PLEASE APPRECIATE THAT I GET SENT MORE INFORMATION AND LEADS THAN I CAN USE. I TRY TO RESPOND TO EVERYONE WHO CONTACTS ME BUT I CANNOT POSSIBLY USE EVERY BIT OF INFORMATION I’M SENT. DIOLCH YN FAWR
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
(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.
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.
Some of you may recall that I recently put out a message on social media asking if anyone had any information on the National White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn, at Frongoch, near Bala. (Two names there resonant of England’s imperialist past, Tryweryn and Frongoch.)
My reason for asking is that the Centre’s website gives neither Charity Commission number nor Company number; there is no indication of how the centre is run, for not a single individual’s name appears on the website for management, staff, trustees, or anyone else. I searched both the Companies House website and the Charity Commission website but could find nothing for the National White Water Centre. Then I noticed that the e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org so I searched for ‘UK Rafting’, but I drew another blank. (Interestingly, the Centre’s website address is ukrafting.co.uk.) The only conclusion I could draw was that there is a third entity, other than UK Rafting and the National White Water Centre involved, which is nowhere named on the website.
So on Monday morning, bright and early, before driving the missus to work (car not whip), I e-mailed the Centre asking four questions:
1/ You are called the ‘National White Water Centre’. Is that the ‘Wales / Welsh National White Water Centre’, the ‘UK National White Water Centre’ or the ‘England / English National White Water Centre’?
2/ No management is listed, nor is there any mention of trustees, so how is your Centre run?
3/ Are you registered with the Charity Commission, if so, what is your number? Are you registered with Companies House, if so, what is your number?
4/ How are you funded?
Within a few hours I received a telephone call from a suspicious Scotsman named Mark Williamson who apparently works at the Centre but was phoning me from somewhere in “south Wales”. In answer to my e-mailed questions he was able to tell me that the Centre is not a charity but a commercial enterprise, run by “C W Sales and Services”. When I asked what C W stood for, he told me Canoe Wales. So the Centre, on Afon Tryweryn, would appear to be a commercial arm of Canoe Wales. Yet on the Canoe Wales website I could find no mention of the Bala Centre until I used the search facility, and this page came up. On funding. Mr Williamson was rather vague, and when it came to which nation the ‘National’ element in the name refers to, even vaguer. Saying that when the Centre opened (in 1986) it was the only one of its kind in the UK, so presumably it is the UK National White Water Centre.
So, by Monday afternoon, I had something to get my teeth into, C W Sales and Services. The Companies House website told me that this PLC was Incorporated 06.11.2012 and its Company Number is 08282630. On the Companies House website I also found, Canoe Wales (Incorporated 09.03.1990, Co. No. 02478971) and Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd (Incorporated 02.11.2012, Co. No. 08278776). All three have their registered office at ‘Canolfan Tryweryn, Frongoch, Bala, Gwynedd LL23 7NU’.
Next stop was DueDil for financial and other information that I might have to pay for on the Companies House website. First, CW Sales and Services Ltd., to which Mr Williamson had directed me. Without getting bogged down in figures, the company is not healthy with, at 30.03.2014, net current liabilities of £164,131. The current directors are David William Wakeling and Andrew Jeremy Booth, and the company is wholly owned by Canoe Wales.
Moving on to Canoe Wales itself, the accounts are overdue at Companies House but the most recent figures, at 31.03.2013, show net worth at £199,786, down from a high of £542,036 at 31.03.2008. (The net worth may in part be attributable to property or land as Canoe Wales has two outstanding mortgages.) The current directors are David William Wakeling, Glyn Royston Stickler, Alan John Baker, Emma Aldridge, Andrew Jeremy Booth and Paul Donovan. (More info available here.)
The most recent filed accounts confirm what Mr Williamson told me, “As at 1st April 2013, commercial trading activities and the operation of the white water centre at Canolfan Tryweryn were transferred to CW Sales and Services Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary”. The accounts also showed that two of the directors had made loans to Canoe Wales, David Wakeling £45,000 and Emma Aldridge £10,000. “Government grants” amounted to £222,736. Despite the white water canoeing and the educational angles promoted on the website and elsewhere the accounts show that the largest source of income is “rafting”, which I suspect is little more than stag parties, supermarket middle management on beery ‘bonding’ courses, and Islamist terrorists having fun, which makes the White Water Centre at Frongoch little more than another insulting ‘Playground Wales’ tourist business. The SW of course refers to Sport Wales, public money, yours and mine. (Click on panel above to enlarge.) The DueDil pages for Canoe Wales also suggest there is an adverse credit report available. I don’t feel the need to pay the £11.99 requested to tell me that Canoe Wales is heading up Shit Creek.
