Connect with us
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

Gelli Aur park closure hints at massive renovation bill

Published

on

Gelli Aur mansion: Showing the restored roofs

Gelli Aur mansion: Showing the restored roofs

GELLI AUR County Park, near Llandeilo, is currently closed, despite a grant of almost £1 million from the Welsh Government to aid public access and restoration. 

Announcing the grant in September 2015, the Welsh Government said: “The first phase of the work is to enable public access to the historic parkland and gardens with associated amenities such as tea rooms, play area, educational activities and trails. This will create an outdoor attraction based on the landscape and gardens, while plans will be developed to restore and develop the house and courtyards into a destination for art and cultural activities.”

A brown tourist attraction sign on the A483 Llandeilo to Cross Hands road points in the direction of the road to the country park, ‘Gelli Aur’ in Welsh and ‘Golden Grove’ in English, but no sign alerts visitors to the park entrance. The sign which used to be opposite the park entrance has been taken down. A notice on the closed gate, down an unmarked drive, says ‘No Public Access’.

Carmarthenshire County Council, which is responsible for tourism signs on all but trunk roads in the county, said this week that they are looking into the matter.

NO INCOMING CALLS 

Upon ringing the contact telephone number for Gelli Aur listed in the telephone directory, 01558 668885, there is only a recorded message saying: “This number does not receive incoming calls.”

In autumn 2015, the park was open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays, but visits in August 2016 on a Friday and a Sunday found entry barred. Several recent comments on the TripAdvisor website refer to finding the park closed, although occasionally the gate is open.

Heledd Parry at Visit Wales – an arm of the Welsh Government – said that restoration progress at Gelli Aur is being monitored, and Visit Wales is asking the Golden Grove Trust, owners of the park, for an update on public access.

SOLD BY CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL 

Carmarthenshire County Council sold the Grade II listed, 59,000 square feet Golden Grove mansion and 100 acres of park and woodland, including a famous arboretum, in 2011. Cllr Meryl Gravell, then, as now, the council’s Executive Board Member for Leisure, said at the time: “With the financial challenges we face as a local authority, we are delighted to have brought our lease to a close with this happy outcome. The authority is grateful to the Trust for having the foresight and ambition to maintain and hopefully improve the public access and public offer at Gelli Aur. We look forward with much anticipation to watching this wonderful facility evolve.”

The park used to feature nature trails, a cafe and a children’s play area, besides the Victorian arboretum. It was a popular venue, much visited by local people. Since vacated by Gelli Aur Agricultural College in 2003, the property deteriorated while plans to renovate it as a hotel, then as flats, and a convalescent home for wounded armed forces veterans, came to nothing. The cost of repairing the vast, sprawling mansion was just too great.

The Golden Grove Trust’s review of activities for 2014-15 revealed that the mansion’s roofs have been made weather-tight, which is arguably the most important conservation emergency. Plans for 2016 included replacing and re-siting the children’s playground, reopening the cafe, and recreating the boating pond, but these works appear to be behind schedule.

FOUR DIRECTORS 

The Trust’s four directors are art historian Richard Christopher Salmon, who lives now in part of the mansion; the architectural historian Thomas Owen Saunders Lloyd OBE, living at Cwrt Henri, author of ‘The Lost Houses of Wales’, Adele Esther Blakeborough of Penarth, director of a training company, and James Ronald Seaton of Llanfynydd, director of the upmarket clothing firm Toast.

Mr Salmon, his telephone number located via the Charity Commission, said that the restoration was progressing ‘very well’ and that the park is normally open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. He thought that the gate closure and ‘No Public Access’ sign may be a requirement of their insurance company in bad weather, to limit the risk of visitors tripping or slipping over and injuring themselves.

“We have taken down the children’s playground and removed a building containing asbestos,” he said. “We are in the process of setting up a website.”

He deplored what he felt was negative news coverage in 2015, focusing on deterioration at the park and not on the huge ongoing restoration effort. “We could have made it all private when we bought it, but we decided to keep the country park open,” he said.

RESTORATION CRISIS 

Public access is, though, central to the aims of the Trust, which are to restore the ‘important Regency Hunting Lodge, Golden Grove, to its original architectural condition’ as well as to restore ‘Gelli Park Country Park, the section of the estate for the benefit of public recreation’ and ‘important arboretum, pleasure gardens, deerpark, boating pond, lake, bridge and driveways’ with the ‘restored house and estate for ultimate public benefit as Art Institute’.

