Last week the beautiful Bannau Brycheiniog National Park of Craig-y- Nos near Ystradgynlais provided the ideal venue for a day out in the country for those seeking sanctuary and currently living in Swansea.
The setting was a big grassy playing field surrounded by woodland with an elegant 19 th century pavilion at one end.
National Park staff and volunteers of Criw Craggy , working together with volunteers from the Hay,Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees group (HBTSR) and artists from The Big Skill ensured that everyone had a good time. The Park staff set up gazebos and
laid out tables and chairs, and the equipment for games of badminton and croquet. Impressively, they also provided electricity by setting up mobile solar panels which, given that it was a lovely sunny day, generated plenty of power to heat up the water in the
urns to ensure a steady supply of tea and coffee.
HBTSR volunteers provided food, with plenty of fruit, biscuits and cake throughout the
day and a generous buffet lunch. A coach brought around 70 people seeking sanctuary from Swansea and they were joined by a number of Breconshire-based Ukrainian refugees who came with their local hosts. In total there were about 100 visitors representing sixteen different nationalities and of course speaking many different
Perhaps because it was half-term there were lots of children, including some children and grandchildren of volunteers, and of course language doesn’t matter when you are playing
football: this was much the most popular activity for the young ones, although many of them also enjoyed the croquet and badminton.
picking teams for football and clay modelling.
Other activities on offer included making wonderful masks with Nigel, and Karin making rosettes from scraps of fabric using the rag rug technique with Bridget and modelling things in clay with Rebecca. Rebecca reminded us that this was her favourite day of the year. “I love that the visitors are all so happy to engage and chat.’
Claire and her son Matthew spent almost the entire day painting children’s faces: this is not something many of these children have previously experienced and is always extremely popular. And of course another very simple but popular activity is just to sit and talk, often with people you have never met before: to share the experiences of living in Wales as a person seeking sanctuary, of learning English, of how one’s children are doing in school, of how it feels to be waiting for the necessary paperwork to be processed, and
of all the inevitable stress of life being on hold until refugee status is determined.
face-painting and Nigel doing an interview as part of a series of local history recordings.
After lunch a National Park volunteer led people on a gentle walk through the magnificent woods and along the river Tawe. The Craig- y-Nos park was laid out in the later 19 th century according to the wishes of the world-renowned Italian soprano Adelina Patti who
bought the estate in 1878 and spent a great deal of time and money turning it into the beautiful park it is now, with trees from all around the world, meandering paths, ponds and open spaces. She welcomed friends from around the world and had the garden
pavilion built in the 1880s as the centre of outdoor activities including, as on the welcome day last week, badminton and croquet. Doubtless she would have enjoyed the fact that, more than a hundred years later, people from so many different cultures and nations were still making such good use of her playing field and that badminton and croquet kits are still housed in her pavilion, now a Grade II listed building. An Iranian visitor told of how he was settling in Swansea and that the scenery in the park was similar to home- ‘It makes me think of my mother.’
We also had several families who were visiting the park stop and join in for a while, no doubt attracted by the laughter and cake!
Melrose showing Ailsa and Lawrence’s Grandchildren how to pick up litter. Norma and Ann getting ready to leave after a busy day.
HBTSR acknowledge the help of Powys County Council and PAVO in helping to fund this event . We are also extremely grateful to Bannau Brycheiniog National parks, Criw Craggy and The Big Skill- our collaborative efforts made for a truly great day out.
Thanks also to our supporters and volunteers for help in providing food and support. To Lis for coordination, to Claire and Matt for Face painting, to all who came and joined in.