February marks LGBTQ+ History month and Ceredigion Museum has been working with local organisation Aberration to unveil and record fascinating and untold stories of Aberystwyth.
These stories form part of the museum’s ‘It Happened in Aber’ project, which will allow people to listen to the untold stories that have shaped Aberystwyth.
This project was made possible thanks to the ’15-minute heritage’ funding, a partnership between The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service.
Carrie Canham, museum curator, said: “For too long the LGBTQ+ community has been marginalised, or even completely concealed, in history. Ceredigion Museum is keen to share the stories that have lurked in the shadows, to celebrate the diversity and rich LGBTQ+ heritage of Aberystwyth with pride.”
The LGBTQ+ stories researched and recorded with by Jane Hoy, of Aberration, include historic and modern-day characters from the town, including famous academics, poets, mariners, dancers and a spy!
“We are delighted to be working so closely with Ceredigion Museum contributing to ‘queering up’ the museum with lively local stories and events,” said Jane.
Aberystwyth has certainly played its part in developing the LGBTQ+ community in West Wales and Sarah and Rosie, founders of Aberystwyth’s ‘Wrecked’ nightclub for women, have documented their fond memories of their venue in the town: “It became a fun and safe haven for lesbians who travelled there from all corners of the county”.
Ceredigion Museum staff and volunteers will be continuing to document stories linked to the LGBTQ+ community, as well as stories linked to specific locations in the town, until April.
From May onwards, The ‘It Happened in Aber’ stories will be available to enjoy in podcast format on the museum’s website as well as forming a digital walking tour of the town, allowing people to listen and enjoy the stories whilst walking around the locations in Aberystwyth.
Councillor Catherine Hughes said: "It's fantastic that Ceredigion Museum is providing us with an opportunity to enjoy the history and the important contribution of the LGBTQ+ community in Aberystwyth. This is such an important project to document our local heritage. We look forward to listening to all the stories."
If you can’t wait until the summer, join this years’ virtual Aberration - Between the Lines event on Friday, February 26 from 7pm, when the ladies of ‘Wrecked’ will be sharing some of their stories.
For further information or to share your untold story, contact Sarah Morton, Ceredigion Museum’s sustainability officer, at Sarah.Morton@ceredigion.gov.uk.
Storytellers from Wales, Scotland and Ireland have teamed up to broadcast a series of online events that celebrate the Celtic calendar of festivities through stories, songs and traditions from their homelands.
The third event in the series, Spring Awakening, will be broadcast on Monday, February 1 from 8pm to 9.30pm and celebrates the arrival of spring, the Goddess and Saint Brigid and the feminine life, death, life cycle. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/137632589781
The storytellers are Kama Roberts, who works for the Willow Globe theatre near Llandrindod Wells, Maria Gillen from Ireland and Shona Cowie from Scotland.
Kama explained that she had been collaborating with Maria and Shona Cowie to broadcast online storytelling evenings since the Celtic new year, Samhain.
“We have also been building a collaboration between Kerry Writers Museum and Community Arts Rhayader and District (CARAD) and hope that, beyond this pandemic, this relationship will develop into live events and festivals in each of our home countries,” she said.
“The events have had really brilliant feedback and a regular and loyal audience. The next storytelling evening will have nature and nurture as its theme.”
As St Brigid's Day in Ireland is an important event, Maria will be the host and has a surprise special guest up her sleeve. Nuala Hayes, Irish actress and chair of Storytellers of Ireland, will also be sharing a Brigid blessing translated from ancient Gaelic.
At the end of the evening, the storytellers open the floor to the online audience to share a story or a song. Anyone wishing to get involved is asked to email email@example.com.
A partnership between Ceredigion Museum and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales has attracted £1,000 funding to display fragments of a unique Roman glass vessel found at Abermagwr Romano-British villa.
The villa at Abermagwr, near Aberystwyth was discovered during aerial photography in 2006 and excavated by Dr Jeffrey L. Davies and Dr Toby Driver between 2010 and 2015 in a volunteer-led community project.
It remains the only known Roman villa in the county and the most remote Roman villa in Wales. The finds have been researched over time and the best have been put on public display at Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth.
The finds include parts of Ceredigion’s earliest known slate roof, just one of the innovations discovered at the villa. The most recent Roman finds handed to the museum are the cut glass fragments.
A grant from the Association for Roman Archaeology (ARA) will fund a bespoke mount, made by a museum specialist, to enable the delicate glass fragments to take pride of place in the museum’s archaeology gallery.
Roman cut glass is rare; only one cut glass beaker is on permanent display in the British Museum and the design on the Abermagwr vessel is unparalleled in Roman Britain.
Professor Jennifer Price was struck by the rarity and quality of the glass vessel describing it as ‘of outstandingly high quality….[which] must have been an extraordinary item of luxury. Its quality is vastly superior to the rest of the glass vessels found at the villa’.
Prof. Barry Burnham, of University Trinity Saint David, Lampeter, said “Its discovery so far west in Wales is all the more significant because it is vastly superior to the general range of glass material found anywhere in Wales.
“This raises interesting questions about how it came to be here, who owned it and what it signifies in terms of social status and economic links.”
Carrie Canham, Ceredigion Museum curator, said: “When I was at school, we were taught that the Roman’s didn’t have a significant presence in West Wales, but local excavation results have overturned that assumption.
“This extraordinary object shows that the villa at Abermagwr was the home of comparatively wealthy Romans enjoying the good things in life. I’m extremely grateful to the ARA for the funding that will enable visitors to the museum to see it displayed to its best advantage.”
Councillor Catherine Hughes, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Porth Ceredigion, Early Intervention, Well-being Hubs and Culture, said: “It is a delight to hear the history of the rare Roman cut glass here in Ceredigion.
“Thanks to Carrie and the team at Ceredigion Museum and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales for their work, and the Association for Roman Archaeology. We look forward to the day when we can see the pieces in all their glory.”
The Covid-19 pandemic is delaying the work to make the mount until later in 2021. The glass fragments are too delicate to courier to the craftsperson making the mount, so he will have to come to Aberystwyth and set up a temporary workshop at the museum. The fragments will then go straight on display.
>>Click here for more information about Ceredigion Museum on the Visit Mid Wales website
Abermagwr Roman cut glass and the Abermagwr reconstruction
A new ‘Gardening for Nature’ day takes visitors on a journey to explore ways of helping nature in even the smallest of outdoor spaces. Top tips from CAT’s expert gardeners will help you learn new tips and techniques while you enjoy a day in CAT’s beautiful gardens.
The new ‘Nature Detectives’ family day is the perfect bookable experience for nature-loving families. Visitors will explore everything from camera traps and bug hunts to tips and tricks to bring a variety of bird species into your garden at home.
On-site accommodation, a vegetarian café, free parking for cars or coaches and acres of woodlands and organic gardens provide the ideal setting. Keep an eye out for more day-out experiences being added throughout 2021!
CAT’s head of Eco Centre, John Challen, said: “We hope that these new experience days will give nature lovers something special to look forward to – the chance to find out more about the amazing wildlife of Mid Wales and discover new ways to help nature thrive, all while enjoying a memorable day out.”
COVID safety measures are in place throughout the centre and experiences are designed to ensure participants’ safety. Full refunds are available should legal restrictions prevent people from attending a booked experience.
Find out more by visiting www.cat.org.uk/days-out . For bespoke events for groups of any type, contact the CAT team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘Nature Detectives’ family day is one of the new visitor experiences at CAT.
The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) near Machynlleth will once again be host to the BBC’s Iolo Williams as he shares the wildlife of Mid Wales with viewers across the UK in this year’s Winterwatch.
The BBC team will bring a much-needed dose of nature into our living rooms this January as they help us to celebrate the magic of the wildlife on our doorsteps.
Having broadcast Autumnwatch live from CAT last year, Iolo and team will return for two weeks, from January 19 to 29, to share the sights and sounds of a new season, with Chris Packham, Megan McCubbin and Gillian Burke broadcasting from elsewhere in the UK.
Located in the foothills of Snowdonia, in the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere Reserve, CAT is a world leading eco centre focused on researching and sharing solutions to the climate and biodiversity emergency.
Introducing the centre to millions of people across the UK during Autumnwatch, Iolo said: “Here at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Mid Wales, it’s all about forward thinking. This is a place with the future survival of our planet at its very core.”
