An afternoon jaunt


I’m still working on the Wales & West piece, but things keep cropping up. And this week has been rather testing in a number of ways. So please regard this offering as a divertimento (as we say in Swansea).

Yesterday afternoon I had to take my wife and grand-daughter to the optician in Dolgellau. As they wanted to look around and do a bit of shopping I said to myself, ‘Jones, do you really want to hang around around Dolgellau for a couple of hours on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, or should you take yourself off somewhere?’

And so off I went in a north easterly direction.

Which of course brought me to Bala. But I didn’t tarry in the town, instead I took myself up to Frongoch, and the memorial to the Irish patriots interned nearby after the Easter Rising of 1916.

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I wasn’t the only one there. In fact, I’ve noticed, that for such a quiet spot it seems to attract visitors from near and far. After a rousing rendition of The Foggy Dew I moved on up to Tryweryn.

There, once a farmer and his aggressive dog had passed, I had the place to myself. I just stood there for a while, thinking of Capel Celyn beneath the water, and how that hamlet’s fate has played such a pivotal role in Welsh politics and Welsh history. It’s certainly what ‘swung’ me.

Llyn Tryweryn. Click to enlarge

I got back in the car and started driving back down to Bala, but then, on impulse, I pulled into the National White Water Centre, on Afon Tryweryn, not far below the reservoir.

It’s called the National White Water Centre but it’s not the Welsh National White Water Centre, where you’d expect school parties of Welsh children to be trained in kayaking and associated sports. In fact, it’s just a commercial venture that for some reason was receiving ‘Welsh Government’ funding through Sport Wales. In 2014/2015 this generosity reached £378,000.

As you might have guessed by now, I’ve written about this place before. Back in January 2015 with, White Water up Shit Creek, which was followed up with Canoe Wales 2 and Canoe Wales 3.

So I suppose today’s visit was kind of checking on how things are going. And the answer would appear to be, not well. Not well at all.

I walked into a large empty foyer area, with an unmanned desk on my left, and on my right something advertised as ‘Manon’s cafe’. If she exists, Manon wasn’t there, for I was served my coffee by some young guy with a rather curious coiffure.

As it was such a nice day I took my coffee outside, to get a view of the advertised white water. And then I saw it!

Nothing less than an image of Bore Grylls; action hero, piss-drinker, insect muncher, and erstwhile business associate of Gavin Woodhouse at the Afan Valley Adventure Resort.

A rarity indeed, this. For as we know the great man shies away from publicity.

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Not far away was another sign, this one advertising Adventure Weekends by Adventure North Wales. (The operative word here is clearly ‘Adventure’.) So who or what is Adventure North Wales?

Well, the head office is in West Molesey. But not the West Molesey you’re thinking of, between Efenechtyd and Clocaenog; no, this one is in Surrey. Which probably explains why the website is entirely in English. (As is the website for the National White Water Centre.)

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(I really must check if Adventure North Wales gets any funding from our wonderful ‘Welsh Government’.)

Coffee still in hand, I moseyed on a bit further and was confronted by signs for a brand of ice cream with which I was unfamiliar. Not that I eat much of the stuff myself, you understand, but being a grandfather . . .

Marshfield Farm?’ I thought, ‘Where the hell is that?’ To save you looking, it’s in Wiltshire.

Click to enlarge

I went back inside the main building. The cafe was now locked, the foyer was still empty, and the desk still unmanned. I had the place to myself. So I looked around at the signs and advertisements and then it struck me – here we are, just a couple of miles from Bala, yet everything is in English.

In fact, this place might as well be in England. And I suppose it would be, if England had more rivers where the flow could be controlled by a dam. And a political class that models itself on Uriah Heep. (The Dickens character, not the rock band.)

What this means is that not only did we lose Capel Celyn when the reservoir was built, but we also gained the National White Water Centre for England. Insult added to injury.

The National White Water Centre is an alien presence in Wales. Which I suppose sums up tourism in general. In Wales, but not of Wales.

