Playground Wales

Oh, the joy! the euphoria! Didn’t you feel the surge of national pride, the collective Cymric breast heaving, positively heaving, at the joyous news? – Lonely Planet declares ‘North’ Wales to be the bestest al fresco fun fair around.

Well, obviously, it didn’t use those words (© Jac o’ the North), but that’s what it amounted to. Though the front page of Wednesday’s Wasting Mule seemed a little confused as to where exactly it was talking about (nothing new), believing that the award had gone to the whole country. Thankfully, page three made it clear that ‘North’ Wales was the recipient.


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So what exactly has ‘North’ Wales won? Well, it seems that northern Wales came fourth in the Top Regions category of the best destinations to visit in 2017. (The other categories being countries and cities.)

Northern Wales came fourth in the section subtitled “offbeat destinations demanding our attention”. Mmm, anyone who’s visited Betws y Coed or Caernarfon, Llangollen or Beddgelert, will find the use of that word ‘offbeat’ rather bizarre (and I haven’t mentioned the coastal resorts!). But, anyway, read the Lonely Planet piece for yourself.

So what are the other “offbeat destinations” with which north Wales was competing? In first place came Chocquequirao, “hidden across the deep Apurimac Valley . . . the last Inca refuge from the conquistadors”. Which makes this Andean location sound fascinating, and a worthy winner.

Second was Taranaki in New Zealand, which is certainly off the beaten track, confirmed with Lonely Planet‘s description it being a “remote location”. I shall return to the matter of tourism in New Zealand in a minute.

Then, one place ahead of ‘North’ Wales, we find the Azores. Described by Lonely Planet as the “next Iceland” and as a result we are warned, ” . . .  the secret won’t last: the Azores have seen a 31% increase in tourism over the last 12 months, so visit in the 2017 sweet spot before things really take off.” 

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Now I don’t know much about the Lonely Planet publication other than that it gets a lot of publicity – certainly here in Wales, for every time we get a mention it seems to merit a big news splash – but who pays it any real attention? Maybe its target audience, which I’d guess is the English middle class and its gap year offspring. (I belong to neither category.)

And that’s because, I suspect, Lonely Planet sees its role in identifying ‘offbeat destinations’ before – as seems to be the fear with the Azores – these idyllic locales are discovered by hoi polloi demanding ‘El fish and chips, Pedro – and pronto!’. Without, I hope, sounding snobbish, this is perfectly understandable.

Courtesy of Visit Britain

In September, Mrs J and I took one of our regular trips to Scotland, and no matter where we went, from the Robert Burns Museum to Sweetheart Abbey to Threave (origin, tref) Castle, we met tourists from all over the world, but nowhere we went was overwhelmed in the way that parts of Wales so often are.

Of course Edinburgh can feel a bit ‘crowded’, but it’s bustling and cosmopolitan, it’s energising . . . and a hell of an improvement on being surrounded by miserable Brummies on a wet Sunday in Barmouth. These people milling around Princes Street and the Royal Mile are also spending lots of money (helped by the fact they’re not slumming it in ‘a caravan down the beach’), and when they go home they’ll tell their friends how wonderful Scotland is.

Scotland gets a better class of tourist, and certainly more overseas tourists. These even spend more per head (heid?) than overseas tourists to Wales. The figures for 2015 bear this out, for we see that while Scotland saw 2.6 million visits from overseas Wales welcomed just 970,000. In Scotland, the average spend per head was £651, compared with £422 in Wales. Giving a total overseas spend in Scotland of £1,695m against our £410m, less than a quarter of Scotland’s income.

There is of course a historic explanation for this. When railways became capable of transporting large numbers of working class people in relative comfort, and for prices they could afford, this advance placed Wales, unlike Scotland, within reach of many of England’s cities and industrial regions. Though that does not explain why we should still be providing holidays on the cheap, going for quantity rather than quality, 150 years later.

There are other, perhaps equally prosaic, explanations for Scotland attracting more overseas tourists and fewer English day-trippers than Wales. Distance being a pretty obvious one. Also, Scotland is much larger than Wales, with a greater variety of scenery. Scotland has airports with regular long haul flights to destinations around the world. Finally, Scotland has a beautiful and historic capital city.

But none of these explain the lack of ambition in the ‘Welsh’ tourism industry. Nor should they be accepted as excuses.

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After my Caledonian digression let me return to what I hinted at earlier when mentioning Taranaki, second among the ‘Top Regions’. A friend of mine has visited New Zealand a few times; it’s not cheap, but then, he’s a wealthy bachelor. I remember him telling me about one particular trip to the Southern Alps. He had to book in advance, prove he was healthy and insured, and as they liked the cut of his jib he was taken on a trek through the mountains lasting a few days.

