Celebrating in the Wilderness

The Wilderness near Mitcheldean in Gloucestershire was the choice for my friend and ex-colleague Emily’s 50th birthday weekend.  As well as the wonderful company, food and drink and brilliant passtimes, games and musical talents, the place itself was great.  I woke up to watch the morning sunrise and slow emerging shapes.

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The house lit up too.


The walk took in forest paths and a frozen Wigpool, returning via Mitcheldean.

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Clouds and sun around the Garth

Long winter shadows on the fields and cloud inversions are a frequent sight on the Garth mountain and in the Taf valley.   I see them as I go up to the stables in the morning. These photos were taken in early January.

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Later that day, at about one o’clock after mucking out and riding, this appeared.

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A month later, in early February, the cloud inversion along the Taf valley was thick and woolly below, and the sun bright looking west to Mynydd Eglwysilan: I stopped on the lane above Dryscoed, and the cloud curls up the valley past Pontypridd in the background.


This is more southerly, over Mynydd Meio.


The clouds smothered Coed-y-Gedrys below the farm.

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This is the view over Coed-y-Gedrys without cloud, with my horse sharing a happy moment with my other favourite companion.

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Green ways in new estates: an attack on Footpath 48a

I have written about Open Spaces Society’s promotion of a wide grassy route through the new development between Tonteg and the Church Village by-pass on a few occasions since March 2013.  Then, the fields and footpaths were a short cut through to the shops on Main Road, and mainly a walkers’ and children’s place for dogs and dens.

There have been Temporary Footpath Closure Order on this path renewed, and next a proposal to extinguish the path in the estate.  I replied:

“Open Spaces Society will oppose any application to extinguish the footpath through this site.  Throughout the planning process for this development, OSS has supported the Rights of Way Officer in seeking to maintain a right of way of adequate width within green space in order to avoid a significant loss of enjoyment by users. …..  I believe this is in line with the Local Access Forum’s views on encouraging non-car travel including to shops.”

I would prefer to have the footpath remain, with a cycleway separated from it.  This would keep the permanent footpath on the Definitive Map, whereas a cycleway is on streets and not the Definitive Map, and is easy to extinguish. I walked through the estate to have a look on the ground. Here is the new way down the field, and it is a nice broad pavement with greenery, although it runs beside a road.

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The estate roads beside the pavement path are narrow, and not everyone likes to park their shiny car on a narrow road.  Furthermore, I fear for the maintaining of the pavement for walking, because once the roads are made up to the height of the drains, the kerbs will be low enough for a car to drive over easily.

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People are not waiting for the roads to be made up to park on the pavements, even while many houses are empty.  This not the right place to be extinguishing rights of way.

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It got worse at the top of the path, where we met people trying to get through to buy teabags from the Co-op on the main road in Tonteg (over a mile round without this path).  The arrow shows where the path should access The Ridings and I can only hope that the very permanent looking fence will be removed, eventually when the developer feels like it.


This is the same path when the developer moved in and I had high hopes of a broad green swathe and not a wide pavement.

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footpath to the ridings tonteg phase 2 building

Posted in Active Travel Act, open spaces: rights of way & highways, open spaces: urban spaces, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Away from sparkly things: Bristol Museum and more

We wished, the three of us, to find somewhere quiet and peaceful to chat and catch up.  We chose Bristol, met at the train station and bussed into town: neither train nor bus was heaving with Christmas shoppers.  Our lunchtime destination was Bristol Museum.  The cafe is good and serves lunches late.  It has a fine fireplace, boasting from 1639, to gaze at.

The polished brass and fancy-patterned sinks made a visit to the toilets distinctive. Linda and I did the photo in a mirror bit.

We spent most of our visit on the second floor which has European art, glass and ceramics among the rooms.  There are lots of large limp pre-raphaelites and interesting impressionists.  I liked a Dutch-influenced painting “My neighbour’s house” in Beverley in Yorkshire by Fred Elwell.


And this by Courbet.


Seeing the Bristol complexity in its Delftware and pots was funny.  Best kept in a museum.

