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.
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.
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.
Police appeal following Llanelli assault allegation
“Dyfed-Powys Police is investigating an allegation of assault which occurred on the afternoon of July 19th 2020 on Lon yr Ysgol, Llanelli.
It is alleged that a male, described as white, thin build, approx. 6 foot tall, and in his 20’s. forcibly dragged a female into and along the street.
The female is described as white, long brown hair, thin build, approx. 5’5” tall, approx 30 years of age,
Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to PC 1009 Aled Davies either online at: http://bit.ly/DPPReportOnline, by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DPP/0005/20/07/2020/01/C.”
Carmarthenshire students congratulated on A / AS level results
CONGRATULATIONS to students across Carmarthenshire who are celebrating their A and AS level results.
Despite an extraordinary year and very challenging circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic, students have been rewarded for all their hard work.
A total of 98.6% of A level students in Wales achieved A* – E grades and there was also a small increase in the number of students awarded A* with 10.8% of learners receiving this grade.
At AS level, 22.2% of all grades awarded were A in Wales this year; and 91.4% of candidates achieved A* – E grades.
The results are broadly similar to previous years according to the WJEC, despite no examinations being held.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams yesterday (August 12) announced that a student’s final A level grade cannot be lower than their AS grade. This means some students may have to wait for revised grades to be reissued by the WJEC.
The commitment and dedication shown by students in Carmarthenshire has been praised by Carmarthenshire County Council’s education chiefs.
They are also commending teaching staff who this year with the cancellation of the summer examinations, have had to produce assessment grades based on a range of evidence such as classwork, homework, mock exams and non-exam assessments.
Cllr Glynog Davies, Executive Board Member for Education, said: “I would like to congratulate all our students on their AS and A level results; all their achievements and hard work has paid off and they are well prepared for their future goals and aspirations.
“It has been an exceptional year; however, it is important to remember that grades awarded this year are valued the same as in any other year and on behalf of the council, I would like to wish all our students every success for the future, whichever path they choose to follow.
“I also want to praise our schools for the high-quality support and guidance they give to our students which continues to impact positively on progress and standards. This year in particular, our teaching staff have had an even harder job, and we thank them for all their extraordinary effort.”
Director of Education and Children’s Services, Gareth Morgans, added: “Our students should feel very proud of their achievements. These results reflect their positive work ethic and dedication to their studies, and they can now progress with confidence to continued education, training or employment. I would like to sincerely congratulate them on all on their success.
“I would also like to thank our schools, our inspirational teachers and all our hard-working staff for all that they do to support and develop our students and prepare them for their future studies and careers. These results are testament to all their work and commitment.”
Burry Port RNLI Malfunction On Recovery vehicle
A busy and eventful weekend at Burry Port RNLI, with a major mechanical failure on one of our launch vehicles, we were tasked to six serious incidents on Saturday evening, a major equipment recovery on Sunday, with a few minor incidents occurring when recovery was complete.Starting Saturday, at 5.30 pm we were tasked for both boats to assist in a major search for a missing swimmer in Rhossili Bay area of the Gower. Both boats were launched and quickly on their way, when a major failure occurred on our County Tractor launch and recovery vehicle, left it in 6 foot of water, undriveable, with a fast incoming tide, with the recovery trailer still attached. Our driver had made a safe evacuation from the vehicle and was unhurt. Both boats arrived on scene at Rhossili and the swimmer was found safe and well, so both boats returned to Burry Port.
The decision was made to abandon the Tractor and trailer, anchor and bouy them for safety. At this point we received another tasking from Milford Haven UK Coastguard, for a missing person with 2 children, last seen in the water at Pembrey Country park Beach. A search was commenced, but the 3 casualties were again found safe and well, so both boats returned to Burry Port.
Whilst continuing to make safe our stricken vehicle, our Atlantic 85 lifeboat was re-tasked to search for 2 persons, cut off by the fast incoming tide at Worms Head on the Gower. The lifeboat arrived very quickly on scene, located the 2 casualties, and took them to the safety of the beach, handing them to the Rhossili Coastguard team.
At this point, a group of people were seen on the sandbank at Pembrey old Harbour, completely cut off by the tide, so our smaller D class ILB was sent to pick them up and ferry them to safety, and handed them to Burry Port UK CG team.Our Atlantic Lifeboat was moored in the harbour overnight, as we had no recovery vehicle, and our D class was recovered and stored for the night.
By 9.00am Sunday morning, a specialist recovery team and vehicle were en route to Burry Port, and a spare tractor was also despatched.Sunday was spent planning and preparing for the recovery, with low tide at 4.45 pm, both lifeboats were placed in positions to be used if called on, and at 3.00pm the recovery operation began, with the Tallus caterpillar tracked recovery vehicle, and the RNLI specialist team, and some assistance from our D class lifeboat crew, the stricken vehicle was recovered at 4.15pm, replaced by the replacement vehicle and both lifeboats were made available for service.
Minutes later the D class was assisting people trying to cross from a sandbank to the Lighthouse, and then to a vehicle bogged down in soft sand, before all boats, trailers and vehicles were back in the safety of the Lifeboat Station.Grateful thanks to the RNLI team, and the transport driver who replaced our stricken vehicle with a serviceable tractor. Great respect to all our team, who even in adverse conditions and problems, still managed to carry out all their taskings, and assist in the recovery of the vehicle. A great team effort.
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