The Southern Alps are protected by various National Parks and other forms of legislation to the point where the chances of a coachload of drunks turning up and making nuisances of themselves is close to zero . . . unlike on Snowdon, for example.


Returning to the Lonely Planet review of ‘North’ Wales we see that what got us noticed was zip wires, wave machines and subterranean trampolines. It seems logical to conclude that if we have more of these, and maybe a water chute running from the top of Cader Idris down to Dolgellau, or Talyllyn, we might achieve the coveted third place next year. Dare we dream of second place!

Grouped with the last refuge of the Incas, the as yet unspoilt Azores, and the majesty of the Southern Alps, a few big boys’ toys scattered about the north seem laughably incongruous, and unworthy. Especially when you read under the ‘Responsible Travel’ heading, “At Lonely Planet sustainable and responsible have always been parts of our vocabulary.” ‘Sustainable’ and ‘responsible’ are words that have never tarnished the lexicon of ‘Welsh’ tourism.

Which I suppose exposes the central contradiction of tourism – ‘Come see this awe-inspiring place . . . and by so doing, help despoil it’. Which explains why I admire the New Zealand approach that realises beautiful and irreplaceable environments and landscapes such as we find in the Southern Alps need to be protected from tourism.

If the Southern Alps had been in Wales they would by now have been extensively and thoroughly ‘developed’, suffering regular visits by twat-like politicos spouting bollocks so vacuous and inane as to make Vacuity and Inanity rise up in indignation. But on the bright side, there would be local employment – collecting garbage.

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When you look around Wales at the ugliness tourism has inflicted, the anglicisation it has brought, the environmental degradation, the social disruption, you have to ask what sort of people are we to have allowed this.

The answer is that we remain what we’ve been for maybe 800 years – a people with no real control over our country. Tourism is a perfect example, not only does it serve England’s interests, but ‘Welsh’ tourism is largely run by, and therefore profits, English people. Why should they give a toss about wrecking our homeland?

What’s best for England will always prevail over the best interests of us Welsh, and devolution has entrenched this system of exploitation even more firmly. I recently coined a term for this phenomenon, devocolonialism. In a future post I shall expand on what I put out recently in a tweet.


I feel this needs to be done because anyone believing that devolution has achieved anything positive for Wales needs a cold shower of facts.

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39 thoughts on “Playground Wales

  1. Brychan

    I see Cllr Aaron Wynne (Plaid Cymru) representing Llanrwst now complains about Barclays Bank closing it’s branch in the town. He says “Conwy is home to the largest population of retirees in north Wales.” Does he not see that this is the real problem?

    He also goes on to say “new ventures such as ZipWorld and Surf Snowdonia employ hundreds of local people between them” yet if we examine companies house declarations we find that ZipWorld employs only 153 people as a monthly average, mostly seasonal or part-time, and Surf Snowdonia which is headquartered in Lancashire employs only 75 staff on average, again mostly seasonal or part time.

  2. YBarddCwsc

    This is how Huge Holiday Homes advertises (in this case, their Colwyn Bay property on the ownersdirect site)

    “A quaint Victorian inn of impressive size.
    A weekend investment that’ll feel like a prize.
    Located very central in a conservation area.
    In Wales, quite safe, no chance of malaria!
    A big open space for parking you cars,
    just walk on in and out to the bars.
    A good seven bathrooms and loads of beds,
    for family and friends to lay down their heads.
    It’s not meant to be posh or for those fond of antiquity,
    but more for those with kids, drink wine, and act out of stupidity.
    Easy access rooms for granny must be seen,
    or a heavenly dormitory for the young and the teens
    3D TVs, surround sound and a massive projector
    you’ll feel as important as a movie director
    for those who can there is a fine pool table
    so take on your mates if you think you are able.
    With full SKY package including movies and sports,
    Perfect for relaxing in a onesie or shorts.
    We are more than pet-friendly with easy care flooring,
    with the homely wood stove, the fire will be roaring!”

    So, the target market are those who are interested in “parking your cars … and out to the bars”, who want to “drink wine and act out of stupidity”, who are not “fond of antiquity”, and who want to sit in a “onesie” looking at “the full Sky package”.

    The whole dreadful and irresponsible ditty sums up exactly what Jac is saying. Bargain basement tourism.

    And a Plaid Cymru council flogged off for peanuts this large property in a prime site in Dolgellau to this man.

    Certainly, as far as South Meirionnydd is concerned, we get nothing useful from Gwynedd Council, whose base in Caernarfon.

    But, in recent years, the Council have been actively destructive.

    The local Plaid Cymru councillors are Beyond-Pitiful. I am afraid there needs to be a clear-out out of the Councillors in Dolgellau.