Finally, Canoe Wales (Commercial) Ltd. The only directors are Wakeling and Booth and the company is 100% owned by Canoe Wales. I was unable to get financial figures as, according to DueDil, the company did not trade during year ending 31.03.2013 and the most recent accounts, for y/e 31.03.2014, are still being processed.
When looking through the information on Canoe Wales I noticed that there was another company mentioned as being part of the group. This was Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd, Registered at a Manchester address with the Company Number 04613689 and Incorporated 10.12.2002. The directors at the time the liquidators were appointed in August 2013 were Paul Eamon O’Sullivan, Philip Blain, David William Wakeling and Ashley James Charlwood. Familiar names such as Baker, Aldridge and Stickler abandoned the sinking canoe 31.03.2013. The lack of white water facilities in Manchester meant that Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd took advantage of the Frongoch Centre and other facilities in Wales. The company’s website is closed but the company almost certainly had some connection with Rescue 3 Europe. The folded company had a share issue of 50,000 £1 shares and was wholly owned by Canoe Wales, which obviously took the hit when Rescue 3 (UK) Ltd folded. Explained in the CW accounts thus (click to enlarge):
Let’s recap. Canoe Wales started life in 1990 as the Welsh Canoeing Association, explained here in the Document of Incorporation. Its purpose to represent canoeists in Wales. Though I couldn’t help noticing that this first document lists among its objects: “To act as the Association governing the sport and recreation of canoeing in Wales on behalf of the British Canoe Union“. How often have we read something like that? Then, at a meeting held on October 5th 1996, at the Welsh Institute of Sport in Cardiff, it was decided that henceforth the Management Council would be known as the Board of Directors with Council Members becoming Directors and all the other attendant changes. (Click here for details.) The Chairman at this meeting, also the Chairman of the Association, was a Mark Charlton. Blain was elected Vice-Chairman and Wakeling Treasurer. I suspect that the name was changed to Canoe Wales in November 2008. One question someone may be able to answer is, if the Welsh Canoeing Association wasn’t formed until 1990 who opened the White Water Centre at Frongoch in 1986?
What we have with Canoe Wales is a model I have encountered many times before. To begin with, there is the parent body, all fluffy and lovable, doing wonderful things with kiddies, the disabled and the disadvantaged, run by frightfully nice people with silly names and rings in assorted orifices. This set-up relies for its very existence on hefty dollops of public funding, for Wales is a wealthy country with money to spare. Problems start when those running these Third Sector outfits see themselves as entrepreneurs (a word for which there is no equivalent in Welsh, by the way), and they set up ‘trading arms’ and branch out in other ways. A good example would be the one and only Naz Malik, who was not only operating in Wales but also, as this Charity Commission page tells us (click to enlarge), in Kenya and Pakistan! Why was he allowed to operate outside of Wales with Welsh public funding? Was I the only one to notice this? But as I say, it doesn’t really matter because Wales is so wealthy.
The status of these offshoots can vary. Some will be wholly owned by the parent company, others will be free-standing private companies, with any profits going to the directors who, in a parallel dimension, are also the officials of the publicly-funded body. These private offshoots will invariably use facilities and equipment owned by the parent body and paid for out of the public purse. I was introduced to this angle a couple of years ago when told about a women’s ethnic minority charity in Cardiff, I believe the name began with the letter B. The problem was that the husband of the woman running the show had a private company doing very similar work, and they saw no problem in him using the equipment and facilities of the charity that had been bought with grants from the ‘Welsh’ Government and other sources. But they were both well connected in the Labour Party and so nothing was done about it. In fact, the husband was ‘promoted’ to run another charity in the Valleys.
The next problem encountered is entirely predictable. It invariably transpires that our Third Sector grant-grabbers are not the next Richard Branson (unless they’re replicating Beardie’s success in space tourism). This results in spin-offs hitting the rocks, with considerable sums of money having to be written off, as in the case of Resue 3 (UK) Ltd. So who covers these losses? Are they paid for out of grants to the parent body? Perhaps the bigger question is, who keeps track on behalf of the funders of where the money goes, and how it’s used, especially when the body to which the grant is given has spawned a number of offshoots that do not themselves qualify for grants? The question is partly rhetorical, because I am one hundred per cent certain that there have been many examples of funding being misused in this way. But as with Malik’s ‘Today Swansea, tomorrow the world’ approach, no one seems to care. It would be too embarrassing for those giving out the grants to have all these cases exposed.
Something else I noticed while wading through the Canoe Wales paperwork is that they’ve changed their auditors four times, or rather, the auditors have resigned. It happened in 1999, 2002, 2013 and 2014. It may be nothing, but losing two auditors in the past couple of years may suggest something more than carelessness. Were I a funder I would certainly be asking questions.
In conclusion, I suspect that Canoe Wales is breaking up on the rocks of mismanagement and over-ambition, kept afloat only with public funding (and loans from the directors!). This funding from Sport Wales is presumably given because it’s believed Canoe Wales fulfils some educational or other worthy role. But as the accounts make clear, the bulk of the punters come for the fun and games of rafting (as the website URL suggests) – so why are large amounts of Welsh public funding being used to keep open a water ride for drunken jollying that probably employs no Welsh people and lies so close to Capel Celyn? Insult piled upon insult. Canoe Wales is an expensive failure that should not receive another penny from the Welsh public purse. Pull the plug!
FOOTNOTE: One reason I enjoy doing posts like this is that once you start digging there’s just no telling what you’ll unearth. This case being a perfect example. For when I started digging into the background of David Wakeling, to find out what his day job was, and how he could afford to loan Canoe Wales £45,000, I discovered that he owns Toucan Systems of Abertillery, Company No 02068869, which manufactures high-spec electronic components. Another director is Mark Williamson, the Scotsman I spoke with on the telephone. Mr Williamson is also a director of Beaufort Tenants Management Ltd of Monmouth, Company No 02847525. So was Williamson recruited into Toucan because Wakeling knew him through Canoe Wales, or vice versa?
Perhaps even more interesting was another name on Toucan’s list of previous directors (April 2001 – May 2003) – a Ms Pippa Bartolotti, self-styled leader of the equally self-styled ‘Wales Green Party’. What a small world! Some Greens suggest that Ms Bartolotti is not what she seems, that she is persona grata with the Israeli authorities and that she has been involved with companies connected with the military. Toucan is such a company. The woeful ‘protests’ she organised for the NATO summit in Newport last September did nothing to lift the cloud of suspicion hanging over that head of wild, abundant hair.
All of which raises the possibility that Canoe Wales is indeed a dead duck financially, but is being kept open for reasons that cannot be stated.
Back at the beginning of August I wrote a piece called Fleece Jacket Fascists, in which I tried to expose those British or Englandandwales organisations that want Wales to be run in the interests of middle class English settlers and visitors. Those working for these organisations can invariably be identified by their ‘uniform’ of the fleece jacket, hence the title. I am returning to the subject for two reasons.
First, one of the issues I dealt with in the earlier post, something that had resulted in a concerted attack by regiments of ‘fascists’, is back in the news. I’m referring now to the planned motor racing circuit in Ebbw Vale, a subject I dealt with in June, in this post. The developers are now promising that work will start on the project before Christmas. So who are these developers?
In recent media coverage they have been named as the Heads of the Valleys Development Company Ltd (HVDC), yet it’s difficult to get any further information. For example, I can find no website, nothing really except for snapshots on business information websites. Such as this. The HVDC has its registered office in Cambridgeshire, and appears to have no local directors. Though DueDil suggests that the HVDC is only a subsidiary of the (non-trading) Rassau Track and Leisure Company Ltd., registered at the same Cambridgeshire address. The RTL has a single director, Michael Anthony Carrick, who is also a director and the investment manager for the HVDC.
Despite these companies being little more than shells the enviro-fascists seem to have understood that public opinion was against them and have backed down. Even though one obstacle has been removed I doubt if this £280m project will come anywhere near realising that figure from private sources. Which means it will need a massive injection of public funding, possibly from the third round of EU Structural Funds (beginning next year). Despite that, I can see no grounds to object to such funding . . . as long as the project delivers the promised benefits for local people. That would be a far better way to spend EU funding than wasting it on the Poverty Promotion Sector that creates jobs for Labour cronies but never for those they are supposedly helping.
The second reason for returning to the subject of the Fleece Jacket Fascists is that visitors to the ‘Welsh’ Government’s Visit Wales website were recently asked to complete a questionnaire on outdoor activity tourism. Excluded from the survey were road cycling, rambling, shooting, horse riding and angling. How do we explain the exclusion of the most popular outdoor activities? The answer almost certainly lies in the picture used on the Visit Wales website to advertise the survey. (Click to enlarge.) That’s right, it’s really just about canoeists, with this fact disguised by throwing in a few other outdoor activities.
