What Did I Tell You?

In my previous blog I dealt with English organisations buying up chunks of our country. Concluding that this was not desirable; and allowing it to happen made us Welsh look like a bunch of spineless, forelock-tugging wimps. (Though that may not have been immediately clear.) Within days the National Trust announces that it is launching an appeal to raise £3m to buy a 16 acre stretch of Llyn coastline. What is going on? Are these people determined to prove me right?

Not only is the announcement slightly weird for following so closely on the heels of my earlier discourse, but it arrives complete with its own, internal absurdity that I could not have predicted. The NT says that it wishes to buy this stretch of coastline “to protect it from ‘unsightly and inappropriate’ tourism development”. I can see, and even applaud, the logic. So why is Visit Wales (i.e. the Wales Tourist Board) saying that it will match pound for pound any amount raised?

Visit Wales is the organisation that gives out awards to caravan parks and the like. For Visit Wales to chip in to this appeal is like the Licensed Victuallers funding the Temperance League. What the hell is going on?

And another thing . . . I may not be all that familiar with land prices but three million quid for just 16 acres – or £187,500 per acre – seems a wee bit pricey. Is there a gold mine on the land? More likely a great part of the amount being raised is future NT capital and revenue costs.

Putting aside the cost, it appears that we are being asked to ‘save’ a stretch of Welsh coastline. We are told what it is being saved from, and I can accept this. So all we need to know now is for whom it is being saved. Is it the locals? Is it the wider Welsh nation? Or is it the tweedy and be-fleeced members of the English middle classes who wish to enjoy an ‘unspoilt’ Wales? I suggest it is the last of these.

I further suggest that if this trend is allowed to continue then vast swathes of Wales will become as if preserved in amber. What jobs are created will go to Guy and Hermione; as the indigenous locals are squeezed out to make way for grizzled and horny-handed practitioners of ‘traditional’ country crafts, such as the accountant from Solihull who took a course in saddlery.

Saving an area from tourism is a laudable aim, but you then need to allow the indigenous population alternative business opportunities and employment. We need Welsh answers to Welsh problems . . . which is what devolution promised, and has failed miserably to deliver. The proof? That in 2010 I can still blog about the National Trust and countless other English bodies buying up our homeland.

Whose Wales Is It?

The Woodland Trust, or as it is known in Wales, Coed Cadw, recently concluded the purchase of the 1000-acre Cwm Mynach, near Dolgellau, Gwynedd. Among the donations that helped Coed Cadw raise the £850,000 needed was one of £100,000 from a religious cult / business called Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association. Basically, another cult dreamed up by a charlatan who, like all the others, pretends she’s giving out enlightenment in return for the loot. But the Supreme Master is obviously a 21st century charlatan because she uses environmentalism to push her drivel. Two lies for the price of one.
Then, this week, we learnt that Llwyn Celyn, near Llanthoney in Gwent (shown left), ‘Wales most “at risk” historic house’, has been bought by the Landmark Trust with a donation from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Have you heard of either of these organisations? I certainly hadn’t until I read the story.
The more I read about the Landmark Trust the more I thought to myself, ‘Don’t the National Trust do the same thing?’ Which inevitably prompted the question, ‘How many organisations of this kind do we need?’
This led me to consider that these groups – Supreme Master’s shower excepted – are all, basically, English. So why should one English organisation be giving money to another English organisation to buy a piece of Wales? To these one could add countless others; such as the previously mentioned National Trust, or the Forestry Commission. How much of Wales is owned by these bodies? And how little by us?
Or rather, why don’t we have a Welsh organisation to take care of our heritage? (And I mean Welsh, not English Heritage (West Anglia)). Is it beyond the wit of those posturing buffoons down in Cardiff docks to launch a Welsh body to conserve our heritage? It would do more to inspire our people than any amount of turgid debate over the minutiae of LCOs or the funding for Ieuan Air. (Maybe the Supreme Master is worth a tap!)
But, then, I suppose to even broach the subject would put too many noses out of joint over the border. Those who bestride our land in fleece and tweed would think us very uppity and ungrateful if we were to suggest that it would be a good idea if a Welsh public body or charity took over the work of the National Trust, Landmark Trust and all the rest.
Interesting word ‘Trust’. Because at the end of the day that’s what’s lacking. I just don’t trust these organisations to represent our history, our culture . . . or us. But as long as Waggers get invited to their bashes, where they can be patronised by some aristo and rub shoulders with some bloke off the telly then nothing is going to change.Wales needs to be led by those who put Welsh interests first, and last. Whether these leaders are in the Assembly is totally irrelevant. Just like the Assembly itself.

‘Anglo-Saxon Wales’

I remember reading that term in a Wasting Mule article some years back. Written by one of the silly young things the Mule employs either to keep costs down or because she’s the daughter / niece / daughter of friends / ‘niece’ / of some big shot at Trinity Mirror. For ignorance of Wales has never been a handicap to employment on ‘The National Newspaper of Wales’ or the Welsh media generally.