I liked these art nouveau vases, with the background ironwork and wood staircase


Glassware included the multicoloured vase by Bob Crooks as well as older glass.

There was an exhibition of re-creations of Mexican art by Adela Breton (1849-1923): she travelled and kept meticulous notebooks as well as sketches. She made full-sized copies of the wall-paintings in Chichén Itzá, Teotihuacan and Acancéh which are on display.

The modern art had some stunning pieces, including these by Tala Madani and the “richly scented” minimalist cube of tea by Ai Weiwei.

I thought Victor Pasmore used colour and 3-d shadows to good effect.  Finally we went downstairs to find Kate Malone’s ceramic fish fountain which she cast in bronze (linda and Kath show the scale – sorry for pun).

We took a brief tour of some good places to know about, like Ken Stradling’s amazing house and Guild, a designer store.  It is hard to keep Linda away from shiny things and here she is attracted to a rail of glittery tops, while Kathy stays on the pavement to watch  for a bus.

Safely near Temple Meads, we enjoyed waiting for our trains to carry us home.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda – Happy New Year

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Women’s Arts Association autumn exhibition

The Women’s Arts Association has had a very successful show of associate members’ work at Llanover Hall in Cardiff.  “How I see It …” fitted nicely with Llanover Hall’s educative functions by asking women makers to create an original work inspired by a woman artist.

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The opening, with readings by Toni-Ann La Crette, was enthusiastically attended, and groups from schools and of women had the opportunity to see the art but also see the women’s art that had been the inspiration – a good thing to demonstrate and take with them.

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On the left (from l to r), there is Rose Davies’ printed fabric piece inspired by Kathe Kollwitz, Dilys Jackson’s sculpture inspired by a Barbara Hepworth piece, Georgina Peach mobile inspired by Louis Bourgeois,  who painting also inspired Rebecca Croxford’s triptych, and Sue Roberts inspired by Marlene Dumas.  On the right, Bee Bennett’s landscape inspired by Joan Eardley, Dianne Setch’s digital image inspired by Ellen Gallagher, and Sarah Featherstone photography inspired by Madame Yevonde.

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More familiar as a mural and street artist Millimagic who signs herself Unity, Amelia Thomas worked on canvas inspired by Ruth Evans’ poem “Birth Plan”.  Jacqueline Alkema had shaved her hair last summer and used the experience in the light of Freda Kahlo’s self portrait, beside Kay Keogh’s portait inspired by Margaret Dumas.  (Jacqueline Alkema curated with Sarah Featherstone and Phillippa Brown.)

There were so many interesting works: at the Annual General Meeting, several artists explained their work.

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Aisling Tempany took us through the process of her inked piece inspired by abstract and religious work, including Mainee Jellet’s.  Anna Polya’s almost narrative work (not well -photographed) was an intelligent restyling and relocating of “Woman and Child in a Meadow” by Berthe Morisot.


Of course, I loved Shirley Anne Owen’s horses inspired by cave painters, who, she notes, were mostly women.

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My own painting on the ambiguity of walls was inspired by surrealist Dorothea Tanning.  Angela Kingston’s art inspired by various quotes hung beside Kathryn Jordan’s nasturiums inspired by Dora Carrington’s tulips.

I must also mention Dinah Guilfoyle (@dinahvagina) who didn’t hold back on her buttons of 50 women artists.  Mandy Lane’s amazing piece became more scary each time I saw it – inspired by Kiki Smith.


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Autumn leaves and winter sun

I’ve been enjoying the shades of autumn and now startling spots of colour against the wintry sun, which rises and arcs low.  Where I and my horse live near the Garth in Rhondda Cynon Taf, this allows me to experience the variety of light from behind the mountain, casting long shadows from hedges round the fields.

img_20161107_120357754Riding out from the farm, we often go down the Gedrys hill, eastwards.

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It’s quite a steep hill down and good work for a horse’s balance. Bo’s chestnut was matched by the beech leaves in November.

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From the bottom of the Gedrys, we sometimes go left under the railway bridge and along by the river Taf.  It is a good ride, marred too often by fly-tipping.

