big ideas from a little garden

tales and stories of how we make the most of our garden and our terraced house.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Worthy Causes and Armchair Dictating

Before DD and I consolidated our lives I had the privilege of residing in Sunny South Wales. I love the area and all it has to offer. I lived just a couple of miles from the sea, and some times I miss it.
Tythe barn, Henry's and herb garden
However, most of my time that wasn't spent at home with my cubs, I was in the employ of Cosmeston Medieval Village.
It was a fascinating, rewarding and often exhausting job. I loved it!
I personally bred and loaned the Geese (embdens), Chickens (Dorkings) and Ducks (Calls) to the village that provided the often ear shattering background melody to the village. The Call Ducks did an excellent job of drowning out the volume from the passing, unauthentic traffic from the adjacent road. The chickens provided the local youngsters with the "ahh" factor each spring, as they would proudly strut from their recent hidy hole, with a fluffy mess of chicks about their feet. The geese made sure the staff were kept on their toes with the occasional nip. Perhaps, in retrospect, the geese shouldn't have been encouraged to forage in my pockets for tasty treats as youngsters. A full grown embden with a mission to get it's obnoxious beak in you trews is not something to be taken lightly.
Then there are the gardens.
They were the passion and handy work of Mistress Angharad (the character I portrayed)
It was here I found my green fingers and love of herbs.

The Village itself is a reconstructed village, circa 1350. During the 70's there were plans afoot to place a car park upon a site known as castle field. This was to service the newly made lakes and conservation area that had been formed on the site of an old quarry. While clearing the field it was discovered that just below the surface lie the foundations of a building.
Enter GGAT (Glamorgan and Gwent Archaeological Trust). They went about excavating the site and soon found that many more buildings lay about the area.
William and Pip
The first building to be reconstructed was the byre. Initially this was nothing more than an experiment by the archaeologists. Rebuilding the structure upon the foundation. Using the evidence in existence at to how it probably would have looked. Evidently, this was such a success that in time we were to see a small village emerge.
The birth of Cosmeston as we know it.
This village, for the last 20 years has been a site of special interest. It has provided the Vale with a worthy tourist attraction. It has also run a very successful and worthwhile educational tool to schools from as far away as France and America.
It has been staffed by both paid staff and volunteers for many years. Providing informative tours in a first person capacity while costumed in authentic clothing. It really is a gem! Is it viewed as the jewel in the Vale's crown?
It is not!

Although it is a wonder to behold. Staging popular history themed evens through out the year. Populated by staff, actors and re enactors from every walk of life. Ranging from babes in arms to elderly enthusiasts. Providing a wealth of knowledge and amusement to the public.  It now seems that it is time to close the chapter.

 It is believed that the council can no longer fund the site, due to council cut backs. Declaring it is run at a deficit. It has been decided that it is time to change the face of the village.

The village itself will still be there. However, there will be no costumed guides, no rare breed animals and no events.

The two managers who have worked tirelessly on the project for over 20 and 30 years respectively are finding their jobs are among those being cut. The 20 strong staff are being informed their services are no longer required. Subsiquently, the village will become free to the public to enter and view to their hearts content.
However, they will no longer be able to participate in a vibrant taste of the fourteenth century. Experiencing the sights sounds and, yes reader, scents of the bygone era.
noisy calls
The cottages will no longer swell with the sound of laughter and no one will bid you a "Good day madam or a Bless you sir" as you cross the hearths of these inspired reconstructions.
There will be no fluffy chicks or ducklings to lighten the hearts of youngsters and ruffty tuffty gents alike.
There will be no opportunity for a shy school child to throw the pig an apple, and see her ambling along with snuffles and grunts of gratitude for her tasty treat. Last but not least, no more gambolling lambs come March and April. Heck, even the passing walker will miss this sight, surely?

Let me tell you a story of how important this village can be.
During my time as a guide I had the pleasure of escorting an enthusiastic primary school group about the village. I always enjoyed touring the "littlies". Taking just as much joy from the experience as the children themselves. Teaching them about our rich heritage, along with a large and hearty dollop of laughter. During this particular tour, I led the children through role play. Acting out a manorial court. Of course, as the conclusion neared it became obvious the villainous gossip would find herself in the pillory.  I encouraged the children to shout out and act as if they were boisterous village children. Well one young lady (who had not left her teaches side all lesson) screamed the loudest. A picture of sheer joy at being involved.
During the tour she had been eager to answer a few questions, but when given the opportunity, she hid her face in her teacher's arms. The other children seemed to cope with this young girls evident crippling shyness and compensated by giving the answers she wanted with a nod from her.
When she cried out I noticed the teacher wiping away a few tears and a grin as large as the youngster's. I thought little of it.
After I had escorted the group out of the village and bid them "farewell and God speed", the teacher caught my eye and asked for a "word".
I must confess I wondered what it was that I had done wrong.
I was then told that this special little girl was an elective mute. She had not uttered a single sound of her own volition in 5 years. Until that day!
I would like to say it was my doing. I am, however, aware that in her own or any other familiar environment there is no way I would have coaxed a single squeak from her. It was the village and it's magic that had done this for her.

This, dear reader is what we stand to loose.

I have never really been one to begin to rock the boat. Certainly, I am apt to voice my opinions over wrong doing and poor ethics if I fell it is necessary.
I seem to have found my voice in this instance.
There will be a peaceful march from local one council office to another next week. I am, as yet, unaware if I will be able to attend.
I am, however, co ordinating it from my pc.
I have started a facebook petition that will be delivered alongside and existing petition signed by locals.
I don't expect it to make the council change their minds.
However, maybe there can be some sort of compromise so this gem and resource is not lost forever.


  1. I wish you and everyone involved all the best for this, I really, really do. Once it's gone, it's gone. The shortsightedness of those 'in charge' never ceases to dismay and enrage me.


  2. Here's a small offering of help:

    Hope it raises a bit more awareness (though how much I'm not sure as my blog is very very new).

    -Mary (Cardiff Castle Garrison)

  3. The National Museum at St Ffagan is losing its soul too, all touch screens, security guards ("attendants") and "interpreters"

  4. Good grief. A village needs PEOPLE - not touchscreens - to bring it to life. And leaving it unattended like this will mean it will probably fall prey to vandals and thugs.

    At a time when "living history" is enjoying such a revival - with excellent programmes such as Time Team and inspiring series on the History of Wales this week - do the "men in suits" not realise this is such an important part of connecting with our cultural identity? Lose that; and we lose a sense of who we are...ergo a sense of purpose. This is about so much more than a collection of buildings, and (also important, of course) local jobs.