Near Castlemartin, in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, lies a beach of epic proportions. Almost a mile long, and with a tidal range of 21ft, Freshwater West is covered in a rainbow of pebbles, old red sandstones and Lower Palaeozoic siltstones. It’s flanked by rock pools, sand dunes, fens, grassland, reed beds, purple moor grass, rush pastures, and maritime cliffs, and is home to wildlife such as waders, chough, over-wintering northern lapwing, grey seal, oh, and Dobby’s grave! Even though the last thing you’d expect to find amongst all this is a homage to Harry Potter, this modest little memorial fits right in.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry, Ron and Hermione find shelter at Shell Cottage, the coastal home of Ron’s brother Bill and his wife Fleur. In the book, the beach is meant to be in Cornwall on the outskirts of Tinworth, but in the real world the filming location can be found at Freshwater West in Wales.
Note: Tinworth joins the ranks of Upper Flagley, Ottery St Catchpole, and of course Godric’s Hollow, as a fictional town inhabited by wizarding families.
“Bill and Fleur’s cottage stood alone on a cliff overlooking the sea, its walls embedded with shells and whitewashed… Wherever Harry went inside the tiny cottage or its garden, he could hear the constant ebb and flow of the sea, like the breathing of some great, slumbering creature. He spent much of the next few days making excuses to escape the crowded cottage, craving the cliff-top view of open sky and wide, empty sea, and the feel of cold, salty wind on his face.“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
For the filming of the scenes at the end of Part 1 and the start of Part 2, Shell Cottage was actually built at the foot of the sand dunes at Freshwater West. Of course, the scenes inside the house were shot in a studio – the building itself was filled with sandbags to stop the house from being blown over (photos from Abandoned Playgrounds).
Unfortunately, they dismantled the house at the end of filming, so there’s nothing to be seen there now but pebbles and sand. Unless of course, you venture into the dunes themselves (be careful not to disturb this wildlife habitat too much) to find the grave of Dobby the house elf.
So where is Dobby’s grave? It won’t take you long to find it amongst the dunes – a humble pile of colourful pebbles, some painted, some with the inscription Here lies Dobby, a free elf. It sits on the edge of the dunes, looking out over the shore, a quiet memorial to a brave little elf.
I was really quite moved by these little tokens, imagining all the fans, young and old, who had painted their pebbles especially, in preparation for their trip to this beach.
Having said that, it’s important we fans don’t disrupt this natural habitat, or we’ll end up with even this humble offering being taken away from us! (One fan tried to erect a statue of Dobby in the car park but it was swiftly removed.) So maybe admire the existing memorial without adding to it, and don’t spend too much time traipsing around the dunes. Stick to the beach itself as much as possible in respect of the wildlife who call Freshwater West their home.
We spent a morning at Freshwater West on our Lain family trip to Pembrokeshire last year. Matt’s family is from the area, so there are many fond memories there for everyone. I was initiated into many family walks of the nearby beaches and coastal paths, as well as Pembroke Castle and the lily ponds at Bosherston. Don’t worry, you can look forward to reading all about it in my next post!
Finding Dobby’s grave was such a nice surprise – I didn’t even know this is where it was until we had arrived. The beach itself was already special, because of how fond Matt and his family or of it, and because of how beautiful it is, but this was the icing on the cake!
After more Harry Potter travels? Check out my post on Lavenham Village in Suffolk, where they filmed Godric’s Hollow.