    1. dafis

      Located very central in a conservation area….In Wales, quite safe, no chance of malaria! says the pathetic rhyme, but there is disease ! It’s arriving regularly in the shape of mass, downmarket tourist “experience”.
      Shit, those recently praised “experiences” mentioned in Lonely Planet stand miles taller than this crap. Although they do nowt to foster a taste of the native experience at least they demand that people venture a little outside their normal daily bubble, but this ……….. it’s grotesque ! And to find that Plaid has contributed yet again to such a negative influence is horrendous. Where are the leading lights of the party in that N.W corner ? We have M.P’s , A.M’s and councillors all representing that corner of Wales, far more than most other parts of Wales and yet the party of wales pisses all over its own turf and people !!! Will one or more of the lazy bastards come on here and explain their actions or inactions ?

  3. dafis

    Both the above contributions – Hefin Wyn’s report on Castell Aberteifi and Bardd Cwsg’s ( new to me) report about the recent sales of significant properties in Dolgellau – are depressing but not surprising. I recall commenting on an earlier report of Aberteifi sweeping the board at a regional ( Welsh ! ) RICS event and now to find that it gets a gong up in the Big City is not really surprising. The damage is done here in Wales where institutionally connected outfits like RICS play a role in the anglicisation/colonisation/eradication programme. It may not yet be joined up thinking but it’s getting to look increasingly like that – a deliberate policy of rubbing out links to a history of which we can be justly proud and replacing it with a sanitised “Big Mac” edition of Kings and Queens of Engerland.

    The nonsense that is reported from Dolgellau relates to the same erosion/elimination processes. That a Plaid council is complicit no longer surprises me. Look to Caerfyrddin where Plaid had its first ever big “hit” and at local level we now see a muppet show of gargantuan proportions with folk who should have some backbone and radical thought cowering at the whim of an utterly sociopathic creep.
    That disease has spread to Ceredigion, where we saw the old Dragon chairing that council getting shirty because a journo tried for once to do his job and ask a few pointed questions about spending patterns !
    And now it creeps northwards, as Gwynedd, whose actions of recent years have been driven by lack of funds, (austerity !) still finds it expedient to flog off significant bits of real estate at bargain prices. FFS, had they got a decent price they could have more funds to flow back into those communities they claim to care for. If such a change of use was appropriate they should have gone to a specialist agent who might have done a marketing job to attract an end user who could generate higher added value into the local community. Have any of these councillors or their executives benefitted from the smallest smattering of business experience ? The deed seems to be done and another tragedy with significant negative “multiplier effects” gets unleashed on an area that could have benefitted so much from some focussed thoughts and planning.

  4. YBarddCwsc

    Another example of this is taking place in Dolgellau right now.

    Gwynedd Council has irresponsibly shut down the Tourist Office, and sold the building cheaply, as well as closed the former Social Security Offices and sold that building even more cheaply at auction. These are both massive buildings.

    The latter has been bought by a Mark Sanders of Manchester, who runs an outfit called ‘Huge Holiday Homes’.

    It is not the only property that ‘Huge Holiday Homes’ owns in Wales. They run the Ship Inn, Old Colwyn and Mountain View, Penmaenmawr.

    These properties cater for huge groups, 80 plus. The holiday rental when split between such large number of guests works out very cheaply.

    We see all the things that Jac is complaining of happening in Dolgellau right now — aided and abetted by the useless Plaid Cymru council and their vacuous representatives, the Dolgellau councillors.

    The operation is run by an Englishman, Mark Sanders, who lives in England. The aim is to offer cut-price budget accommodation to visitors who want the cheapest. The visitors bring their own food, their own beer. There is no pretence at respect for, or interest in, the local culture.

    But I don’t blame Mark Sanders and his ‘Huge Holiday Homes’ for this.

    The blame lies with the spineless and immensely careless Plaid Cymru Council. They sold the property to ‘Huge Holiday Homes’ in the first place.

    I have stopped voting Plaid Cymru now. It was bad enough Gwynedd Council shutting the very helpful and wonderful Tourist Information Office in Dolgellau (which gave employment to 4 local people in the Summer). But, they are actually aiding the destruction of Welsh culture by flogging off property they own to the worst kind of destructive holiday operator.

    Plaid Cymru are literally beyond-useless.

    1. Brychan

      “Dolgellau isn’t the type of town to attract crazy stag dos or wild parties.” – Yes it is.

      There was a time that Dinbych Y Pysgod (Tenby) was exclusively a family resort but as coastal guest houses declined in popularity, they were converted into such establishments and the town became the ‘stag do capital of Wales’.

      Other ‘huge holiday homes’ in North Wales like Ty Gwyn at Llangwm, Plas Meini at Llan Ffestiniog, Telford House on the Menai, and Eriviat Hall near Denbigh are in rural locations. This new breed of ‘party houses’ is not just Mountain View, at Penmaenmawr, a former hotel. They include “The Auction House” in Criccieth High Street. Mark Sanders intends his new acquisition in Dolgellau to be exactly that.