The term floated back into my consciousness a few days ago when I first read about the discovery of a ‘Saxon’ hall near Welshpool. After reading more, both in the County Times and on the BBC website I began to have doubts about both the find and the finders. From my reading of the media coverage all anyone can be sure of is that there may be the remains of possibly a 5th century building at Gaer farm. The description ‘Saxon’ seems to owe little to the evidence and a hell of a lot to the fact that those involved in the dig are English.
Naturally I decided to find out more about the brilliant archaeologists involved, Cambrian Archaelogical Projects (CAP) of Llanidloes. On perusing their website I learnt that CAP has many feathers in it; for as its website puts it: ‘We are an independent professional company offering a wide range of services from Consultancy on Planning Applications, Mitigation Strategies and Historical Research, to Excavation, Evaluation and Specialist Reporting’.

Not only does CAP do the groundwork for wind farm developers but it was also involved in the Milford Haven to England LNG pipeline. So, basically, CAP follows the big commercial contracts with genuine archaeology as a bit of a sideline. Which might explain the ‘Saxon’ claim for Gaer farm.

I say that because at the end of the 5th century the Germanic invaders were well short of the present Wales-England border. Indeed, this was ‘The Age of Arthur’, or at least that period when the Welsh rallied and the invaders were pushed back on all fronts. Consequently, if the remains at Gaer are 5th century, then they are not Saxon; in the unlikely event that they are Saxon, then they can not be fifth century.

CAP is now appealing for volunteers, and stressing that no archaeological experience is necessary. Probably because CAP’s ‘professionals’ wouldn’t want to be shown up by an amateur who knows his or her history.

To end on a more serious note: What self-respecting nation allows its history to be interpreted by its historical enemy? What nation allows foreign amateurs to roam its countryside, digging where they choose, informed less by knowledge than by notions of racial superiority? Why! we Welsh, of course! No, let me re-phrase that. We don’t allow it because we are not consulted on these matters. These things are decided for us.

P.S. It should go without saying that CAP enjoys the full backing of English Heritage (West Anglia), or as some would have it, CADW.

Rural Housing

Going about my lawful occasions this afternoon my ever-watchful eye fell upon a van belonging to Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd, the new housing association that has taken over the council housing in Gwynedd. ‘Something odd here’ I thought to myself . . . and then it struck me.
First off, the van had a brand new licence plate telling me that the vehicle had been registered in Essex. Also, the plate carried ‘GB’ rather than ‘Cymru’. Definitely odd for a supposedly ‘local’ housing association. Does not auger well, and makes me worry that CCG will go the way of our other rural housing associations.
Which will mean CCG forging links with English local authorities and charities, and with assorted agencies dealing with the multifareous problems of England’s towns and cities. Resulting all too often in the inhabitants of Welsh towns and villages experiencing an influx of troublemakers and undesirables that have no connection with the community . . . other than the fact that Sioned at Tai Cwmscwt has an ‘understanding’ with Vikki at the Lancashire Centre for Alcohol Abusing Single Mothers with Drugs Problems and Criminal Offspring.
For as we know – but politicians will never admit – Welsh housing associations are now causing considerable anguish in hitherto peaceful and relatively crime-free communities by bringing in ‘colourful’ tenants from over the border. This can not go on. Now that the Assembly has responsibility for housing it must act and make it mandatory that one criterion and one criterion only is applied in the allocation of social housing. That criterion is of course strong local connections.
Making yourself homeless in Birmingham should not take you to the top of the council waiting list in a Welsh town you’ve never heard of. A ‘change of environment’ in Aberystwyth should not be the reward for petty criminals in Manchester.
Housing associations in rural Wales must be reined in and told to revert to their original purpose – providing social housing for those with strong local connections. And rather than build new properties our housing associations should also have the power restored to them to buy suitable older properties.
Once housing associations are serving the Welsh people again the Assembly can turn its attention to private landlords of the kind that have blighted Rhyl and other towns. Then comes the Big One – private housing. Here we need also to apply the ‘local need’ principle. To do so will resolve the problem of the Assembly – or its civil servants – insisting that local authorities allow the building of insane numbers of new dwellings, well beyond any conceivable local demand.
For what is as stake here is Welsh identity. This was understood by those who set the current rules for social and private housing in Wales – so why can’t those who love Wales also see it? Or are they too afraid to speak out? No doubt many have a finger in the pie.We need as many people as possible to contact their AM to insist that the new housing powers are used for the benefit of Welsh people and the Welsh nation. Otherwise, transferring these powers is yet another waste of time.FOOTNOTE (Aug 3): Having said that I suppose the legislation under which Welsh housing associations operate plays a big part in the problem. For this states that all financial surpluses be re-invested in new housing or in renovating existing stock. And herein lies the problem.

For let us assume that a housing association returns healthy profits every year but has very few locals looking for properties, what is it to do but seek tenants from outside its area and even from outside of Wales? Which leads to the problem outlined above.

However, if strong local connections becomes the sine qua non for social housing in Wales then not only shall we see the end of the problem outlined but we shall also have found another source of funding for social projects that benefit our people and our communities.

This must also be obvious to those running our housing associations. That they prefer to build properties for which there is no Welsh demand says a great deal about these people.