And yet, this imposition and others like it are collectively lauded as ‘Welsh Tourism’; with politicians and other forms of low life telling us that they generate billions of pounds and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Bollocks!

There’s nothing Welsh about it – not even the fucking ice cream is Welsh!

How does tourism like this benefit Wales? What does allowing strangers to treat our country in this way say about us as a nation?

In the space of just over an hour I experienced conflicting emotions. First, I was paying homage to the men of ’16; then I was remembering my own political awakening in the 1960s; before, finally, being confronted with the ugly reality of ‘Playground Wales’.

As I drove back to Dolgellau I thought about the comparative positions of Ireland and Wales today.

The former is prosperous, confident, and about to be reunited. But if the ‘Welsh’ tourism industry is any guide, then Wales is drifting towards oblivion.

♦ end ♦


23 thoughts on “An afternoon jaunt

  1. Anonymous

    Interesting post by Aled ap Dafydd campaigning on behalf of PC’s candidate for Cardiff West Sunday Morning. Is this common knowledge now?

    1. Dai Protheroe

      Thanks for the pointer. I did not know that Plaid had someone in place for Cardiff West. Personally I think the McEvoy/Plaid fallout will see Drakeford scrape back in which will be hell of a shame.

      I see the Plaid man is a barrister. I don’t know if yet another lawyer is a good thing but he seems a sharp cookie. Though CVs aren’t always the best way to judge.

      1. Anonymous

        Well they kept it on the down low. So they know people will react to it. Just reeks of contempt for Plaid members, supporters and the movement as a whole. They may say it isn’t and doesn’t… but they’re underrating the discontent within their own ranks I think – as Leanne did in the leadership race.

        Will probably keep Drakeford in office as you say… and that may come with a myriad of issues as well. He’s become very unpopular over the RGH A+E closure and a lot of people I speak to seem to want rid of him and Labour in general. If Plaid are seen to have kept him in power it may come back to bite them – as will standing against another pro-Independence candidate when they made way for Unionists in the last election.

        Its make or break for Plaid. They don’t see it… just like Labour doesn’t see their vote collapsing… as they didn’t see their vote collapse in Scotland a few years ago.

    2. Brychan

      By dint of profession I suspect it unwise for practicing barristers to hob-knob with BBC journalists over avocado toasties and Chablis at trendy lunch counters in Pontcanna. Even if it does offer opportunities for mutual masturbation of their egos.

      This will not win votes in Cardiff West for Plaid Cymru.

      The Tory vote of Llandaf and St Fagons is unlikely to shift anywhere and whilst the trendy middle class vote of ‘young professionals’ and the ‘creative classes’ may shift between Labour and Plaid in the unique setting of Canton or Riverside, it’s not what will decide who wins Cardiff West.

      Having taken the risk of touring the area in my Swans shirt, there’s a constituent vote of Cardiff West which are very friendly and informative. They talks tidy.
      I wonders if Jac posts this.

      That will be decided by those who work the checkouts at Culverhouse, the nurses who do shifts at UHW, and the men of high viz who short the recycling a Viridor. These are the ones who know who McEvoy is. Those who live by hand and mouth and reside in Ely and Fairwater. They are the ones who are deserting Labour and have switched or switching to McEvoy.
      The Westgate is closed.

      I am also amused, if you walk a few hundred yards from Canton rail depot, you’ll find a distinct community of ‘ethnic’ background. Plaid Cymru appear to think that fronting a posh lady in a hijab will mop up this vote. How wrong they are. A chat over a vape and a falafel and you’ll find the slogan ‘It’s us’ translates as ‘It’s them’. They’ve seen through that posturing. The name of McEvoy, however, is always mentioned with affection and respect.

      Many a dark was sunk in conducting this research.

      1. When I read “mutual masturbation” I feared we were back discussing the Ynys Mon crossbow killing.

        Though I’m sure you’re right about the ‘more established’ or less trendy elements within the constituency. This is Neil McEvoy’s core vote. And he will also win over a few trendies, because they’re not all Labour and Plaid. A non-trendy element I know in that constituency, old-time nationalists, mates and drinking partners of Keith Parry, have given up on Plaid and will never vote Labour.