      Local authorities cannot legally sell properties by private arrangement to a desired purchaser, and have to go to auction. They then have no control over who turns up at the auction and put in a bid. What they can do is control the planning application in what a building can be used for. Unfortunately new HMO (houses of multiple occupancy) powers do not cover commercial premises such as this.

      Whilst Gwynedd is the first Plaid Cymru council to have to contend with this new disease, I would expect to see Carmarthenshire have to deal with similar issues with the old Cydweli town hall and I’m sure there are similar buildings in Ceredigion.

      This issue is that the traditional use for such buildings no longer exist, will fall into disrepair and be a burden on the council tax payer to maintain empty. The question arises is why is the Welsh Government pouring money into Housing Associations in these areas for new build social housing, instead of converting such buildings for local domestic residential use, themselves.

      When you say the old TIO in Dolgellau gave “employment to 4 local people in the Summer”. What did these four locals do in winter? That’s the reason why they were unlikely to afford a flat held in local ownership should such buildings be converted to residential use. That’s the problem. In Cardiff such buildings are converted to bijou apartments and snapped up by “young executives”, some of who originate from towns such as Dolgellau.

      1. dafis

        just as we begin to think that all is lost here’s a story that shows communities can sometimes salvage property for their own good uses.

        Mae criw o bobol leol ym Mhowys wedi llwyddo i selio dêl a phrynu hen dafarn rhyngddyn nhw mewn menter gymunedol. Daw hyn wedi mwy na blwyddyn a hanner o ymgyrchu yn dilyn pryder fod tafarn The Corn Exchange yng nghanol tref Crughywel am gael ei werthu a’i droi’n siopau cadwyn.

        Now these people admittedly in a moderately affluent area raised more than £500,000 Using just over £300,000 on the purchase and will invest the rest in the modifications necessary to produce a mixed use property – flats above and retail below.

        So we are still left with a bit of a sour taste here. Although councils have certain obligations they ahve been quite adept in the past at using all sorts of covenants and “rules” to exclude certain types of developments. So, why did this lot give up so easily. A bit of discreet canvassing locally would have discovered if there was a level of interest, what might be the likely end use/s, then slap a few barriers into the proposition to stop the bandits from getting at it, or at least make the price prohibitive. Any evidence that anyone even got off his/her arse to try and influence the outcome ?

      2. YBarddCwsc


        The old Tourist Information Centre in Dolgellau employed 2 people all the year round, and took an extra 2 people in Summer (I believe). They were incredibly knowledgeable about the local area.

        You are correct to say “Local authorities cannot legally sell properties by private arrangement to a desired purchaser, and have to go to auction. They then have no control over who turns up at the auction and put in a bid”

        However, the question remains why did Gwynedd Council close the Tourist Information Office in the first place? Even complete dumps like Nottingham have a Tourist Information Centre.

        The building also contained a Museum on the Quakers in Dolgellau. That was closed as well. Why ?

        I am blaming Plaid Cymru and Gwynedd Council for shutting these important local amenities.

        I don’t expect a museum to be shut down by a Council, and its contents distributed to the garbage. I don’t expect a Tourist Information Centre to be shut down and the long-serving employees made redundant. (I believe the Tourist Information Centre in Porthmadog was also shut by Gwynedd Council).

        These decisions were poor & shoddy decisions by Gwynedd Council and by Plaid Cymru.

        Once you shut everything down, then of course buildings can’t be left vacant and you have to sell them by auction to Mr Huge Holidays.

        1. Brychan

          I think you’ll find there are very few TIOs in England run by local authorities. They are private concerns paid for and promoting particular attractions under the guise of ‘officialdom’. In Wales, Pembrokeshire was the first council to go down this route and handed over the TIO office at Kilgetti to caravan site consortium that was just used to shove punters into the various sites in Tenby and Saundersfoot. The associated ‘public toilet facilities’ were also handed over. The council saved both costs. However, both soon closed when the operators found that new technologies could promote their footfall better than a manned office.

          Whilst I’m sure you’re correct that the staff at the TIO in Dolgellau were very knowing about the area, this talent is wasted on Candy Floss Brummies which is the modem of pitch for tourism in Wales. Last time I was in Conwy I went to a TIO, and all I found was tacky tea towels with leeks on, a slate coffee cup coaster with ‘Wales’ stamped on it, and a plastic tray, made in China, stencilled with a picture of Edward’s castle. This crap does nothing for the town, the wider community or Wales as a whole.

