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Visiting the Cleddau Woodlands

Ancient oak woodland at Lawrenny on the Cleddau Woodlands, Pembrokeshire
Ancient oak woodland at Lawrenny on the Cleddau Woodlands, Pembrokeshire | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

The sheltered waterway of the Cleddau runs from the county town of Haverfordwest down to Milford Haven. Take your time to enjoy a walk, passing Little Milford Wood, the ancient oak woodland of Lawrenny and tidal mudflats at West Williamston, spotting a variety of waders and waterfowl along the way.

Little Milford

From coal mines to conifers, Little Milford has seen it all over the centuries. During the 1900s around three quarters of the original oak was cut down to make way for commercial forestry. Now a sanctuary for wildlife and walks, we’re restoring the oak woodland to its former glory.

History of Little Milford

The woodland itself is believed to date back to at least the 11th century, with locals throughout the ages making the most of the deciduous trees. The Normans took timber and firewood, and oak was routinely coppiced until the 1920s.

Coal played an active part in the area too. In its heyday, the bordering village of Hook had several small pits extracting anthracite – the last closed in 1959.

Little Milford became a commercial site during this period, with large swathes of the woodland felled and replanted with conifers.

A generous gift

The land and several dwellings were gifted to us in 1975 by Mr Harcourt Roberts, the descendant of the estate-owning family who experimented with profitable forestry.

In 2012 we harvested most of the conifers and replanted the cleared areas with a mix of broadleaved trees.

Illustrated map of of the Cleddau woodlands, Pembrokeshire
Illustrated map of of the Cleddau woodlands, Pembrokeshire | © National Trust images

Flora and fauna to see

Egrets, wigeons, ospreys and grey herons are amongst the species you’re likely to see, as well as pied flycatchers and redstarts, along with whitethroats and garden warblers. Look out for hazel, birch and holly trees on your walk.

West Williamston

Boasting a broad backdrop of salt marsh, mudflats and tidal creeks, it’s a place for wildlife watching and escaping the hustle and bustle.

The promontory lies within the upper reaches of the Eastern Cleddau at the confluence of the Carew and Cresswell rivers. Calm and quiet, the woodland is managed as a nature reserve through a lease to the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. Follow the link here to discover more about their work.

Flora and fauna to see

Bring your binoculars and start spotting at the expansive salt marsh and mudflats that give waterfront views and are a prime place to meet the likes of waders and wildfowl.

Just around the corner, you can see the rocky tidal creeks of former limestone quarries, which date back to the late 18th century. Many were excavated and canalised as loading bays to allow barges to dock, but they’re now slowly becoming salt marsh.

A rare sight

Take a walk into the neighbouring woodland and you’ll be greeted with ash and sycamore. If you’re lucky, you might even glimpse one of Pembrokeshire’s scarcest butterflies, the brown hairstreak which you can spot in late summer.

Ancient oak woodland

Ancient oak is the obvious star of the show in the woodland, especially at Lawrenny. Elsewhere, there are the likes of ash and sycamore, along with an abundance of lichen and fungi.

Venture out of the woodlands to the riverside and you’ll come across dense blackthorn scrub and more uncommon plants including the bee orchid.

Take a break

Little Milford Farmhouse and Little Milford Lodge are now holiday cottages and provide a tranquil holiday retreat in a beautiful estuary and woodland setting.

The woodland during summer at Sharpenhoe Clappers, Sharpenhoe, Bedfordshire

Discover more at the Cleddau Woodlands

Find out how to get to the Cleddau Woodlands, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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