        1. Dafis

          very encouraging piece of info there. Nice to know that the “real” people in Cardiff West don’t go much on posturing preening pseudos. As you say the hard core Tories will stick with whatever shyster the party chooses to nominate. As for the rest there is huge potential to draw voters away from Drakeford whose personal cred is seeping away at an alarming rate (alarming for his party, that is). Plaid opting for a “professional” a smooth talking cardboard cut-out in a suit will be like waving a red rag to a bull in large tracts of that constituency, where a genuine activist stance is much appreciated. So if NM ‘s crew plus those increasingly drawn to his personal banner without necessarily buying into the entire package step on the gas they could still achieve the biggest win ever. We live in increasing hope.

          1. Brychan

            How to win elections.

            No matter how inept, cowardly and treacherous Drakeford is, that will not stop people in Cardiff West from voting Labour. There is an element of ‘donkey vote’ just like in the valleys. Convincing these voters to change pattern by exposing Drakeford as a fraud, or by logical alternative argument on policy is helpful but it’s NOT the key to breaking that voting pattern.

            It’s a bit like trying to convince those of religious adherence that it’s just nonsense, by explaining the facts of evolution, age of earth, or other scientific knowns. They adhere to a religion because they want to believe.

            The same applies to the donkey vote for Labour. They want to believe that a promised land can be delivered and no matter how obvious that delivery of it is failing. In the mind of those who vote Labour, they will convince themselves that somehow these failures are as a result of ‘someone else’. It’s why ‘blame the Tories’ works even though Labour is responsible. It’s a bit like saying to those of religious adherence that bad things happen because of the ‘devil’.

            The key to breaking the Labour vote is to understand the Labour voter.

            Be of them. Not in terms of policy or saying the right thing, but by background, culture, living the same experiences, and self identity. The reason why the breakthrough candidate is so important, and why Neil McEvoy is so popular in Cardiff West, no matter how much he is slurred or slagged off by detractors. It’s not the cut of his suit, and he’s certainly not a well-polished mannequin. He’s exactly like anyone else who gets up in the morning to go to work in Cardiff West.

            That’s how I think he’ll win the seat.

  2. Brychan

    Off topic topical comment. Having looked at the ‘social media’ posts by some of our ‘woke’ politicians (Bethan, Leanne and Helen Mary) on International Womens Day, which appear to be a mish-mash of sound-bite crap from the liberal elite of US politics and septic political correctness. May I use this comment to celebrate the women of Wales. Something they appear to have forgotten.
    Nest Howells – Gaerwen
    Mary Hopkin – Pontardawe
    Iris Williams – Tonyrefail.

    It’s a pity that some of our elected female politicians have some kind of aversion on International Womens Day and ignore great women of Wales. Women from the very constituencies they claim to represent. Hope this comment is not considered misogynist, but I do think that these great women (white, Jewish or black) of WALES deserve to be cherished and highlighted. Why do these Plaid Cymru AMs ignore?

    1. Celebrating Welsh women won’t get them plaudits from those they so desperately want to like them. Sad, really. But that’s Plaid Cymru in 2020.

      1. Dafis

        Ah, they still come a distant second to Smiler Skates when it comes to churning out daft ideas and solutions to anything that can be presented as a problem. We have patches of highway congestion in Wales, and even more patches of highway degradation where surfaces would not qualify as “highways” in other countries. Yet, instead of adopting real improvements like better roads, serious investment in a rail network across the country, and a modern interconnected bus service (which actually enables return journeys in less than a day!) the dozy muppet comes up with the idea of introducing charges for travelling along his patchy network of farmtracks, with not a whisper of improved infrastructure.

        What a fuckin’ bozo !

    2. Stan

      I may have been a bit hard on Bethan Sayed in the past. She has, in fairness, pitched in with invaluable advice to the world about how to clean our backsides, what with the shortage of bogroll in the shops.

