Contractors are preparing to move on site to carry out crucial conservation work to help preserve one of Swansea’s most historic landmarks.
Specialists will be removing invasive vegetation and fixing areas of unstable masonry at Oystermouth Castle in preparation for it reopening to the public this summer.
The Norman built Grade 1 scheduled ancient monument is owned by Swansea Council and run day to day by the volunteer group, Friends of Oystermouth Castle and supported by a Council Castle Development Co-ordinator.
The Friends group successfully applied for part funding from the Welsh Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund to help pay for the work and to prepare social distancing measures for when visitors can tour the castle again.
The oldest part of the current castle is the South Keep which was built in 1107 but much of the work will be centred around Alina’s chapel which was first made accessible to the public following a multi-million pound investment 10 years ago.
The current project aims to slow down the decay of 14th Century paintings located inside of the chapel by carefully removing and replacing the layer of turf, known as softcapping, on top of the chapel walls.
The softcapping acts as a thermal blanket protecting the walls from excess water ingress and frost that can damage the mortar.
Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration & Tourism said: “Although the castle is closed at the moment, there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to protect and conserve this important landmark.
“The Friends group, who do a great job bringing this medieval monument to life for visitors, successfully secured funding from the Welsh Government and I’m pleased the council has also contributed in order to maximise the work that is vital to protecting the castle.”
Erika Kluge, Castle Development Co-ordinator, said: “With managing all Grade 1 monuments of such significance, there is always the difficult balance of conservation need yet operating it as a viable visitor attraction at the same time.
“This grant has been crucial in such a strange and unpredictable climate because as well as helping us conclude this second phase of work to the chapel, it has also allowed us to make repairs that have increased security to the castle whilst it has been empty for all these months. It has also enabled us to provide social distancing measures to slowly prepare our volunteers for re-opening when we are able.”
Paul Griffin, Chair of the Friends of Oystermouth Castle, said “This conservation project is vital to the continuing preservation of this historic monument. We look forward to welcoming visitors back as soon as the work has been concluded.”
It is planned to reopen the castle to the public once the £155,000 project is completed and in line with any Welsh Government restrictions at that time.
Opening will be publicised beforehand but in the meantime visitors can follow the progress of the restoration work at swansea.gov.uk/oystermouthcastleconservation
(Lead image & video: Swansea Council)
Farming union urges Welsh Government to grant holiday let exemptions to diversified farm businesses
The Farmers’ Union of Wales has written to Welsh Minister for Finance and Local Government, Rebecca Evans MS urging the Welsh Government to seriously consider an exemption from the revised letting criteria for diversified farm businesses.
In his letter, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “To date, the FUW strongly believes that the implications for diversified farm businesses have not been fully considered while making the decision to increase the number of days a property is actually let from 70 to 182 days during any 12 month period to be eligible for business rates.
“It should be remembered that the Welsh Government has encouraged farmers to diversify over recent years to make farm businesses more resilient in light of future changes to agricultural support policies, and that in what is believed to be the vast majority of cases, the conversion of farm buildings into dwellings has only been possible for self-catered accommodation purposes under Section 106 conditions.”
FUW say that it is clearly understood from its members that for many diversified farm businesses, actually letting self-catered accommodation units for at least 182 days per year will be practically impossible given the nature of farming – which generates the largest proportion of income for such businesses – and the sheer competitiveness of the holiday let market.
“In light of the above and given that farmers who have genuinely diversified into on-farm accommodation provide the same type of accommodation as speculators from urban areas who invest in properties to let them out, and people wanting a second home who subsidise payments by letting it out as an AirBnB or something similar without reducing Welsh housing stocks or causing house prices to rise, such businesses must be supported in light of current and future challenges rather than being burdened with further barriers and stricter thresholds,” he said.
“Therefore, now that the Welsh Government has decided to increase the letting criteria to 182 days, the FUW would stress the need for self-catering accommodation units which are located on agricultural holdings or subject to Section 106 conditions to be exempt from such changes.
“I urge you as Minister for Finance and Local Government to seriously consider the above as you keep measures to address the impacts associated with second homes and short-term holiday lets under review and seek to avoid any unintended consequences,” he added.
(Lead image: FUW)
Tourism fund helps new Swansea accommodation providers
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething has seen for himself how Welsh Government funding is helping local entrepreneurs develop new, high-quality accommodation in Swansea and Mumbles.
The Oyster House, Mumbles has opened its doors in time for half-term, after receiving loan funding of £2m from the Wales Tourism Investment Fund. The 16-bedroom boutique-style hotel and restaurant has created 29 full-time equivalent jobs.
Developer James Morse said: “Having developed phase one at Oysterwharf and seeing the number of visitors it attracted, I realised an upmarket boutique hotel was needed in Mumbles. The hotel and restaurant, which are operated by City Pub Group, provides individual designer-style rooms with sea and village views and luxury fittings and equipment.”
In Swansea city centre, Llyr Roberts saw a gap in the market for a city centre hostel and opened the Cwtsh Hostel in November 2021. It has recently received a five-star hostel grading from Visit Wales, making it the only five-star hostel in South Wales. The hostel was supported through the EU-funded Micro and Small Business Fund.
It caters for backpackers, explorers, families, schools and freelancers and has pod and private accommodation, electric bike hire and offers guests and visitors introductory Welsh classes. Mr Roberts said he sees the project as an opportunity to grow and diversify the visitor market in the area.
He said: “Cwtsh Hostel wants to make Swansea a destination and attract people from all over the world to the area. Money from the Welsh Government has made the dream of opening a City Centre Hostel a reality while creating 7 jobs in the process. Backpackers and tourists on a budget now have a home in Swansea and I’m sure they will promote Swansea to people all over the world.”
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething, who visited both businesses, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to support these two very different accommodation businesses in Swansea – both delivering very high-quality products and expanding on what the area has to offer, as well as creating jobs and supporting the local economy.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult couple of years for the visitor economy. However, the outlook for the summer looks much brighter and research shows there is higher confidence levels in the sector and the public anticipates taking more overnight trips in the next 12 months than in the previous 12 months.
“I wish these two businesses every success for the future.”
According to 73,000 pet owner reviews, Swansea is one of the pet-friendliest holiday destinations in Wales!
More and more pet parents are taking their furry friends on holiday with them, but finding out which locations are the pet-friendliest can be difficult.
Holidaymaker demand for pet-friendly destinations has soared in recent years; in 2021, Airbnb reported a 65% increase in searches for pet-friendly holiday lets on the site.
As such, Petplan analysed over 73,000 reviews made by pet owners on Booking(.com) to find out which locations in Wales and Great Britain are the best locations to go on holiday with your pet.
75.6% of pet owners who had holidayed in Swansea left the highest-rated reviews (7 and above) on Booking(.com) – meaning Swansea is one of the best holiday destinations for pet owners in Wales!
Monmouthshire ranks as the best destination for holidaymakers with pets with 83% of highly-rated reviews from pet owners.
Powys ranked as the 2nd pet-friendliest holiday destination in Wales with 82.2% of positive reviews and Blaenau Gwent ranked in close third (81.1%).
Herefordshire is the best place in England to go on holiday with your pet with 88% of highly-rated reviews from pet owners.
Perth and Kinross is the best location in Scotland for holidaying with pets (85.3% of highly-rated reviews).
Pet owners ranked The Scottish Highlands as having the best restaurants (93%), Cheshire as having the best quality rooms (100%), and Cumbria as having the best views (83%).
Top tips on how to travel with your pet
Before you set off on holiday with your furry friend, check out our top tips to make travelling a much smoother experience for humans and animals alike.
1. Do your research before you travel
If you’re thinking about taking your pet on holiday, it’s really important that you do some key research beforehand. Before you book a hotel, make sure that it’s definitely pet-friendly.
If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll need to look at any entry requirements for the country you’re visiting. Requirements vary by country: for example, some require rabies vaccinations or tapeworm treatment. Legally, all dogs in the UK should be microchipped, so if you’re taking your dog on holiday you should also keep their microchip certificate on hand.
Researching the documents you’ll need to have on hand when you travel, like a pet passport or health certificates, will make crossing borders and getting through customs much smoother. Quarantine times for pets can be very lengthy if you’re travelling internationally and your pet doesn’t meet entry requirements, so research this thoroughly beforehand.
If you’re flying by plane, be sure to check the airline’s policy about travelling with animals and their history of handling pets.
2. Prioritise your pet’s wellbeing and safety
Your pet’s health and wellbeing is really important, so before you make any travel plans, consider whether your pet would be a good candidate for travelling. Consider your pet’s temperament and how well they cope with travelling, prolonged periods away from home, new people, places, and experiences, and how well they are trained. Look into alternative options like leaving your pet at a boarding centre or finding a house sitter if you feel that your pet would find accompanying you on holiday stressful.
If you do choose to take your pet with you, pet insurance should cover your pet in case a trip to the vets is needed while you’re on holiday. If your pet is prone to motion sickness and travel anxiety, it may be worth discussing with your vet any possible medicines that will ensure your pet has a more comfortable journey.
If your pet has existing health issues, a vet can discuss this with you and prescribe enough medication to last your entire holiday. A vet will also be able to advise of any recommended vaccinations and treatments to protect against potential health risks endemic to your destination.
3. Pack appropriately for your pet
Before you head off, put together a pet travel kit containing all the things your pet will need on holiday. You’ll want to include enough food and treats for the duration of your trip, your pet’s favourite toys, comfortable bedding, leads and harnesses, waste bags, and first aid supplies. If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll also need to pack relevant documentation (like health certificates and pet passports) for them.
Make sure your pet has fresh water available at all times, too; if you’re travelling in the car, a ‘no spill’ water bowl or bottle might be a worthwhile investment.
4. Prepare a suitable travel carrier
If you need to use a travel carrier for your pet, give them some time to get used to the carrier before you hit the road. The travel carrier needs to be well-ventilated and spacious enough for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
Make sure that you place the travel carrier somewhere out of direct sunlight and away from cold draughts, and that it’s secured by a seat belt. It’s a good idea to place your pet’s favourite toy and a comforting blanket inside the carrier as well.
5. Give your pet ample rest stops
There’s nothing worse than being on a long road trip and needing to use the loo. If you’re driving a long way, make sure you stop frequently to give your pet time to stretch their legs and go to the toilet. If you find a safe place en route, play some energetic games with your pet so that they can burn off some energy before getting back on the road. If you’re flying abroad, make sure your pet has time to go to the toilet before it’s their time to board.
6. Try to keep a regular routine
It will be much easier for your pet to adjust to travelling if you keep their routine as close as possible to what they’re used to. Try to feed them and take them out for toilet breaks and walks at the same times you would do at home. Make sure that fresh water is always available to them, which is especially important if you’re holidaying in a hot climate or you’re doing lots of energetic activities.
7. Watch for signs of stress
While some pets may find travelling a breeze, others may find the experience stressful. Be sure to watch out for signs of stress or motion sickness in your pet so you can make them more comfortable. If you’re on a road trip with a dog, watch out for excessive panting, yawning, dribbling, vomiting, or restlessness.
If you suspect your dog is anxious, take frequent breaks on your trip. Getting your dog used to short car journeys first (with the help of positive reinforcement) can make it easier for them when it comes to going on a longer road trip. Specially designed travel sprays can also be effective at helping your dog feel calmer in the car.
If your pet is prone to travel sickness, make sure to feed them a light meal before you set off on your journey. Consult your vet before travelling to see if there is any medication that might be able to help your furry friend feel better.
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