          If anything, I think this type of corrosive tourism should discouraged and any real estate asset used to promote tourism in Wales converted into local enterprise incubators and business advice centres available to any indigenous alternate enterprise who pays business rates. When I hear farmers being encouraged to ‘diversify’ into tourism I shudder. We should, instead, be helping farmers diversify into better and innovative ways of farming. The Welsh Government closed down it’s agricultural research labs in Aberystwyth, madness.

          Can you see the direction I’m thinking?

          1. YBarddCwsc

            The example I gave was Nottingham Tourist Information. A couple of minutes on its website reveals the information

            ” Funded by Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council, “

  5. Hefin Wyn

    So, Castell Aberteifi has received another accolade at a glittering ceremony held by the RICS at London’s Hilton Hotel in recognition of “the outstanding achievement of the project”, according to Cadwgan Trustees secretary, Joff Timms. Really!

    The judges were obviously unaware of the massive heritage possibilities that have been squandered and, hence, undermined Welsh nationhood once again.

    Would Mr Timms allow a piece of English heritage to be desecrated in such a way?

    The fact that no accolades have been received from the National Eisteddfod or any Wales based historical institution is far more relevant. Understandably so.

    The site of the first recorded Eisteddfod and the seat of the Princes of the Deheubarth has been buried under a renovated Georgian house which, in comparison to the medieval legacy, is of no significance.

    It seems the people of Aberteifi are gullible and easily led by any outside interference.
    Ma nhw’n damshel ar ein treftadaeth unwaith eto.

    Hopefully, this will be the last and final ‘accolade’. Hence the long haul to rectify the annibendod can begin.
    Can 2050 be set as a goal? By then the Georgian pile will be demolished and the Court of Rhys ap Gruffudd excavated to provide a heritage site to be proud of.

    In the meantime an accomplished historian should be commissioned forthwith to enlighten all and sundry of the significance of this heritage jewel to the Welsh nation.

    It is far more than just an addendum to the British colonial mind-set.

  6. Big Gee

    I’m in full agreement with all the comments about caravans, God knows living in Aberaeron I’m as far into caravan land as anyone. They are an eyesore.

    However, there is a group of people who have traditionally inhabited these caravan sites as far north as Aberaeron (that seems to be furthest post north for these people). It is the people of the Valleys. In fact they have become a very welcome part of the scene from Aberaeron down to Carmarthen Bay. They traditionally came here when the pits were open – the more adventurous came this far, rather than spend their ‘miners fortnight’ in Porthcawl. With redundancy money and a bit of spare dosh after retirement a small army settled for a static caravan. They come on weekends and some split their time between the house ‘back home’ and their second home in the ‘van’.

    I for one thoroughly enjoyed the experience, many have become secondary citizens of the area, and it’s a pleasure to meet and get to know them as ‘locals’. Some years ago the accent on the streets of these sea side towns & villages would ring with southern ‘sing song’ accents – ‘luvly mun’.

    NOW the Brummies are encroaching to such an extent that they are drowning out these traditional visitors. From Aberaeron and all points north it’s the ‘yaw’ and ‘our kid’ Brummie lilt that’s heard – some never go home anymore. Right up north it’s the same only it’s the ‘Mancs’ and ‘Scouser’ accents that are heard.

    I don’t want to deprive anyone of their right to a fortnight by the sea, but it needs to be controlled, and especially when the influx is great, and those who do visit just bring their culture, language and customs with them to the chagrin of those who are from here. I sometimes feel that we are in the same boat as those who live in corrugated iron roofed shantys behind the posh waterfron houses & hotels in the West Indies that provide for rich, arrogant and rude white skinned holidaymakers. All the maids and menial task workers are black faced, and piss-pot poor.

    1. Dic

      A very good point, Big Gee. I’d forgotten about one of my Valley cousins who’s got a caravan just outside Aberystwyth – surely the most northerly nesting site for this species. And inland up the Teifi Valley there are caravan parks where the old boys, and sometimes their wives, come and spend the summer months with a fishing rod, and they cook up communal feasts in the evenings. And the smell of the bacon and eggs wafting across the river in the mornings…. A fantastic atmosphere and everyone enjoying themselves.

      Now that’s one species of caravanner that I would definitely want to see protected.

      1. Brychan

        I think the ‘retire valleys species’ you refer to are those that know the territory, have sought out a niche site, and have a stake in the accommodation concerned, and ‘immerse’ into the community they are on holiday in.

        The other ‘species’ is the ‘invasive’ variety. It can be seen on the comments here…

        It is a typical serviced site establishment of large caravan density, on a costal margin of land of poor agricultural use (in this case segmented by a railway line). Evident from some of the customer comments they run a ‘bucket auction’ through the Sun and Daily Mail to sell low demand occupancy in shoulder periods. When chalets and caravans reach the end of their working lives and fall into disrepair these are sold off on a leasehold, which leads to further deterioration. The main income stream comes from ‘on-site’ facilities such as over priced bar and cafeteria.