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Back at the farm, on a sunny day you can see over to Mynydd Meio and Egwysilan commons, and there are views north almost to Merthyr.


Of course, the low angles and light can be used creatively in photos.  I only take the bare record.  It’s fun though, strolling along the footpath on the old railway line near home on a damp December day.

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There is so much good to be had from simply being on a right of way or lane in the open air: great in the Welsh Valleys.  Not necessarily when it tips down though.


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Local Access Forums’ National Conference

Local Access Forums were established under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) to advise local authorities on improving public access and recreation in the countryside and urban open spaces.

Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC is in the process of forming a new LAF – they are appointed every 3 years.  I have forwarded the application form to possible interested people.  The LAF appoints people to cover represention of all interests, from horse-riders to walkers, farmers to landowners and commoners – all stakeholders in current jargon.

There are 22 LAFs in Wales, and they get together for an Annual Conference.  I went, along with our Chair Steve Carter and Rights of Way Officer Jason Bragg.  I drove up to Builth Wells, to the Royal Welsh showground, on a dry sunny day.  I left in good time and was in Builth with plenty of time to spare.


I parked just over the bridge and enjoyed the autumnal colours which had been wonderful most of the journey.  The woodland is tinged with browns to orange, full of promise of a really stunning leaf-change to come.


The river makes a good foreground.

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After a walk through the town, I carried on to the showground.  Our conference was in the top building, Hafod a Hendre.


The first presentation was from the Welsh Government’s Head of Landscape and Outdoor Recreation John Watkins, updating where the Welsh Government is heading on access.  The new Minister is keen on urban green spaces and green corridors.  Open Spaces Society has voiced concern that Wales is heading towards wiping off paths that are not currently in much use, and we heard cost-cutting phrases like “reducing the burden”, which make me nervous about policy-creep from England in times of budget cuts, even when accompanied by “widening  access free at the point of use”.

Next up was Jont Bulbeck from NRW (Natural Resources Wales) on the Outdoor Recreation Survey – the 2016 report on adult participation has been released.  Walking is most popular (83% in previous month), with most mentions of where? being to parks (16%), woods (15%) and roadside paths (13%), and in answer to why? for health & exercise (23%) or walking a dog (22%).  Disability, lack of time and bad weather put people off.  There were sections on expenditure (58% of outdoor recreation is done without spending anything ie free), and about health benefits.  A question was asked: does the survey capture benefits to mental health? Er, No.  Soft sighs and shuffling on seats indicated disapproval: LAFs know the evidence on this one.

Since forever, I’ve doodled in lectures and talks, but I seem to have lots of scribbles and only a couple of doodles.

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Before lunch, we had a farmer’s view from NFU-Cymru Rachel Lewis-Davies, raising the attractions to landowners of modernising, prioritising and rationalising the path network, LAFs and councils working in partnership with the landowners for whom the countryside is their factory floor.  They have been very engaged with the Green Paper. Indeed.


The afternoon sessions began with British Horse Society’s Jan Roche, who showed the BHS video for their “Dead Slow” campaign. As she said, horses can be very good in traffic and then spook at a bit of paper. (I love the carrier bag charge because we don’t get so many blown on roads or in hedges.)  The police don’t record horse accidents unless someone goes to hospital from the scene – BHS will do. BHS Mark Weston also spoke (noting the size of the horse economy in Wales), and there were excellent talks from the Ramblers, Cycling UK before the Chair John Morgan gave a rousing defence of the path network.

The decimation of funding at local authority level has hit access and prompts some new roles for LAFs in mitigating the effects.  There is a case for advising the Welsh Government not to implement the 2026 cut-off for applying for unclaimed routes – a panic will increase the back-log of claims.  Should we be extinguishing paths which are not used (and not maintained)?  These unused paths have no cost.  We do not know what network might be revived in the future: for example, the Active Travel Act could bring routes into use after many years without use.

It was time to go, through the showground and back down the A470.

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Posted in countryside, horses & bridleways, local access forum, open spaces: commons, open spaces: rights of way & highways, open spaces: town & village greens, open spaces: urban spaces, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments