Sep 022016
 

BY A GUEST WRITER

Ystrad Fflur, or to give it its ‘English’ name, Strata Florida, is a quiet, remote and beautiful place. The Cistercians chose it as a site to build a great abbey and monastery precisely because it was off the beaten track, with huge expanses of grazing for their sheep and cattle and plentiful water from Afon Fflur, a tributary of the Teifi.

There are ruined monastic sites with more to see, but Ystrad Fflur has enough to fire up the imagination, and you can spend an hour or two wandering around with the place pretty much to yourself, except for a couple of times a year when Cadw puts on events to bring in the crowds. The highlight this year is a “Spooky Halloween Day” when you can follow a secret trail to discover ingredients for a witch’s spell.

Quite what Rhys ap Gruffudd, the abbots and monks would have felt about this combination of commercialised Anglo-American popular culture and the occult is not difficult to imagine because the whole point of Ystrad Fflur was to be a beacon of Welsh Christianity and culture, and a counterweight to the increasingly intrusive Anglo-Normans with their policies of military control and colonial assimilation.

What keeps the hordes away is in part the almost complete lack of facilities (no gifte shoppes or tea rooms here), partly the remoteness of the place, and partly because to make sense of Ystrad Fflur and why these fairly modest piles of stone are so special, you need to know something about Welsh history and culture. There is a sense of deep and abiding Cymreictod about Ystrad Fflur, and to understand the place is to understand the dreams and hopes of this nation.

Enhancing the visitor experience

All of this may be about to change thanks to some heritage industry “charities” which want to ‘enhance the visitor experience’ with government grants and huge dollops of money from the Heritage Lottery Fund in a scheme which would keep their bosses in clover for decades to come.

Brace yourselves for the Abbot’s Bar & Bistro serving heritage monks’ brew, herbal liqueurs made to ancient and “long-lost” secret recipes, sustainable medieval burgers and Brother Anselm’s Amusement Park for the kiddies.

The site is owned by the Church in Wales and managed by Cadw which sensibly closes the place for 5 months a year, but  visitors who want to save themselves a few quid and don’t mind the winter weather can nip over the fence and wander round for free.

strataflorida

The threat to Ystrad Fflur as we know it comes not from Cadw directly, although Cadw executives are almost certainly cheering it on, but from two charities called the Strata Florida Trust and the Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust, formerly known as Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gâr.

High Tea in the Trenches

For those of you reaching for your dictionaries, that splendid name translates as the Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust, and it was under the Welsh name that the trust carried out the restoration of the Georgian patrician residence known as Llanelly House.

There was always something a little odd about the use of that Welsh name to cover all the sensitive financial and legal stuff, while steadfastly refusing to drop that Anglicising ‘y’ from Llanelly.

If Ystrad Fflur was built to be a beacon of Welsh culture against the rising tide of Anglo-Norman influence, the ‘y’ in Llanelly signifies that here is a genteel oasis of English culture in a sea of rough Welsh working class awfulness. More Gilbert and Sullivan than Sosban Fach.

Running the show in Llanelli is CEO and Company Secretary Claire Deacon, originally from Southampton, who says that she is passionate about restoring old buildings. The £7 million restoration of the Georgian mansion in Llanelli was indeed a fine piece of work, funded by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Welsh European Funding Office and ‘Welsh’ Government, with enthusiastic backing from Carmarthenshire County Council and the veteran Cllr Meryl Gravell.

Cllr Gravell, never a shrinking violet, likes to use Llanelly House as a backdrop for some of her many media appearances as evidence of how, in her own mind at least, she has transformed the town’s fortunes.

Other visitors come to enjoy a Palm Court High Tea, tapas evenings, murder mystery events, ‘Afternoon Tea with the Harmony Wellbeing Charity’, displays of military medals and Dad’s Army costumes, a Somme exhibition – and a special treat – a special showing of one (yes, 1) of those ceramic poppies previously displayed at the Tower of London.

What could be more patriotically British than a nice scone, a cup of Darjeeling and a lot of sanitised, misty-eyed reminiscence about British military achievements, minus any references to awkward characters such as Hedd Wyn or the criminal incompetence of the top brass?

Village People

Fresh from the triumph in Llanelli, Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gâr cast around for more Carmarthenshire buildings to save, and discovered the old YMCA building in Merthyr Tydfil.

A quick glance at the map showed the trustees that there was just one small problem here – Merthyr is not in Carmarthenshire. So the name and the ‘operational footprint’ of the charity were eventually changed to the more English-friendly Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust.