        It is a business model that is corrosive to the brand of tourism in Wales, destructive to the local community, and provides no local economic income. The comments on TripAdvisor are not mine, they are written by the customers of such establishments themselves.

  7. Anonymous

    Protecting Wales from stinking “tourists” whether it be the vomiting drunkards on the streets of Cardiff or the wife-beating, littering chavs in the caravan parks of the coast is not “anti-English”. There are many parts of the English coast which would benefit from a “re-alignment” of the “tourism industry”

    1. Brychan

      This is one of the arguments that was put forward in the recent establishment of the new South Downs National Park. Previously designated an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. You cannot plant caravans on the white cliffs around Brighton and Hove any more. The government in England have taken action, in Wales nothing. An example of this can be seen on the Gower. This is an AONB but not a National Park, hence the Hillend Caravan Park previously known as the village of Llangennith.

  8. Anonymous

    Aren’t you able to blog about anything without resorting to Anti-English hatred? You come across as nothing but a sour old man.

    1. Big Gee

      Pull in your horns pal, and think before you open your big gob and make stupid accusations like “Anti-English hatred’. I for one am married to an English woman.

      You remind me of the twats who spawned the urban myth that when you come to Wales and go into a pub they all start speaking Welsh because they hate you and don’t want you to know what they’re saying.

      You need to stay in a bit more and do some reading, so that you understand what we are talking about on this blog. And whilst you’re at it sign up for a course with a psychologist to try and remove your paranoia and the chip it’s left on your shoulder.

      Ignorant bloody burk.

  9. Dic

    A walk along the Ceredigion coast from Aberporth to Tresaith in the autumn sunshine last week was a bittersweet experience. Aberporth is a strange place – the RAF and Qinetiq, a large dollop of problem families from Manchester, Birmingham and London rehoused by the Welsh seaside, a Daily Mail contingent of well-to-do pensioner couples who have moved here to live out their waning years, and a declining core of Welsh-speaking families. All of that and the unusual distinction of a UKIP councillor, thicko Gethin James, whose house is close to the car park used by dog walkers and others out for a stroll along the coastal path.

    A stone’s throw from Chateau James a union jack fluttered in the stiff breeze in someone’s back garden.

    The path itself is pleasant enough, provided you keep your head turned to the left and look out to sea. On the right you pass one caravan site after another. Some are tidy and well maintained, others less so.

    Balancing the caravan sites on one side of Tresaith are more caravan sites and a chalet village on the cliffs above the village to the north.

    The small beach was full of Mancunians, Brummies and others hauling their boats off the beach, ready for winter. Not a German, American or Dutch accent to be heard.

    As you climb up through the old village, it is still a beautiful place if you block out the eyesores on either side, and that is probably what has attracted the newest influx at the top where some spectacular and hugely expensive “Grand Designs” type properties would seem to be luxurious second homes for the most part. A little slice of Abersoch in Ceredigion, rubbing shoulders with the caravans.

    The saddest realisation was that Tresaith and Aberporth are like scores of other once thriving villages along our coastline. Caravans and second homes which have come to blight one of the finest coastal landscapes in Europe,

    Unless and until we find a way of clearing away the huge proliferation of caravans and, presumably, compensating the owners, we are destined to remain a low budget, down-market destination.

    1. Brychan

      Just two suggestions…

      (a) There is a smattering of ‘eco-settlers’ in the area banging on about re-wilding. They appear to be obsessed with turning upland peat bogs (a rare and cherished habitat) into deciduous woodland. This does not need doing. However, there is a habitat that does need re-wilding. The coastal margin. Why don’t they use the public sector cash they wallow in to buy up and evict these caravan sites. Re-introduce the rare trees native to the coastline such as Whitebeam, Hawkweed, and Wild Asparagus. One of the grandest prizes would be the re-introduction of the sea eagle (Eryr Môr) to the Ceredigion coast, and invite those red squirrels down from Ynys Môn.

      (b)Taxing caravans and using the cash to invest in hard standing facilities (Aires de Service) for motorhomes. A static caravan is an all-year blot on the landscape. Motorhomes, however, using aires are only present in tourist season. There is also the opportunity for indigenous farmers to earn a crust by indoor over-wintering some of these more expensive vehicles, and hence greater local spend, inside agricultural buildings. Also, like in France, Aires de Service can directly consume green energy from solar installation and the associated toilet facilities provide year round amenity to the local area removing such a burden on the local authority. In fact, at Aberporth, I understand that there are already ample hard standing platforms, formally used by the MoD. I’m sure the residents of the sea front in Aberaeron and Aberystwyth can testify to the demand.

