Helena Williams - Monlife

Access Improvement Grants are now available

Amanda Harris in Chepstow during her epic journey along the Wales Coast Path. Credit @amandascoastalchallenge
Amanda Harris in Chepstow during her epic journey along the Wales Coast Path. Credit @amandascoastalchallenge

Applications are now open for two new Access Improvement Grant schemes aimed at improving access at Monmouthshire’s visitor attractions or visitor related events.

The two grant schemes are funded under the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund.  The first is an Access Improvement Events Support Scheme, which offers revenue grants of up to £5,000 for applicants looking to improve access at visitor related events and/or to offer new inclusive activities at events in Monmouthshire.

The second is an Access Improvement Capital Grant Scheme, offering capital grants of up to £25,000 to organisations in Monmouthshire seeking to improve access at visitor related attractions and events.

Applications for both grant schemes will be assessed on a rolling basis between now and the end of December 2024 (when the scheme closes) or before if all the funding is allocated.

Monmouthshire County Council Cabinet Member for Equalities and Engagement, Cllr Angela Sandles, said: “These grants provide a great opportunity to improve the accessibility of events and attractions in Monmouthshire for the benefit of everyone, whether they are here for a day, a week or a lifetime. I would urge any organisation who thinks they might be eligible to put in an application.”

The grant schemes are part of a wider UK Government Shared Prosperity Fund project to develop Monmouthshire as a destination for all. Other planned activities include developments to improve the accessibility of the destination website, www.VisitMonmouthshire.com and specialist advice and training for tourism businesses on access and inclusivity.

You can read more about both new grant schemes and the eligibility criteria here: www.visitmonmouthshire.com/destination-management/access-improvement-grants.

Monmouthshire County Council Cabinet Member for Equalities and Engagement Cllr. Angela Sandles
Monmouthshire County Council Cabinet Member for Equalities and Engagement Cllr. Angela Sandles

New sports facilities at Caldicot Leisure Centre.

Photo on the new MUGA at Caldicot Leisure centre. From left to right, Cllr Jackie Strong, Cllr I R Shillabeer, Caldicot Town Council, Chair of Monmouthshire County Council Cllr Meirion Howells, Cabinet Member for Education Cllr Martyn Groucutt, Joe Killingley, Caldicot Leisure Centre Manager and Jack Harris, Community and Sport Development Officer.
Cllr Jackie Strong, Cllr I R Shillabeer, Caldicot Town Council, Chair of Monmouthshire County Council Cllr Meirion Howells, Cabinet Member for Education Cllr Martyn Groucutt, Joe Killingley, Caldicot Leisure Centre Manager and Jack Harris, Community and Sport Development Officer.

Monmouthshire County Council held an official opening of the Caldicot Leisure Centre’s new basketball, netball and tennis courts on the 1st of November.

The dual-use site will cater for both curriculum usage, with the on-site secondary school and local cluster primary schools, as well as the community usage during evenings and weekends, thanks to the new LED bulb floodlights above the courts. Bookings can be made via the website, app or at the reception in the leisure centre.

Caldicot Leisure Centre provides a fantastic base for many clubs, especially during the winter months. In addition to the new dual-use courts which have brand new state-of-the art height-adjustable basketball hoops, that cater for all ages and abilities, visitors can access a floodlit 3G pitch (FIFA approved), full-size Astroturf pitch, multipurpose sports hall, fitness suite, squash courts and a 20m swimming pool. To find out more about the leisure centre, please visit https://www.monlife.co.uk/monactive/caldicot-leisure-centre/.

Monmouthshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Equalities and Engagement, Cllr Angela Sandles, said: “The new courts that are officially opening today will play a crucial part in allowing local pupils, youth groups, residents and the wider community to lead a healthy active lifestyle all year round. I can’t wait to see everyone reap the benefits of this amazing new facility.”

