In a recent post I wrote about Burry Port and the Lougher Estuary, and moving a little further west along the coast from there we come to a seven mile long sandy beach called Pendine Sands.
The beach stretches from Gilman Point in the east to Laugharne Sands in the west. Near the western end of the beach is the village of Pendine or Pentwyn in Welsh meaning the end of the dunes.
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The beach is famous as it has been used as the venue for land speed record attempts since the early 1900s. The first person to choose Pendine Sands as the place to attempt a world land speed record was Malcolm Campbell, who on the 25th of September 1924, set a world record of 146.16 mph (235.22 kh/h) in his Sunbeam 350HP car which he called Blue Bird, named after the play of that name by Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck.
Malcolm Campbell was born in Chislehurst England on the 11th of March 1885, was knighted in 1931, and died after a series of strokes in 1948 at the age of 63. It could be considered unusual that someone who spent his life trying to go faster on land and water, in fact died of natural causes rather than in some horrific accident.
Malcolm Campbell had a son, Donald and a daughter, Jean. Donald Campbell continued the family tradition of setting land and water world speed records.
Another person who used Pendine Sands for world record attempts was the Welshman, John Godfrey Parry-Thomas, who was born in Wrexham, North Wales on the 6th of April 1884. He set a world land speed record on Pendine Sands on the 28th of April 1926, reaching over 170 mph (270 km/h).
Almost a year later, on the 3rd of March 1927, Parry-Thomas was once again on Pendine Sands, trying to regain his world record which had been broken some weeks earlier by Malcolm Campbell. Sadly this time, while attempting the record and travelling at a speed of around 170 mph he crashed and died instantly from the injuries he sustained.
His car Babs, was buried in the sand dunes at Pendine Sands and his body at St Mary’s churchyard in Byfleet, England. In 1969 his car was dug up and restored, and is now on display at the Museum of Speed in Pendine for some months each summer.
Donald Campbell died on the 4th of January 1967 at the age of 45 on Coniston water, a lake in Lancashire, England, when his craft Bluebird K7 crashed at high speed during a world water record attempt. There is a BBC TV film about his life called Across the Lake, produced by the late Welsh television producer George Innes Llewelyn Lloyd and starring Welsh actor Sir Anthony Hopkins in the leading role.
The group Marillion have a song on their album, Afraid of Sunlight, called, Out of this world, which is about Donald Campbell.
Between them, Donald Campbell and his Father set eleven speed records on water and ten on land. During the Second World War Pendine Sands was used as firing range, and the beach is in fact still owned by the ministry of defence.
More recently Pendine Sands was used by the grandson of Malcolm Campbell to set a United Kingdom electric land speed record with a speed of 137 mph (220 km/h) Also, in September of 2013 Guy Martin broke the United Kingdom speed record for riding a bicycle in the slipstream of another vehicle. So as you can see the beach is still in the news.
If you sit on the beach in the early hours of the morning, close your eyes and concentrate, you may just be able to hear the roar of the engines, the shouts of elation as world records were broken, the crunch of metal against sand or the crack of the gun shots during firing practice. Without doubt, It’s a beach with an original and exciting history.
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