Once again, the trust managed to trouser phone-number size grants from the Welsh Government and local council as well as £2.6million from the Lottery. The plan was to bring ‘café society’ and 877 sq. m of new offices and work space for “the modern creative industries and the traditional professions” (a description that covers all eventualities from software development to massage parlours) to the good people of Pontmorlais, but so far it appears to have just been used for ‘reminiscing days’ and free tours of an empty shell for school kids.

Just how little progress has been made in the years since the trust acquired the YMCA building can be see from this family snapshot:

Merthyr YMCA Facebook

In the red

The Llanelly House project overran significantly in terms of time and money, but is now finally up and running. In the trust’s accounts for 2014-15 the chairman notes, “It is essential that we develop the skills and vicissitude necessary to ensure that Llanelly House becomes a sustainable business so that it act (sic) as a model and example to our future projects”.

The latest annual report which, incidentally, would fail an English GCSE examination badly, goes on to note that visitor numbers, average spend and the commercial operations at Llanelly House did not meet expectations, something which “has lead (sic) to the shortfall”.

The extent of the shortfall becomes apparent when we read the independent auditors’ report which notes that the trust had a deficit of unrestricted funds of £59,910 at 31 March 2015, “ indicating the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the Charity’s ability to continue as a going concern.”

Needless to say, the charity’s director trustees took a different view, saying that they should still be considered a ‘going concern’ because (a) they have reached an agreement with Llanelli Town Council to defer indefinitely the repayment of a working capital loan, although it is doubtful if Llanelli Council tax payers have been consulted, and (b) put in place a ‘turnaround strategy’ for the activities of their commercial operating subsidiary running Llanelly House, which is running at a loss.

In addition to Llanelli Town Council, another major creditor is Finance Wales, and the accounts show a total of £437,527 outstanding in working capital loans. The trust is also pinning its hopes on renegotiating terms with Finance Wales, and a growing stream of consultancy revenue provided by CHRT Ventures Ltd.

This last hope remains something of a mystery, but consultancy is clearly something the CHRT trustees are very keen on. Claire Deacon (CEO and Company Secretary, remember) was paid £56,787 in consultancy fees, and the charity also spent £2,000 on undefined (consultancy?) services from CHRT Ventures Ltd, as well as borrowing £14,720 from the same source. Not to mention other services and loans provided by another company in the same group, Plas Llanelly House Cyf. (There was even Llanelly House Trading Ltd., which bit the dust in December 2014. Jac.)

All very odd.

In common with so many other modern, forward-looking charities, Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust (CHRT) is almost completely dependent on grants. Income for 2014-15 was £724,460, of which donations accounted for just £1,325.

Another change of operational footprint

Material uncertainty, targets not met, hope that the creditors will be forgiving, hopes of future consultancy income, lots of peculiar inter-company magic and rather less than bugger all in the bank. Combine that with the Chairman’s barely coded warnings that the charity has got to up its game, and you might think that the trustees would be wondering where their CEO (appointed back in 2011) is leading them.

With Llanelly House now finally up and tottering towards an uncertain future, and the prospect of another large project in Merthyr looming, you would think that the trustees’ enthusiasm for yet another ambitious scheme might have been exhausted, but in that same annual report for 2014-15 we read that the trust was ploughing ahead with the acquisition of Mynachlog Fawr (or Great Abbey Farm) at Ystrad Fflur.

A single donation of £200,000 was received in May 2014, and the trust took out an option to buy. The annual report notes that the lawyers were dealing with this while Ms Deacon “concentrates of (sic) further fundraising with our project partner, Professor David Austin”, about whom more in a moment.

Strangely, since the report was published, the farm was acquired not by CHRT but the Strata Florida Trust, chaired by Professor Austin, in July of this year.

Claire Deacon has come on board as Project Director for the Strata Florida Centre Project, reporting to the Strata Florida Trust, while Professor Austin will run a separate “Strata Florida Research Project” in parallel.

How CHRT fits in with all this is not at all clear, even though in its 2015 report CHRT was manifestly confident that it would be running the show and had received a £200,000 donation towards it.

The board of the Strata Florida Trust is made up of various academics, the great and good and a retired British Army Lieutenant-General, Jonathon Riley, whose interests include the history and “maintaining the military efficiency” of the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Perhaps future visitors to Ystrad Fflur can look forward to floodlit military tattoos and, who knows, we may even get an assault course. (Continues after ‘The Life of Riley’.)


THE LIFE OF RILEY

At first sight it may look odd that a retired Lieutenant General from England whose interests are military history and warfare should become a trustee of a charity set up to determine the fate of a ruined abbey in Ceredigion founded to champion the cause of Welsh independence and Welsh culture, but it’s who rather than what you know that matters.

