BikePark Wales

Jul 162018
 

I’m taking a wee break from the Williams-Partridge gang, but I shall return to them, you can count on it. Weep for Wales 6 is already forming itself in the old Jac noggin.

But as the Walrus said, The time has come to talk of many things . . . but we shall not stray far from my favoured themes of shysters and charlatans, colonialists and their facilitators.

THE GREEN, GREEN PARTY OF HOME (WHICH IS NOT WALES)

There is in Wales a political grouping calling itself the Wales Green Party. Over the years many people – myself included – have pointed out that despite the name it has no legal existence, being merely part of The Green Party (of England). Scotland has a separate party.

Those of a masochistic bent may choose to read some of my previous offerings on the subject: Plaid Cymru and the Green Party of EnglandandWales, More on the Green Party of EnglandandWales, Green Party of EnglandandWales, Wales Region AGM 2015.

This question of whether there is or should be a separate Welsh party has bedevilled the Greens in Wales for some years and so it was recently decided to lance the boil by having a vote on whether to become wholly independent or remain part of the Green Party (of England).

The result is in and 64.8% voted to remain part of the Green Party (of England), though the party leader in Wales, Grenville Ham, favoured treating Wales with respect by forming a separate party.

This result does not surprise me. The Greens I’ve met in my area, and others I know of who’ve moved to rural parts of Wales, tend to offer a ‘We know best’ kind of ‘enlightened’ colonialism. No less offensive when delivered by some malodorous little twat with a 2:2 in mycology than when it’s barked by the District Officer wearing shorts with a razor-sharp crease.

What I’m saying is that, in Wales, most Greens are English arrivals (many of them just passing through). This explains why – unlike Scotland – we do not have a separate and native Green Party. This also explains the vote I’ve just reported.

Greens in Wales must now stop the pretence that there is a Wales Green Party. There is not. What we have in Wales is the regional branch of The Green Party of England. Calling it the Green Party of England and Wales is no improvement, especially when we remember the position in Scotland.

Those who want a Welsh Green Party, those who wish to prioritise the Welsh national interest, had better do some hard thinking. A new, genuinely Welsh Green party could resonate with Welsh voters far better than the Green Party of England has done hitherto.

It could hardly do any worse.

WHO WILL BUY MY LOVELY HOUSES? – THE ‘WELSH’ GOVERNMENT OF COURSE!

And so to Pembrokeshire, which attracts a disproportionate number of those malodorous little gits with a 2:2 in mycology. But on a higher plane, far removed from the darkness and the copious amounts of shit, we enter the realm of Sol Invictus.

And it’s there, basking in the wealth he bestows, that we find Dr Glen Peters. Formerly of bean-counters PwC but now ensconced at Rhos y Gilwen mansion near Cilgerran, where he brings culture to this benighted corner of Wales through Menter Rhosygilwen. You can even get married there.

Courtesy of Linkedin, click to enlarge

But his real interest is making money through his company Western Solar Ltd. There is a solar farm on his land and when he’s not harvesting all that lovely sunshine on his estate he’s building houses . . . to harvest more life-giving sunshine. His footnote in history being assured with Pentre Solar, an ambitious scheme at Glanrhyd.

But ere it started, the ‘Welsh’ Government bunged Peters £141,000 for a factory in which to manufacture sections for the houses. Since then, the ‘Welsh’ Government has loaned the Ateb Group, formerly Pembrokeshire Housing, £900,000 to buy the six houses from Peters.

Yet according to this account in the Guardian, just four of the properties, ‘have “affordable” rents and are being offered to people on Pembrokeshire county council’s housing register who have lived in the area for five years’.

So how many of these houses are for social housing, six or four?

Either way, Glen Peters has made a tidy wodge from the ‘Welsh’ Government and a factory paid for out of public funds has been added to his property portfolio. Yet his Linkedin profile boasts that he has been “Eco Entrepreneur of the Year”.

An entrepreneur (for which there is no word in Welsh, incidentally) is someone who takes risks with his own money. How the hell can anyone be an entrepreneur when he’s feather-bedded by the public purse?

