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Ports of Call – Neyland Marina

Ports of Call – Neyland Marina

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  • Neyland Marina is a great cruising base. It is such a pleasant place to just be.
  • … over and over again we felt that its position, access and facilities were all just so convenient that one had to like it.
  • If you wish to explore this special waterway, then keeping your boat here for a week, a month or a whole season would be ideal. 
  • Neyland Marina is modern and well equipped, but blends sympathetically with its environment.
  •  Everywhere you look around Neyland and Pembroke you are aware of the past.

Ports of CallNeyland Marina

Alex Whittaker appraises this attractive marina situated in vast Milford Haven …

 

West Wales offers a broad range of exciting boating destinations – everything from drying sandy harbours in the challenging Bristol Channel to sleepy rural backwaters in the upper reaches of Milford Haven. There are so many ports to choose from that it can be hard to pick the best. In summer 2017, we thought we would save you the long sea miles and the tedious road hours, and after much research, we decided that a port in Milford Haven waterway looked the best opening bet. After visiting on your behalf, we came to the conclusion that as a cruising base, Neyland Marina held all the aces.


Approach by road

Neyland Yacht Haven, to give it its full name, lies at the eastern end of Milford Haven. It is situated close to the River Cleddau A477 high-level toll bridge (the toll is only a couple of quid for your boat and trailer). This handy proximity to the main road and bridge means that towing your boat overland to Neyland is a breeze. The main issue is that this part of West Wales is somewhat remote from the larger centres of UK population, and getting there on just A roads can be time-consuming. We had never been to this part of the world before, and we chose to drive right down the middle of Wales from our home on the North Wales coast. The notoriously poor North–South Wales road communications, and the lack of motorways, meant that it took us almost six hours – so tiring that we even toyed with the idea of following the English motorways south, and then doubling back in to South Wales. If you take the English motorway route, Neyland lies around 2.5 hours’ towing time from the Severn Bridge. Just remember to punch SA73 1PY into your satnav before you set off.


The cleft

Neyland Marina is modern and well equipped, but blends sympathetically with its environment. Down on the pontoons, it does not feel like an imposed modern marina. It is more like linked rural moorings. Its two basins, dispersed over two different levels, are contained within a secluded, steeply wooded cleft. This curved waterway surrounded by greenery makes it all seem like nature’s work. Although the main road thunders somewhere overhead, you cannot hear it. Everything below remains tranquil and pastoral.


The cill

The two basins are separated by a fixed cill. The lower basin has all-tide access, while the upper basin behind the cill has access 3.5-4.00 hours either side of high water. When there is enough water, you just float across. This simple low-tech solution means that there is no lock gate to jam. Most significantly, there is no tidal gate mechanism to break and keep you in port on a sunny day. Marina fees reflect the different access offered by each basin.


The facilities

The marina is open all year round, seven days a week. The only staff day off is Christmas Day. Neyland comprises 420 pontoon berths, each fully serviced with power and water. There are full toilet, shower and laundry facilities, and on inspection, they proved to be very good. For those of us with international financial empires to run, kids movies to download or touchy teenagers to placate, the marina has free Wi-Fi. Mercifully, this has a simple log-in process, which we tried and it worked. Other marinas please note! We also noticed that the marina office has free DVDs to loan. We were especially delighted to learn that the marina makes a very useful battery starter pack available – handy if you have travelled a long way to your boat only to discover a flat battery. We found James Cotton and his marina staff particularly friendly and helpful. They were genuinely enthusiastic about the marina. It was also noticeable that they went out of their way to assist us. Neyland Marina seemed an easy place to live with. It is its own little world. Most significantly, it had all the facilities we could require as visiting trailer boaters or long-term berth holders. There is 24-hour security backed up with CCTV, and it was also comforting to note that night staff are on duty after 6.00pm. Berths for smaller boats (sub-6m) and mud berths (‘inner walkway berths’) are offered at a very attractive rate. There is a useful and large visitors’ pontoon at the entrance to the lower basin. All car parking is free, and we had no trouble parking there in high summer. For those of us who like a handful of ice in our sundowners, it was little less than miraculous to discover that there was an ice machine in the laundry.