Built on what was once a barren slate quarry, the centre has been transformed over 50 years into a rich tapestry of habitats, providing a home for a wide range of species, including rare hazel dormice, pine martens, endangered birds species and many more.
On arriving at CAT last year, Iolo said: “There is such an abundance of wildlife in Mid Wales and it’s great to see it flourishing at a site that was once an industrial slate quarry.
“But even where wildlife is thriving, we know that the effects of climate change are already having an effect on biodiversity in the UK. We need to take action now, as a nation, or some of our wildlife could be lost forever.”
Peter Tyldesley, CAT’s chief executive, said: “We can’t wait to welcome Iolo and the team back to CAT to share the wonderful Mid Wales wildlife with viewers across the UK.
“Learning to appreciate our amazing natural world is often the first step towards protecting it; programmes like Winterwatch can really help spark that essential love of nature.
“Last year’s Autumnwatch gave us a fascinating insight into a wide range of species, and we’re looking forward to seeing what the changing seasons will bring to CAT and the Dyfi Valley.”
CAT is currently closed to visitors in line with Welsh Government COVID rules, but – thanks to Winterwatch – you can enjoy a virtual visit and experience the magic of Mid Wales wildlife from your living room. Winterwatch broadcasts on BBC 2.
Winterwatch presenter Iolo Williams.
A winter view from the Centre for Alternative Technology.
The chairman of an award-winning leisure company that has a sales centre in Mid Wales is predicting a fantastic year ahead for tourism in the UK after the extreme challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
Tony Bywater, from Salop Leisure, which also has sales centres in Machynlleth, Shrewsbury and Stourport-on-Severn, believes the demand for ‘staycationing’ will be greater than ever in 2021, with British people reluctant to jet off to sunnier climes.
In addition to running one of the UK’s most successful caravan and motorhome dealerships, Salop Leisure also owns the Love2Stay resort and adventure centre and Love Plants specialist plants centre in Shrewsbury and caravan holiday home and touring parks across Mid Wales.
Outside the national Covid-19 lockdowns last year, caravan and motorhome sales boomed at Salop Leisure as more first-time buyers opted to invest in holidays in the UK for the foreseeable future instead of travelling abroad.
Many caravan holiday home parks across Mid Wales and the Heart of England reported a huge demand for available pitches.
Mr Bywater believes that this trend will continue in 2021 and the years to come as the Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out across the UK.
Having devoted more than 50 years of his life to the caravan and motorhome industry, he has experienced many economic highs and lows and is well placed to offer an opinion on future business prospects.
He says the UK will emerge from the pandemic as a much different place, as people re-evaluate what is and what is not important in their lives. Spending quality family time away from work will become a top priority.
“It has been an extremely difficult time for everybody, but I think 2021 is going to be very special for our industry and tourism in the UK,” he said. “People are going to want to stay in the UK, rather than travelling abroad, like they have done in the past. The pandemic will change people’s habits forever.
“Demand for caravan holiday homes, touring caravans and motorhomes is going to be massive, putting pressure on manufacturers and parks.
“We lost a lot of trade whilst our businesses were forced to close during the lockdowns, but, when we reopened in late summer, customer demand was huge.”
Mr Bywater says it’s imperative that all four home nations work together to agree a uniform policy on future lockdowns to make it easier for people to understand the restrictions. Having different rules in each country caused confusion.
Salop Leisure is a member of MWT Cymru, an independent organisation that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Mid Wales, which includes Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd region of Gwynedd.
This could become a common sight in 2021 as Salop Leisure chairman Tony Bywater predicts a staycation boom.
Jubilee 1897 initially worked at Cilgwyn slate quarry at Nantlle, hauling waste from the quarry to remote tips near the village of Y Fron. It was sold to Welsh Slate in 1928 when it travelled to Dinas Junction on its own wheels down the incline and over the Welsh Highland Railway for unloading at Penrhyn from a standard gauge wagon.
For a year, she worked at Port Penrhyn at Bangor before moving to be stored at Felin Fawr. After being painted and returned to steam at the end of World War II, she worked on Red Lion Level but was withdrawn from service 10 years later.