      Tourism is officially devolved as is planning, conservation and agriculture. Those bums in the bae are made up of Labour who appear to cherish working class candy floss brummies who desecrate our towns with chip wrappers and leave disposable barbecues on the beaches, and the Tories who dream of retirement to those ‘Grand Design’ chalets you mention. But what really I cannot understand is the way Plaid Cymru is obsessed with jumping into bed with eco-settlers from England who have little understanding of the native habitat, what sustainability is, or real restitution of natural habitat really means.

      I doubt if the RSPB, West Wales Wildlife Trust, Mobinot or the Cambrian Society who usually object to Jacs blog will have the decency or respect for the areas they have chosen to settle in to reply to this comment.

      My other suggestions are abalone farms, offshore dulse and bara lawr racking. We have Halen Môn, so how about Halen Cerridigion? Such enterprises do need seasonal labour and you don’t have to go far to get some students to work the racks and pots. Better than frothing a latte in Aber or counting puffins.

      1. With the legislative powers now available to the Assembly it might be possible to tax caravan sites out of existence. But this should go hand in hand with a strategy of replacing holidays on the cheap with making tourists pay for serviced accommodation. Serviced accommodation that provides jobs, buys in from local suppliers, has its laundry and linen done by a local laundry, can inform visitors what to do and where to go (to spend more money).

        We are constantly told that tourism is a business, even an industry. That being so then we should be maximising the potential income from tourism. That can never be done with caravans used for holidays on the cheap. Maximising the benefits of tourism also means creating jobs and careers in tourism that, again, will never be provided by caravan sites. We encourage people to come to Wales to experience the beauty of our country – what Ministry of Truth down in Cardiff can square that ambition with mile after mile of coastline ruined by caravans?

        1. Brychan

          There is a myth, often spouted by AMs that ‘high end tourism’ is complementary to, or can grow out of ‘low end tourism’. In fact the two are mutually exclusive. Nobody is going to pay for a three figure hotel room that has a view of caravans and the occupants of caravans are also unlikely to be able to afford to dine in Michellin Star restaurants.

          A top end golf course on the Gower would bring in more cash in the time it takes to putt the 18th hole than a fleet of caravans can earn in a week. Just don’t ask Donald Trump like they did at Menie Estate in Scotland, which lacked an airport for executive jets. Gower, on the other hand does.

          1. I find it remarkable that recent decades have seen increasing concern for the environment and fears about carbon footprint yet few seem worried by the sheer ugliness and mess of caravan sites. But as I’ve said here and elsewhere:

            1/ Tourism in Wales is run for the benefit of England and English people. What is best for Wales is not allowed to intrude.

            2/ Many of the caravan sites around our coast are owned by people and families with ‘pull’ in the local community.

            Put these two facts together and they help explain why a blind eye is turned to caravan sites.

      2. Myfanwy

        Excellent suggestions Brychan. The first set of English Eco settlers who have now, unbelievably been given planning, within the National Parks, are already demonstrating their lack of respect for the natural habitat and for their neighbours in Trefdraeth. This is their website:

        They are not local young people from Pembrokeshire, struggling to get their first home, but middle class vets from the Home Counties. They describe their neighbours, who were against their planning, in the most vitriolic way, while they themselves, have made the decision to place over 150 tractor tyres, on about 3 acres on Dinas Mountain. It could be quite easy, for anyone with no previous Eco values, to figure out how to get round this new planning law in order to get that view, especially when you have the money in the first place to create a professional looking business plan, with architectural drawings.

        The couple arrogantly describe themselves as “pioneers”, but it is a disastrous precedent, if they can get planning overlooking Trefdraeth, then it could happen all along the coast. It’s unbelievably shortsighted, when there is available farm land, which is far more appropriate for development, outside the National Parks. Inappropriate, Luxury, homes also seem to be appearing along the coast, what is happening, why is planning being given? Soon there will be none of our beautiful National Parks left, if they are not protected and these new planning regulations stopped.

        It is imperative that our National Parks are protected from the constant threat of development. Getting rid of the Caravan parks, would be a first step in encouraging respect for our unique landscapes and encouraging positive alternatives, such as the ones you suggest, which benefit the natural environment and can offer livelihoods for local people, rather than the constant in migration from England.

        1. Stan

          Ooh – I read that link, Myfanwy, thanks for providing. What a set of charmers they are. With an attitude like that they are going to take a long time to be accepted, if ever. They need to throw off those huge logs they carry round on their shoulders because the sort of petulance, vindictiveness and immaturity displayed in that blog is something I’ve rarely encountered in a balanced adult. Makes you wonder though – are people like that any more desired in Wales than the Brummie and Mancunian chavs referred to elsewhere. I wish they’d just fuck off back from whence they came. Leeches.

