Column for Mid Wales Journal
[Run contact details at the top of each column: National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, CF99 1NA, T:02920 898743, E: Kirsty.Williams@Wales.gov.uk]
Living in Mid Wales we are lucky to be surrounded not only by a spectacular natural landscape with rolling hills and sparkling streams but also by a rich tapestry of cultural and human history. We have castles sprinkled throughout the marches, forts topping our hilltops and ancient settlements in our lakes. We have beautiful spa towns and battle field sites from the age of Owain Glyndwr – we are indeed fortunate to have such a full and visible history.
I spend a recent afternoon at the opening of the new Rhayader Museum and Gallery. Housed in a fantastic new building, there was a wonderful array of displays mapping the history of the local area. It was a pleasure to see and learn about the culture of the Rhayader district and it is a very valuable asset for the community. In a period of recession and tight government budgets it is important that our heritage does not pay the price for reduced spending - with cultural funding likely to take the first cuts when up against health, education and other frontline service provision. The key will be to both cherish our local jewels for their present and future social and cultural enrichment, and to also learn lessons from successes like Rhayader museum by seeking economic benefits from our heritage.
With people now more likely than ever to holiday in the UK we must unlock the potential of our history as a strong tourist attraction. Our region is dotted with significant historical sites including the battle field at Pilleth/bryn Glas near Knighton and Presteigne and yet these are all too often unmarked and unknown outside of interested circles. Despite having been the location of Owain Glyndwr's famous victory in 1402 the Pilleth site remains unmarked and I am making representations to Powys Council for the installation of some markage. A sign would be a good first step but in order to encourage visitors to the site more will need to be done.
Our natural and cultural heritage in mid wales is vast and for this we are hugely fortunate but it is important that we preserve it for our nation and for future generations. In order to do this in the current economic climate we will have to be resourceful, but the potential educational, social, cultural and economic benefits are enormous and are well worth such investment.