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Island fort project deserves support

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St_Catherine's_Fort_Front,_Tenby_From_On_The_IslandA special Pembrokeshire Herald report by Dennis O’Connor
SINCE becoming uninhabited in the late 1970’s, the corridors of one of South Pembrokeshire’s most iconic buildings are now once again beginning to echo with the ambitious sound of change.
Cutting through the red tape in order to progress plans to re-develop the fort at St. Catherine’s Island, located just off the foreshore at Tenby, is painfully slow but the Island project manager Pete Prosser remains hopeful that approval will be granted so that work may finally begin to open what would undoubtedly be a highly popular tourist attraction.
Built in 1870, the fort was constructed to repel foreign invaders, but its guns were not installed until 1886. It later became a private house before an anti-aircraft battery was installed at the front of the island during World War Two. Much later it became the unusual location of a zoo before the island was vacated in the seventies. It is the rich early history of the fort that the developer wants to once again bring to life.
After the breath-taking trek along the island, the vast granite and limestone fort is hugely impressive when viewed from the approach to the drawbridge. As you enter the building, senses are flooded with the history of the long narrow corridors and beautifully designed vaulted ceilings of the rooms. The tracks on-which the cannons moved are still visible and the significance of the positioning of gun slots throughout the fort provide rare snapshots of the town. Even in darkened recesses there is a real sense of safety within the old building.
Since becoming vacant, the fort has been plagued by trespassers, some of whom have accelerated the decay of this wonderful building by their selfishness. As a result, some rooms are in a pretty sorry state. However, despite this and being open the elements, the building remains defiant to these intrusions and progress can be made through the warren of corridors which reveal the sheer scale of the building. After climbing the steps which lead out to the top of the fort the natural instinct is to head for the nearest vantage point to take in the stunning views of nearby Caldey Island and the mainland and the views are truly magnificent.
Public access to the five-acre island and fort is strictly prohibited and it is not difficult to see why. After years of neglect and decay the area is not fully safe so this is the predominant issue which is being addressed by Pete Prosser and his team. They are dependent upon low tides and muscle power to transport equipment to the island and this means having to work a full shift whilst being cut off from the mainland but spirits are high and there is almost a tangible sense of excitement now that safety work is underway.
When full permission for the project is finally granted, visitors can look forward to an interactive experience which will bring the varied history of the fort to life through its themed rooms and characters.
Children will be able to explore the fort’s tunnels in safety while parents and grandparents enjoy the sense of history. There is even a plan for one room on the lower floor to be fitted with underwater camera controls to that unique access is given to the marine life around the island.
Over years, many people would have gazed at St Catherine’s Fort and would have longed to know what it would be like to see inside the garrisoned walls, so when the rare window of opportunity opened to meet Pete and his team on the island for a personal tour, it was the realisation of a little boy’s dream that has been many years in the making.
However, not everyone is happy with the proposal to save the building from total decay. If the plans were not sympathetic to the fort or its history then that would be understandable, but any opposition to the idea of preserving such an iconic historical monument should be viewed cautiously by the people of Pembrokeshire who also deserve to have the opportunity to be able to have their childhood dreams realised.

Community

Appointment of new canons to St Davids Cathedral

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THE DEAN of St Davids has expressed delight that the Bishop of St Davids has appointed four new Canons for the Cathedral.

The Very Revd Dr Sarah Rowland Jones said, ‘I am so pleased to welcome the Revd Gareth Reid, the Revd Julian Smith and the Revd Marcus Zipperlen as Canons and members of Dean and Chapter, together with the Revd Richard Davies as Honorary Canon. They bring a considerable breadth and depth of long experience that will contribute greatly to the life of the Cathedral and its wider family.’

The Revd Gareth Reid is no stranger to the Cathedral. After growing up and attending university in Aberystwyth, then working with the Salvation Army in Swansea prison, he pursued theological training. Following his ordination in 2010, his first role was as Assistant Curate in the Cathedral and the wider group of churches that then formed the Rectorial Benefice of Dewisland. In 2013 he moved with his wife Abby and daughters Sophie and Elizabeth to Llandysul. ‘It is wonderful to be able to accept the invitation to renew my link with the Cathedral, now as a Canon’ said Gareth.  

The Revd Julian Smith was ordained in 1993, and has spent all his ministry in the Diocese of St Davids, in the Archdeaconry of Cardigan. For twenty-seven of those years, he has served churches in and around Llanrhystud. He and his wife Deborah, a domiciliary care worker, have three children, Daniel an organist, Nick a tuba player and waiter, and Edith a singer and dancer on the high seas! Responding to his appointment, Julian said ‘I felt honoured to be asked by the Bishop to be a Canon of St Davids Cathedral, and am very much looking forward to this new adventure.’