Jonathon Riley, who is among other things a Companion of the Order of the Bath, grew up in Yorkshire, Sussex and the Channel Islands. A product of English public schools and Sandhurst, he began his military career with the Queen’s Regiment before transferring to the Royal Welch Fusiliers as an experienced hand who could be trusted to keep the native recruits in their place.

Hobnobbing with the Windsors and the legion of upper middle class camp followers who surround them eventually resulted in marriage to upwardly mobile BBC Wales news reader, Sara Edwards.

Edwards’ extra curricular activities include being Vice Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed, Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and Duke of Edinburgh Awards and member of the council of University of Wales, Lampeter.

Having retired from the British Army, Riley was appointed to the plum establishment job of Director General and Master of the Royal Armouries. His rather sanitised Wikipedia entry says that he resigned from this job to undergo treatment for prostate cancer, but here is a snippet from The Independent from 2013:

“Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley, a retired infantry officer, former NATO commander and distinguished military historian, was suspended as Master of the Armouries over an auditing inquiry in May, only to resign from the post six months later. It can now be revealed that he was suspended after senior staff were given irregularly large pay increases at a time when the museum’s budget was being slashed.”

Jonathon Riley

click to enlarge

Honourable retirement on health grounds after this unfortunate revelation of rampant cronyism was clearly enough to salvage Riley’s reputation, and he went on to be appointed to two committees in Cardiff Bay where he now advises the ‘Welsh’ Government on how to commemorate World War One.

The departed souls of Welsh cannon fodder must be looking down and wondering what their deaths achieved, because 100 years on here is an English military toff, the successor of all those other public school generals who rounded up the Welsh and sent them off to walk slowly towards German machine guns, making sure that the Somme and other slaughters are remembered as the necessary sacrifice of brave British patriots who laid down their lives for the King.

Riley and Edwards, who have a holiday home in Carmarthenshire not far from Big Ears’ retreat at Llwynwormwood, together illustrate nicely how in 21st century democratic Wales, you can get yourselves appointed to numerous influential jobs and committees without ever having to face the voters or even spending much time here.

Any civil servants or grant dispensers tapped by Professor Austin’s charity for dosh are unlikely to put up any resistance knowing that there is a hot line to old Big Ears.


Bearing in mind that under Ms Deacon CHRT expanded its “operational footprint” to cover the whole of Wales, she has chosen to live about as far as she can get from most of the country by basing herself in Marloes. While Llanelly House is a mere 57 miles distant, Ystrad Fflur is 83 miles away along narrow country lanes, and Merthyr is a cool 95 miles.

If she is concentrating on Mynachlog Fawr, Llanelly House and Merthyr are hardly likely to get much of a look-in.

Mynachlog Fawr comprises a Grade II* listed farmhouse, some listed mid-nineteenth century stone barns and various other more recent structures.

The farm itself came into existence after the dissolution of the abbey, and certainly was never a part of the Cistercians’ landscape. It was the childhood home of Charles Arch, a well known personality on the Welsh farming scene, and appears to have been acquired at some point in more recent years by Lampeter University.

Although the house and some of the outbuildings are listed and attractive to look at, they are in relatively good condition and hardly of national importance. There are plenty more farmhouses and barns like them all over Wales.

How the farm came to be acquired by Lampeter University, presumably with public money, and whether it was the university which sold the place to Professor Austin’s trust are questions readers may be able to help with.

So why was CHRT, whose purpose is to “regenerate the physical and other heritage of Wales”, so keen to acquire a not particularly special group of farm buildings not in need of rescue?

The answer would seem to be that heritage industry Eldorado: millions and millions of lovely grant money to fund pet projects for years if not decades to come.

This grand scheme has been Professor Austin’s pipe dream since 1999, and he envisages turning the farm into a centre with all sorts of activities. “At the moment these fall under five broad headings, although these will undoubtedly expand as we develop our plans and talk to potential partners”, writes the professor on the Strata Florida project website, where just about everything is copyrighted to the great man personally.

It will be sustainable; enhance the visitor experience; there will be summer schools and workshops; ecological tourism; it will foster the arts and traditional skills; it will help locals to “advance senses of their own identity and wellbeing”; it will create events and activities to enhance human well-being in recognition of the abbey’s great infirmary and holy wells; and much, much more besides.

If that all sounds a bit, well, woolly, we can get a glimpse of a rather more tangible project design here on the website of architects Acanthus Holden who were commissioned to come up with a plan that includes a visitor centre and “a small exclusive hotel”.

One of the benefits of all this, of course, is the carrot of new jobs in Pontrhydfendigaid and the surrounding area. Whether the owners and employees of existing hotels, such as the nearby Black Lion, cafés and other local businesses would be quite so enthusiastic about having to compete with an entirely grant funded and heavily subsidised newcomer is another matter, and locals may find that the professor’s vision will entail the demise of established local businesses.

