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Young Friends listening to the story of St. David.

2012 Inspection and CAER Update

This was the Friends 17th year of inspections at St. Mary’s since we began in 1995. Back then it was just Delia and Rosemary walking up the hill, each St. David’s Day to inspect the condition of the deteriorating ruin, but still with its iconic tower intact. Then, as now, we report back to the ‘powers that be’, asking them to repair this beloved old church. From 1999 onwards, when we officially formed ‘The Friends’, we were joined in the yearly inspections by others interested in preserving St. Mary’s. Over the years our numbers have grown and we now, thanks to local Communities and school groups, include the ‘Young Friends’ among our supporters, whom we hope will carry on in the future.

This 17th inspection day was largely dry, a few light showers but mostly sunny. The Young Friends engaged in activities arranged by Dave Horton of Communities First and Theresa Condick from Glyn Derw School, as part of the St. David’s Day celebrations. Professional cake decorator Deborah Hilberg showed how to make daffodils from coloured sugar paste; and our much-loved story teller Cath Little told exciting stories designed to fire the imagination of young and old about the legend of St. David and how, when he started to preach, the ground rose up beneath him so everyone could see and hear him; also the magical story of King Arthur and his knights still sleeping beneath the hill. Communities First provided tea and the Friends provided Welsh cakes, which were much appreciated by the children, and by those adults who managed to get one.

We are pleased to report that the site looked well cared for and had been cleared of debris the previous day by the Council’s Bereavement Team, whom we thank sincerely. It was lovely to see so many people at the Inspection and to welcome back friends and supporters who had been missing in recent years due to illness, but we were sad to note the absence of others due to illness this year. We found the church walls generally to be in a stable condition and we were particularly heartened to see that last year’s repairs to the north-east corner of the tower wall were still holding, largely, we believe, because stronger mortar was used.
Learning to make daffodils.

There were several loose stones higher up the tower, where vandals have access to climb and cause damage. Also, vegetation is growing in parts of the tower and should be removed, as it weakens the structure. The lower walls are showing minor damage, stones having been pulled away or fallen, and these need to be replaced / repaired and spare stones taken and stored for future use. (E.g. restoring St. Mary’s saddle-back tower!) A current concern is the eastern side of the lovely chancel arch, which needs re-rendering to prevent further damage, possibly resulting in collapse if not addressed with some urgency. We are grateful to our loyal supporter Ben Thomas for bringing this to our attention. Unfortunately, the red and orange graffiti from last year are still in evidence, although Parks and Cemeteries Officer Wayne Thurlby has promised this will be professionally removed. The good news is there has been no fresh daubing.

The biggest disappointment this year is a lot of new and ongoing damage to the graves, particularly those in front of the church, as you walk into the church yard from the lane. We are told by an eyewitness that this has been caused by youths riding quad bikes in the church yard and attempting to pull the heavy stones off the graves, using ropes attached to the bikes. This damage to the gravestones is recent and was not present when we did our grave-mapping exercise in the autumn. We had been hoping that things were improving, but unfortunately the few continue to spoil the peace and tranquillity of this beautiful area for the many. The vandals have also driven a hole through the hedgerow in the North West corner of the graveyard, and have attempted to remove metal railings surrounding one of the graves in this area. The hole in the fence has allowed the farmer’s horses to enter the graveyard resulting in some fouling and damage. There is concern also that vandals are using guns to shoot at the ‘warning notices’ positioned on the large beech tree near the entrance to the church yard.

Our valued supporters assisting with the inspection.
Finally, we had an up-date on the CAER (Caerau and Ely Re-discovering) Project from Dr. Oliver Davis (Olly), who told us of exciting new developments planned. A CAER website will be available shortly and The Friends website will publish a link to it, so do keep checking for information. The next CAER event is taking place on Saturday 24th March from 10am commencing at St. Mary’s, when a survey of the surrounding Iron Age hill fort will take place. All are welcome to join in the exploration led by Olly and his team. For more information see this flier.

Our grateful thanks as usual to all who helped us in making the day special, including Denise Pole from St. Tim’s for the information she obtained from her congregation about folk known or thought to be buried in the church yard, who are not on our current survey list. Please keep the information coming so we can continue to up-date our graves map. Just wish we could as easily guarantee protection from the vandals!

The Friends have no further events planned for this year, but we do have some exciting ideas for the site which we will communicate with you in due course, so do please keep checking our website for information and up-dates. In the meantime, can you please keep visiting St. Mary's and report any damage or vandalism to us, or to Wayne Thurlby, Bereavement Officer, who has an office at the Western Cemetry on the A48 near the Culver, or to Martin Birch, Operational Manager of Bereavement Services at Thornhill Cemetry, Llanishen. Tel: 029 2069 2904.

Thanking you for your continuing support.