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.
Covid alert level lowered for whole of UK
THE COVID alert level for all four nations of the United Kingdom has been lowered to alert level 4.
The decision comes following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in light of the most recent data.
In recent weeks, the R-rate and the number of covid cases has been on the decline.
Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton said: “Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the four UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director agree that the UK alert level should move from level 5 to level 4 in all four nations.
“The health services across the four nations remain under significant pressure with a high number of patients in hospital, however thanks to the efforts of public we are now seeing numbers consistently declining, and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded.
“We should be under no illusions – transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high. In time, the vaccines will have a major impact and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they receive the offer. However for the time being it is really important that we all – vaccinated or not – remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines.
“We know how difficult the situation has been and remains to be for healthcare workers, we thank them for their immense effort, skill and professionalism throughout the pandemic.”
Under the Welsh Government’s Alert level 4 restrictions, schools and colleges, places of worship, community centres, playgrounds and public parks are among those that can be opened.
Theatres, entertainment venues, leisure facilities and outdoor visitors attractions are among the places that must remain close while the country is in Alert Level 4.
Wife completes 50-mile running challenge to raise money for charity after husband suffers stroke
A 39-YEAR-OLD woman from Pwll, Llanelli, has raised over £8,000 for the Stroke Association, after she completed a 50-mile running challenge.
Katie Fry’s husband Dale, 36, had a major stroke in July last year, in the middle of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and she wants to raise awareness of stroke and how it can happen at any age and at any time.
Dale did not have any symptoms of a stroke, he went to work, played with his children and went for a run but had a headache in the evening so went to bed, when he woke up in the early hours of the next morning he had left sided weakness, headaches and slurred speech.
Katie acted FAST and Dale was admitted to hospital for tests where it was found that Dale had a severe stroke so he was airlifted to Bristol for a thrombectomy, 24 hours later he had life saving brain surgery and remained in Intensive care for days, Dale was repatriated back to the stroke ward in PPH where he remained before being transferred to Neath Port Talbot hospital for his rehabilitation in September.
Dale is transferring to the BIRT (Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust) early March where he will continue his rehab for 12 weeks.
Katie said: “Dale was fit and well, the stroke came out of nowhere and it was really unexpected. It has been a hard six months as Dale has remained in hospital for his rehabilitation but due to Covid-19 we have been unable to visit him much at all.
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on Dale’s recovery as resources have been limited and Dale is now on a ward with recovering Covid-19 patients and had limited interaction and support. We communicate via video calls but it’s not the same, this has had a huge impact on Dale’s mental wellbeing.’
Katie and Dale have been married for 10 years and have two young children, “I am so proud of my husband as he is working so hard with his rehabilitation and I love to see the videos of him getting a step closer in his recovery. Dale inspires me every day and I hope he and we as a family can inspire other families going through the same journey as us.”
Katie decided to fundraise for the Stroke Association with a 50 mile running challenge as she was determined to do something positive, “It has been a release for me to get out running. It was a way of raising awareness for the charity but also to help me navigate through this difficult time. I have two young children so it has been a very stressful time with home-schooling as well as helping Dale with his recovery. I can’t thank my friends and family enough for their help and support and for everyone who has donated.”
Katie Chappelle, Associate Director, Wales at the Stroke Association said:
“Thank you to Katie for raising an amazing £8000.00. These are vital funds as with the support of people like Katie we can help more stroke survivors and their families as they look to rebuild their lives.
“A stroke can happen to anyone at any time and it turns lives upside down as it has with Dale and his family.”
To sponsor Katie or keep up to date with Dale’s progress please visit: https://www.facebook.com/donate/740852340189430/
COVID-19 tests being encouraged for wider range of symptoms
PEOPLE living in Llanelli are being encouraged to have a free COVID-19 test if they have a wider range of symptoms.
Previously, only those with either a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss/change of taste and smell, were advised to seek a test. The health board is now also encouraging people to have a test if they have any of the following symptoms:
- Flu-like symptoms, including myalgia (muscle ache or pain); excessive tiredness; persistent headache; runny nose or blocked nose; persistent sneezing; sore throat and/or hoarseness, shortness of breath or wheezing
- Generally feeling unwell and a history of being in contact with a known COVID-19 case
- Any new or change in symptoms following a previous negative test
The change aims to find hidden COVID-19 cases in our communities and drive down the numbers of onward transmissions.
Identifying infections, which could otherwise go undetected, is particularly important as new variants of the virus emerge. The more tests carried out, the easier it will be to spot early clusters of cases and possible virus mutations. This will help with easing restrictions in the future.
The new testing regime will initially run for at least 28 days and will then be reviewed. Swansea Bay University Health Board is also expanding its offer of testing in this way.
Alison Shakeshaft, Director of Therapies and Health Science at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “Overall, we are seeing a positive picture across the three counties and there has been a steady fall in the number of COVID-19 cases.
“Also, the demand for tests has come down considerably since the end of 2020, so we have capacity to expand the offer of testing to those with a wider range of symptoms.
“We know the wider group of symptoms do occur in COVID-19 but are not reported as often as the ‘classic three’ symptoms. With the very low rates of flu circulating at the moment, it is more likely that wider flu-like symptoms are due to COVID-19.
“Our aim is to find as many COVID-19 cases as possible so we can prevent the virus being passed on to others. We want to do everything we can to help bring the pandemic to a close as fast as possible and help restrictions to be lifted.”
If you have any of the symptoms outlined above, please stay at home and get a test by booking online via the UK portal https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or ringing 119.
As these are national contacts, you may automatically be asked about the ‘classic three’ symptoms. However, to book your test simply choose either one of these options: “You have been asked to take a test by your local council” or “You are part of a government pilot project”.
Once you have had your test, you must continue to self-isolate until you receive your result, which will usually be within 24 hours of the test. If your result is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the date your symptoms started. You will also be contacted by the local Tracing Team.
If your result is negative, you can end your self-isolation, when you feel well enough to do so.
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