Cafe

The marina building has the Brunel Cafe on the ground floor. This is a lively, pleasant place to eat with approachable and helpful staff. Mrs Whittaker and I liked the menu and prices were very reasonable. If we kept our boat here, we would definitely take at least one meal a day here.


Marina bar restaurant

This is upstairs over the marina building. It has a delightful terrace with great views out over the Haven, as well as a smart enclosed dining room – ideal for inclement weather, as well as sunny alfresco lunches. We did not dine there, but local boaters to whom we spoke consistently gave it good reviews. They also told us there were no silly prices. We noted that it holds a Trip Advisor ‘Certificate of Excellence’. It seemed to us yet another good reason to consider Neyland Marina as a base for exploration of the whole of Milford Haven.


Chandlery

The marina has the Brunel Chandlery very conveniently on site. This is next to the reception area. I bought things while I was there, so it must be good. In addition, Dale Sailing Ltd, immediately adjacent to the marina, just along Neyland Quay, also has its own extensive chandlery.


Daily weather

The local weather forecast is posted daily at the marina. There is also an LED screen in reception that summarises the weather forecast. This is a very useful resource, which we supplemented with our own iPhone weather apps.


VHF

Neyland Marina keeps watch on Channels 37 and 80. Commercial shipping movements for each day along Milford Haven are broadcast on Channel 12 between 0800 and 0830, and between 2000 and 2030. If you are traversing the length of the Haven, this is an important resource. Wherever you are in the Haven you should keep a radio watch on Channel 12 Milford Marina Port Control.


The pods

These are quirky, modern and exceedingly groovy floating accommodation units in the marina. You can rent one on a nightly basis. They are in the serenity of the upper basin, so you will sleep well. Inside there is a dining table, kitchenette and TV. They sleep two adults and two children. Naturally you have access to the marina toilets, showers and laundry. Definitely a place to try if you are exploring Milford Haven prior to bringing your boat here.

www.yachthavens.com/neyland


Fuel berth

Dale Sailing Ltd operate the floating pontoon fuel berth just along the quay from the marina.

Opening hours:

8.00am–4.30pm Monday to Friday

Saturday 9.00am–1.00pm

Bank holidays 9.00am–12.30pm

This fuel berth dispenses both diesel and petrol, and you may pay with your credit card. I liked the handy intercom, which you can use to summon the attendant to sell you some fuel without leaving the berth. Sports boats owners will also be pleased to note that petrol is available across the water at Lawrenny too.


Gas

Calor gas is available from the marina’s Brunel Chandlery. Although our current boat does not use gas, we could see how convenient this would be for boats that require it: no bike trips or taxi rides carrying gas bottles!


Marina fees

As a guide, the 2017 Marina Handbook quotes £335/metre (inc. VAT) for a boat in the lower basin. You can get 2.5% off this amount for payment up front. Monthly options are available. If your boat can take the ground, then the sheltered (and pontoon access) mud berth options looked especially interesting. In addition, the special winter rates looked very appetising. We got the strong impression that the marina was offering attractive deals and wanted our business.

Marina contact data

You can check out the current fees and any other details for your boat at

www.yachthavens.com/neyland.

Telephone: 01646 601601


Approaching the marina by boat

Since Milford Haven is famously deep and sheltered, approaches to the marina can be very straightforward in settled weather. However, the extensive local pilotage must be observed. The free Neyland Yacht Haven Handbook, available on paper or online, contains detailed descriptions.