In another review carried out by The Prince’s Trust, the recommendation was for self- catering accommodation as opposed to the Acanthus hotel.

Mynachlog Fawr architects

No doubt Ms Deacon, Professor Austin and their friends have already come up with a business plan to explain how all these aims can be achieved and become commercially viable in a remote rural location, far from the coast and next to a ruined abbey which is closed for five months of the year. In a climate which is not exactly Chiantishire.

Even more confusingly, Professor Austin’s vision for Mynachlog Fawr and the wider Ystrad Fflur site appears to vary depending on his audience. Is it to be a New Age hangout for city types wanting to commune with nature in a sustainable and ecological sort of way, or is it to be a “small, exclusive hotel” with a visitor centre attached? Or is it to be the front end of what sounds in this video like the ultimate archaeological wet dream: a vast and endless dig extending across a swathe of countryside to uncover whatever is left of what the prof claims may be the largest Cistercian monastery in Britain, “if not Europe”. Or even the universe.

Where this forest of trusts and companies leaves Llanelly House and the Merthyr YMCA is an interesting question. Is Claire Deacon still CEO and Company Secretary in Llanelli? It would seem so. How did Mynachlog Fawr come into the ownership of Lampeter University, as it then was, and why did it end up being acquired by the Strata Florida Trust rather than CHRT with its expanded operational footprint, and on what terms?

Answers on a postcard please.

In the meantime, it may be a good idea to head up to Ystrad Fflur and enjoy it while you can before Professor Austin and Ms Deacon set about improving our experience and indulging their hobbies.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ End  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jac says: While this piece was being written I though I’d try to help by doing some background work.

The first and obvious question was – ‘Who owns Ystrad Fflur / Strata Florida? The answer (as you’ve read) is that the Abbey ruins are owned by the Church in Wales. In 2008 the Secretary of State for Wales, Paul Murphy, was appointed ‘Guardian’. Here are the relevant documents from the Land Registry.

That role of ‘Guardian’ may have been subsequently transferred to the ‘Welsh’ Government, because in June 2010 “The Welsh Ministers” bought an adjoining parcel of land. No price is given, but unless Rhodri Morgan and his gang had a whip-round this land was purchased with public funding, and we are therefore entitled to know how much of our money was spent.

Ystrad Fflur for Cadw

What of the farm buildings, destined to become the Abbot’s Bar & Bistro – Get In The Habit!! On its website the Strata Florida Trust says, ” . . . the Trust has purchased the historic buildings which until recently formed the working core of Mynachlog Fawr or Great Abbey farm”. So naturally, I wondered how much had been paid.

I went to the Land Registry website, but found nothing under Mynachlog Fawr or Great Abbey Farm. Which I thought was a bit naughty, because if the Trust has bought the buildings then not filing the details with the Land Registry is simply a way of withholding information, and again, we are dealing here with the public purse.

(Though, confusingly, the website also says, ” . . . the Strata Florida Trust has acquired the buildings and some adjacent land”. So which is it – ‘purchased the historic buildings’ or ‘acquired the buildings and some adjacent land’?)

UPDATE 03.09.2016: I just unearthed this piece from the Cambrian News dated August 13 which can only be interpreted as announcing the purchase of Mynachlog Fawr. Which strengthens my belief that we are not being told the truth about who owns what, when it was bought, who paid for it, and how much was paid.

Poking around on the Land Registry website unearthed more recent land sales in the area. One involved land quite close to the Abbey and the farm, bought last year by David Thomas Arch and Eleri Arch. Here are the details. Mr and Mrs Arch were the owners of Mynachlog Fawr, so did they sell only the farm buildings, retain the land, and are they now adding to their land holdings?

We must know who owns what at Ystrad Fflur and how much it has cost the Welsh public purse

Over the years I have recounted many stories about the plundering of the Welsh public purse, this is another such tale. Yet another story of strangers to our land finding an old building or site, and instead of respecting a part of our history, appropriating it in order to promote themselves and boost their bank balances.

Claire Deacon of the Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust already has two very expensive disasters to her name. Llanelly House may be impressive, but it’s now an economic millstone around the necks of the town and the county. Merthyr YMCA was never viable from the outset, yet the money keeps flowing. And now this woman – who managed, while running the Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust, to employ herself as a ‘consultant’! – wants more millions from the Welsh public purse to despoil and commercialise Ystrad Fflur.

Her partner in this lurid venture is Professor David Austin, an academic at Lampeter University, who has one eye on a very lucrative retirement and the other on an ‘Honour’. According to Austin Ystrad Fflur may be the biggest Cistercian monastery in the universe . . . in which case it’s too big a job for him and the Lampeter outpost of Trinity St Davids. I would prefer to see a team of French archaeologists with experience of Cistercian sites employed.