Originally from Bexhill on the south coast of England, the Revd Marcus Zipperlen moved to Wales nineteen years ago to work at the Centre for Alternative Technology, running their Biology Department and teaching sustainable water treatment and sanitation, following a degree in Environmental Science. Ordained in 2013, he now lives in Llangwm with his wife Polly, a nurse, and their two teenage boys, Sonny and Malachy. In their spare time he and Polly row Celtic longboats from Neyland and run occasional distance events. Marcus looks after four mostly rural parishes south of Haverfordwest, and is also the Sustainability Officer for the Diocese. ‘I feel blessed to be able to be able to weave both my “callings” together: ministry to people and caring for the Earth’ he said, adding ‘I hope these may be of benefit to the Cathedral, as I serve as a member of Chapter.’

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Renewed partnership safeguards access and conservation at Castlemartin

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A NEW agreement has been made to provide continued funding for a Ranger Service on the Military Ranges of South Pembrokeshire.

Senior leaders and staff from Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority met recently at the Castlemartin Range to renew their longstanding partnership, which ensures safe and sustainable access and recreational opportunities for the public, while safeguarding the area’s unique and rare wildlife which thrives alongside military training.

Those attending the meeting, which was hosted by Lt Col Richard Pope and Major John Poole, were able to experience this for themselves at Stack Rocks, where the colonies of razorbills and guillemots are gathering at the start of the breeding season.

Current Castlemartin Ranger, Lynne Houlston, explains: “This role is not only vital in ensuring that the area remains accessible to the public when military use allows, but also that the many rare and special plants, birds and animals of the Range are safeguarded.”

These include chough, marsh fritillary butterflies, grey seals, green winged orchids and spectacular colonies of seabirds, especially during the breeding season.

Part of Lynne’s role is to ensure that people can visit and use the Ranges for activities like climbing while ensuring that they do not disturb the nesting sites of these protected species.

Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of NRW said: “Working with our partners to ensure this role and partnership agreement continues is so important to us at Natural Resources Wales. The conservation of the many special species found at Castlemartin Range is vital to ensure their sustainability in the future. The Ranger role enables this to happen alongside allowing visitors to enjoy the beautiful landscape for recreational purposes, which has benefits for wellbeing and allows nature and people to thrive together.”

Chief Executive of the Park Authority, Tegryn Jones, said: “We are delighted to welcome the renewal of this important partnership. The Castlemartin Range offers some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in Wales, and it’s vital that we ensure this can be enjoyed by visitors in a way that protects its special wildlife. The Ranger plays a crucial role in achieving this balance, and this renewed commitment will ensure that the Castlemartin Range can continue to be a place where people and nature thrive.”

DIO Principal Environmental Manager, Richard Brooks said: “DIO is delighted to be joining NRW and PCNPA in signing the next iteration of this important partnership. Lynne has been in post for 21 years and, supported by a Seasonal Ranger, has clearly demonstrated the key benefits of this joint funded Ranger Service. The role plays a key part in the successful integration of public access, wildlife management and monitoring and military training and activity”.

Several guided walks taking in the history, wildlife and archaeology of the Castlemartin Range are planned for the summer months. To find out more and book a place, visit www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/events.

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Long Course Weekend road closures

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THE LONG Course Weekend returns to south Pembrokeshire this weekend with some road disruption anticipated.

A number of roads around the wider Tenby area will be closed or closed one way during the Wales Sportive on Saturday, 22nd June.

The A40 and A477 are not closed for the event.

The A478 Narberth to Kilgetty is also fully open

The event, as last year, will be based at The Salterns car park – this has removed road closure restriction from Tenby town centre

There are also road closures planned around Tenby to Pembroke during the Wales Marathon on Sunday, 23rd June. These road closures are on a rolling programme between 9.30am and 4pm.

Full and updated details are available on the Long Course Weekend website.

Spectators are reminded that dog restrictions at North Beach remain in place.

Further information for careers needing access to their clients in the areas affected is also available online, with vehicle passes distributed by care organisation managers.

Changes to local bus services will be in place due to the Long Course Weekend road restrictions.

The South Pembs Fflecsi will run a limited services to some locations and delays are likely.

Saturday, 22nd June

351 (Tenby-Kilgetty-Amroth-Pendine) – NO SERVICE

381 (Haverfordwest-Narberth-Kilgetty-Saundersfoot-Tenby)– NO SERVICE

Tenby Coaster (Tenby-Saundersfoot) – NO SERVICE

349 (Haverfordwest-Neyland-Pembroke Dock-Pembroke-Tenby) – Unable to serve Pembroke Dock to Tenby until after 1pm.

356 (Milford Haven-Neyland-Pembroke Dock-Pembroke-Monkton) – Unable to serve Pembroke and Monkton until after 1pm

387/8 (Coastal Cruiser) – Unable to operate until 11am.

Sunday, 23rd June

387/8 (Coastal Cruiser) – NO SERVICE

Tenby Coaster (Tenby-Saundersfoot) – Will be rerouted along the A4218 (Broadwell Hayes) instead of Marsh Road and Heywood Lane.

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