A YEAR IN PEMBROKESHIRE
Jamie Owen and David Wilson (Graffeg)
“A love story in prose and pictures” is how broadcaster Jamie Owen aptly describes this collaboration with photographer David Wilson. Who better to take the reader on a verbal and visual tour of Pembrokeshire than two of its native sons?
The county, of course, attracts thousands of visitors each year, and over the course of the book, structured as a series of day trips, Owen and Wilson duly cover St Davids and Tenby, Pembrokeshire’s best-known and much-loved coastal hotspots. But they also take routes less travelled (at least by tourists): up Milford Haven, onto the Castlemartin Firing Range, into the Gwaun Valley and across the Preseli Hills. Along the way, they tell the tales of those whom they encounter, painting a portrait not only of place but of people too.
Owen writes engagingly, weaving personal observations and childhood memories in amongst the plentiful factual information in a way that prevents the book from becoming merely a drily neutral guidebook. Occasionally, though, there could be a little more edge, a little more critique, a little less indulgence shown to interviewees. In the chapter on St Davids, for instance, Dorrien Davies, the Archdeacon of Carmarthen, is allowed to declare rather pompously and without challenge that “We hold services for God, not man. It makes no difference if there are a hundred in the congregation or none”, conveniently ignoring the fact that the costly upkeep of the cathedral has to be paid for somehow.
Meanwhile, Wilson’s images are a fine illustrative accompaniment to Owen’s prose. However, while the choice of black and white over colour is ideal for the starkly beautiful natural landscapes of Strumble Head and particularly the Preseli Hills, it makes less sense for the chapter on Tenby, bleaching the harbourside houses of their distinctive bright colours.
Perhaps the most fascinating chapter concerns Hen Galan, the old tradition of welcoming in the new year according to the Julian rather than the Gregorian calendar. Wilson insists in his introduction that the book is “no lament to a dying way of life”, but in this chapter and others you do get the sense of a county caught, sometimes awkwardly, between keeping up with the modern world and clinging to the past.
words Ben Woolhead
Price: £20.00 Info: www.graffeg.com