Cabinet Member for Equalities and Engagement Cllr Angela Sandles Joe Killingley, Caldicot Leisure Centre manager on the new improved Basketball court at Caldicot Leisure Centre
MCC Cabinet Member for Equalities and Engagement Cllr Angela Sandles Joe Killingley, Caldicot Leisure Centre manager on the new MUGA at Caldicot Leisure Centre

Spooktacular fun for all the family in Monmouthshire this half term

Half term is nearly here and this autumn there will be a host of family fun to enjoy up and down Monmouthshire.

From swimming to crafts, football to something spooktacular, there will be something for the whole family to enjoy over the week of autumn half term (October 30 – November 5).

MonLife are laying on an array of activities to keep your little ones occupied during half term.

There will be swimming, football and the return of the Monmouthshire Games.

During half term, MonLife will also hold FREE Active Play sessions at Abergavenny, Chepstow, Caldicot and Monmouth leisure centres. The ‘Play’ programme is 1 hour and 55 minutes, where children aged 5-11 can be left with our highly trained and experienced playworkers and choose from a range of activities to play, including physical play, arts and crafts, archery or wherever their imagination takes them. 

MonLife also will be holding free Stay and Play sessions during half term, where children and families can freely choose from many activities including, physical play, arts and crafts, den building or wherever their imagination takes them. Please note that parental supervision is required for children under the age of 11!

At Caldicot Castle, visitors can enjoy a ghoulish time this Halloween with a series of family-friendly one-hour sessions.

Halloween crafts and games will be in the banquet hall, followed by a scary scarecrow pumpkin trail through our courtyard and towers.

Tintern Old Station offers more scary fare, where children can enjoy a spooky pumpkin trail, Halloween mask-making, and craft activities.

Welsh Museums Festival is back this coming October, with a whole week of special events and activities for all ages at museums across our sites. Abergavenny, Chepstow and Shire Hall museums are also getting into the spirit of things with Halloween craft events – no booking required. Also, have fun with friends and family at our half-term craft afternoon for kids led by the creative MonLife Heritage Museums Volunteers, Thursday 2 November 2-4pm, The Drill Hall, Lower Church Street Chepstow.

Join us at The Zone, Caldicot or The Cabin, Abergavenny youth clubs for our Halloween Parties between 4-9pm on Tuesday 31st October.  These are an open session for young people to attend with Halloween themed activities for ages 11+

Take a bird’s eye view of the humans in a brand-new family show from M6 Theatre at The Borough Theatre this half term. Filled with clowning, original song and beautiful shadow play, this highly physical show uses minimal language to tell a tale about taking care, discovering what’s important and learning how to fly.

If your appetite for all things spooktacular has not yet been sated, the libraries in Abergavenny, Monmouth, Chepstow, Caldicot and Usk are all laying on themed events too.

In Chepstow, you can even search for the Golden Ticket, which will be a ticket hidden every day in the library throughout half-term in the children’s area. Speak to a member of staff to claim your prize.

Cllr. Angela Sandles, cabinet member for equalities and engagement, said: “Half term in Monmouthshire this autumn is sure to be enjoyed by children and their parents across the county.
“There is so much to do and I cannot wait to hear about all the fun being had at the various spooky events.” To find out more about all the events and activities across Monmouthshire this autumn half term, visit Events – Monlife

Leaders of the future inspired to become Young Ambassadors at annual conference

Monmouthshire school children have been getting inspired to become leaders through sport thanks to the return of the Bronze Young Ambassadors Conference.

The annual conference took place at Gilwern Outdoor Adventure Centre on Friday 20th October.  Children in year 6 represented primary schools right across Monmouthshire with the focus of the conference centred around health, wellbeing, physical activity and leadership.

Throughout the day the Young Ambassadors took part in a variety of workshops – such as mentoring their peers, public speaking, and pupil consultations – as well as practical sessions delivered by external partners.  Since 2017, more than 5,300 pupils have taken part in the year 5 playmaker programme, with more than 350 then going on to represent their school in the year 6 Bronze Young Ambassador programme. The programme, which has been recognised as best practice, is now being replicated nationally and internationally – proving a platform for young people to develop their leadership skills through sport.

