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Neath Port Talbot

Margam Country Park voted one of UK’s top ten green spaces

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Margam Country Park has been voted among the top ten most popular parks and green spaces in the UK after a month long public vote.

The accolade comes after a UK-wide “People’s Vote” organised by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy to find the country’s ten best Green Flag Award-winning parks and green spaces.

The Green Flag Award scheme is the international quality standard for parks and green spaces, and this year a record-breaking 2,061 achieved the award.

And later, the British public were invited to take part in the “People’s Vote” for their favourite park with tens of thousands joining in. Margam Country Park was the only park in Wales and the only one outside of England to be voted into the prestigious top ten.

The People’s Choice ten most popular parks and green space are:

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  • Cassiobury Park, Watford
  • Hollycroft Park, Hinckley
  • Margam Park, Port Talbot
  • Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London
  • Strathaven Park, South Lanarkshire
  • Telford Town Park, Telford
  • University of Essex Wivenhoe Park, Colchester
  • Valentines Park, Ilford
  • Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets
  • Warley Woods, Smethwick
Margam Orangery (Image: Wikimedia)

Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture, Cllr Peter Rees, said: “This is wonderful news for Margam Park. It is a great accolade to be the only park in Wales to have achieved the People’s Choice Award and to be one of just 10 in the whole of the UK.

“I would like to thank all the staff and volunteers of the park who work tirelessly to maintain the castle grounds on this magnificent estate as their help is invaluable.

“Margam Park is such an important landmark both for our local residents and visitors and this award shows just how much people value it. I would also like to say a very big thank you to everyone who voted for Margam Park.”

Margam’s Chapter House Tree won Wales Tree of the Year 2020 in a recent vote (Image: Margam Park)

International Green Flag Award manager Paul Todd added: “I would like to congratulate our ten worthy winners and thank all the thousands of parks staff and volunteers across the country who have gone the extra mile this year to ensure our country’s parks and green spaces remain such fantastic places to escape to and enjoy.

“We know how important quality parks are to people of all ages in every corner of the UK and so, for these parks, this public recognition of just how much they are loved and valued is a real achievement.”


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Clydach

Historic canal route set to welcome more cyclists and walkers

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black and blue bicycle handle bar

An historic canal route in Swansea, already popular with walkers and cyclists, is set to be upgraded.

Swansea Council has secured funding to upgrade a 1.4km section of towpath along Swansea Canal.

The route between Clydach and Pontardawe is already part of the national cycle network (NCN 43) and sees many people using it to walk and travel by bicycle. Overgrown vegetation and an ageing surface under foot has prompted the council to seek further funding to make it more user-friendly.

A £250,000 investment via the Welsh Government Active Travel programme has now been secured and will result in a major upgrade to the route.

Mark Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environment Enhancement and Infrastructure Management, said: “Our aim will be to widen the existing path along the canal and provide an improved surface for walkers and cyclists.

“We will be working with the Canal and River Trust to make this route a safer and an even more popular walking and cycling route. We also want to continue the improvements already completed by the neighbouring local authority along their section, link up with it and maximise the regional benefits.”

The latest funding features as part of a report to the Council’s Cabinet, recommending approval of the scheme along with further investment in walking and cycling infrastructure, totalling £696,000.

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Part of the funding (£245,000) will also help create a new 1.4 km link between the communities of Clydach and Craig Cefn Parc.

Additional investment will be spent on the introduction of locally produced artwork along existing sections of the city’s network.

Cllr Thomas, added: “We’re extremely grateful for the support from the Welsh Government in enabling us to expand and improve our current walking and cycling infrastructure.

“We want more people to consider the options of walking and cycling to travel around Swansea and to use a car less often. Making sure we have good quality routes which link up communities and give people confidence to travel safely is key to achieving this.”

Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with a responsibility for Transport, Lee Waters said: “We know that getting people out of cars for short journeys to cycle or walk is an ambitious agenda, but if we’re to meet our net zero carbon emission target by 2050 we need to take action now.

“Having the right infrastructure in place is key to encouraging more people to feel safe to walk and cycle and that’s why we’ve committed to investing significant funding in active travel this year.”

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(Lead image: Markus Spiske / Pexels.com)

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Environment

Swansea University gains double recognition for its outstanding green spaces

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Swansea University has once again been named among the country’s best green spaces.