The huge costs of renovating a listed historic mansion and its park are, maybe, proving a colossal challenge for the Golden Grove Trust which, according to the Charity Commission, was on August 30 61 days late presenting its accounts for 2014-15. At Companies House, on the other hand, all document filings including the accounts are up to date. The accounts show that Mr Salmon lent the Trust £1,450,756, interest-free, to buy Golden Grove, and guaranteed not to ask for repayment any earlier than November 31 (sic), 2016. For the Trust, repayment would appear to be exceptionally difficult as it has no regular income and depends on grants and rents from two holiday cottages, one of which is under repair.

The restoration crisis at this historically important mansion and park highlights the escalating problems faced by owners of listed buildings and protected landscapes. Without access to a stellar income, even routine maintenance can be a struggle, let alone major rebuilding to the standards required by conservation officers.

Major Francis Jones, in his classic ‘Historic Carmarthenshire Homes and their Families’, called Golden Grove one of the most important of the county’s residences, inhabited by distinguished families – the Vaughans, descended from the Princes of Powys and becoming Earls of Carbery, and then the Campbells, Earls of Cawdor. In 1883, the Earl of Cawdor was one of the 28 British noblemen to own over 100,000 acres, according to the website ‘Welcome to the town of Ammanford’.

Those acres yielded the income to build and maintain huge houses like Golden Grove. Today, the mansion has only 100 acres, capable of providing only a fraction of the money needed.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Community

Meleri Walked 100k in May for Wales Air Ambulance

Published

on

A CARMARTHENSHIRE teaching assistant has raised £1,270 for the Wales Air Ambulance by walking 100km in May as part of the Charity’s Walk Wales challenge.

Mum-of-two Meleri Brown put on her walking shoes in aid of the Charity that’s close to her family’s heart after the medics helped save her cousin, Gwyndaf Davies’, life.

Gwyndaf ‘Dafs’ was just 21 when he fell through a roof of a building he was restoring and was airlifted to Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

Meleri, from Llanpumsaint said: “This Charity is close to my heart and one that in my view I can’t help enough! 13 years ago, we were very fortunate as a family to have the Wales Air Ambulance service! My cousin was airlifted to hospital after an accident when he fell through a roof of a building – we owe a big thank you to the service! Without them the story wouldn’t be so positive today and the outcome would be bleak!

“This service meant that ‘Dafs’ was treated within the ‘golden hour’ which is the most important hour to receive vital treatment! We live in a rural area which depends immensely on the work of the Wales Air Ambulance so supporting this service is vital!”

Walk Wales 2022 -100km in May virtual challenge allows ‘walkers’ the chance to either get out and about and explore Wales or to get their steps in at home, doing gardening, taking the dog for a walk, or even walking up and down the stairs!   

Gwyndaf played his own part in the fundraiser and walked nearly 4 miles with Meleri around Carmarthen park as part of her challenge.

Meleri is no stranger to fundraising for the lifesaving charity – 12 years ago she previously did a big fundraiser by completing a skydive in Swansea for the Wales Air Ambulance – this time she kept her feet firmly on the ground.

Pupils from Cynwyl Elfed School with Meleri Brown

The Wales Air Ambulance celebrated its 21st anniversary on St David’s Day 2022. Now operational 24/7, the Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep its emergency helicopters flying and its Rapid Response Vehicle’s on the road.

As well as being a part time teaching assistant at Cynwyl Elfed School, Meleri, who lives on their family run farm, also runs her own business from home as a holistic therapist.

Meleri is over the moon to have smashed her original target of £150 for the Charity, she said: “I am overwhelmed by the support and generosity of friends and family which makes me feel proud to be part of my community!  I know that this amount will make a big difference to the Charity whom, will be glad to receive every penny.”

Meleri, who is married to Mathew and mum to Sara,19, and Cerys, 18 has also had the support of the pupils from her school.

She added: “The school children were so happy to help and encourage me on my last mile, they walked with me around the school yard to finish my challenge! Parents have been so supportive too, donating money to help build up my funds! 

