Joel Hamer, Author at Monlife

Residents asked to help create community artwork inspired by nature

Residents of Abergavenny and from across Monmouthshire are invited to help create community art inspired by nature. The Nature Isn’t Neat team and visual artist Stephanie Roberts will be holding two workshops for local people, during which a lasting legacy to the Nature isn’t Neat campaign will be created.

Booking is not necessary to attend the workshops, which are taking place at the Rugby Club at Bailey Park between 9.30am and 1.30pm, on both the 30th June and 11th August. You can drop in at any point during the morning and stay as long as you like at the free sessions, which are suitable for all ages.

The first workshop will involve the design of the artwork using a combination of hand drawn, collage, print and stencil art processes, and will be inviting thoughts and ideas that will inform the artwork. The second workshop in August will focus on making the final mosaic artwork alongside the artist.

Councillor Sara Burch, Monmouthshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Inclusive and Active Communities, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for the community to help create a lasting piece of artwork that reflects the beauty of nature in Monmouthshire, and the Gwent area as a whole. We’d love everyone to spread the word about the workshops. The more people that get involved the better as we want this artwork to reflect the local community. We’re all looking forward to seeing what will be created as a lasting testament to Nature Isn’t Neat and the positive effect its principles have had on wildlife and pollinators across Gwent.”

Cabinet Member for Climate Change and the Environment, Cllr Catrin Maby said: “The impact of Nature Isn’t Neat across Gwent cannot be overstated. The selective mowing approach that allows grasses and wild flowers to thrive for longer is supporting pollinators and a diverse range of wildlife generally. To have the community come together to help celebrate this is truly wonderful. I encourage everyone not only to get involved in these workshops, but also in the Nature Isn’t Neat ethos.”

There is no need to pre-book, but the organisers would appreciate it if those planning to attend let them know by emailing gwentpollinators@monmouthshire.gov.uk so they can get a rough idea of how many are likely to take part. To find out more about Nature Isn’t Neat visit www.monlife.co.uk/outdoor/nature-isnt-neat

This community art project is supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe Investing in Rural Areas and is funded by the Welsh Government’s Enabling of Natural Resources and Well-being Grant.


Half term fun as the Jubilee weekend approaches

Half term fun as the Jubilee weekend approaches

There are plenty of fun events and inspiration for days out in Monmouthshire this coming half term, many of which are free.

Monmouthshire County Council’s MonLife, which runs many of the county’s museums, attractions and leisure centres is offering a chance to make Brilliant Banners and Super Scrapbooks. Families can create their own family banner using printmaking techniques or make a scrapbook to collect and preserve all favourite keepsakes and memories. It’s messy fun for all the family so do take along an old shirt or apron. There’s no need to book but children must be accompanied by an adult.  Suitable for children 4 years and above. The sessions run from 11am – 3pm on the following days: Monday 30th May at Shire Hall, Monmouth; Tuesday 31st May at Abergavenny Museum; Wednesday 1st June at Chepstow Drill Hall.

Monmouthshire County Council’s new cabinet member for Inclusive and Active Communities, Cllr Sara Burch said: “This is a truly historic half term holiday with its four-day celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. After the past two years of extremely restricted social events due to the pandemic, Monmouthshire’s communities will undoubtedly enjoy the opportunity to come together and celebrate with friends, family and neighbours. I am pleased to also see so many fantastic fun, free activities planned across our leisure centres, museums and Community Hubs for this coming week.”

Monmouthshire’s Community Hubs are hosting some special free activities as well. On Monday 30th May, Chepstow Hub is asking children (4-8yrs) to help them celebrate the occasion by decorating special jubilee bunting and join in a special story time, from 2pm. The following day, on Tuesday 31st, also at 2pm, Chepstow Hub is hosting a Baby Rhyme Time for babies. Caldicot Hub is also hosting Baby Rhyme Time on Tuesday 31st May, between 10.30am-11am, followed from 3pm-4pm by a Decorate a Jubilee Bookmark and Royal Themed Story Time for ages 4-8 years.

At Usk Hub there’s a free Story Time and Crown Craft session at 10.30am on 1st June for children up to the age of 7 years. At Abergavenny’s Hub there will be a free Jubilee Stories and Crafts day on 1st June, with children of all ages welcome between 10.15am-10.45am and 2.15pm-2.45pm. Monmouth Hub is also offering free fun, with a Baby Rhyme Time from 10.30am-10.50am on Monday 30th May, and a Queen’s Hat and Making A Crown session from 11am on Wednesday 1st June for ages 4-7years. Gilwern Hub is also hosting a free Drop-In Craft and Colouring opportunity on Tuesday 31st May and Wednesday 1st June.

The Monmouthshire Games returns for more action packed half-term fun from 30th May – 1st June (8am-5pm; £21 per day) for children aged 5-11 years. There are new activities to try each day, learn new skills and make new friends. Call 01633 644800 or visit https://www.monlife.co.uk/monactive/childrens-activities/the-monmouthshire-games/ to book.

For more half-term inspiration take a look at the VisitMonmouthshire.com website which is packed with inspiring ideas for days out across the county, many of them with a Royal theme, such as Jubilee Party Racenight at Chepstow Racecourse on Saturday 4th June (4pm-9pm), a special garden party at Raglan Castle (4th and 5th June) and the Welsh Cider and Perry Festival is taking place at Caldicot Castle between 2nd and 5th June.

All this, plus countless community events will make this half term truly memorable. If you’re planning a community street party to celebrate the jubilee, the message this year is “ditch the disposables” and not buy single-use tableware. There’s are environmentally friendly alternatives, such as encouraging visitors to each bring their own plate and cup, or borrowing party sets from one of the Library of Things (benthyg-cymru.org) or perhaps buy a pre-loved selection of china tableware from one of the Reuse Shops. Based in Llanfoist and Five Lanes recycling centres, the shops sell second-hand essentials at bargain prices and the profits go to tree planting in the county. They’re open from 10am-3pm on Tuesdays (Llanfoist) and Wednesdays (Five Lanes).


MonLife celebrates first birthday of Active 60 programme

MonLife celebrates first birthday of Active 60 programme

This week marks the one-year anniversary of MonLife’s Active 60 programme, which is available for people aged 60 & over to become more physically active through in-person or online classes: including yoga, Pilates, tai-chi and gentle exercise.

Over the last year, MonLife’s Active 60 programme has proved a great success, providing members with not only a fitness programme, but positive mental wellbeing through connecting with others in the community. Active 60 members will be able to link their physical activity to MonLife’s My Wellness app via smart phones and watches creating a digital eco system where activity can be monitored by attending sessions. The most active members from each leisure centre will receive acknowledgement and fitness rewards from MonLife.

Abergavenny’s winner, Alex, started coming to the gym as he wanted to gain strength to push his wife’s wheelchair, finding that exercise improved his general well-being too. Chepstow’s winner, Eve, has been consistently attending swimming and fitness sessions, completing over 40 sessions since signing up.  Gordon, Monmouth’s winner, said he is very appreciative and is making great success with membership, donating MonLife’s t-shirts to a local group sending items to Ukraine. Similarly, Caldicot winner, Lynne, was over the moon with her prizes, and has found the team at Caldicot very supportive and helpful, benefiting her health and wellbeing.

The programme offers a variety of different fitness classes suitable for this age group to help encourage enjoyment through sport, as well as being a social space as people can meet others and chat. MonLife will join with other Welsh leisure providers to deliver its 60 Plus Fit4Life initiative, made possible thanks to funding from Sport Wales.

With over 150 members, MonLife have exciting plans to introduce new sessions for members which includes multi sports, dance, walking sport, walking netball and table tennis. The Sport Development team are looking for alternative exit routes for the programme into local community clubs, such as walking hockey, bowls, touch rugby and park runs, generating a wider variety of activity. This also give these members options to increase social outlets and improve health and well-being.

The first 8 weeks of membership is free for members, being funded by Sport, and £16.50 p/m afterwards.

For more information on how to sign up, click this link: Active 60 – Monlife


Abergavenny Museum welcomes exhibition of Monmouthshire born author Arthur Machen

Abergavenny Museum welcomes exhibition of Monmouthshire born author Arthur Machen

Abergavenny Museum is playing host to some impressive works by Welsh artists this year, all inspired by Monmouthshire’s own Arthur Machen, best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction.

This exhibition features artworks by Jon Langford, Pete Williams and John Selway, created to illustrate the writings of Arthur Machen (1863-1947). Machen drew inspiration from his native Monmouthshire, its landscape, history and Roman remains, as well as the strange and supernatural, the weird and the wonderful. World famous horror author Stephen King describing Machen’s The Great God Pan (1890; 1894) as “Maybe the best [horror story] in the English language”.

The exhibition showcases both original works, as well as print reproductions of artwork commissioned to illustrate recent reprints of Arthur Machen stories by the Newport based publishers The Three Impostors. This includes a new edition of one of Machen’s early works ‘The Chronicle of Clemendy’, which has just been launched as a series of stories set in medieval Monmouthshire, complemented by artist Jon Langford’s illustrations. There are also first editions of Machen’s works, manuscripts, letters and photographs.

Established ten years ago, The Three Imposter’s aim is to produce high quality, scholarly versions of interesting, rare and out-of-print books, along with other related new writing. Their first project was the republication of Arthur Machen’s three volumes of autobiography, continuing to reprint some of Machen’s novels, series of short Machen related stories, and also new and original works by Welsh authors.

