenty of space north of the last mooring. With a tidal range of up to seven metres at Springs, calculate your depth carefully, though if you do get it wrong you will simply sink into the deep, soft mud. Allow enough swinging room for the boat to turn as the tide changes, and sit back and enjoy the view.
Being so far inland, the shelter is excellent, especially from the prevailing south-west. On my most recent visit, a southeasterly wind rippled the normally smooth surface, though my friends who had been seasick during the attempt to reach Skomer spent an untroubled night after a good meal. Northerly winds would give similar conditions. The boat may switch between lying to wind or tide, but with such good holding we always been comfortable.
For those not experienced in river pilotage, there are few basic rules. Keep to the outside of the bends where deeper
water will be found, and resist cutting the corners where silt builds up. At Low Water, watch the chart for shallow areas – there
is a large shallow sandbank devoid of moorings off the village of Llangwm, but otherwise there are no hazards.
Historically, this was a busy area, having sustained not only a thriving coal mining industry but also a fishing and shellfish centre started by Flemish settlers in the Middle Ages. Few signs of its past now mar the scenery – only the dilapidated quays at Lawrenny, Landshipping, Cresswell and Hook remain. Explore the Western Cleddau by dinghy or on a rising tide towards Haverfordwest, or the Eastern Cleddau as far as Blackpool Mill and enjoy the peace and quiet.