Then we have Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley. First, we have to ask what he brings to the party, for Ystrad Fflur is the site of a monastery not a castle? Whatever anyone may think Riley can contribute his profligacy with public funding whilst at the Royal Armouries should disqualify him from any other publicly-funded project, no matter who he knows or who he’s married to.

This squalid project being hatched in Ceredigion is only possible because Wales is a colony of England, with all that that implies. A primitive people unable to do anything for ourselves we must shower with money any shyster who turns up with a half-baked, self-serving bit of nonsense. Our chiefs like it that way because it saves them having to think of better ways of using the money.

There is one lesson to be drawn from the Ystrad Fflur project and one obvious recommendation.

The lesson – articulated on this blog more than once – is that Wales needs a genuinely national conservation body to replace the English National Trust, CADW, Landmark Trust, and all the Claire Deacons infesting our homeland.

The beauty of Ystrad Fflur lies in its remoteness and tranquility. To attract those who wouldn’t bother going had there not been a burger bar and a bouncy castle is to attract the wrong people for the wrong reasons. And the motivation for doing this is obvious.

So here’s the recommendation, for the ‘Welsh’ Government and all other funders:

Pull the plug on this lunatic scheme and leave Ystrad Fflur at peace.

*

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88 Comments on "Ystrad Fflur – The Heritage Industry Moves On"

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Jonathan Edwards
Guest

Spot on, as always. Thank you, again, for letting sunlight on these roach-infested corners of Welsh life
Jonathan Edwards

JE Lloyd
Guest
Yes, excellent article. General Riley would doubtless consider himself admirably suited to the Strata Florida sinecure. He has after all published a series of works “The First Colonial Soldiers: A Survey of British overseas territories and their garrisons”, the first volume of which covers the British Isles (presumably including Ceredigion). It reminds me of the infamous application for the post of Chief Constable of “Carnarvonshire” in 1856 when one of… Read more »
dafis
Guest
Mae dail y coed yn Ystrad Fflur, Yn murmur yn yr awel,,A deuddeng Abad dan y gro, Yn huno yno’n dawel. Ac yno dan yr ywen brudd Mae Dafydd bêr ei gywydd, A llawer pennaeth llym ei gledd Yn ango’r bedd tragywydd. T Gwyn Jones’ work was hammered home to us, a bunch of unappreciative youths, in Welsh lessons in the early 60’s. But it stuck with me with 1… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest

my great grandfather John Rees came from there and my grandfather said we are part of arch Rees family.so any arch surnames there must be belonging to me.my family ran strata florid shop for years.any relatives out there I would be keen to hear from you.my e mail is donaldrees@hotmail.com

Big Gee
Admin
Very interesting – if I come across any I’ll let you know. Eleri Arch (mentioned in Jac’s Land Registry search) was in the same form as me in school, although ‘Arch’ is her married name. On a practical note Donald, I wouldn’t advertise your e-mail address like you have. Spam bots trawl web-sites for e-mail addresses, when they come across a line with an “@” in it they harvest it… Read more »
Fi
Guest

Great article. Now then… Tre’r Ceiri cable car and Giant’s Bun Butger Bar anyone? :-O

sibrydionmawr
Guest
Sadly, once again it’s the career paths of people who have little understanding and even less connection with the country whose heritage they (mis)interpret. I’m sure they will interpret part of the story, but I doubt it will include enough emphasis on how important the Cistercians were to the early stirrings of a modern Welsh identity. It must be remembered that when Cadw was created in the mid 80s, the… Read more »
Ianto Phillips
Guest

From its website –
“Is Latin double dutch to you? Strata Florida translates from Latin simply as the Vale of Flowers. Want to try the Welsh? Here you go. Ystrad Fflur.”

http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/strata-florida-abbey/?lang=en

Ianto Phillips
Guest

And from the Welsh language website –
“Yn gyfarwydd â’r iaith Ladin? Y cyfieithiad Cymraeg o Strata Florida yw Ystrad Fflur.”
It was the other way round, you pricks.