 

The recommended pilotage on approach is as follows: ‘After passing Milford Haven town, the Weir Spit port-hand post will come up, north of the Pennar Gut. This post should be left to port. Take a north-easterly heading to Pembroke Reach and follow the channel, which is marked with port and starboard posts. Leave Neyland Spit port-hand buoy to port and head for the Cleddau Bridge until Westfield Pill, to the north, is well to port. Approach the marina from the SE giving the W bank a wide berth. The final approach is marked by channel buoys. At night, after rounding Neyland Spit port-hand buoy (Fl(2)R10s), head between the 2FR (vert) and 2FG (vert) lights on the Cleddau Bridge, until the main marina building is to the NW. The entrance buoys are lit. Beware of tidal set across the entrance.


Cycle hire

Very conveniently, this service is available right in the marina. Apparently these are ‘Dutch bikes’ (me neither!). They struck me as sturdy and thus I suppose looked suitably Batavian. These bikes had big wheels, which we know from experience are much easier to propel than those folding bikes most yachting folk inflict upon themselves. Some seemed to have what looked like a trailer. This addendum would be useful if you arrived by water and needed to get in bulky ships stores or buy an outboard – two things we have had to do in foreign ports via expensive taxis. Just note that the Brunel Way cycle trail starts right on the marina doorstep, so leisure rides between tides are entirely in order.


Nature reserve

There is a nature reserve immediately north of the marina. Reputedly there are both otters and kingfishers, which is very encouraging indeed. As for spotting the latter, good luck with your project: there is a secretive kingfisher living not 20 paces from our own boat Up North, and we have yet to get a good look at him.


Neyland village

The village of Neyland is slightly separated from the marina. It is just up the steep hill and has a range of friendly shops and pubs. It reminded us of similar places in the north, with its many terraced houses and a compact community feel. Unlike some villages close to modern marinas in North Wales, it seemed to us neither gentrified nor obviously expensive. Indeed, if you liked the local boating, it looked an affordable place to live.


Neyland Quay

Neyland Quay is next to the marina. It was Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s chosen base for his audacious transatlantic venture. This bold plan involved linking his new Great Western Railway with his new breed of steel-hulled/steam-powered passenger ships to cross the Atlantic. In short, he planned to carry GWR passengers from London all the way to the USA. Neyland Quay has a section of fencing that is constructed from distinctive ‘bridge rails’ from the GWR. Typically these were made in 14–17 ft lengths, and represent real industrial archeology. Brunel also saw Neyland as an ideal base for the steam packet trade to Ireland. In fact, Neyland prospered for about 50 years, but was finally overtaken by Fishguard. Today, Neyland Quay has extensive boatyard services, including boat designing and -building, boat hoists and cranes, boat storage, boatyards, dry-stacking for boats, a floating fuel berth and a pontoon used by local fishing and commercial vessels. It was really encouraging to see unmistakable moulds for no-nonsense GRP pilot craft, fit for the demands of the Bristol Channel. They looked like Nelsons, and proved to be Dale Sailing’s very successful update of this classic design, the Dale Nelson. Dale Sailing also produce the stylish and luxurious Dale Classic 35 motor launch.


Hobbs Point Slipway

All trailer folk need to know about slipways. There is a very large public slipway at Hobbs Point, within sight of Neyland Marina. The Pembroke Haven Yacht Club building, complete with verandah, overlooks the slope. Absolutely ideal for us trailer boaters, this slipway is especially wide – perfect for those who find reversing a full rig downhill a bit of a challenge. We were there in summer when there is a seasonal waiting pontoon on the outer wall. Lying here, you will need all your fenders out since large commercial vessels and ferries put up a substantial wash. Car parking, toilets and a public telephone are at the top of the quay. Shops, fast food and provisions are about a 10-minute walk away.


Milford Haven waterway

Neyland is about halfway along the whole well-sheltered 22-mile Milford Haven waterway. The upper reaches are particularly idyllic, with trees and meadows coming right down to the water. There are lots of dreamy backwaters to explore by dinghy. Downstream you have to wake up and dodge the large commercial traffic, but it is an invigorating waterway to navigate. It is superbly satisfying to share a waterway with ocean-going craft. Normal seamanlike prudence will see you safely through.