Her home was then the Narrow-Gauge Railway Museum Trust at Tywyn where she was cosmetically restored for display.
In 2016, Jubilee 1897 was moved to Felin Fawr where the Penrhyn Quarry Railway project was being developed. The original plan was for her to be a static exhibit but, after examination established she was in fundamentally sound condition, agreement was reached that the project would restore her to steam at Coed y Parc workshops.
Dismantling began in 2017 but, four months later, the project collapsed and the Vale of Rheidol Railway offered to accommodate her while the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust established a way forward. Her components were relocated to Aberystwyth in 2018.
Now, the Vale of Rheidol Railway is her permanent home.
Robert Gambrill, Vale of Rheidol Railway’s chairman, said: “We are delighted to have secured the sale from Welsh Slate of this significant addition to our roster and can assure Welsh Slate she will have a happy home with us.
“Manning Wardle is a locomotive builder not previously represented within our collection, so we jumped at the chance to secure an example of this manufacturer .Our thanks go to the team at Welsh Slate for working with us to secure the future of this historic Welsh locomotive.
“We are planning to restore Jubilee 1897 to steam by 2023, allowing the public to be see her again working for the first time since the 1950s.”
Welsh Slate managing director Mark Hodgkinson said: “The Jubilee 1897 will always be a part of our history and we’re only glad she has found such an appreciative permanent home.”
Jubilee 1897 has found a new home in Aberystwyth.
Image by Cliff Thomas
An award winning business that provides cycling holidays in Wales and along the English border is gearing up for a busy 2021 after the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic this year.
Cyclists Chris and Kay Dartnell realised a dream when they escaped to the country and converted redundant buildings at Petchfield Farm at Elton, near Ludlow as a base for Wheely Wonderful Cycling in 1992.
The couple, who love cycle touring, now offer a wide range of cycling holidays in Wales, Herefordshire and Shropshire, focusing on spectacular scenery and great accommodation and food.
Wheely Wonderful’s holidays are supported by luggage transportation in an electric car, detailed route guides and a full back up service.
“This area of the UK offers some of the best cycling holidays in Europe, with river valleys cutting through spectacular hills, dominated by ruined castles and, best of all, hardly any cars,” said Kay.
This year has not been without its challenges, however, as many tourism-related businesses have discovered during the pandemic.
“We opened for two months during the summer to provide cycling holidays and it was such a pleasure to be able to welcome customers back to enjoy the borderlands of England and Wales,” explained Kay.
“Bookings were frantic when the lockdown ended, as everyone wanted to recover some of the summer, so we were able to provide holidays at quite short notice. Ideally a bit more advance notice is preferable.
“For 2021, we will take a booking with a deposit and will not bill for the full holiday balance until six weeks before the holiday starts. Normally, it’s three months ahead. If a customer needs to change the date before then, they can do so free of charge.
“We have updated our website - https://www.wheelywonderfulcycling.co.uk/ - with tours for 2021 and look forward to arranging a perfect cycle tour for customers when they are ready to book.”
The couple’s most popular tours in 2020 were based on hotels, country inns and great food. “The prospect of a good cycle ride, then being looked after at a hotel or inn, with delicious food and drink on tap, seemed to appeal,” said Kay.
“Our six-day Slow Food Cycle Tour gives customers a chance to eat at some great restaurants, visit a vineyard and several breweries and enjoy great cycling in fabulous scenery in Shropshire, which is renowned as a ‘foodie’ destination.
“We also have a perfect treat for a special occasion, with customers staying at two foodie destinations, The Lion Hotel in Leintwardine and The Stagg at Titley, combined with three days of great cycling around Herefordshire.”
The business also offers a wide range of cycling holidays in Mid Wales, including the Brecon Beacons and Elan Valley, and all the way to Anglesey. The Lon Las Cymru (Welsh National Cycle Route) is a signed cycle route through the whole of Wales.
Customers can choose from a short break to a longer cycling holiday of between 10 to 14 days.
Wheely Wonderful Cycling – geared up for a busy 2021.
The general manager of the world’s first preserved railway, which is located in Mid Wales, has warned that steam trains in Wales could soon be powered by coal imported from Russia.