Tim Saunders
Guest

Mae dail y coed yn Ystrad Fflur
Yn sibrwd yn yr awel,
A deuddeng abad yn y gro
Yn huno yno’n dawel …

TGJ

Marconatrix
Guest

Neis iawn, dwi´n meddwl hefyd. (Hyllo, ´Anselm´)

Myfanwy
Guest
The ongoing destruction to our Culture and natural environment marches on unabated. Who in Wales is in a position to stop this rape and why is nothing being done? The National Trust is again in the news, with their proposed hydro scheme, that could turn the Conwy falls into a “trickle”, with the obvious destructive impact on the native environment. So what do we all need to do, to stop… Read more »
dafis
Guest
This issue really winds me up. Last night I was in a good hwyl having just finished enjoying a good start to the season with Ospreys putting 8 tries on the Zebre, even stomached recorded bits of Ulster showing the Dragons how it’s done, when I checked my incoming mails and found Jac’s new post. Normally I’d mutter f*** it to myself and read it the following day but the… Read more »
Big Gee
Admin

Dafis wrote: “. . . where is Ceredigion Council or are they too wrapped up with the obsession with grabbing more grants ?

The leader of Ceredigion County Council is Ellen ap Gwynne (Plaid) – need I say anymore? Hiding behind the sofa – pooing her knickers for fear of upsetting the English immigrants – like the rest of the prominent ones in her party.

Y Cneifiwr
Guest
Meanwhile in Carmarthenshire, the fate of Gelli Aur is back in the news. The house and the park, supposedly open to the public, have been prey to neglect, vandalism (by men in suits rather than teenagers) and several schemes which turned out to be scams for years under the stewardship of the county council. The place was sold to an art dealer in 2011, with Cllr Meryl Gravell warbling, “we… Read more »
Brychan
Guest

Has there been anything going on the Pen-bre county park? Carmarthenshire Council spent millions on it, including, as stated at the time, state-of-the-art restaurant facilities. I decided to pay a visit, but all I could find was a burger van parked in the entrance field. The facilities block is all boarded up. Where’s all the cash gone?

Anonymous
Guest

good article.ive got relatives buried in that cemetery.

Big Gee
Admin
This breaks my heart. I was born and raised within walking distance of Ystrad Fflur. It is not only part of the historical culture of Cymru, but is somewhere with an even greater significance to locals who have been steeped in the almost mystical attraction of this quiet brooding location, where you get an immediate change in your emotions as soon as you approach it – without doubt it is… Read more »
dafis
Guest
I once saw a programme on one of those Nat Geo channels or similar, about the fate of the Lakota and particularly that last big conflict which saw Custer get killed but led on to the destruction of an entire way of life for the natives. An older native spoke of how Crazy Horse went to a sacred place to communicate with the spirit world and drew down his apocalyptic… Read more »
Jeremy
Guest

The poetry of Gwilym ap Dafydd (c. 1315/1320 – c. 1350/1370) really should be better known and would certainly entertain our young scholars, would certainy change their sanitised views of the past and might draw some into a wider appreciation of Welsh History.

Stan
Guest
An excellent article, thanks to the writer, with some equally good and thought provoking comments thereafter. I also enjoyed the titles chosen for each part of the article – very witty. Once again, where are our investigative journalists, where are our Wales TV programmes like Week in Week Out when, for the umpteenth time, it is Jac’s blog that throws light on these stories of national interest? If a guest… Read more »
Robin
Guest
Thank you for publishing this well-written piece. Ystrad Fflur is a truly special place and few locations can boast a cultural spine that includes Yr Arglwydd Rhys, Dafydd ap Gwilym and T Gwynn Jones. I would speculate that the Trust has not actually acquired the farm. Rather, it may have agreed an option to purchase once it has secured the funds to do so. A number of obstacles still to… Read more »
Big Gee
Admin
Any volunteers to write up a dossier and corresponding report to the Senedd? There’s plenty of contributors here with the ability for such a task, not least our ‘guest writer’ who initiated this blog post. Failure to respond positively by the Senedd should then trigger a representation to the UN itself, outlining our concerns as an endangered indigenous race. It should trigger a bit of interest, even among the lazy,… Read more »
Keith Parry
Guest

Seem to recall Cadw being named Celebrate All Defeats of the Welsh after its awful Castles campaign years ago.

Hefin Wyn
Guest
Shades of Castell Aberteifi here again folks. A similar set up of Anglophiles, outright colonialists and a few local Welsh lickspitters have spent £12m of heritage grants to despoil the venue, apparently with the blessing of all agencies and politicians who could not be bothered to scrutinize the objectives in a meaningful Welsh context. The go-ahead was given to a glorified up-market accommodation with the added attraction of a wedding… Read more »
dafis
Guest
Wyt yn taro’r hoelen ar ei phen. Da yw clywed fod rywbeth cadarnhaol yn datblygu tua ceg y Teifi ta beth. I was horrified some weeks ago when I came across a news report that Castell Aberteifi had won some shitty award from some professional body – I copied it to Jac but lost the original, otherwise I’d have linked it in here. Perhaps Jac can do the honours if… Read more »
Hefin Wyn
Guest
The awards given at a posh reception in the Vale of Glamorgan back in May were RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) Tourism and Leisure Award, Project of the Year Award and RICS Building Preservation Award – a hat trick! They were also shortlisted for the National Eisteddfod’s Architectural Gold Award for the Purcell Architects conglomerate’s design. Imagine if they had won. The irony would be as thick as marmalade… Read more »
Frank Nesbitt
Guest

Impressively forensic & persuasive, until the reference to people ‘infesting our homeland’. That’s when I catch the whiff of a less wholesome agenda. Add the knee-jerk vilification of publicly funded initiatives (a point already made) & I start even to wonder how much I can trust the rest. A pity, as the central thesis is, I think, powerful and tenable.

dafis
Guest
Frank, believe me, when you see the antics of these cliques repeatedly turning up you end up describing them as an infestation. Public funding is vilified because it is so often an obvious waste except of course to those dishing out and receiving the largesse. We can all stand quietly on the touchline muttering “tut, tut” but at some point the sheer repetition of these “fouls” is bound to escalate… Read more »
Frank Nesbitt
Guest

This is all true, Dafis. I’ve been there, But, in my experience, calling groups of people cockroaches and insects (or rats) wins neither allies nor arguments; instead, it gives a ready pretext to dismiss the real grounds of opposition. (Which – and I’ll say it again – are very powerfully articulated here.).

Big Gee
Admin
As an immigrant Britlander – which I suspect you are, especially with a name like Nesbitt that’s so common in that other colonial stronghold of the Six Counties, you would say that wouldn’t you? Why? because: a) you’re probably a bigoted “up your own arse” royal colonialist b) your level of knowledge about such matters as historic colonisation and exploitation is probably non existent and c) your ignorance is twinned… Read more »
Hefin Wyn
Guest
Gwilym, regarding Welsh politeness and hospitality vis a vis biting tongue, keeping quiet in an enraged state: At the time of the incident mentioned I was distributing a ‘Rhys ap Gruffudd Proclamation’, printed by E. L. Jones, and the elderly gentleman took a copy, spent a good ten minutes reading its contents before approaching me with his response. This I appreciated. I listened. I realised that his views were entrenched… Read more »
Big Gee
Admin
There is nothing I would disagree with there Hefin (although a bit puzzled how David Icke slipped into the response!). What you say about our tendency “. . . to remain silent, close up the hatches and possibly bide their [our] time. It is probably the result of centuries of subservience to the notion of English superiority” – EXACTLY. We have a word for it, it’s ‘taeogrwydd’ (servility). It gets… Read more »
Frank Nesbitt
Guest
Thanks, Jac & Dafis. As I said, I find the gist of this piece compelling and it is certainly borne out by my own experience. However, the ‘infestation’ metaphor has profoundly unfortunate historical resonances. (See, for example, Perry’s ‘Rhetorical functions of the infestation metaphor in Hitler’s rhetoric’ – available online). Big Gee’s ‘human cockroaches’ belongs to the same misanthropic lexicon. Hefin manages very well without recourse to such terms, which… Read more »
Big Gee
Admin
In that case Frank, I willingly apologise for my wrong assumption that you were from the North of Ireland, but in my own defence, the surname ‘Nesbitt’ is closely associated with the colonisers that settled in the Six Counties. I also understand that many of those surnames originated in Scotland, in fact Nesbit was one of those Scottish ‘Borders’ area names that travelled to Ireland as part of the ‘Plantations’… Read more »
Frank Nesbitt
Guest
No, the point is not (primarily) that the Nazis used it but that it dehumanizes a whole group of people. If we start to think of people (whatever their misdeeds) as vermin, it becomes easier to treat them as such. (And ALL of them, whether they are individually culpable or not.) You can rehabilitate abstract symbols (although I hae me doots aboot the swastika), but not people-as-vermin. I don’t want… Read more »
Big Gee
Admin
Ah! I see, so your fear is that a small handful of remaining indigenous people, are a big threat to a nation of 53.01 million (in 2011) who live next door to them, and are fast overrunning their country. I get it now. “If we start to think of people (whatever their misdeeds) as vermin, it becomes easier to treat them as such” – THAT is as stupid as the… Read more »
Frank Nesbitt
Guest
I agree. But this isn’t the real point I was making. (And I apologise for the confusion.) My chief point is that aping the dehumanising language of the colonising power (by employing animal metaphors, etc.) is counter-productive. It’s also a sign of defeat. You’ll know the old adage: ‘Dim ond y taeog sy’n mawrygu’i dwpdra ei hun’ …? See Hywel Teifi Edwards, Simon Brooks et al on the long history… Read more »
Big Gee
Admin
A ble yr ydw i, sydd yn hollol groes i rywun taeog, wedi “mawrygu’i dwpdra ei hun’ …?” I was a big friend of Prof. Hywel Teifi, his son Huw & I still exchange e-mail greetings at Christmas. We are all sons of Ceredigion. Hywel’s family hail from Aberarth – right next to Aberaeron & his sister Myfanwy married Wil Pantybeddau – one of the sons of Mynydd Bach –… Read more »
Frank Nesbitt
Guest
Twpdra = barnu rhywun ar sail ei enw a’i linach dybiedig. Ydy Kitch yn llai o fardd neu wladgarwr oherwydd ei enw canol? Ni ddwedais yn unman fod HTE na Simon Brooks wedi brathu’u tafodau.Dyma ddau ddadleuwr ffyrnig ac effeithiol ac fel y dywedwch, mae colled anferthol ar ol HTE a neb i lenwi’i esgidiau. Ond DADLAU yw’r gair allweddol yma – a hynny ar sail rhesymu cadarn, nid taflu… Read more »
Big Gee
Admin
Dim o gwbl, mor belled ac yr ydw i’n gallu gweld, does yna ddim barnedigaeth wedi bod o unrhywun “ar sail ei enw a’i linach dybiedig” yn unig. Beth ddywedais i oedd bod cynnwys eich post, yn UNOL a’ch henw yn tueddu i gyfleu i mi eich bod o bosib o drâs rhywun Prydeinig a brenhiniaeth garwr eu hagwedd – beth sydd o’i le mewn dod i’r penderfynniad hwnnw? Ers… Read more »
Frank Nesbitt
Guest
‘Beth ddywedais i oedd bod cynnwys eich post, yn UNOL a’ch henw yn tueddu i gyfleu i mi eich bod o bosib o drâs rhywun Prydeinig a brenhiniaeth garwr eu hagwedd – beth sydd o’i le mewn dod i’r penderfynniad hwnnw?’ Dyma beth sydd o’i le arno. Mae fel dod i’r casgliad bod J Kitchener Davies yn Frenin-garwr ac yn Ymerodraeth-addolwr ar sail ei enw canol a rhyw linell o… Read more »
Hefin Wyn
Guest