The Solar Village website makes a big thing of “employing locals”, yet closer inspection reveals that these people are ‘local’ only in the sense that they’ve moved to Wales. Just like so many other schemes in the Welsh countryside, especially where environmentalism is concerned, we see Welsh public money funding social engineering.

As for Glanrhyd, it’s a hamlet on a B road some five kilometres from Cardigan. I’m not sure how good the public transport links are, but even if they’re good Ateb might have had trouble finding tenants. Seeing as the houses are now occupied I’d like to know who lives in them, how many are social tenants, and how local those people are to the area.

Worth asking because the Ateb Group is a curious beast, a Community Benefit Society that includes Mill Bay Homes Ltd. I don’t understand how a private company can shelter under the umbrella of a Community Benefit Society; but then, all sorts of things are permitted, or overlooked, in the strange world of Welsh housing associations.

For example, Mill Bay Homes is no longer a Registered Social Landlord, which is hardly surprising seeing as it builds and sells property on the open market like Wimpey and Redrow; but it has over the years borrowed millions from its publicly-funded parent company Pembrokeshire Housing which now – re-branded Ateb – is buying properties from Mill Bay!

It’s all very complicated. Deliberately so.

Does that bank of solar panels feed into the grid when demand is low? If so, who gets the money? Picture courtesy of WalesOnline. Click to enlarge

Western Solar Power has plans for more villages. Another project lined up is for Coastal Housing in sun-blest Ammanford. Where no doubt the public purse will further enrich Glen Peters and Coastal Housing will have properties that attract positive publicity in obscure publications, but they’ll be expensive to build and might not serve the purpose used to justify the public funding – affordable homes for local people.

Glen Peters is obviously on a good thing. All he has to do is keep pressing the right buttons and the money pours into his bank account. But I can’t help thinking that social housing could be delivered a lot cheaper, in places locals want to live, which is why I’m sceptical of Pentre Solar and similar projects.

Bottom line is, it might be acceptable for Glen Peters to enrich himself playing the enlightened squire, and employing his cronies – but not with our money!

BERYL’S IN PERIL!

No doubt you’re all aware that there’s a by-election campaign under way in Cydweli’s Mynydd-y-Garreg ward. In fact, there are only two wards in Cydweli; Mynydd-y-Garreg and Castle, which might make life easy for some, but for your average punter, having eight or nine community councillors for his or her ward must cause confusion.

The council is Labour controlled, with a few Independents, one Tory, one Plaid Cymru, and Ukip represented by Gary Beer of Swansea Quality Lettings Ltd. (That has a certain ring to it, no?)

Standing for Labour in Mynydd-y-Garreg is Beryl-Ann Williams. I’m told her election literature is in English only, a great disappointment to see this on the home turf of the late Ray Gravell, where 62% of the working age population speaks Welsh . . . but only 21% of retired people. Now I wonder why that is?

Beryl-Ann works in the third sector as an ‘art psychotherapist’. (No, honestly, I did not just make that up.) This psychotherapisting may be done at the Kidwelly Community Hub, which seems to serve as a publicly-funded but unofficial Labour Party clubhouse.

Beryl-Ann Williams, Lee Waters AM on the left and Nia Griffith MP on the right, with mayor Phil Thompson behind the MP.

This being the Llanelli constituency, where Plaid Cymru has self-destructed, and Tories have never been thick on the ground, her sole opponent is Independent Ronald Carl Peters-Bond, whose literature is bilingual and has a powerful message:

“Kidwelly Town Council’s focus has been on building a new office costing over £500,000, the overspend on which has now left it in serious financial difficulties. We need to stop the rot.” and “Currently over 80% of the tax you pay to Kidwelly Town Council goes on administration and keeping that shiny building.”

Can you believe that a Labour administration would waste money on such things? And overspend?

I look forward to hearing from distant Cydweli that Grav’s old stomping-ground has rejected a Labour/third sector blagger who seems to have no love for Wales and her heritage.