We can safely assume that this survey first saw life with lobbying from Canoe Wales, which manages the National White Water Centre on Afon Tryweryn, near Bala. Don’t be fooled by ‘Wales’ in the title, or the location near Bala, these are English bodies; it is the English national centre. The clues are all over the website. Such as describing Bala as being in the “heart of Snowdonia”! There is no Welsh on the website. Note also the e-mail address for the Bala site, email@example.com. So we are not just talking about aggressive and confrontational canoeists, we are also threatened with gangs of drunken middle managers hurling beer cans from rafts. Fundamentally, this is about the outdoor activity sector in Wales, which employs few if any Welsh, wanting to make yet more money out of our country by being allowed access to all Welsh waterways, where they will disturb Welsh anglers and do untold environmental damage.
That the Labour Party should support this move is no surprise, for Labour hates real country people. And as I pointed out in the original post, canoeists have always had friends in the Labour Party. Let me quote from that original post: “One (friend in high places) was Jane Davidson, Minister for Environment and Sustainability from 2007 to 2011. Among the policies Davidson wanted to introduce was that of opening all Welsh rivers, lakes and waterways to her canoeist friends. It is of course entirely coincidental that Jane Davidson is English, and went to a private school; as is the fact that upon leaving politics she became Director of the Wales Institute of Sustainability and a spokesperson for the Ramblers Association.”
More surprising is that Plaid Cymru is also said to support opening up Welsh waterways to arrogant and irresponsible English canoeists. The specific names mentioned to me as supporters of ‘open access’ were Leanne Wood, the party leader, and Rhodri Glyn Thomas, AM for Carmarthen East & Dinefrw. I e-mailed both. I had no reply from Leanne Wood, but Rhodri Glyn responded with, “I’m opposed to granting access without accepting responsibilities”. Which, I suppose, could mean anything, or nothing. Though I do hope he means that it’s the canoeists who have to accept responsibilities.
Unlike the situation in Scotland and England 80 per cent or more of angling rights on Welsh rivers are locally owned, by clubs, some of which are over 100 years old. Many of these clubs were formed by miners, quarrymen, steelworkers and others for whom angling provided fresh air and relaxation, and also put food on the table. Now the descendents of those men, the members of those clubs that have maintained our rivers, regularly restocking them with fish that provided not just pleasure for anglers but also prey for kingfisher, otter, and countless other species, are to be brushed aside by Welsh ‘socialists’ pandering to people who think ‘Wales’ is nothing more than their playground.
This is Wales in 2013. Fourteen years into ‘devolution’. It is the patriotic duty of every good Welshman and Welshwoman to oppose ‘open access’.
UPDATE 25.10.13: I have now received a response from Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru. I am glad to say that it is rather more helpful than the earlier response from Rhodri Glyn Thomas, mentioned in the post above. Also, rather more encouraging. Interestingly, Leanne Wood seems to confirm what I had been told – that the so-called ‘consultation process’ seemed designed to exclude those the ‘Welsh’ Government didn’t want to hear from, i.e. anglers and others likely to object to granting open access to visiting gangs of Hooray Henrys with paddles.
I shall maintain a watching brief.
Thank you for your correspondence regarding access to waterways in proposed changes in legislation in Wales, and please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. Our Environment spokesperson Llyr Huws Gruffydd has already raised his concerns with the Minister on some of these issues.
It’s clear that not enough has been done to ensure that all the voices are heard as part of the pre-legislation process. For example, we have been contacted by numerous groups who were angry at not having been invited to attend consultation events held to discuss the proposed Recreation and Access Bill.
You may recall that the same Minister was responsible for the Marine Conservation Zone debacle when proposals for new highly protected areas were published with little prior engagement of key stakeholders. As a result there was a huge uproar and he was forced to scrap the proposals and start again. I very much hope this is not replicating that shambles.
It is my understanding that a Green Paper will be published by the Government sometime around late 2013/early 2014 outlining their intentions. Whilst this will offer a more formal means of responding to particular proposals I would suggest that you write to the Minister expressing your views now. It’s always better to try and influence the proposals sooner rather than later.
As you can imagine, we will be scrutinising this particular legislation very closely.
Arweinydd Plaid Cymru ac Aelod Cynulliad Canol De Cymru
Leader of Plaid Cymru and South Wales Central Assembly Member