          1. Myfanwy

            Absolutely Stan, I can’t believe that those least in need and with such a disrespectful attitude, are being supported in such a way, while young families living locally are struggling to make ends meet.

    2. The thing to remember about caravans is that years ago, to have applied for one of the original caravan sites, one would have needed enough land on which to situate that site. Which meant that farmers with land close to the coast were able to cash in.

      If a coastal farmer was not a councillor himself then in largely rural areas, from Llanelli west to St David’s, then north up to Caergybi, and finally east to the border, the farming/landowning interest would have been well represented on the local council. Which would have made planning permission a doddle.

      The local media, which in rural areas cannot afford to upset the farming community, would report every new caravan park as a ‘boost to the local economy’, ‘creating jobs’, blah, blah, blah. That was then.

      I would hope that times have changed and we see coastal caravan sites for the monstrosities they are, on an environments, visual and economic level – because they put a lot of money into few pockets and create only a small number of jobs. A modern tourism industry should be phasing out caravans in favour of serviced accommodation.

  10. Anonymous

    Very interesting article indeed, I always enjoy reading views and opinions here that do not seem be heard in the mainstream of media in Wales.

    1. dafis

      not surprising really. MSM is a collection of proprietorial, corporate mouthpieces that will hawk a line of “information” which conforms to local /national government and/or elitist interpretations. Jac’s blog, like many others world wide, tells it as it is – and will be open enough to have several versions and interpretations of “how it is” debated and argued over.
      Sadly most of our population, even those who claim to think and analyse, rely on corrupted sources ranging from notionally conservative rags like the Daily Mail and Express across a false spectrum to the pseudo socialist much acclaimed Guardian ( which I often visit for a good laugh ! ).

      Truth may hurt, but it’s worth knowing.

  11. dafis

    Co-incidentally, earlier today driving from here to there I listened to a group of young people who work in or around the tourism sector and was delighted to hear them pushing the theme of the Welsh language and by extension the matter of identity – the need to send tourists home with a greater awareness that they ( the tourists ) had been somewhere different not just the most westerly stump sticking out of the main body of England. If all people with any kind of customer facing responsibility in that sector were obliged to be Welsh speaking that would be a great step forward in differentiating Wales as an experience, product, offering, whatever you want to call it.

    Of course to make that work, Cynulliad needs to be more enthusiastic about encouraging native investment in ventures rather than jumping enthusiastically every time some venturesome soul bowls in from over Offa’s Dyke with a bright idea. Welsh entrepreneurial spirit is put through the bureaucratic mincer if it asks for a loan/grant/assistance while inward investors are deemed “good” by definition and given the red carpet treatment by public servants who are generally clueless about what constitutes a good proposition.

    1. The problem with promoting Wales’ distinctiveness is that Visit Wales and its predecessor the Wales Tourist Board have been saying this regularly, but nothing ever happens.

      How can you promote Welshness when most of those running tourism businesses in Wales are English? All that can be achieved is some phoney, ersatz ‘Welshness’. It’s so different in Scotland and Ireland, where Scottishness and Irishness is promoted naturally because those running tourism are Scottish and Irish.

      The strategy I want to see is reducing numbers of tourists by closing some of the ugliest caravan sites. There would be no loss of income because if people wanted to come then in future they’d stay in serviced accommodation that provides many more jobs than caravan parks. Simultaneous with reducing the numbers of tourists having holidays on the cheap a concerted drive is mounted to both encourage Welsh people into tourism and fund them.

      Done properly we could in twenty years see a third of the numbers we see today but that third would be spending more money than today’s visitors who use Wales for a cheap second holiday while spending the bulk of their money on a foreign holiday. And it goes without saying that we must attract more overseas tourists, who will both spend more per head than their English counterparts and won’t be looking to settle here.

      But none of this will happen. ‘Welsh’ tourism exists to serve England (and destroy Wales in the process). Which is why we have Rhyl, and Happy Donkey Hill . . .

      1. Closing caravan sites? What makes you think that the middle class tourists who bring in all their provisions for the week from Waitrose back in the home counties to their self-catering let (probably owned by another of their ilk rather than a local) do any more for the local economy that those who come to caravan sites?

        1. I’m not sure where you’re thinking of with, “middle class tourists who bring in all their provisions for the week from Waitrose back in the home counties”. Along this stretch of Cardigan Bay it’s working class Midlanders who’ve bought their provisions in Tesco. Further north it’s Scousers, Mancs and others.

          Though when my wife and I went to Scotland in September, to a self-catering chalet, we bought all our provisions in Scotland. But then, that’s the way I am.

          Though you might be right in arguing there’d be no great economic difference, but phasing out caravans in favour of chalets and serviced accommodation will do a lot to clean up our coastline.

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