‘I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT IT . . . MUST BE SOMEBODY ELSE’S GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLE’

Back in May I wrote about BikePark Wales, yet another example of Welsh assets being handed over to a bunch of strangers in order that they can enrich themselves. In this particular case it was Natural Resources Wales leasing a large area of forested land near Merthyr Tudful to a company with the absurd name of Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd operating as BikePark Wales.

Something that particularly worried me was the fact that this company felt it had the power to fine locals found on the land it was leasing, and that these fines could be collected on the spot by ‘marshalls’ (sic).

click to enlarge

A regular reader of this blog tried to get a number of politicians interested in this surely unacceptable behaviour; Labour and Plaid Cymru couldn’t be bothered and the only politician who came through was Mostyn Neil Hamilton, the Ukip AM for the Mid and West Wales Region.

Last week, in Plenary at the Assembly, Hamilton raised the issue with first minister Carwyn Jones, who professed complete ignorance. (Available here at 22:05.) Now put aside any antipathy you may have towards Ukip, or Hamilton, and consider the issue on its merits. And think about Carwyn Jones’ response.

In that irritating I’m-a-tidy-bloke-but-cleverer-than-you manner Carwyn Jones tried to laugh it off and almost seemed to suggest that Hamilton was making it up. But if what Jones said was right, then BikePark Wales is acting illegally. That being so, then surely something has now been done about it?

No. I’ve just checked the BikePark Wales website and it reads the same as it did before. Which suggests that Carwyn Jones and his management team really doesn’t care about such colonialist arrogance.

When strangers take over a country, exploit it for their own ends, when the indigenous population is elbowed aside, and when a collaborationist administration encourages and funds such behaviour, then that, my friend, can not be dressed up as ‘investment’, or disguised as an ‘economic strategy’.

It is colonialism; and to deny it is no different to the Green Party (of England) refusing to accept that Wales is a country in its own right, just an economically underdeveloped region of England or Britain.

By any criteria you care to apply Wales is a colony. What are you going to do about it?

♦ end ♦

 

May 112018
 

BIKE PARK WALES AKA PARC BEICIO CYMRU LTD

In the natural world parents must come before children, how could it be otherwise?

But in the world of what passes for business in Wales, by which I mean ‘private’ companies heavily reliant on public money, things can be different. Take the Merthyr Mountain Biking Centre, for example. Well, that’s the name by which everybody knows it, or else BikePark Wales, yet it’s registered with Companies House as Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd, even though there’s not a word of Welsh on the website.

I never cease to be amazed at how many third sector bodies almost entirely staffed by natives of a neighbouring country give themselves Welsh names those running the show can’t pronounce. Or, more sinisterly, bodies getting oodles of public money and known to the world by an English name register themselves with Companies House or the Charity Commission with the Welsh translation of that name. This sleight-of-name can only be done to make it difficult for public-minded citizens like what I am to help the ‘Welsh’ Government keep track on how public money is spent.

As far as I could make out when we previously looked at BikePark Wales (scroll right down) it was a company owned by two husband and wife/partner teams and a New Zealander, the venture situated on land leased from the ‘Welsh’ Government (through Natural Resources Wales). These people also seemed to have their own companies that dovetailed neatly with the publicly-funded Bike Park Wales. (A relationship from which they no doubt profited.)

Who gave BikePark Wales the authority to fine Welsh people for ‘trespassing’ on publicly-owned Welsh land? And who vets the “marshalls” (sic) recruited to their private police force?

I say ‘was’ run by these people because the whole shebang underwent a massive upheaval over the Christmas period, all starting on December 21st.

On that date three directors parted company with Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd leaving only Martin Astley and Rowan John Sorrell in place, but more significantly, on the same day the company was taken over by BikePark Holdings Ltd, which is now the parent company, even though it was only Incorporated with Companies House on 5 October 2017.

Astley and Sorrell are also directors of this new parent company along with Keith Pacey, Tom Spencer and Simon Paul Stephenson.

The Yuletide upheavals may be linked to entries on the Companies House website under the ‘Filing History’ tab. These suggest that incorrect information had originally been supplied to Companies House and perhaps when this became known (to the ‘Welsh’ Government? Companies House?) a new holding company was hastily formed.

So how does the information found on the new forms I mention differ from the information originally submitted to Companies House?

Let’s consider the older form first; this being the “Annual Return made up to 29 May 2011 with full list of shareholders”. (Found under the ‘Filing History’ tab.) The difference between the 2011 original and the 2017 “second filing” is shown in the panel below I cobbled together from the two forms.

click to enlarge

I find it difficult to believe that anyone could make a mistake over how many of just 100 shares were held by each of only four directors.

Keeping to chronological order, on 11 January 2013 there was a sizeable share issue and this explains the allocation we’ll look at next. Again, with a panel compiled from the original submission and its correction.

The original return of May 2013 was signed by Anna Walters, the correction of 23 January 2018 by Astley.

click to enlarge

The amended form sees a new shareholder, this being Back-on-Track Mountain Bike Solutions Ltd, holding 2,795 shares. So who or what is Back-on-Track? Companies House tell us it’s a company based in Pontypool, Incorporated March 2008, and its sole shareholder is Rowan Sorrell.

The two directors of this company are Sorrell and Elizabeth Alexandra Sorrell (formerly Scaife). And for a husband and wife outfit the company is in rude financial health, with total assets less current liabilities for 2017 of £494,952.

If we tot up the shares of Sorrell, Scaife-Sorrell and their company it comes mighty close to the majority shareholding in Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd shown in the document we looked at earlier. But that still leaves the question – why was Back-on-Track Mountain Bike Solutions Ltd left off the document submitted in 2011? I ask because in a small company like Parc Beicio Cymru those involved must know who the shareholders are and how many shares they hold.

Though the figures still don’t add up. The share issue of January 2013 talks of 46,536 ordinary shares being “in issue”. The first document, of May 2013 accounts for just 43,795, but with Back-on-Track added the total comes to 46,590, which of course exceeds the stated issue by 54 shares.

This extra 54 shares seems to be explained in a document lodged with Companies House long after the shares it refers to had been issued.

UPDATE 12.05.2018: An FoI request has now been sent to the ‘Welsh’ Government.

click to enlarge

UPDATE 16.05.2016: A response has been received from the ‘Welsh’ Government. The respondent seems unaware that Bike Park Wales no longer exists. Still, I shall now write to Natural Resources Wales.

BIKEPARK HOLDINGS LTD

Now we return to the newly-hatched parent company, BikePark Holdings Ltd. Who exactly have Sorrell and Astley shacked up with? We certainly know their names: Thomas Anthony John Spencer, Simon Paul Stephenson and Keith Pacey.

If we turn to the Filing history tab of BikePark Holdings, and the ‘Written Resolution’, we see that the new parent company of Beic Parcio Cymru is linked with BCF Ventures Ltd, a company belonging to Tom Spencer and Simon Stephenson.

Companies House tells us that BCF Ventures Ltd is based in Peterborough, in eastern England, and it was Incorporated 5 October 2015. In June 2017 it filed accounts for a dormant company showing just the two shares issued, both held by Spencer.

So BCF Ventures Ltd seems to have done little or nothing before linking up with Parc Beicio Cymru Ltd to form BikePark Holdings Ltd.

Going back to and moving down the Written Resolution we see that Rowan Sorrell and Martin Astley are listed as ‘Managers’.

Which leaves just Keith Pacey, who is well known to the business world, seemingly specialising in mergers and buy-outs. Here’s his Bloomberg profile. He is non-executive chairman of Places for People Leisure, which would seem a good fit for Merthyr Bike Park.

Information courtesy of Bloomberg, click to enlarge

Pacey is clearly the director with the money in BikePark Holdings Ltd. Confirmed by going back to the Companies House website and checking through the charges (debts or obligations).

But first, let’s consider the charges against the original company, Parc Beicio Cymru Ltd. There are no fewer than seven outstanding. These charges belong to Allied Irish Bank, Welsh Ministers, Finance Wales, plus Kevin Pacey and a debenture held by former director Ian Campbell Officer who left 21 December 2017. And two months later set up Wye Mountain Biking Ltd.

The charge held by Pacey is in the form of a Guarantee and Debenture in relation to £3,787,308. The same amount appears in relation to a charge listed against BikePark Holdings Ltd.

Moving on to BikePark Holdings Ltd we see, in addition to the charge held by Pacey, one against Welsh Ministers and one against Allied Irish Bank. So clearly, the ‘Welsh’ Government knows about Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd being taken over by BikePark Holdings Ltd . . . and presumably approves.

WHO? WHAT? WHY? WHEN?

Here are a few questions relating to events around Christmas time last year:

  1. Why did Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd submit two corrected documents to Companies House?
  2. Who discovered the errors in the originals?
  3. Were those ‘errors’ genuine mistakes or attempts to deceive?
  4. Why did Ian Campbell Officer part company with Beic Parcio Cymru?
  5. Why did Beic Parcio Cymru need Spencer and Stephenson, and their hitherto dormant company BCF Ventures Ltd, seeing as the financial backing needed appears to come from Pacey?
  6. What exactly is the fresh money for?
  7. Is BikePark Holdings Ltd (or anyone else) buying the site from the ‘Welsh’ Government?
  8. Is BikePark Holdings raising money to renovate or expand its Merthyr operation?
  9. How deeply in debt are Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd and BikePark Holdings Ltd, and is the Welsh public purse in danger of having to cover debts incurred by either company?
  10. Is the ‘Welsh’ Government happy with recent developments, and how does it feel about those running this valuable asset being based further and further away from Wales?

‘WELSH’ TOURISM

It would be nice to think that the developments at Merthyr are an aberration, that English companies and individuals getting rich by exploiting Welsh assets is a rarity, but it’s not. Just a few miles from Merthyr as the crow flies the ‘Welsh’ Government is handing over another large tract of Welsh land to yet another bunch of spivs English company.

And this will all be done in the name of  “building the Welsh economy”.

Of course there’ll be jobs for locals . . . the kind of jobs that are always provided in colonial situations. But the money will flow east and the top jobs will go to people who’ve moved west. For us it’ll be: “Can you drive a lawnmower, Taff? . . . Can your girlfriend serve coffee? . . . Nice ass on her, bit of a go-er, is she? . . . Oi, careful, Dai – do you want the job or not?”

And things have got worse under devolution. Yes we’ve always been exploited by England, but I can remember when a boy could leave school with little in the way of skills or education and still get a well-paid job underground or in a factory, steel or tinplate works. A job that made him feel like a man among men.

Now, increasingly, all we’re offered is wiping wrinkly Saxon backsides and making our betters feel welcome in our country.

But this is how it must be under devolution run by a socialist-Unionist party. On the one hand Plaid Tlodi Cymru is incapable of creating jobs because your average Labour politician knows less about economics than he/she knows about Lithuanian poetry; and on the other hand – being control freaks – they’re terrified of a healthy economy, run by businessmen and entrepreneurs who’ll see through them, so we end with up a bloated and suffocating third sector run by Labour-supporting parasites.

And because the Wales Poverty Party is Unionist it must run Wales in the interests of England and the English. Which brings me back to the Merthyr Mountain Biking Centre, and the Afan Valley Resort, and Surf Snowdonia, and Bluestone, and all the rest.

‘Croeso!’

Has any word in any language in the whole history of the human race been so traduced and corrupted that it has lost all meaning? What should exude warmth, sincerity and hospitality is now just a robotic slogan stripped of all human emotion and often mouthed from behind a rictus smile.

click to enlarge

“Croeso, we hope you’ll like us . . . and we don’t mind if you take over our country . . . cos we’ve been conditioned to cringe like this . . . would you like me to say something in Welsh so you can laugh?”

Yeah, ‘Croeso’.

♦ end ♦

Sep 262016
 

BY A GUEST WRITER

It’s a pleasure to follow the excellent guest posts on tourism and heritage that have generated a fair amount debate, shining a light on the dubious practices of the Welsh tourism industry and how these practices affect local communities as a result of flawed Welsh Government policy.

The focus of the posts so far has been on the neglect of heritage, history and tourism in rural Wales under non-Labour councils which – and though it’s not a view I share – could perhaps be expected. I say that because most people in rural Wales vote Plaid Cymru, Tory or Lib Dem, so wasting public money, trashing our heritage and screwing people over, has no consequences, electoral or otherwise, for the Labour Party.

But what about a Labour-controlled council in the Valleys, surely they’d take more care of local history and heritage when their own party’s history is intertwined with the area?

The Plan

If only that were true, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, the smallest local authority in Wales and back in Labour hands since 2012 as the result of an appalling smear campaign to oust the Independents who’d run the Council and started many of the successful projects that Labour councillors and the new MP and AM are now claiming credit for, published a few weeks back its Area Destination Plan for 2016 – 2018.

merthyr-plan

With its main focus on outdoor activities and leisure it could belong to any rural or semi-rural local authority, and don’t get me wrong, BikePark Wales, Dolygaer Outdoor Activity Centre and Cyfarthfa Castle Park and Museum are great attractions, but when Merthyr Tydfil has so much political, industrial, social and cultural history failing to acknowledge the majority of it makes a mockery of any tourism plan.

There is a nod to Merthyr’s epoch-defining industrial past in the plan with a commitment to looking to rebuild a life size replica of Richard Trevithick’s steam locomotive engine, the first in the UK, but that’s reliant on the local heritage society raising enough money to get it built. Perhaps Labour Councillors aren’t willing to celebrate innovation, engineering excellence and vision for fear of showing local people there’s more to life than mediocrity, dependency and poverty that hallmark ‘Welsh’ Labour at all levels of government.

The Plan also talks of Welsh language provision via the Welsh language centre Canolfan Soar but again if you look closer the centre is facing its own financial difficulties as a result of funding cuts with its Welsh shop closing earlier this year. And as this is the Valleys, hostility to the Welsh language spending is never far away, as demonstrated by Labour and the opposition Independents in the full Council meeting earlier this month.

Another area mentioned is the lack of indoor activities in a town where rain is more often the order of the day than sunshine. So a lack of museums, interactive galleries and the like does seem particularly stupid to me.

Although to be fair the Plan does have an excellent SWOT analysis, but the action plan doesn’t include solutions for central recommendations like the lack of a Tourist Information Office and large scale accommodation. Even if we suspend belief and buy into the tourism lite guff they’re peddling, how can you be a serious tourist destination without enough beds or a central tourist information office?

The irony of course is that loads of places would love to have even half the history Merthyr Tydfil has and it could be that if tourism was done properly then the Borough would have year-round tourism selling Merthyr to the world. It could be integrated into local education, provide better job and career opportunities and re-instill some pride back in the place for those who were born here or made the place their home.

Welsh History started with Labour

However, we shouldn’t be surprised, this is the Labour Party after all, which believes Welsh history started with the birth of their party or the election of James Kier Hardie in 1900 . . . even though he is hardly celebrated anywhere in the town.

As if to reinforce this, Neil Kinnock’s ‘Welsh history’ quote did the rounds on social media last week, the quote reads, ‘Between the mid sixteenth and mid eighteenth centuries Wales had practically no history at all, and even before that it was a history of rural brigands who have been ennobled and called princes.’

The local Labour Party does hold a Kier Hardie lecture that’s only open to party members, and speakers also have to be Labour members or Labour affiliated, and no press is allowed. Held now in secret because last year there was great embarrassment when the keynote speaker was First Minster Carwyn Jones, and the local party was reduced to giving tickets away and begging people to go.

What a difference it would make if the party opened it up to everyone, picked radical topics and speakers, had a question and answer session with a panel afterwards, possibly publish a paper on the topic and made it into a real community event. I doubt it would happen, but it’s one of many ideas to celebrate the town’s history and create an event for all.

merthyr-rising

Even the raising of the red flag and the Merthyr Rising festival that celebrates it is shunned by the local council, though UNISON stepped in to save the festival this year thanks to the new Labour AM Dawn Bowden who used to be a UNISON big wig and whom Jac has helpfully written about. Time will tell if the festival becomes a Labour sop which would be a shame as the festival organisers are about as far away from the ignorant, conservative Labour Council leadership values as it’s possible to be.

Labour leadership & Red flag

Speaking of the red flag and going slightly off course, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn came to Merthyr Tydfil on 5th August as part of his leadership campaign and unsurprisingly found no support from the local Labour leadership who were all supporting Owen Smith.

Council Leader Brendan Toomey, Gerald Jones MP and Dawn Bowden AM (who was on holidays), took to Twitter to vent their anger about the rally saying he didn’t represent the party or local people etc., but Jeremy Corbyn had the last laugh, not only did he draw a sizeable crowd, but his use of the red flag brought the history of the town to a UK wide audience and got the town and red flag trending on social media for positive reasons.

corbyn-merthyr

It’s easy to see how the Merthyr & Rhymney Labour leadership were so annoyed, Jeremy Corbyn’s two hours in Merthyr did more to promote the town’s radical history than Council leader Brendan Twomey and his Cabinet have managed in four years.

Speaking of our elected representatives, on Twitter, Dawn Bowden, Bristol City fan living in Llantrisant, posted a picture of the overgrown blast furnaces in Merthyr Tydfil saying ‘what an incredible history this wonderful town has’. It seems the new AM is fitting right in with the dinosaur tendency that believe Welsh history began with industrialisation.

Weight of History and Remembering

I’ve written a fair bit and barely scratched the surface of the borough’s history or introduced the one person who belongs solely to the town yet rarely gets mentioned, despite the place being named after her, St Tydfil/Tudful, the princess and daughter of King Brychan who was martyred in the fifth century by raiding Picts.

She’s remembered with a Church in Wales church named after her, as is the local shopping centre, while Merthyr Tydfil Football Club’s nickname is the Martyrs. Yet outside of the church there is no acknowledgement of her, indeed admitting that Tydfil lived and died and was renowned for good deeds and values such as compassion to all, would mean Welsh history didn’t start with the Industrial Revolution or the Labour Party after all. But I suspect it’s also because she’s a woman and a victim of Labour’s patriarchal and misogynist attitudes, especially in the Valleys.

the-martyrs

Of course Labour blames its wider lack of action on austerity, ‘We would love to do things’, they sigh, ‘but we’ve got no money’, when opposition councillors ask why aren’t things done. But what about things that don’t cost and could raise awareness of local history, like using the flag poles outside the Council office on St David’s Day or flying the Red Flag in May or Owain Glyndŵr’s banner in September? And I’m sure there are other little things that could be done, but I suspect it’s all a leap too far for closed, anti-Welsh minds.

I could write more on all that’s happened and why it should be celebrated; there’s Lucy Thomas, called the mother of Welsh steam coal trade, a widow who was the first person to export stream coal and give birth to coal exports. Away from industry, Merthyr was also the birthplace of designers Laura Ashley and Julian McDonald; and then there’s Charlotte Guest, wife of iron-master John Guest, who arranged for the Mabinogion to be translated into English. (Also, Dr Joseph Parry, who wrote the music for that all-time favourite, Myfanwy. Jac.)

To bring us up to date, a recent archaeological study found evidence of Roman activity in the borough, and Merthyr-born Samuel Griffiths, whose family emigrated to Australia, was responsible for writing Australia’s constitution, a fact recently in the news as the current Australian Chief Justice visited the town and called for closer cooperation – will Merthyr’s Labour leaders take him up on the offer?

Conclusion

Sometimes the sheer weight of remembering everyone and everything that’s happened can feel overwhelming, but it’s important because it tells us who we are and where we’ve come from.

I’ll end by pointing out that the lack of imagination coupled with an ingrained indifference or hostility towards Welsh history before the Labour Party, or industrialisation, means that even in Merthyr Tydfil, which gave birth to the modern Labour Party, we get the Area Destination Plan pushing Welsh history and heritage to the margins instead of using it front and centre. Most places in the world would kill for the history we have yet the Council focus is on weather dependent tourism in the rainy Valleys.

Of course, if there was a decent opposition here it could challenge the status quo. Which is why we should be grateful for the work of genuinely local history societies and historians, doing what they can to counter the hostility and apathy found all over Wales, attitudes that contribute to the slow death of our nation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ END ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jac says . . . I’ve always had a soft spot for Merthyr, going back to those happy hours spent at the Lamb Inn, in the days of its irreplaceable mine host, the late John Lewis. This magnificent pub, almost unchanged since the days when Dic Penderyn was said to have drunk there, was demolished in the early 1970s to ‘make way’ for something that was never built.

The truth was that the Labour council didn’t like the Lamb’s clientèle. As our guest writer informs us, nothing has changed when it comes to the Labour Party in Merthyr and its attitudes to expressions of Welshness.

green-desert-complete-red

One of the best LPs ever produced in Wales (click to enlarge)

Moving away from delicate concerns of identity and loyalties, our guest writer offered some hope for the area by mentioning BikePark Wales and Dolygaer Outdoor Activity Centre; and so, you know me, I just had to learn more. I’m afraid what I learnt is not encouraging.

BikePark Wales is the trading name for something called Beic Parcio Cymru Ltd. (Yes, honestly!) So while everyone knows it as BikePark Wales it’s official name is something else, perhaps done to make it difficult to get information on the company. (I’ve encountered the practice before.) To help you follow this, here’s the link to the Companies House website.

BikePark Wales looks like one of those outfits so common – perhaps unique – to Wales, a publicly-funded private company, for the website (designed by a company in Cornwall) carries the logos of Visit Wales, the ‘Welsh’ Government and the European Regional Development Fund. I suspect the directors are not local . . . certainly not the New Zealander.

In financial terms the company seems to be in good health, with net assets of £674,963 (y/e 31.03.2015). Though there are three outstanding charges registered with ‘The Welsh Ministers’, and a debenture held by Ian Campbell Officer (the New Zealander director).

A founding director of BikePark Wales is Martin Astley. But his Linkedin profile would suggest that his day job may be Marketing Manager for Saddleback Ltd, a Bristol company selling mountain bikes and associated ephemera. In fact, BikePark Wales serves as a useful retail outlet for Saddleback’s wares. Just think about that, here we have a venture funded with Welsh public money giving an English company an advantage over Welsh retailers. Now that’s colonialism for you!

martin-astley-bikepark-wales

The other directors are the aforementioned Kiwi, Astley’s wife Anna, and another husband and wife team, Rowan John Sorrell and Elizabeth Sorrell, also founding directors. In addition, the Sorrells have their own company over in Pontypool, Back-on-Track Mountain Bike Solutions Ltd which designs and builds mountain bike tracks. So I wonder who designed and built BikePark Wales’ tracks around Merthyr?

The other location mentioned by our guest writer was the Dolygaer Outdoor Activity Centre. All that needs to be said is that Dolygaer is owned by English company Parkwood.

If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise . . . not because you’ll meet a teddy bear but because there’s a good chance you’ll get knocked down by a mountain biker taking advantage of Playground Wales. Or maybe you’ll be stopped from going any further by a gang of hippies opposed to capitalism and private property . . . unless it’s theirs. And all because as a matter of ‘Welsh’ Government policy our woodlands are being surrendered to enviroshysters and ‘the leisure industry’.

Now I could put up with restricted access if our woods and forests were productive, providing the thousands of local jobs of which they’re capable. But no, Natural Resources Wales sees our woodlands as areas of recreation, and itself as an extension of the tourism industry. And through the Welsh public purse we pay for it all!

There is probably no country on earth where so much public money is spent with so few benefits for the indigenous population. But as I say, that’s how colonialism operates.