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Friends of St Mary's Church at Caerau

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A beacon of hope. Courtesy of Nick Williams from South
Wales Police.

Amazing Day - Annual Inspection 2014

About 50 people attended the Friends 20th annual Inspection on 1st March St. David's Day. Our crowd was swelled by heritage trail walkers from near-by parishes who were most welcome. We were lucky with the weather, the sun shone for the first time in months and there was no need for the rain shelter as the day was warm and dry. We had people and children aged from 18 months to those in their 90ís. We were particularly pleased to welcome back two of our oldest supporters, Ken and Sybil Pinches. Ken was one of Father Jonesís main helpers in the 1960's rebuilding, as was Charles Jewell, whose daughter Jean was also present. Although officially not allowed in the graveyard while repairs are awaited, many people took the opportunity to inspect the church and graves. Naturally we drew attention to the safety notices posted outside of the church grounds.

Our tea and welsh cakes were enjoyed by everyone and people were pleasantly surprised to see what an attractive state the site was in: beautifully clear of litter and with daffodils coming into bloom, where the Taskforce group had earlier planted them. The paths around the church building were clear of weeds, and vegetation had been removed from the walls. The hedges had recently been cut and grass mown.

News of recent events was relayed by Delia who said that earlier this year we were allegedly on the brink of losing the wonderful iconic ruin, when a survey organized by the Council recommended demolition on the grounds that the tower and other parts were unstable and there was risk to life and limb.

Thank heavens we didn't accept this. Those of us who have been involved with St. Mary's for many years asked the Council to obtain a second opinion, and I'm pleased to say we had the support of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings(SPAB) and our own Cadw, and also several Friends supporters who have knowledge and expertise in the field, in particular Roger Wools. Roger helped Father Jones with some of the rebuild after school and at weekends and also sang in St. Mary's choir. Roger went on to become an architect and his advice to and support of the Friends work over the years has been invaluable.

Supporters were told that the second survey requested by the Friends had shown the church structure to be generally safe but in need of repointing and repairs; these repairs are now outstanding and urgently required if St. Mary's is to survive, and we are pleased to learn that the Council is preparing to carry out these repairs over the course of this year. However, the outcome remains uncertain until this actually happens.

We hope meanwhile that the restrictions on entry to the site will be lifted in order to allow visitors and local people access to the church.

Delia shares news of St. Mary's with supporters.
Delia reminded everyone of the strong report received from St. Mary's sister churches, St. Timothy's and St. David's and Brian Robjohn's stirring article, "A Call To Arms" which was printed in the February edition of the Parish Magazine.

We hope that the urgent repairs will go ahead without too much more delay, and protection will be given against the weather and against vandals' fingers picking away at the soft mortar until it has a chance to harden.

The Friends think it astonishing that little or nothing has been done to guard this important historic site, and in today's high tech age there must be ways to reduce the level of vandalism. The Friends will work hard with the police and authorities to find ways to improve future security of the site.

Security must be improved, particularly if, as recently suggested, the Friends undertake to form a Trust to raise money from the Heritage lottery fund and elsewhere to support on-going maintenance of St. Mary's buildings and graveyard, after the outstanding repairs are completed.

Taskforce News

All last year, the Taskforce group made up of dedicated local residents and others spent several hours each month digging weeds out the gravel paths around the church building, clearing away rubbish and trimming overgrown brambles and bushes. We have very welcome support and help with this from the Council Bereavement Department. On our last visit, in November, before we were stopped by the health & safety concerns, we planted lots of spring bulbs, many of which are visible today.

Once we get the all clear for safety, we plan to resume our monthly working parties to get the building and graveyard looking as good as we can. Please join us if you have a couple of hours to spare on the first Tuesday each month. We will let you know when we will be starting again.

We would also encourage everyone to visit St. Mary's and the hill as often as time and weather allows, and to report damage and vandalism and litter dropping to the appropriate authorities, or to the Friends website/email so that we can deal with it.

Paul Kemble representing CAER spoke about his positive experience with the CAER archaeology project which has been enjoyed by Paul & others who have worked on the site and taken part in the 'Dig Caerau' event last summer. There are lots of interesting projects in the pipeline for this year so look out for them on the CAER website and on Facebook and Twitter.

Local councillor Peter Bradbury spoke of his long-standing commitment to the area and to the survival of St. Maryís.

Our grateful thanks as ever to all our Friends and Supporters.

Delia Jay
Founder, The Friends of St. Mary's.

Cleared paths around the church. Enjoying a cuppa and Welsh cakes.
Paul talks about his experience with CAER. Peter Bradbury, Caerau Councillor.