This is sad, of raised and then dashed expectations: it also has a silver lining of new beginnings.
As previously documented (here on 25th April 2013, 14th December 2012, 30th September 2012 and 21st April 2012) and on Kilvey SOUL forum (on Facebook), people from east Swansea communities have been attempting, with Open Spaces Society and British Horse Society support, to get Kilvey Hill lanes long used for horse driving and riding correctly classified as restricted byways – that is, for walkers, horse riders and drivers, cyclists and including disabled users.
Earlier this summer, 30 acres of Kilvey hillside above Port Tennant were put up for sale at auction on September 25th, with a guide price of £10,000. Together with active volunteers and community meetings in the well-known community and music pub Hooker Dyers on Fabian Way, we set up a small charity with great ideas for community gardening, climbing, goats and more. We just had to get together the funds to buy it.
Key to its attraction, for me personally, was the opportunity as an owner to quickly dedicate the restricted byway and avoid drawn-out arguments with the council. The byway was where we were driven with trusty Macsen the horse earlier this year (see 25th April), and was in dappled sunshine on the day of the auction.
The other good thing, would have been recognising good claims of some of those listed in the legal documents, and we had agreed two claims could be sold to the people involved. It was all very cooperative, avoiding expensive legal fees and courts which had been involved in a similar claim under the previous owners (won by the claimant). Call me an idealist, but I think it would have worked.
Walking along, burnt gorse on the hillside was background to the rough horse grazing, and then a kite rose up and swooped over and around us.
We stopped to watch it against the Kilvey slopes, blue of the sky and sweeps of cloud fluff.
I hoped it augured well for the auction. We walked to the far end of the land, past the quarry where, in spring, the Kilvey Volunteers cleared and held a community barbeque.
I have been to one auction many years ago, and had soaked up advice. I knew we could go higher than a sensible “top” price. I got my catalogue and number, and sat at the front in order to see the auctioneer. The properties before the Kilvey lot came and went, bid, bang, sold.
Then it was Kilvey. Surely there wouldn’t be too many for this bit of hillside? Surprisingly, there were, but they fell away at £15,000 when I came in. Me and one other, bidding up. You can only bid so far on others’ money with your own, and I eventually said “No”. It felt bad but necessary, not totally crazy. I do hate losing.
The community has made contact with the winner and, in my opinion, he would be well advised to get the community onside. People in east Swansea have to battle problems and cuts, and they were still ambitious for this land, and great ideas for different ages and abilities. The silver lining is that, given a chance, they’ll be up for it.
For BHS and OSS, it’s back to application forms for the restricted byway, I suppose.