RESTORATION OF DRYSTONE WALL IN MEWSLADE VALLEY
A craftsman who has spent the past two and a half years rebuilding a stone wall in Gower has packed up his mallet and chisel after closing the final gap. Dry stone-waller Andy Roberts has been out in all weathers at Mewslade Valley, near Rhossili – not that he is complaining. The wall is around 500m long and more than 3m high in places and is said to date back as far as 1700. But it was just a pile of stones when Mr Roberts arrived in December 2016.
The £55,000 project was one of several carried out under the Gower Landscape Partnership – a £1.9 million initiative funded by the Heritage Lottery, National Trust, Natural Resources Wales, and Welsh Government.
While last winter was fairly benign the winter before wasn’t ideal for outdoor work.
“The Beast from the east was pretty bad,” said Mr Roberts. “There was snow down here and last summer it was a bit too hot. It’s one of those things. You just have to put up with it. It’s a lovely spot. You get to see all sorts of wildlife. I’ve seen peregrines, red kites occasionally, ravens, a weasel and a couple of green wood- peckers. I’ve fed some voles as well.”
The area is a popular rambling spot and Mr Roberts, of Bishopston, has been peppered with questions and comments about the project.
“They have all been very complimentary,” he said
A big chunk of the dry stone wall project has been funded by the Gower Society, members of which joined Mr Roberts for the final pieces to be put in place. Society chairman Guto ap Gwent said the wall would last for generations, and thanked the National Trust and Gower AONB Partnership Group, which is convened by Swansea Council, for their support.
The Gower Society’s vice-chairman, Gordon Howe, said projects like this mattered.
“Nobody is rebuilding stone walls now,” he said. A short section of the wall was completed by another craftsman, Andy Jones, before Mr Roberts took up the job. Mr Roberts said that finishing for good felt like “a bit of an anti- climax”.
But he is due to resume his outdoor work, rebuilding smaller sections of wall at nearby Fall Bay. Mr Roberts admitted that he often cast an eye on dry stone walls when he was on his travels.
“You can’t help looking at them,” he said.
SPECIAL GENERAL MEETING
The Gower Society
(charity re. no. 1172919)
NOTICE is given that a General Meeting of the Society will be held on Saturday, 3rd November 2018, at 10:30 am at The Community Centre, Victoria Road, Penclawdd, SA4 3FJ, but after the annual general meeting convened for that time, for the following purpose:
TO RESOLVE that the current constitution that was last amended on 22 April 2017 be further amended in accordance with the draft which by 3 October 2018 will be published and duly identified on the website of the Society and a paper copy available on request to the Secretary.
A.R.Kirby,Chairman. 19 September 2018.
EXPLANATORY NOTE :
At a general meeting of the Society as an unincorporated charity reg. no. 258372 held on 7 May 2016 it was resolved that upon registration of the Society as an incorporated charity the Committee be empowered to take all steps necessary to effect the change of status including the transfer of the assets and liabilities of the unincorporated charity to the incorporated charity and the dissolution of the unincorporated charity. The registration took place on 9 May 2017 but the said transfer and dissolution have not yet taken place.
The Society has been advised by counsel that after dissolution some legacies left to the dissolved charity (quoting its charity number) were at risk of not passing to the dissolved charity in the absence of appropriate provision in the relevant will and to avoid such occurrence the unincorporated charity should not be dissolved but operate as a “shell” charity linked to the incorporated charity, subject to the approval of the Charity Commission, so to receive any such legacies and transfer them to the incorporated charity.The approval of the Commission has been sought.
Accordingly it is proposed the constitution be amended to include the following additional clause: “33 The Society is linked with the Unincorporated Association for administrative purposes”. There are further amendments to confirm automatic membership of the incorporated charity (cl. 9.2), minor changes to the numbers of days for notice (cls. 10.3.2, 11.3 & 11.23) and provision for nomination of officers.
The unincorporated charity approved in general meeting on 5 May 2018 a revision of its constitution which included a corresponding linkage provision as well as its trustees be the same trustees as those of the incorporated charity.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
The Gower Society
(charity reg. no. 1172919)
Annual General Meeting
The Annual General Meeting of the Society will be held
on Saturday, 3 November 2018, at 10:30am at
The Community Centre, Victoria Road, Penclawdd, SA4 3FJ
1. To receive apologies.
2. To receive a financial report from the Treasurer.
3. To approve the appointment of Gerald Thomas, Chartered Accountants, Swansea to carry out an audit of the accounts of the Society for 2019 as prescribed by The Charities Act 2011.
4. To receive a report of the activities of the Society for the past year from the Chairman.
5. To elect the Officers for 2018/19. In addition to any others whose nomination has been received by the Secretary by Friday 26 October 2018, the following have been nominated by the board:
President: Byron Davies
Chairman: Robin Kirby
Vice Chairpersons: Guto ap Gwent and Jill Burgess
Secretary: Audrey Frank
Treasurer: Steven Williams
6. To elect trustees for the eight vacancies. In addition to any others whose nomination has been received by the Secretary by Friday 26 October 2018, the following have been nominated by the board:
Robin Kirby and Guto ap Gwent, both of whom retire by rotation but offer themselves for re-election
Edward Harris and Alexia Thomas, both of whom were elected by the trustees at their first meeting on 11 July 2017 until this annual general meeting but offer themselves for election. Thomas Methuen-Campbell.
7. To determine the amounts of the annual subscriptions. The board recommend the amounts, namely £20 for individuals, family and group, remain the same.
8. Any other charitable business. No resolutions are permitted.
The above meeting relates to the incorporated charity that was registerred on 9 May 2017 and pursuant to its constitution must be held within 18 months of registration. As the business of The Gower Society continues under the unincorporated charity reg. no. 258372, whose assets have not yet been transferred to the incorporated charity, the reports in items 2 and 4 above will be brief given that reports for the year end 31 December 2017 were presented at the annual general meeting of the unincorporated charity on 5 May 2018.
Following the meeting there will be special general meeting to consider and approve amendments to the constitution.
A R Kirby, Chairman. 19 September 2018.
GOWER SOCIETY TREE MEMORIAL AT ILSTON
On Sunday, 22nd March members of the Gower Society and guests gathered together at the Elizabeth and Rowe Harding Nature reserve in Ilston to remember four people who gave their time and support to the Gower Society Youth Action.
Four young trees have been planted to remember three of the committee members and our first activity leader. Betty Lowe was involved in the early days of Gower Society Youth and was chairperson for three years. John Williams was on the Youth sub-committee for a number of years. Peter Hutchison was on the youth sub-committee for many years. He attended most of the activities until he was no longer mobile enough and was always involved in the preparations for the Gower Show. We also remembered our first youth leader, Sheena Bishop, who died at a sadly young age but was inspirational in leading young people in outdoor activities on Gower.
Mrs Joan Darbyshire, current secretary of the Youth Committee, and other members shared their memories of the four people for whom the trees have been planted, their roles in the youth section and the wider contribution they made to the Society.
‘BLESSING OF THE BELLS’ CEREMONY AT ST MADOC’S CHURCH
‘Blessing of the Bells’ Ceremony at St Madoc’s Church, Llanmadoc and St Cadoc’s Church, Cheriton on Sunday, February 18th, 2018
On Sunday 18th February, the communities of Llanmadoc and Cheriton will be celebrating the successful completion of a project to repair the roof of St Cadoc’s Church, Cheriton and to repair and restore the bells and bell housings of the church and St Madoc’s Church, Llanmadoc. The Gower Society has been involved with the project from the outset and has been delighted to support financially the repair and restoration of the bells and bell housings of both churches, which were in a very poor condition and unable to be rung.
At St Cadoc’s Church, all the old iron straps and bearings have been replaced with stainless steel. The pulleys, rope and other fittings have also been replaced. Only the bell frame remains and, though very old, is probably not original. The bell at St Cadoc’s was cast by William Evans of Chepstow in 1736. To set the bell into its historical context, it was cast in the year in which James Watt, the famous instrument maker and engineer whose steam engine contributed significantly to the industrial revolution, was born.
The bell in St Madoc’s is even older dating from 1675. The bell frame was in such poor condition that the only part to remain is the bell. All other parts and fittings have been replaced. The bell is possibly cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester who has been described as the ‘greatest bell founder of his age’. The bell was made when he was just 18 years old and is one of his earliest. As such it is historically very significant. To set this bell into its historical context, it was cast in the year that the foundation stone for the Royal Greenwich Observatory was laid in 1675.
The ‘Blessing of the Bells’ Ceremony will begin at St Madoc’s Church, Llanmadoc at 10.00am. Participants will then walk down through the village of Llanmadoc to St Cadoc’s, Cheriton where the Archbishop of Wales will conduct the blessing ceremony. After the ceremony both bells will be rung simultaneously. If the weather is inclement, those wishing to attend the ceremony can avoid a soaking by gathering at St Cadoc’s Church, Cheriton at 10.30 am.
Many people have been involved in this project, giving generously of their time and expertise to enable it to reach a successful conclusion. The Gower Society is delighted to have contributed financially to the future of two of Gower’s historically important churches, the bells of which, no longer silent, will ring out over this beautiful corner of north-west Gower for another 200 years.
(With acknowledgements to a report written by Ivor Williams, parishioner of Llanmadoc and Cheriton)
CHANGE OF PRESIDENCY OF THE SOCIETY
At the AGM on the 22nd April 2017 Malcolm Ridge, having served two years as President, was succeeded by Byron Davies, who was MP for Gower.
Malcolm joined the Society in 1970 and, after becoming a Committee Member in 1983, he was elected Chairman in 1990, retiring from that position in 2014 before being appointed as President in 2015.
Byron has shown a real and general interest in the affairs of the Society and indeed in Gower. He was brought up in Port Eynon and lives in Penclawdd. Whilst MP, he showed a real interest in the affairs of Gower, including Mawr, but particularly matters that were of particular concern to the Society, such as the proposed windfarm on Mynydd y Gwair, the cockle industry and the Cwm Ivy Sea Wall.
MYNYDD Y GWAIR WIND FARM. JULY 2016
APPLICATIONS UNDER SECTIONS 16 AND 38 OF THE COMMONS ACT 2006
RWE Innogy UK Ltd. submitted repeat applications for the de-registration and exchange of pieces of common land, and for restricted works on common land, following the dismissal in February 2015 of similar applications. These further applications differed from the original applications in that they offered some additional land to replace the land to be deregistered. Planning permission for the 16 wind turbines scheme was granted in 2014 but as the scheme, both the turbines and access tracks, was intended on common land, permission had to be granted for the land to be occupied by the scheme to be deregistered as common land.
An independent public inquiry took place in February 2016 and the inspector issued his Report on 31st March 2016 for the Welsh Minister who eventually, on 20th July 2016, issued her decision. The applications, in essence, were granted.
The Gower Society gave evidence at the inquiry on the detrimental effect on the landscape, as the public interest was a relevant factor to which the Minister had to have regard.
The inspector reported that visually the scheme would change people’s perception of the landscape and it would affect the enjoyment of the majority of people using the commons.
However, he concluded the harm would be outweighed by the substantial benefits, both economic but more particularly renewable energy, bearing in mind the Welsh Government’s commitment towards an increased provision of sustainable renewable energy and, in particular, the site being within one of the areas in Wales identified by the Welsh Government as being technically, practically and environmentally better able to accommodate the landscape and visual impacts of wind farms than other parts of Wales.
He stated: “I have concluded that the wind farm would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the commons and to the majority of people’s enjoyment of them for recreational purposes. However, as the site lies within Strategic Search Area E and there is policy acceptance in principle to landscape changes in order to gain renewable energy development, the weight attributed to this harm is not as great as it might otherwise be. The scheme would bring substantial benefits, both economic benefits and, more particularly, the benefits of renewable energy. Bearing in mind the Welsh Government’s commitment towards the increased provision of sustainable renewable energy, the need to achieve targets for its development and the sustainability benefits of moving towards increased reliance of renewable energy, I attribute substantial weight to these benefits and consider they far outweigh detrimental defects.”
In this balancing exercise, he attached less weight to the effects on the landscape than the previous inspector, and he did not pay regard to the cumulative effect on the landscape by the scheme being next to the existing scheme on Mynydd y Betws.
In accepting his recommendation, the Welsh Minister, in granting the applications, concluded: “Having considered the competing interests of the landscape and visual amenity as against the benefits of renewable energy, I have formed the view that benefits of renewable energy outweigh the detrimental effects to landscape and visual amenity outlined”.
REVIEW OF DESIGNATED LANDSCAPES IN WALES
THE SOCIETY’S STATEMENT ON THE FINAL REPORT DATED 31st JULY 2015
AND PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 2015
This report by an independent Panel chaired by Professor Terry Marsden was commissioned by the Welsh Government “to ensure that our designated landscapes are best equipped to meet current and future challenges while building upon their internationally recognised status”. It deals with both the three National Parks and the five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Wales. It has been welcomed by the Alliance for National Parks Cymru which represents the interests of the Parks as well as AONBs. The Gower Society is the only voluntary sector body concerned with AONBs and is a member of the Alliance.
The review Panel has used the term National Landscapes of Wales to embrace both the parks and the AONBs. The tenor of is proposals suggest that future Welsh Governments will see much more commonality in their approach to these designated landscapes.
However, the Society welcomes the recommendation, which reverses a previous recommendation in the Panel’s interim report that the names of “National Parks” and “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty” as the key designations of the “National Landscapes of Wales,” be retained. Additionally, it recommends one set of statutory purposes and an associated single statutory duty for both designations. It is hoped, as a consequence, the status and protection of the Gower AONB, particularly its natural features, will be enhanced.
The Society takes comfort from the Panel emphasising the priority of the Sandford Principle from 1974 that where conservation and recreation cannot be reconciled by skilful management, a greater weight shall be attached to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage. However, following the Principle in practice will continue to be contentious.
The Society also welcomes the recommendations for: continuing strong links between local authorities and AONBs; AONBs being bodies becoming statutory consultees on planning applications with a potentially significant impact on the special qualities of their area; and a statutory duty on local authorities to establish a formal committee, with at least two representatives of the local interest, to oversee the management of the AONB.
The Society’s main reservation concerns the extent of those planning and committee recommendations. It is for the local planning authority to decide, ultimately, which applications to refer, and the committee has to be properly resourced and its recommendations acknowledged.
In the case of Gower, there is a danger of the AONB being less regarded by the local authority, should its area be considerably expanded due to the possible amalgamation with a neighbouring authority.
A working group, chaired by Lord Ellis Thomas, will now consider the implementation of the recommendations. The Alliance will be represented on that group.
APPLICATION FOR SOLAR ARRAY NEAR ILSTON REFUSED
Application by Gower Power Community for Ground Mounted Solar Array at Webbsfield, Near Brookvale, Ilston, Swansea, SA2 7LD.
Much to the concern of local residents and The Gower Society (GS) an application was made in June 2014 for a 1MW solar generation array complete with security fence, cameras, access and associated buildings. The location was in one of three fields purchased by the applicant that are directly opposite Ilston Quarry. Whilst the proposal was not in a prominent location the GS recognised that it was an inappropriate location and if this was allowed by the planners of City and County of Swansea (CCS) it could open up the floodgates for similar schemes throughout the Gower AONB.
As a consequence the GS Planning Team put in a lot of effort at the initial planning stage to show that the application should be refused on two grounds: that it would basically damage the AONB’s natural beauty, and that it was an industrialisation of the landscape. It was also argued that alternative sites outside the AONB had not been investigated. The applicant had designed a tree planting scheme partly to hide the structures but we still thought that they would be seen from various locations. This part of Ilston is a hidden gem, with its river, mature trees, old quarry (that is a SSSI and Nature Reserve) and its closeness to the adjacent commons that are Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). The GS thought it should it not be compromised.
The Planning Officers and the Officers responsible for the AONB recommended approval to the Planning Committee. Thankfully the elected members of the Planning Committee were persuaded otherwise by strong representations from local residents, Ilston Community Council and the GS. The application was refused on 2 September 2014.
We knew that the applicant would not take this decision as final and he appealed to the Planning Inspectorate later in the year which resulted in a busy period over Christmas 2014 for objectors to prepare their submissions to the Inspector. The GS main Committee took the difficult, and potentially expensive, decision to employ a Consultant, Boyer Planning from Cardiff, and Landscape Architects, Tirlun Design Associates from Bridgend, to present the GS case against the scheme. This was not easy because of the Christmas period.
The applicant made a strong and comprehensive case for his scheme and garnered renewed support from over 90 individuals. Analysis of their letters of support showed that many were from outside Gower and some indeed from outside Wales. The similarity of text suggested a standardised letter.
Linked to the applicant’s case was the creation of a community farm that has attracted a a lot of support but we did not accept any relevance of an array to the “farm”. The cost of the land bought for the project by the applicant was some £150 000 and we could never see how a return was to be achieved. Objections on the other hand were all strongly local to Ilston. The CCS case had now to carry out a ‘u turn’ from its original recommendation to the Planning Committee.
The Appeal was heard on 17th March 2015, by the Inspector Hywel Wyn Jones, and representations from appellant and objectors were completed in the day. Then on the 18th March, the Inspector accompanied by both appellant and objectors , embarked upon a comprehensive site visit. A thorough inspection was carried out and the site viewed from various key locations
On the 21 April 2015 the Inspector dismissed the Appeal mainly because of the visual impact upon the AONB. He ruled that the solar panels would be seen from a number of locations and said ” I consider that from these vantage points the rear elevation of the rows of arrays would appear as monolithic, alien features that would be out of scale and character with its countryside and surroundings.” He concluded “I consider that the natural effect on the natural beauty of the landscape and the visual amenity of the area would be harmful. Mindful of the statutory duty in relation to the protection of the AONB, I consider that the extent of theis impact would be significantly harmful.”
The Planning Inspectorate Appeal Reference APP/B6855/A/14/2226732 is available on line.
NEW PRESIDENT, APRIL 2015
PROJECT NEWS SEPTEMBER 2014
The Gower Society has started to initiate the funding of some special projects to enhance the appearance of buildings/structures in the area. All community councils have been approached with an offer of support and funding, but so far, none have produced a viable scheme. Hopefully, some will soon emerge.
Work started last winter on the walls leading down into Parkmill – a project which had begun under Ilston Community Council with Rural Development Partnership funding. Wall repairs have continued with Gower Society funding. There is still much work to be completed and work will restart in the winter. This will have increased costs because traffic will need to be light-controlled in order to allow the masons to work safely. So watch the extension of repairs as the months go on.
Work (with considerable Society financial input) has also begun on the restoration of the Coastguard Lookout building overlooking the causeway at Worms Head, Rhossili. The National Trust owns this building and currently leases it to the National Coastwatch Institution. The intention is that the end result will be an appearance much closer to its original state. For example, cement mortar will be replaced with lime mortar, asbestos roof sheeting will be removed and replaced with natural slate, with removal of plastic cladding, Upvc guttering/drainpipes etc. This is a much-visited location and we are sure that both locals and visitors will appreciate the improvement when the work is completed.
Several other projects are under consideration and it is hoped to start on these as soon as possible.
CASWELL BAY STONES
Caswell Bay Stones – click on the link for Swansea’s Tourism and Leisure explanation letter’