Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My Great Fort

Here’s St Catherine’s Fort, built on a rocky outcrop just off St Catherine’s Beach in Tenby, seen from the sea this morning:

And I want it. I’ve wanted it since I was nine. Invited to choose a present from Tenby for my ninth birthday, I chose a painting of this fort, which I still like. You’d have thought someone would have taken the hint by now, wouldn’t you?

It was built to keep Napoleon out, and it did a fine job. After that they weren’t sure what to do with it. It is a huge, cavernous, atmospheric place of large empty rooms.

In the 1960s it was, for a while, a rather unlikely setting for a zoo, but it didn’t really get enough visitors because you can only get to it when the tide is out. When the tide is out, you can walk. When the tide is in, the currents are so strong around it that it is effectively cut off from the mainland. Here it is, seen from the beach:

You used to be able to go out on the flat rooftop of the fort and be pecked at and divebombed by seagulls. I loved all that, and the great views all round

About thirty years ago, when the zoo folded, a local man bought the fort for ten thousand pounds. The steps leading up to the fort were blocked off, and as far as I know nothing has been done with it ever since. Now, apparently, it’s on sale for three million, though I expect it’s in need of more than a little work.

I think it should be made into a retreat for artists, writers and actors. Okay, you can only get to it when the tide’s out, so artists would have plenty of time to paint, writers plenty of time to write and actors plenty of time to rehearse. It’s big enough to provide accommodation. Artists could display their work. Theatre companies could perform theirs.

I know this is a Good Idea, but sadly I haven’t got three million – oh, all right, maybe double that, to put in a damp proof course, bit of paint etc - to spare. But three million or even six million isn’t a HUGE amount. If everyone who likes Tenby gave a millionth of it we’d be there in no time.

On the other hand, Gareth suggested we should simply storm it and take it by force, following in the old tradition of Pembrokeshire piracy. Here’s a totally authentic pirate I found standing outside a gift shop in Amroth:

Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of piracy equipment with us – we have a couple of bandanas and Emily did have a plastic sword but it got lost at the Bloodstock festival recently.

So, to sum up, if you have lots of money and feel like sending me six million pounds – or even three million would be a start – or if you have any stripy jumpers, eye patches, earrings or generally piratical equipment, do please get in touch. If you are Johnny Depp, so much the better.


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