“Thanks again to everyone who has contributed, special thanks to my family who have been a great support to enable me to take time away from the farm and running our home for me to give my all to this 100km challenge.”

Elin Wyn Murphy, Events and Partnerships Fundraiser for Wales Air Ambulance, said: “Congratulations to Meleri who managed to complete her challenge with two weeks to spare, whilst working, running a farm and business. Meleri has a personal reason for raising funds for the Wales Air Ambulance and the support and donations from her friends and family show how much it means to Meleri to complete 100km in May for the Wales Air Ambulance. Meleri has raised an incredible amount for the Wales Air Ambulance. Donations like this one will help the Charity be there for people, like Gwyndaf, when they need us the most. A huge thank you goes to the pupils at Cynwyl Elfed School who have supported Mrs Brown with her challenge. They’re all little superstars.”

There are several ways that the public can continue to support the Wales Air Ambulance.

These include online donations, signing up to the Charity’s Lifesaving Lottery or by coming up with their own innovative ways to fundraise at home. Further information can be found via www.walesairambulance.com.  

Alternatively, a £5 text-message donation can be made by texting the word HELI to 70711.

Continue Reading

Business

Aldi launches Jubilee Street Party Fund with £500 vouchers being given away

Published

on

ALDI is calling on streets across the UK to enter a competition to win funding for the ultimate Jubilee bash.

The supermarket’s Jubilee Street Party Fund will see it give away a series of £500 Aldi vouchers to help communities up and down the country celebrate Her Majesty’s big day.

Ten lucky winners can use the vouchers to purchase food, drinks and decorations from Aldi’s Jubilee-inspired range, such as its Eton Mess Gin Liqueur and light-up, shimmering Strawberry and Mint Gin Liqueur, Specially Selected English Sparkling wines, Jubilee IPAs and Jubilee gourmet popcorn, giving them everything they need to toast the Queen’s reign.

Aldi’s Facebook page is hosting the competition, with entrants asked to tag their local community Facebook group or a friendly neighbour to be in with a chance of winning.

Entries are open from now until 8am on Thursday 26th May and T&Cs apply.

Winners will be contacted on Friday 27th May to allow plenty of time for them to stock up on all their street party essentials.

Richard Thornton, Communications Director at Aldi UK, said: “Winners of our Jubilee Street Party Fund competition will receive vouchers to buy all they need to celebrate this momentous occasion with their neighbours.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for communities to come together to organise their street parties, and look forward to seeing how the lucky winners of our competition decide to mark the big day.”

To find out more and enter the competition visit: https://fb.watch/db1SIlL-t5/

Continue Reading

Health

Childhood hepatitis outbreak – four more cases in Wales under investigation

Published

on

PUBLIC HEALTH WALES is investigating four more cases of acute hepatitis among children.

Health officials have identified 17 cases in Wales, an increase of four cases since the last update on 6 May.

UK Health Security Agency launched an investigation in April after hospitals reported a rise in cases of acute childhood hepatitis with no known cause.

Typically, UK hospitals see about 20 cases a year that are not caused by common hepatitis viruses, but cases this year are nearly 10 times higher.

A number of hypotheses are being investigated and the information gathered so far increasingly suggests that the rise in these cases may be linked to adenovirus infection, with other factors likely to be playing a role.

Dr Ardiana Gjini, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for Public Health Wales, said: “Hepatitis can cause jaundice and inflammation of the liver, so parents and carers should be aware of the symptoms of jaundice – including skin with a yellow tinge which is most easily seen in the whites of the eyes.

“We are reminding the public to familiarise themselves with this and other symptoms of hepatitis in light of these UK cases.

“In addition, the importance of maintaining normal hygiene routines, especially ensuring that children wash their hands properly, help to reduce the spread of many common infections.

“Parents and carers are reminded that they should keep their children away from school and seek advice from a GP or an appropriate specialist if their child experiences any symptoms linked with hepatitis.”

Hepatitis symptoms include:

  • dark urine
  • pale, grey-coloured poo
  • itchy skin
  • yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • muscle and joint pain
  • a high temperature
  • feeling and being sick
  • feeling unusually tired all the time
  • loss of appetite
  • tummy pain

Regular updates on the ongoing investigation into the cases in the UK can be found on the UKHSA website.

Continue Reading

Trending

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK