Well, we most certainly have had a busy month keeping on top of the major physical works and getting the new visitor centre and car park ready for opening. It’s fantastic to visibly see the hard work of volunteers coming to fruition. There are exciting developments everyday. Well done and thank you so much to everyone involved!
CAR PARK & VISITOR CENTRE
We are delighted to announce that the new car park and visitor centre opened on 20th September.
This new, much anticipated facility – entirely run by a fantastic team of local volunteers – will be open every day from 10am to 4pm (including weekends). Here, you will receive a warm welcome and will be able to enjoy a pot of fairtrade tea and “proper” fairtrade coffee on the open terrace overlooking the upper terraces of the former Dillwyn Llewelyn landscape garden, with glimpses of the upper lake, currently undergoing restoration. Homemade cake and other delicious sweet items will also be served. The opening of the refreshment area will be followed shortly by an information / exhibition display in the upper level of the new visitor centre.
The pay and display car park will initially be open from 8am until 6pm. Receipts from the car park will be ploughed back into the management and maintenance of Valley Woods to ensure it remains the much loved and valued local amenity that it has become in recent years, thanks to the Penllergare Trust and all its supporters.
A celebratory BBQ was held on the new terrace on the opening day to thank all of our amazing volunteers for making this possible – the Trust is so grateful to everyone who has stepped forward to help so far – thank you.
UPPER LAKE & ARCHIMEDES SCREW
Work continues on the now very muddy business of desilting the upper lake. The contractors are hauling 50-60 tipper loads of silt each day down to Middle Park and have made a big impression on the lake. The lower haul road is taking a beating, but it will be fully reinstated on completion.
We’re all holding our breath to see if they can finish the job in the time available! The contractor is quite confident that they can do it by the end of October. They have encountered all sorts of issues, but are taking it all in their stride.
We have now purchased the Archimedes screw hydro turbine – it’s somewhere in Germany and waiting to be shipped to Valley Woods later in October – date to be confirmed. The contractors are also progressing with the construction of the Archimedes screw housing – this work must be very precise in order that the turbine can be ‘slotted’ in.
The lower haul route from the Upper Lake to Middle Park is currently closed for health and safety reasons. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience caused. Alternative paths have been signposted temporarily and all paths should reopen by the end of October / mid-November.
The contractors working on the Llewelyn bridge are on the home straight now. The scaffolding is due to be removed shortly as they work up the parapet and wing walls. Everyone concerned with this project is proud to be associated with the construction of a traditional masonry bridge – there are not many such bridges being built in this way these days. The stonemason has taken on two apprentices to assist with the project, one of which has been taken onto his permanent staff.
Our woodland volunteers have been making fantastic progress on the terrace paths. We have a diverse range of local people who volunteer without fail every Tuesday and Thursday – rain or shine! That’s what you call dedication!
This month, we have again had lots of physical help from staff from Virgin Media too. Volunteers from Swansea Community Farm also cycled through Penllergare Valley Woods as part of the Swansea Cycle Challenge and gave us a helping hand with the restoration project.
What’s more, we welcomed a group from the Travel Trade from all over the country, as part of a One Historic Garden promotional tour this month. The ‘One Historic Garden’ project links heritage, gardens and opportunities across South Wales, part-funded by the EU Convergence European Regional Development Fund through ‘Visit Wales’ and the Welsh Government.
HISTORIC PHOTO OF THE MONTH
Check out this photo of the Big House which would have been taken in the early 1920s when Sir John Talbot Dillwyn Llewelyn was in residence. It appears to be an open day which he often held for charities and institutions. Thanks to Royston Kneath for sharing this photo and to Jennie Eyers for helping us to decipher the date/occasion.
Betty Richards who lived in the Big House from 1927 to 1936 also dropped by to the new visitor centre last week. It was lovely hearing about her childhood and fond memories of Penllergare.
“We moved from Penplas to Penllergare House in 1927. This was to be a most wonderful childhood. We lived in a section of the house at the back and side. Of course all the indoor staff were no longer employed, but outside everything was maintained and the estate ran as usual. The keepers, gardeners and woodsmen all continued with their work and so did the carpenter. The Llewelyn family had always looked after their staff very well and this continued while we were in residence…” Betty Richards 2005
You can read more about Betty’s memories in “Penllergare. Echoes from Valley Woods” – an anthology highlighting many aspects of Penllergare over two centuries through voices and images. The book compiled by Jennie Eyers is available to buy for £10 at the visitor centre.
FRIENDS OF PENLLERGARE
Over 50 people enjoyed a guided walk to the site of Tir Donkin Colliery in September organised by the Friends of Penllergare. Some said this was the first time they had ventured so far along the east side of the valley. Volunteer, Michael Norman, who led the walk with our woodsman, Dai Whitelock, outlined the importance of the mine to the history of Penllergare before taking the walkers to the now capped shafts named Charles and Gladys (after two of Sir John Dillwyn Llewelyn’s children). Everyone had a great time and many stopped off at the new visitor centre for a well-deserved tea or coffee and cake at the end of their walk.
Four masters students from Swansea University have spent the summer carrying out ecological research projects in Valley Woods. The first project is ‘The effects of desiltation on freshwater macro-invertebrate communities’ and the second is ‘Ecological Characteristics of Himalayan Balsam’. We look forward to reading the summary reports.
This autumn has given us a really good showing of fungus in the woods – we are delighted to see so many photographers catching the many weird and wonderful shapes, colours and forms. There are 12,000 species of fungi in Britain and the autumn is the best time to see them, and with some rather interesting names like Fly Agaric and Waxcaps. Fungi play an essential role in the decomposition of dead matter and recycling nutrients. Many plants have a symbiotic relationship with the fungal species that grow on its roots, each depending on the other for survival. For example the fungal threads growing on tree roots help the trees absorb nutrients. Did you know that genetic studies have shown that fungus is more closely related to animals than plants?
In the last update, we talked about the importance of fundraising in all its forms to sustain Valley Woods for everyone to enjoy in the future. We’ve made an excellent start with the car park and visitor centre – we’re an independent local charity, not part of the Council, and all the car park donations and the profits from the coffee shop go to managing Valley Woods. As well as maintenance costs, we have to pay for insurance, accountancy charges, telephones, water and all sorts of other ‘overheads’ that are essential to ensure that visitors have a safe and enjoyable visit to Valley Woods. We’ve had some more really good news from the Heritage Lottery Fund recently – they are now supporting us to get even better at fundraising! Three fundraisers from other organisations in Wales are going to coach us in various ways to develop support – if anyone is interested in getting involved in any of this, then please let us know – from drumming up support through local community fundraising schemes right through to delivering leaflets about the importance of legacies to us – we’d like to hear from you. This additional, ‘Catalyst’, grant, will also enable us to redevelop our web site, as its not economically feasible to add any more to the current site, and we’d like to incorporate this Restoration Blog site as well. The Gwalia Housing Trust has kindly donated some financial and technical help towards this – thank you!
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO FIND OUT MORE…
The autumn open-to-all ‘Introducing Penllergare’ guided walk takes place on Saturday 19th October starting at 2.15 pm from the Penllergare car park kissing-gate. To hear an overview of the history, wildlife and the current project please join us for 2½ hours. Some of the main paths will be closed because of restoration work, so expect a different route and some unexpected view points. Sturdy shoes/boots are essential. Dogs on short leads please. Anyone interested in leading future walks at Penllergare may like to join us also.
We have also produced new leaflets about the restoration project which can be found at the visitor centre.
Do feel free to pop in to chat with our volunteers, to have a cup of tea and/or to pick up a leaflet at any time. We look forward to welcoming you!