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3 News Criticism of Strata Florida project rejected AN ACADEMIC has suggested

that criticisms of a proposed heritage project at Ystrad Fflur (Strata Florida), express misplaced and outdated concerns. Professor David Austin, of the

University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Lampeter, was responding to an article on the blog jacothenorth. net, which appeared to cast doubt on the bona fides and funding of a project to create a new centre near the iconic Welsh site, which is the resting place of the Princes of Deheubarth and the place where the Chronicle of the Princes (Brut y Tywysogion) is believed to have been first set down. The issue highlighted is the

acquisition of Myanchlog Fawr, a farm situated on land adjacent to Strata Florida and the concerns, robustly expressed in the online article, is the danger of Strata Florida of becoming another piece of a heritage industry

which has little or no relationship to Wales, Welsh history, or Welsh culture. After highlighting what makes

the location special, the article, by a guest author, continues ‘All of this may be about to change thanks to some heritage industry ‘charities’ which want to ‘enhance the visitor experience’ with government grants and huge dollops of money from the Heritage Lottery Fund in a scheme which would keep their bosses in clover for decades to come. ‘The threat to Ystrad Fflur as

we know it comes not from Cadw directly, although Cadw executives are almost certainly cheering it on, but from two charities called the Strata Florida Trust and the Cambrian Heritage Regeneration Trust (CHRT), formerly known as Ymddiriedolaeth Atgyfnerthu Treftadaeth Sir Gâr’. The article continues to highlight

what its author says are significant failings with previous projects upon

which CHRT has been engaged and raises questions about precisely who owns Myanchlog Fawr, how its purchase was funded, and what controls there will be over the development. In particular, the author expresses considerable concerns about the treatment of the site if it is redeveloped, saying: “Brace yourselves for the Abbot’s Bar & Bistro serving heritage monks’ brew, herbal liqueurs made to ancient and ‘long-lost’ secret recipes, sustainable medieval burgers and Brother Anselm’s Amusement Park for the kiddies.” We spoke to Professor Austin and

put the content of the article to him. He told us: “I have been engaged in working at the site since 1999. “I love Strata Florida. It sits

in what can be properly called ‘a sacred landscape’, there are wells and monuments around it far predating any Christian involvement there, and a well actually within Strata Florida’s precincts which appears to predate the construction of the main building, whose ruins we see today. “In fact, we have discovered that

the church is aligned on an east to west access to coincide with sunrise and sunset on March 1. This was not done by accident: the Lord Rhys and the builders of the Abbey knew the importance of making a statement about Strata Florida’s importance to Welsh culture and did so here.” But what of the concerns regarding

the development of the site? We asked Professor Austin to explain what the situation was there. “What we are aiming to do is to

Original plans: 2008 Elin calls for service to be restored ELIN JONES, Assembly

Member for Ceredigion, has written to Ken Skates AM, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, calling on the Government step in and restore the Aberystwyth to Cardiff direct bus link.

The service, which was provided

by Lewis Coaches until the company recently went into administration, has been an important part of the transport infrastructure of Ceredigion for years. Plaid Cymru’s Elin Jones AM

said: “The importance of this long- established bus service to the people of Ceredigion is widely acknowledged, and it is frequently used. “Many students use the bus

link, the only direct travel service that links the two major university towns of Ceredigion with Swansea and Cardiff, as an essential means of transportation. “It’s also used by elderly

passengers as a means to travel cost effectively, with ease and peace of mind. “I ask now that the Welsh

Government works with the Ceredigion Council and bus operators in order to seek the restoration of this service.” An earlier article on the bus

service omitted the important role played by Bryan Coaches in delivering the service in the past. The Herald apologises for that omission.

develop the research, teaching, and training dimension of the project. Using it to develop heritage skills, provide apprenticeships in those skills,

Iconic: the entrance to Strata Florida

and to examine the core meaning of the place as a centre for well-being. The last of those was integral to the function of the original building, and I would love Myanchlog Fawr to be used as a retreat house. And not least, it would be a place where people can go and get the story of Wales in the Welsh heartland.”

And the heritage development? “The heritage end developed

slowly. We had a false start, which was the development for which Acanthus Holden did a study in 2008. That project ended up elsehwhere, at The Talbot. That project is the one for which the drawing appears online. “After that, we had to consider

how to move the project forward. The Acanthus Holden project would have been funded through private money, but it needed to be reworked and reconsidered in the light of our experiences. We decided that the way forward would be through a charitable trust. For a while we worked with CHRT, who were looking to develop

The location in the 16th Century: (C) UWTSD artist Bob Marshall

a pan-Wales portfolio of heritage sites. We decided, however, that the Strata Florida idea needed its own charitable vehicle and decided that Strata Florida Trust was the way forward.” The online article raises

questions of where the money for the development has come from. We asked David Austin for an explanation. “I want to make a couple of things

clear. The Strata Florida Trust owns the farmhouse, Myanchlog Fawr; secondly, the money for the purchase came via a private donor, who has requested anonymity and whose wish for anonymity I respect. “There is other funding available

to us, which is not Heritage Lottery Fund money, and we are in the process of finalising the arrangements for the allocation of that money to the Strata Florida Trust. “In relation to the project

at Myanchlog Fawr, there is no involvement from CHRT. The only connection is that Claire Deacon, who heads CHRT has been retained as a project director on a consultancy basis due to her experience in projects of this sort.”

And on the future of Strata Florida? “The World Monument Fund has

recognised Strata Florida as a site of international significance. The work of the last seventeen years has enhanced our understanding of the importance of Strata Florida and the landscape in which it sits. That landscape, that setting, the whole design: when the Lord Rhys set about developing Strata Florida, he was making a bold statement about Wales and the Welsh. It is the largest Cistercian abbey yet found in the United Kingdom, but it is more than that and was always meant to be more.”

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