Doeth fo’r dwl tra tawo. Gweld ein gilydd wnawn ni yn yr hen fyd ‘ma.

di-enw
Guest
The use of terms such as “infestation” are counter productive given that the media and press in Wales is 99% supportive of Anglocentric British nationalism. The use of “infestation” to describe migration from England into Wales is another bullet they will use to shoot at the idea of Welsh independence. Double standards really as if the locals of say the Forest of Dean were to apply the term to London… Read more »
Myfanwy
Guest
Here is a link to the Save the River Conwy Campaign, to stop the destruction, which will be caused by the proposed National Trust’s, Hydro scheme. It is vital that we all get involved and all do what we can to stop what is happening, our Culture and environment are literally being bulldozed before our eyes and time is of the essence. https://savetheconwy.com/2016/ Pressure needs to be put on the… Read more »
Guest Writer
Guest
As always, a lively and interesting exchange of views. I particularly appreciated one of the first contributions in this thread from Dafis, who I think summed up my feelings in a few deft lines. I am certainly not opposed to the use of public money for conservation and research. The problem here is the scope of the proposals. Ystrad Fflur and Llanelly House are fundamentally different. Llanelly House was in… Read more »
Brychan
Guest
Agree with Guest Writer. We don’t have to go far from Ystrad Ffur to point David Austin in a more acceptable route to an archaeological excavation. It is on Ynys Bŷr (Caldey Island in Norse). The island being owned and inhabited by a modern order of Cistercian monks. They had a desire not to destroy ‘the way of life’ and culture of religious tradition on the island. The monks had… Read more »
Marconatrix
Guest

¨Why is it our museums are packed with all the kings of England crap, spend cash on Georgian mansions and paintings of English nobility, while the real history of Wales are hidden away in back-room archives … ¨

Not directly relevant, but I was just reading this review of a big, largely archaeological ´Celtic´ exhibition, what it includes, and importantly what it doesn´t. Perhaps of interest to some of you?

http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2016/09/05/celts-a-review-of-the-nms-exhibition/

Jeremy
Guest

Visited Ystrad Fflur some 4 years ago and there was definetly a dig being conducted by the university in the field to the south of the car park, some 100 yards from the road. The supply of students as labour should make such digs cheap to organise.

Anonymous
Guest

Who is the anonymous guest writer?

Big Gee
Admin

Which ‘Anonymous’ are you who’s doing the asking?

Stan
Guest

I’ve had a bad day and needed a laugh. Thanks, Big Gee!

Big Gee
Admin

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