The Bronze Young Ambassador Programme is the start of the journey for many young people with four leadership academies established across all comprehensive schools in Monmouthshire.  The leadership academies continue to embed messages set in the programme and provide opportunities for young people to support physical activity within their school and local community, whilst gaining vital volunteering experience.  A clear route has been established for young people to develop their skills and gain employment opportunities through the playmaker to post 16 employment pathway.

As well as the young ambassadors, in attendance on the day were the Chair of the Monmouthshire Council Meirion Howells and Cabinet Member for Equalities & Engagement Angela Sandles.

Cllr. Sandles said: “The Bronze Young Ambassador Programme is such an important tool to promote the benefits of sport, physical activity and healthy living.  It was great to see so many enthusiastic young people here in Gilwern today. They took to the activities whole-heartedly and seemed to get a lot out of the day.  I look forward to seeing how our Young Ambassadors use what they have learnt today to help spread positive messages of wellbeing back at their schools.” For more information on Sport Development programmes, or to contact the team, please email sport@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Partnership project to improve sustainability of the public rights of way network

Following a successful application to the Welsh Government’s Access Improvement Grant, Monmouthshire County Council is launching the Paths to Community Project. 

This project focuses on developing ways to make the public rights of way network more sustainable in the long term and will contribute towards social justice, wellbeing and resilient communities targets.

Part of the project enables Monlife Countryside Access staff to work with community volunteer groups, providing them with materials, training and information, while making physical improvements to signage and the accessibility of routes.

To expand upon this project, Monmouthshire County Council has signed a Service Level Agreement with Ramblers Cymru – the first of its kind in Wales or England.

This will allow the Council to utilise part of this Welsh Government Access Improvement Funding to work with three more community volunteer groups in Monmouthshire. The funding will be administered by the Council, with Ramblers Cymru providing a full-time officer to provide a programme of events, training and engagement to reach wider audiences. 

A public launch event is being held between 2pm and 4pm on Saturday, October 28 at Magor and Undy Community Hub. This event will allow residents to come along and learn more about the project and how they can get involved.

Cllr. Catrin Maby, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and the Environment said: “We are delighted to be working with Ramblers Cymru to help improve local paths and access to nature. The new Service Level Agreement with the ramblers is a significant partnership which allows us to improve the public rights of way here in Monmouthshire. This will provide residents and visitors with the best routes to go walking or hiking, connecting communities and local economies.

“Our paths are gateways which connect our communities and help us get out into the natural environment. I would urge anyone interested to join the Walk and Talks events and the launch on October 28.”

Angela Charlton, Director of Ramblers Cymru said : “We are looking for volunteers to get involved with our work to help us put walking at the heart of communities and provide people with the opportunity to learn new skills. If you are passionate about walking in your community, then we would love to hear from you.”

Walk and Talks events:

Monmouth: Wednesday, October 25, 2pm to 4pm, starting at the Skatepark car park, Rockfield Road, Monmouth, NP25 5AS

Usk: Thursday, October 26, 2pm to 4pm, starting at Cefn Illa Nature Reserve car park

If you are unable to attend one of the events and would like to get involved or find out more, please contact rhys.wynne-jones@ramblers.org.uk

We would love if you could help us by filling out this questionnaire on Public Rights of Way in Monmouthshire to help us with our ‘Paths to Communities’ project launching this week. CLICK HERE

Get more from your journey when you active travel in Monmouthshire

Monmouthshire County Council is celebrating 10 years since the Active Travel Act was launched in Wales.

Although the concept of active travel has been around for a while, not everyone is familiar with the term. Active travel describes making essential journeys, such as travelling to work, on the school run or travelling to appointments, by foot or by wheeling. The wheeling part can cover bicycles (electric or just by pedal power), scooters, wheelchairs, adapted bicycles or mobility scooters etc. 

Cllr. Catrin Maby, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment, said: “I would like to thank all of Monmouthshire’s residents who actively travel, walking or wheeling for essential journeys such as the commute to work. People of all ages and abilities can wheel or walk, and every journey we take without the car contributes to making a real difference. 

“We are blessed here in Monmouthshire with beautiful countryside a stone’s throw from our towns and villages, so choosing active travel has the added benefit of being able to really connect with nature and see things you simply don’t get the chance to when driving. Find out more about active travel in Monmouthshire by visiting the MonLife website and discover what’s happening in your area.” 

