WATCH: A decision has been made to close the main boardwalk at Holyland Wood, Pembroke, after a volunteer work party identified significant damage.

The New Year work party gathered on Saturday, January 20 for some general tidying and maintenance, clearing the boardwalk of debris and cutting back foliage. The team erected warning notices at each end of the boardwalk alerting users. It was also agreed that any repairs were beyond the capability of the current volunteers and the limited resources of the management group. 

Following further inspections, involving those with previous experience of boardwalk maintenance, the decision was made to close the main boardwalk.

Since the boardwalk was installed in 2008, some repairs have been undertaken as a result of wear and tear or damage caused by rising floodwaters and vandalism. Notices at entry points to Holyland Wood advise users to proceed with caution under certain weather conditions, such as storms and heavy rain, as well as alerting users that parts of the boardwalk have become distorted, with raised sections and small gaps that may make it difficult for those with mobility issues or pushchairs.

Damage to Holyland Wood Boardwalk, Pembroke
(Observer pic)

In January 2024, significant damage has been caused to the main boardwalk through the reedbed. The force of the water from severe flooding shifted the boardwalk sideways along the entire length. In some places it has been dislodged from the supporting railway sleepers and ridden up over the top of adjacent sections. It is in a hazardous condition, with several trip hazards, as can be seen in the video footage above.

A defaced sign at Holyland Wood in Pembroke, where vandalism is one of the factors affecting the upkeep of the volunteer-run nature reserve.
A defaced sign at Holyland Wood in Pembroke, where vandalism is one of the factors affecting the upkeep of the volunteer-run nature reserve. (Observer pic.)

Holyland Wood is privately owned; and has been managed by Pembroke 21C Community Association since 2006. Maintenance of the Wood is done entirely by volunteers, guided by Pembroke 21C Holyland Wood Management Group, with professional advice and practical support from the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, alongside other relevant bodies.

A spokesperson for Pembroke 21C Holyland Wood Management Group said: “Further investigations are underway with the landowner and leaseholder to determine how and if any repairs can be carried out. However, any remedial work will involve considerable disruption and work may only be possible during drier periods. Approaches are being made to groups with practical and engineering skills to undertake the work, free of labour charges.”

The boardwalk at Holyland Wood, Pembroke has been distorted by flood waters
The boardwalk has been distorted by flood waters. (Observer pic)

Accessed via a small car park of Holyland Road, Pembroke, Holyland Wood is managed as a nature reserve to enhance its natural habitats; promote its educational use; and maintain it as an outdoor area for the local community to enjoy as a wildlife reserve close to an urban environment.

The management group’s primary focus is to maintain the Wood in its most natural state, and intervention is directed towards this rather than managing it as a manicured environment; whilst ensuring the Wood is open and safe for the public to appreciate its wildlife and enhance their wellbeing.

The upper paths are still open, and in order to enhance the enjoyment of all users and to minimise disturbance to wildlife and habitats, the following should be observed:-

  • Walkers should stick to the official routes and not stray off the main paths.
  • Dogs should be kept under control, preferably on leads, as this reduces the risk of them going off the main paths and disturbing wildlife. Regarding this, a spokesperson added: “We have made efforts to advise users to minimise wildlife disturbance and keep dogs on a lead using signage and information panels with little success. This is a problem encountered on many other nature reserves where staff have faced aggressive and abusive owners. We are reluctant to ask volunteers to confront dog owners directly.”
  • Dog owners are urged to pick up and dispose of all dog poo, in the bins provided in the car park and at Jack Skone’s Lane, and to take litter home or use the bins provided.
  • Fires should not be lit anywhere on site. The boardwalk has been set on fire previously and significantly damaged.
  • No overnight camping or parking is allowed on site. No cycling along any of the routes is allowed.
Warning sign at Holyland Wood
(Pic supplied)

A brief history of Holyland Wood

(Information gleaned from

The Holyland Estate, of which Holyland Wood is part, is privately owned by members of the Thomas-Ferrand family, having passed by marriage from the Adams family.  The adjoining Pembroke Upper Millpond is owned by Crown Estates and leased to the Wildlife Trust South and West Wales who manage it as a Local Nature Reserve. 

Where the woods now stand was previously steep grazing land, dipping down to what was once a tidal creek with salt marshes. Gradually, following construction of Pembroke Mill Bridge, the Railway Embankment and finally the Tidal Barrage below Pembroke Castle, the creek became silted-up. Above what remains of Pembroke Upper Mill Pond are now reed beds and marshland.

Holyland House can be seen from the upper woodland boardwalk-loop route.

Behind it, the coach house was built in 1824 and the walled kitchen garden in 1825. The field above the house was once a vineyard.

It was probably at about this time that the surrounding land was planted with the trees that are there now and, over time, they have become Holyland Wood. There are varieties of oak, beech, lime, some chestnut and the remains of regenerated elm and holly.

Holyland House was requisitioned by the War Office during the Second World War and, as a result, the Adams family moved to live in Tenby.

In August 1979, a ten year lease was granted by the owner to the then Dyfed Wildlife Trust to manage the woodland together with a further lease from the Crown Estates to manage the Upper Millpond. The Wildlife Trust managed the whole area up until 1999 when the lease for the woodlands expired. They continue to manage the Upper Millpond area on behalf of the Crown Estates.

In 2005 Pembroke 21C secured funding from Cydcoed (Woods for All). This money was used to install the paths, boardwalk and parking area; these works were completed in June 2008.

The owner of Holyland Wood granted Pembroke21C a 20 year lease to enable the wood to be regenerated and conserved. The lease is due to expire in October 2026.

Pembroke Environment Volunteers welcome new helpers to enhance the wood and reedbed habitats for wildlife and visitor enjoyment. To find out more, go to .