The hard work of the University’s grounds team means the prestigious Green Flag will continue to fly at both its Singleton Park and Bay campuses.

The Green Flag is the international mark of a quality park or green space and recognises excellent visitor facilities, high environmental standards, and a commitment to delivering great quality green space.

This year the University has also achieved Green Heritage Site Accreditation for the first time. This special award, endorsed by Cadw, recognises sites that are both historically significant and meet Green Flag criteria. 

Grounds manager Paul Edwards said: “After what has been a challenging time for everyone, I am delighted we’ve not only retained the Green Flag but also gained the Heritage Award status.

“Singleton’s historic features are an important and celebrated part of the campus that students, visitors and the public alike have enjoyed for many years.

“The grounds team’s in-depth knowledge of these original features ensures that they will continue to preserve and enhance such assets for future generations.”

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The University’s historic Singleton site is set in lush parkland and boasts well-established grounds providing a wide variety of habitats, with grassland, mature woodland, planted areas and ponds which help to support an extensive variety of wildlife.

The Bay Campus, adjacent to Crymlyn Burrows Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), offers beachside habitats and plenty of room to explore its variety of species.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle said: “We are extremely proud that our fantastic University campus has once again been recognised with Green Flag status. We understand the importance of our grounds for people and wildlife alike, and know that they play a key role in supporting the wellbeing of our staff, students and local community. We are committed to managing them with respect and care, with sustainability at the heart of all developments.

“After the challenges of the past year, Swansea University is pleased to once again be able to welcome people back onto our campuses to enjoy these special green spaces.”

The University is among 248 parks and green spaces – from country parks and formal gardens, to allotments, woodlands, and churchyards –   to be recognised by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, with support from Welsh Government.

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Independent green space experts volunteered their time in early autumn to judge applicant sites against eight strict criteria, including biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental management, and community involvement.

Congratulating all the winners, Minister for Climate Change Julie James described green spaces as vital for mental and physical wellbeing.  

She said: “These landscapes play a vital role in delivering rich ecosystems and vibrant and resilient communities.”

Lucy Prisk, of Keep Wales Tidy said: “The pandemic showed us just how important high-quality parks and green spaces are to our communities. With more visitors than ever enjoying our green spaces, I’d like to congratulate the hard work of staff and volunteers who have maintained excellent standards at these sites.”

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Environment

Neath Port Talbot parks recognised in Green Flag awards

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Neath Port Talbot are celebrating after several parks and open spaces are recognised as Keep Wales Tidy unveils this year’s winners of the Green Flag Award – the international mark of a quality park or green space.  

Green Flags signifying Full Awards will now be flying at Margam Country Park, Gnoll Estate Country Park, the Talbot Memorial Park and Victoria Gardens in recognition of excellent visitor facilities, high environmental standards and a commitment to delivering great quality green space.

And Community Award flags, given to locations which are welcoming, healthy, clean, safe and well environmentally managed, will be flying at the Amman Valley Trotting Club, the Riverside Park, Pontardawe, the Friends of Neath Abbey Iron Company and the Vivian Park Nature Garden.

In recent times, parks and other green spaces have been a beneficial factor in improving the wellbeing of their visitors, following what has been a difficult time for many. 

Cllr Peter Rees, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture, said: “The Green Flag Awards are a well deserved accolade for these venues because of their continued high standards and provision of quality green spaces which also reflect the long history of this area. Well done to all the hard working staff and volunteers involved!”

A total of 248 parks and green spaces across the country have received the prestigious Green Flag Award and Green Flag Community Award – from country parks and formal gardens, to allotments, woodlands and churchyards.

The Green Flag Award programme is delivered in Wales by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, with support from the Welsh Government. Independent green space experts volunteered their time in early autumn to judge applicant sites against eight strict criteria, including biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental management, and community involvement. 

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Julie James, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change, said: “Green spaces are vital for mental and physical well-being and throughout the pandemic we have seen how important these spaces have been for local communities.   

“Wales still holds more than a third of the UK’s Green Flag community sites and it is fantastic to see more places in Wales receiving Green Flag Award and Green Flag Community Award.   

“These landscapes play a vital role in delivering rich ecosystems and vibrant and resilient communities, and I congratulate all of the sites for providing excellent, year-round facilities and events for people in Wales.” 

(All images: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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