The last coal mine in Wales that produces coal for steam trains, at Ffos-y-fran, Merthyr Tydfil, is due to be closed in 2022 and a planning application for a new surface mine at Dewley Hill in North East England was refused by Newcastle City Council last week.
The Dewley Hill decision dashes the hopes of Britain’s heritage railways, which need affordable coal to continue operating. Existing stocks of English steam coal will last into early 2021.
Without domestically-produced coal, the heritage steam sector will have to find ways to import, store, handle and distribute the coal it needs. That means it will be forced to import inferior quality and more expensive coal from Russia.
“When Ffos-y-fran stops coal mining in 2022, there will be no scalable coal provider in Wales to supply our steam railways,” explained Stuart Williams, general manager of Talyllyn Railway at Tywyn on the Mid Wales coast.
“The main alternative coal source is Russia, which is more expensive, increases the nett emissions getting it here and puts money into the Russian economy rather than retaining it here in Wales. In addition, the coal doesn’t burn as well and can be variable in quality.
“Surely, it makes more sense to keep mining the coal we need here in Wales rather than having to import coal from the other side of the world? We shall be raising this issue urgently with the Welsh and UK Governments.”
Mr Williams said he and the Heritage Railway Association (HRA) are now anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Welsh Government’s draft coal policy consultation and hoping that mining will be allowed to continue.
Liz Saville-Roberts, MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd and co-chair of the Heritage Rail All-Party Parliamentary Group, is supporting Talyllyn and other heritage railways. She is urging the UK and Welsh Governments to work together to ensure that coal does not have to be shipped half way around the world to supply heritage railways.
“The APPG undertook an inquiry into the need for coal for our heritage railways last year,” she said. “What we are worried about is that the UK and Welsh Governments are offloading their responsibilities to heritage railways by forcing them to seek suitable coal sources in countries such as Russia and even Australia.
“We are concerned about the nett carbon emissions of bringing coal so far and also about the production methods used in Russia. We need the UK and Welsh Governments to think creatively to allow mining at Ffos-y-fran to continue whilst reducing carbon emissions.
“Steam locomotives are designed to burn a certain type of clean coal which is mined here in Wales and certain other parts of the UK. The danger is that heritage railways will cease to function without this reliable supply of suitable coal.
“We must keep our heritage railways going because they make such a significant economic contribution to our communities and have been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Steve Oates, HRA chief executive, expressed the serious concern of heritage railways across the UK.
“UK-produced coal generates a fraction of the CO2 emissions created by extracting and then shipping coal half-way round the world to the UK,” he said. “ And it costs less in money terms, too.
“Keeping Britain’s heritage railways running with affordable, locally-produced coal would secure the future of a sector which sits at the heart of the country’s industrial and cultural heritage and generates millions for the leisure and travel sector.
“Maintaining consistent and reliable supplies of coal is difficult and expensive. That burden will now fall on our members, whose finances have already been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The inevitable increase in the cost of coal may well be too much for some of our members to bear.”
That the cost of adapting steam locomotives to burn alternative fuels would be far too high for heritage railways to consider, he said.
“Meanwhile, we now have no alternative but to press ahead with our work on developing a coal importing operation, while also supporting US research and development work on biocoal,” added Mr Oates.
Talyllyn Railway’s general manager Stuart Williams.
Talyllyn Railway’s general manager Stuart Williams with MP Liz Saville-Roberts earlier this year.
Talyllyn Railway plans to use most of the grant on its winter maintenance programme, which includes completing an overhaul on ‘Talyllyn’, locomotive No.1.
Other projects include providing electric vehicle charging points, installing heating in more carriages, Abergynolwyn playground refurbishment, a comprehensive interpretation strategy for the railway and other heritage projects and enhanced video conferencing facilities.
The grant will enable the railway to prepare for the 2021 season, when it is hoped that life will begin to return to normal and passengers will make a welcome return.
The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust, located in Talyllyn Railway’s HQ buildings at Wharf Station, has also been awarded £27,000 towards Covid-secure measures and other costs.
Ian Drummond, the railway’s fundraising officer, thanked everyone who helped with grant applications.
Locomotive Talyllyn negotiates he Dolgoch Viaduct on Talyllyn Railway.
Photo: Darren Turner.
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