Visitors’ pontoons

There are seasonal pontoons dotted about the Milford Haven waterway provided by the local authority. These are designed to encourage boaters to visit the local towns and villages. We thought these initiatives were most enlightened – it is nice to feel wanted as a boater. Happy boaters bring life, spend money and tell all their friends. Most encouragingly, there are also some strategic pontoons at waterside pubs and restaurants.


No-plane zone

Powerboaters must note that getting up on the plane is not allowed beyond Lawrenny Reach, or in any of the small local bays or tributaries. This makes sense and is in harmony with the bucolic feel of the upper waters. You are mostly boating on or near internationally recognised wetlands, marine conservation areas and sites of special scientific interest, so respecting what we are privileged to enjoy is a no-brainer. There are also some designated no-wake and dead-slow areas.

 

The Port of Milford Haven makes a helpful and interesting guide to the whole waterway freely available at:

https://www.mhpa.co.uk/the-milford-haven-waterway/

We reckoned that this booklet is required reading if you are bringing your boat.


Boating by other means

Dale Sailing offer charters. They also operate trips to the Pembroke islands of Skomer and Grassholm directly from Neyland Quay, next to the marina. These are excellent ways to see the local marine wildlife, including puffins, dolphins and seals. Private charter trips are also available.

http://www.pembrokeshire-islands.co.uk/


History and the sea

You do not need a romantic sense of history to appreciate this part of Wales. Everywhere you look around Neyland and Pembroke you are aware of the past. In particular, you can feel the lingering presence of those two strong characters from our island history, Henry Tudor and Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Both left their mark in different ways on this part of Wales, and indeed the world. Neyland is close to Pembroke Castle and Pembroke Dock. We visited both, and found much to interest us.


Pembroke Castle Pond

Pembroke has one of the best-preserved Norman castles in the country. From any angle it is very impressive. For powerboaters, the bonus is that the attractive water below the castle ramparts is navigable. Beyond the pond, there is the Pembroke River, a barrage, a caisson lock and 17 buoys in the winding approach channel. The local advice is to navigate close to each buoy, since the channel is of restricted width (15 metres maximum). Castle Pond is said to have 2 metres of depth, though we did not plumb it.


Pembroke Dock

Three miles further on from Pembroke town and its castle is Pembroke Dock. The Welsh name is Doc Penfro. We found local road signage terrible and almost missed the turn-off to the docks. Pembroke Dock lies on the Cleddau riverbank. Irish Ferries now operate from Pembroke Dock. It once housed the famous Royal Dockyard, employing 4,000 men at its peak. In addition to countless men-o’-war, many royal yachts were built here. In WWII it was a base for Catalina and Sunderland flying boats. One of the last remaining RAF seaplane tenders of WWII is preserved at the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre. This wooden tender is a 37ft-long 200 Class vessel. Many were originally fitted with twin Perkins diesels and capable of 29 knots at flank speed. If you ever built plywood and balsa speedboat kits as a kid, this shape will be instantly recognisable – as will the hull, complete with its RAF roundels. The vessel needs thorough restoration, but money is being raised. For powerboat lovers like us, this was a very exciting and historic vessel. Well worth the detour.


The verdict

Neyland Marina is a great cruising base. It is such a pleasant place to just be. On top of that, over and over again we felt that its position, access and facilities were all just so convenient that one had to like it. If you wish to explore this special waterway, then keeping your boat here for a week, a month or a whole season would be ideal.


Charts

Admiralty Charts:

1478/2878/3273/3274/3275

Admiralty Leisure Charts:

SC1478/SC2878

 

Imray Charts:

2600.II.C90


Electronic

We used our normal Navionics app on our iPhone 4 and iPad 2. Navionics is available on other platforms too.


