Henry de Beaumont, the French-speaking Norman 1st Earl of Warwick, was a horrid man: aggressive and arrogant. Hunting one day in the district of Three Cliffs Bay, his party espied a pretty Welsh girl singing in a clearing in the woods. Consumed with lust, he ordered his men to kidnap her, and drag her back to his castle at Pennard, overlooking the bay. There, the poor girl was locked in a small room at the top of a tall tower, kept for whenever Beaumont or his hunting friends chose to pleasure themselves.
She wept and wept, her virtuous heart breaking, but her piteous pleas went unheeded by the haughty Normans, who neither understood nor cared anything for her language.
But the little people love the song of a maiden. Their little eyes saw all. Their little ears heard her singing and her weeping. Their little angers stirred. That evening, as de Beaumont and his Normans returned from hunting, they called for food and drink, making merry as the little people scampered about the castle walls, calling to the girl to be strong.
The wind whipped up, stirring the sand from the beach below into dust devils, swirling into the night sky. Coalesced, it beat against the castle walls, filling the cracks, and slipping under the doorways. As the fire crackled and the beer swam through the halls, the sand drifted across the flag stones, under the feet of the cackling, turbulent Normans.
In the tower above, the girl shivered in the night chill, observing how the curtains of sand whipped past her window, piling up at the foot of the tower.
As the sand covered their shoes, the Normans became uneasy. “We must flee!” De Beaumont would have none of it. “Tis but a caprice of the foreign weather,” he guffawed: “Wench! More beer!” Anxiously, the serving girls did as he bade.
But in the tower above, the girl watched as the sand built further up against the tower.
Still the sand whipped through the doors, and however the Normans tried to seal the gaps, their cloaks wrapped about their mouths and noses, the sand built ever higher. De Beaumont now trapped in the tide of sand, the gaps in the windows growing ever narrower, his comrades, with mighty struggle, scrambled and dug their way through the dunes and out of the castle, where remained the squire, buried to his neck in sand. “Young squire, art thou yet unhurt,” they enquired.
“My lords, I am,” replied the squire, “but this horse upon which I sit, I fear hath long passed away.”
The sand at their heels, they fled across the dunes. In the castle, the sand that trapped de Beaumont filled his mouth and nose, forever stopping his insults to the Welsh.
In the tower above, the sand blew into a ramp, brimming the window’s ledge. The girl squeezed through it, and slid to safety. Unseen, the little people clapped and danced in victory.
Actually, Pennard Castle exists, and was indeed built by Henry de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Warwick, in the early twelfth century. It was indeed abandoned after being consumed by sand, but not until the fourteenth century, long after Henry de Beaumont took monastic vows and retired to the Normandy abbey of Les Preaux, where he died peacefully in 1119. The barbican and two walls of Pennard Castle still stand, the sand dunes having grassed over, and now form the centrepiece of a golf course, affording magnificent views of Three Cliffs Bay.
But as the Welsh always say: never let the truth get in the way of a good story!