      I’m not sure it’ll catch on in my home. Seems a bit of a rigmarole, plus I’m not that good at aiming a hose, even in the wider confines of a garden or washing the car. I’d end up flooding our bathroom. The jug method might be better (or do you use it as well?) but I guess I’m too much a creature of habit nowadays, and my back end is too used to that comforting wipe with cushioned paper. So we’ll struggle on and hope Tesco continues to do us proud.
      Don’t think I’ll be in a rush to shake hands with Ms Sayed if she’s ever round our way canvassing. I can always use coronavirus as an excuse, I suppose.

      1. I’m already working on it. I’ve rigged up a hose from the tap on the shed wall up through the bathroom window. Grandchildren will love it!

      2. Dafis

        I suppose that “keeping your hand in” is an appropriate alternative method. Those big dock leaves in the hedges will command a premium when in season. Or back to the cut up newspaper on a nail, but don’t use the nail as you might impale youself.

        1. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane. Though things are looking up.

          After three days of carpet chewing I gave up and handed control of my machine over to the software company whose program I couldn’t get to transfer my thousands and thousands of e-mails from Incredimail (closing down 20.03.2020) to Thunderbird. They all seem to be there on Thunderbird now, together with my address book. Just need to sort them and tidy them up a bit.

          Now I just need to sort out a different project with Companies House and Barclays.

  3. Brychan

    I saw one of those warps of the space-time continuum on one of my recent afternoon jaunts around Wales.

    Leader of RCT council, Andrew Morgan (Labour) and his AMs in the Senedd have been agonising over two bridges over the Afon Taf that need to be demolished due to “unprecedented” recent floods caused by global warming and climate change.

    Two bridges are damaged beyond repair during recent flooding and he is seeking ‘emergency powers’ to demolish the damaged structures and replace them. They are…

    Berw Bridge (the white concrete).
    Castle Bridge (Trefforest).

    The best type of bridge for a river such as this where this ‘new type of flooding’ can be experienced would be a single span long arch span, with cylindrical voids on each side to reduce weight and pressure on the apex. This allows huge volumes of flow and removes the possibility of blockage from debris.


    Does anyone know where this is?

    What’s surprising is that the bridge designer William Edward, a Welsh Mason predicted the recent “unprecedented” river flows and foresaw the effects of global warming and climate change from over 250years ago. Absolute genius.

  4. Wrexhamian

    A depressing thought struck me about six months ago that, if Wales had managed to save Capel Celyn and “Llyn Celyn” had never been allowed to happen, then half the village might well now be inhabited by white-flighters or goodlifers, or be holiday lets. Jac’s findings at the White Water set-up rather confirm me in that supposition.

    1. Stan

      The Brits have a fascination with water. When it’s not drowning Welsh communities they can always find other ways to ruin a place. Yesterday’s Bricks and Mortar section of the Times had an article Wild at Heart, suggesting where wannabe Bore Grylls types should buy property to avail themselves of openwater swimming. The place in Wales featured was “Glynneath Powys” (sic). It’s not in Powys but Neath Port Talbot. However for lazy journalists even Powys is easier to type than that mouthful, and to be fair, if you wanted to attract anyone to Wales, NPT would probably be one of the last places you’d suggest. So it’s now in Powys, get it? But I’m sure some of those people in Aberdare Road, Glynneath who are still dealing with the shit and destruction left after the recent floods will be pleased to sell up to any Times reader looking for some opportunities to dip your toe in the water, nearly every time there’s heavy rain.

      1. Dafis

        Now here’s a thought. Introduce a “compulsory purchase” scheme where an over paid wanker from metropolitan England is compelled to pay full price, no discounts for anything like being uninsurable, for a soggy fucked up residence previously owned by a Taff & family (or even solo Taffs !). That might bring home to these stupid journos how bad it is living day to day in a country that they only regard as good subject material for the holiday, recreation and property columns. Of course if they really get hooked on it they might wish to replicate the scheme in those parts of England blighted by floods and often patronised by their fellow, but so much “smarter”, English in the big cities. These clowns just don’t learn the various lessons from messages inflicted recently by the “left behinds”.

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