To find out about active travel projects visit https://www.monlife.co.uk/outdoor/active-travel/ and click on one of the towns listed. There are schemes being progressed across the county, so now’s the time to embrace active travel and get more from your journey. 

Llanfoist to Abergavenny Active Travel bridge works commence

Artist's impression of the new Active Travel bridge linking Llanfoist and Abergavenny

As part of the Welsh Government Active Travel funding awarded in 2023/24, phase 1 construction on the Llanfoist to Abergavenny Active Travel bridge (artist’s impression above) will commence on Monday 18th September, 2023.

The works comprise of earthworks for the south ramp only initially, on the Llanfoist side of the River Usk and will take approximately four weeks to complete. These establishment works will be carried out by the Monmouthshire County Council’s operations team. Access to the bank will be maintained.

Construction will be paused over winter, after which the remaining elements of this ramp, the northside ramp and the main bridge structure will be constructed next year. It is currently planned to be completed by December 2024.

This work does not include any routes within Castle Meadows this year. The planning application for the Castle Meadows paths will be considered at the October planning meeting at Monmouthshire County Council.

For further information on the Llanfoist to Abergavenny Active Travel scheme, please see: https://www.monlife.co.uk/castle-meadows-faq/

Minister visits Abergavenny summer programmes

Minister for Finance and Local Government Rebecca Evans MS visited Monmouthshire County Council’s summer programmes in Abergavenny recently.

Accompanied by Monmouthshire County Council Leader Cllr. Mary Ann Brocklesby and Cllr. Angela Sandles, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Engagement, the Minister, was shown around two summer provisions currently being offered.

Over the school holidays, young people can participate in summer programmes across Monmouthshire. Supported by the Welsh Local Government Association Food and Fun Programme, children in the county will have a safe space to participate in activities and access healthy food throughout the summer.

During the visit, the Minister was shown the current provision at Deri View Primary School and The Cabin youth centre. 

At Deri View Primary School, the Minister was shown the Food and Fun programme, which allows primary school children to do physical activities and learn about food and nutrition. The Fun and Food programme is being run across four sites in Monmouthshire for 24 days over the summer. Across the programmes in Caldicot, Chepstow, Monmouth and Abergavenny, over 700 children have registered to participate this summer.

Along with providing opportunities for children and young people, the Food and Fun programme provides employment locally, with more than 75 people employed to deliver the scheme.

Minister for Finance and Local Government Rebecca Evans MS , MCC Leader Cllr. Mary Ann Brocklesby and Cllr Angela Sandles, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Engagement at Deri View Food and Fun programme

Over the summer, youth centres across the county are open for young people aged 11-25 to visit. Supported by the Welsh Local Government Association Direct Food Support Scheme, at The Cabin there are a variety of activities on offer depending on the young people’s needs, wants and ideas. These have included developing life skills through cooking and food activities. All the activities in youth centres across the county have been designed with full consideration of the priorities identified by young people through this year’s Make your Mark consultation.

Minister for Finance and Local Government Rebecca Evans MS , MCC Leader Cllr. Mary Ann Brocklesby and Cllr Angela Sandles, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Engagement at The Cabin Youth Centre, Abergavenny.

The Make your Mark Consultation provided the opportunity for young people across Monmouthshire to give feedback on issues that they felt impacted their lives. Young people were provided with ten topics chosen by the Monmouthshire Youth Council. From the ten topics discussed this year, young people said their greatest concern was the cost of living crisis, with the impact on their social lives, future opportunities, and overall wellbeing being an influence on this. 

Monmouthshire County Council’s Leader, Cllr. Mary Ann Brocklesby said: ” It was fantastic to welcome the Minister to Abergavenny and show the fantastic opportunities we provide across the school holidays. Through funding by Welsh Local Government Association, young people in Monmouthshire have access to fun and educational programmes across the summer. It was fantastic to see the smiles on everyone’s faces and speak to the young people in attendance.”