Milford Haven Gazetteer

Although not a chart for navigational purposes, the Port of Milford Haven do make available a useful waterway gazetteer. It is an essential planning resource:

https://www.mhpa.co.uk/uploads/2017-01-17-50-1-lug-2017.pdf


Local boating support services

Dale Sailing, Brunel Quay Neyland, telephone 01646 643110 for chandlery, fuel, boatbuilding, boat repairs, antifouling and ranage.

 

West Wales Marine, Neyland, telephone 01646 62288 for new and used outboards, inflatables sales, workshop and repairs, boat chandlery.

 

Neyland Marine Services, telephone 01646 600358, for electrical and electronic equipment from radio to radar, sales and repairs.


Travel

By road:

Satnav: SA73 1PY

Neyland Marina lies just off the A477, which links to the M4 and M5. The Severn Bridge is 2.5 hours’ drive away.

 

By rail:

From Cardiff to either Haverfordwest or Milford Haven, thence by taxi to the marina.

 

By ferry:

Irish Ferries from Rosslare, land at Pembroke Dock, close to the marina.


Henry Tudor

Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII, was born at Pembroke Castle on 28th January 1457. His father was Edmund Tudor, who had served at Agincourt. His mother was Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond. She was a Lancastrian descended from the mighty John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Margaret was the tender age of 13 when she bore the child who would be king. Henry Tudor’s claim to the throne came mostly from his mother’s lineage. The Wars of the Roses ended when Henry finally defeated Richard III, at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Hapless Richard was both the last Yorkist king and the last Plantagenet king. He was also the last English king to die in battle. By ending the civil war, and by taking a Yorkist woman as his queen, Henry Tudor was the first Welshman to ascend the English throne. He thus began the Tudor dynasty. It is a little known fact of Powerboat & RIB magazine history that Henry Tudor is in fact a distant relative of our very own editor, Hugo Montgomery-Swan. I kid you not.


Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Probably the greatest of the great Victorian engineers, in his day Isambard Kingdom Brunel was afforded the same sort of status a rock star might have today.

 

  • Brunel was born in 1806.
  • He began working with his father, Marc Isambard Brunel, also a noted engineer.
  • Brunel was badly injured in 1828 when Brunel’s Thames Tunnel flooded.
  • The Thames Tunnel is still used by the London Underground today.
  • Brunel built the Clifton Suspension Bridge spanning the Avon Gorge.
  • Brunel was chief engineer for the wide-gauge Great Western Railway.
  • Brunel designed Paddington Station, opened in 1854.
  • In 1838, Brunel built the world’s first transatlantic steamship, the SS Great Western. She caught fire on her maiden voyage but survived, and proved the concept of steel ships powered by steam reaching America.
  • Brunel built docks in Cardiff, Bristol and Milford Haven.
  • It is a little known fact that Brunel lived over his London office, while his dear friend, the great Robert Stevenson, lived right next door.
  • In 2002, a public TV poll placed Brunel second only to Sir Winston Churchill in its list of ‘100 Famous Britons’.
  • A heavy smoker, Brunel died cruelly young of a stroke in 1859. His legacy is all around us.

Quick facts Milford Haven Waterway

Neyland Marina lies on the extensive body of sheltered water collectively known as Milford Haven.

 

  1. Milford Haven is 22 miles long.
  2. Milford Haven is actually a drowned river valley, or a ‘ria’.
  3. In 854, the Viking chieftain Hubba wintered in Milford Haven with 23 ships. A local village is still named after him.
  4. A natural deep harbour, Milford Haven is considered one of the finest in the world.
  5. The port town of Milford Haven was founded with the help of American whaling families from Nantucket.
  6. Milford Haven remained a viable fishing port until the 1950s.
  7. In 1960, Esso came to Milford Haven and opened their oil refinery.
  8. Irish Ferries operate from Pembroke Dock.
  9. Brunel’s majestic Great Eastern transatlantic steamer remained in Milford Docks for repairs between 1875 and 1886.

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