MonLife provides a vast range of activities for children and young people this summer. For more information, visit: www.monlife.co.uk/school-holiday-activities 

Local children have a splashing time at MonLife’s Swimming Festival

MonLife’s recent School Swimming Festival welcomed over 345 primary school children to participate in inclusive aquatic activities across Monmouthshire.

Festivals in Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth leisure centres allowed pupils to participate in a series of non-competitive fun events, including floats, strokes and woggle races.

The events that saw 23 primary schools participate, were supported by Swim Wales and 24 MonLife Leadership Academy students. The MonLife Leadership Academy provides support for young people in Monmouthshire to achieve their full potential. Participants gain valuable skills through sport that can be transferred into everyday life.

Cllr Sara Burch, Cabinet Member for Inclusive and Active Communities said:

“These events provided a great opportunity for our young swimmers across Monmouthshire to enjoy fun activities without any pressure to be competitive. The festival demonstrated just how rewarding an active lifestyle can be. Well done to all the children who took part.”

Each of MonLife’s leisure centres features a swimming pool open for public admission, private bookings and classes. All pools are open seven days a week. Throughout the year, all MonLife’s leisure centres have free swimming opportunities. To take advantage of free swimming, participants will need a MonLife card that can be collected at any of MonLife’s leisure centres.

Find further information on free swimming times and other school holiday activities on the MonLife’s website: www.monlife.co.uk/school-holiday-activities/

For more information about current Sport Development initiatives, please visit – www.monlife.co.uk/connect/sports-development or email sport@monmouthshire.gov.uk

Turner’s inspiring painting on display at Chepstow Museum

Chepstow Castle. Painted in 1794 by JMW Turner
Chepstow Castle. Painted in 1794 by JMW Turner

An important watercolour of Chepstow Castle painted by JMW Turner in 1794 has been unveiled in the town’s museum. The work, titled ‘Chepstow Castle on the River Wye Monmouthshire Wales’ is now on public display at Chepstow Museum for residents and visitors to admire. The evocative painting is being displayed as part of an exhibition on The Wye Tour in a dedicated gallery space.

The watercolour dated 1794, was painted when Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was 19 years old. It was produced on his first tour, which was a journey into South Wales, when Chepstow was his first port of call after crossing the Severn. This view of the castle and riverside the one that would have greeted him.

Cllr. Sara Burch, Cabinet Member for Active and Inclusive Communities, said:

“Having access outside of a major city, to work by such an important artist is really important. In bringing art back to the source of its inspiration, we hope that it will give communities and visitors the chance to appreciate and be inspired by these artworks. They celebrate the townscape as well as the landscape of the Wye Valley. I would encourage everyone to visit the free exhibition when they can, it’s a fascinating look at the changing face of the area.”
Cllr Sara Burch with some of the MonLife team at the museum
Cllr Sara Burch with some of the MonLife team at the museum

Chepstow Museum has been building its collection of original artworks of the Wye Valley by late 18th and early 19th century artists with the support of The Purchase Grant Fund administered by the V&A, Art Fund, the Beecroft Bequest and strategically with the National Lottery Heritage Fund Collecting Cultures Scheme project focused on the Wye Tour. The purchase of the Turner watercolour was funded by these organisations, supported by the Museum Acquisition Fund.

The Wye Tour was a voyage down the River Wye from Ross to Chepstow. It brought artists, writers and early tourists to the area who were attracted by its picturesque scenery and romantic ruins. Its heyday was from 1770 to 1850, the period that coincided with the great development of watercolours. It has been the main focus of Chepstow Museum’s active collecting for the last 15 years and it has brought together significant works by important artists of the period.

Monmouthshire’s museum collections have also become a source of images for writers, journalists and film makers looking for illustrations of the Wye Valley and the Wye Tour. It is hoped that it will in its turn continue to inspire visitors to come to Chepstow and the Wye Valley to see its scenery for themselves, and the artworks at Chepstow Museum.

The Wye Tour exhibition is open every day 11am-4pm (except Weds) and will run until Sunday 17th December, 2023 at Chepstow Museum. For more information about Monmouthshire’s museums visit www.monlife.co.uk/heritage/