The exhibition is now open and will run at Abergavenny Museum until December 18th 2022. It is free admission and open daily from 11am – 4pm except Wednesdays.

For more information, please visit: https://www.monlife.co.uk/heritage/abergavenny-museum-castle/


Work starting on ‘green’ enhancement of Castle Street car park in Abergavenny

Work starting on ‘green’ enhancement of Castle Street car park in Abergavenny

As part of plans to improve ‘green infrastructure’  – the term used to describe the creation of a network of natural and semi-natural features, green spaces, rivers and lakes that intersperse and connect villages and towns – across the county, Monmouthshire County Council has been working on plans to create green corridors through Abergavenny. Work will commence early April on enhancements at Castle Street car park, which will see the planting of additional native trees and wildflower species. The project is designed to support connectivity with other green spaces in the town centre.

Works are expected to take approximately one week to complete, dependent on site conditions. Small sections of the car-park around the planting installation will be temporarily closed off, but Castle Street car park will still remain open for all users. Monmouthshire County Council apologises for any potential inconvenience during the works, and it is hoped that everyone will enjoy the completed planting when next using the car park.

Planting will include rowan and field maple trees in wooden planters, and native wildflower turf on existing amenity grassland. Wildflowers such as autumn hawkbit, betony, birdsfoot trefoil, bladder campion, cats ear, common knapweed, common sorrel, common vetch, common toadflax,  crested dogstail and sheep’s fescue grasses, will grow in these wildflower areas.  These additional native wildflowers and trees will provide more food and habitats for birds and insects, and benefit our pollinators such as bumblebees, honey bees and butterflies, which are already supported by the Council’s pollinator friendly grassland management. 

The new trees and wildflower meadows will also reduce carbon emissions through the storage of carbon, and so help in addressing the issues of climate change. The planting will also support ecosystem resilience, improve water quality, and support general well-being in the town for both residents and visitors.

Following public consultation all respondents supported the aspiration to enhance green corridors across Abergavenny. Ideas proposed have been incorporated where feasible into the current proposals for Castle Street and will be taken on board for future projects. 

If you would like to know more about Green Infrastructure at Monmouthshire County Council, please visit www.monlife.co.uk/outdoor/green-infrastructure


Case Study: MonLife Active 60

Case Study: MonLife Active 60

Objective:

The MonLife Active 60 Programme was made possible with funding from Sport Wales. The programme seeks to encourage lifelong physical activity for people aged 60 plus by offering them support to become more physically active through in-person or online classes.

Members of the Active 60 programme have access to:

• Fitness Suites with a 1 to 1 tailored programme’s / programme reviews.
• Designated Fitness Classes (Fit4Life, Stretch & Tone, Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, Fit4Life Dance, Fit4Life Multi Sports; Fit4Life Walking Netball; Aqua; Aqua Running; Les Mills Virtual BARRE, Les Mills Virtual Body Balance, Les Mills Virtual Sh’Bam)
• Casual Swimming Sessions
• Health Suite & Saunas (Except Monmouth).

Members are encouraged to link their physical activity to our My Wellness App via their smart phone’s or watches. This creates an online dashboard where activity can be monitored by attending gym/class, use of virtual class and outdoor activity such as sport, walking and cycling.

The MonLife Sport Development team also aims to connect members of the programme into local community clubs such as walking hockey; bowls; touch rugby and park run. By helping to create these pathways into the community it provides a wider variety of activities for members to participate in. this in turn helps members continue their health, wellbeing and enjoyment of physical activities as part of their everyday lifestyle.

The Active 60 Programme is also open to members that complete the National Exercise Referral Scheme (NERs) to help support them into lifelong physical activity and health.


Implementation:

  • Fitness Suites with a 1:1 Customer Journey with tailored programme’s / programme reviews.
  • Designated Fitness Classes (Fit4Life, Stretch & Tone, Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, Fit4Life Dance, Fit4Life Multi Sports; Fit4Life Walking Netball; Aqua; Aqua Running; Les Mills Virtual BARRE, Les Mills Virtual Body Balance, Les Mills Virtual Sh’Bam) Casual Swimming Sessions
  • Health Suite & Saunas (Except Monmouth).

We’re continually looking to improve the programme to encourage participation by introducing alternative activities like: Dance, Walking Netball and Multisport.


Results:

All members that join the Active 60 Programme will complete a fitness assessment on week 1 and week 8 . This is reported back to Sport Wales to highlight improvements to health and wellbeing for this age group.

Since the start of the programme in April 2021:

  • 157 members have registered with us.
  • 140 members have programmes on the MyWellness App.
  • 83% have stayed for their first month of the programme.

“After the long layoff due to Long Covid it was good to get back to the gym not only for physical but also mental reasons. Being able to attend the gym is good for the head as it gives me a focus and something to look forward to. The attendance can still be interrupted by days where the energy levels are low, but the improvement is obvious to me, and the programme is now beginning to return to normal and adjustments have been made to keep the progress.”

Active 60 Member


Spring into Easter holiday fun with MonLife

Spring into Easter holiday fun with MonLife

If you’ve been looking for things to do during the upcoming Easter school holidays then look no further, MonLife has the answer – a whole programme of activities and events to keep even children of all ages (and their parents) entertained.

MonLife Learning has hatched some plans for free family fun between 11am and 3pm at Monmouth’s Shire Hall (Monday11th April), Chepstow Drill Hall (Thursday 21st April) and Abergavenny Museum (Friday 22nd April).

The ever-popular Monmouthshire Games (TMG) returns from Monday 11th – Thursday 14th April, and Wednesday 20th – Friday 22nd April. It’s a chance to learn new skills, build confidence, meet new people, and most importantly, have fun through sport. Each day promises to be action packed, and booking is essential as there are 50 spaces available per day. Children and young people between the ages of five and 11 will get the chance to experience, across the sessions, over 30 different sports. Sessions run from 8am to 5pm, and it costs £21 per day. Places can be booked via the MonLife website:

 https://www.monlifeholidayactivities.co.uk/monmouthshire-games/

If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous then why not book one of MonLife Youth Service’s Adventure Taster Days. This series of outdoor adventure days will include – weather permitting – canoeing, caving, rock climbing and high ropes. The trips are open to young people in Years 7-10, so ages 11 to 15. Each trip has a set fee of £15, which covers the activity and transport, and will be led by professional outdoor education staff, accompanied by MonLife Youth Service Staff. Places are limited so booking is essential and the deadline is Friday 8th April, so you’ll need to be quick. Details of these sessions can be found on the MonLife website or by emailing youth@monmouthshire.gov.uk    

The Cabin and Skate park in Abergavenny will run a free Skateboarding Workshop between noon and 2pm on Tuesday 12th April, when a professional skateboarder will help young people learn the basics of skateboarding. Monmouth’s Play Centre at the town’s leisure centre will also be open, offering three-storey action-packed fun. There’s even a special enclosed toddler area. Adults can relax with a cup of tea in the café, with free wi-fi access available. Don’t forget the swimming pools, gyms and classes are open throughout the holidays (excluding Friday 15th, Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th April).

For more information and ideas visit:

 https://www.monlifeholidayactivities.co.uk/activities/


Council gets ready for Nature Isn’t Neat 2022

Council gets ready for Nature Isn’t Neat 2022

Spring is officially here and Monmouthshire County Council’s grounds team are about to start preparing the county’s open spaces for the year ahead.

At the end of last year, the council’s team left some areas for hibernation sites for insects, left seed heads for winter food, as well as other wildlife-friendly considerations. Now, as we head towards summer, the council will be following the selective mowing regime that was such a success last year. This will start with a ‘first’ cut that will see most areas mown to reset the grassland. After this, successive mowing will follow the Nature Isn’t Neat principles to make space for wildlife and pollinator plants in open spaces across Monmouthshire. This includes not mowing under trees (which will reduce stress and disease), creating meadow spaces throughout our open spaces and road verges. Some areas will be cut less frequently or on rotation, and some areas will be left until late summer or early autumn to allow the grasses and flowers to set seed. 

A spokesperson for Monmouthshire County Council said: “The feedback we received about Nature Isn’t Neat showed overwhelming support of the approach and offered some valuable insights on what was working well and where we can improve. Taking account of this feedback, discussions with our operational crews and the reduced impact of Covid on our ability to manage the work, residents will see some changes to the mowing this year compared to the last two years and we will continue to take feedback, and we will continue to make sure that play areas and sports pitches are cut to the full extent.”

Nature Isn’t Neat is an important part of the council’s response to the biodiversity crisis and climate change. The management principles help pollinators and other insects to thrive. This in turn supports other wildlife and improves long term food security. The changes in management also increase the amount of carbon drawn down into the soils and increases the ability of open spaces to absorb water, reducing runoff, flooding and pollution and makes our environment more resilient.

While most council owned green spaces will receive the Nature Isn’t Neat approach, some areas are owned by housing associations and not all of these have adopted the Nature Isn’t Neat approach, although they are mown by the council under contract. It is hoped that more organisations will get onboard with the selective mowing regime through the support of the regional Nature isn’t Neat project, and help the county’s mission to improve biodiversity and support wildlife.

If you would like to get involved, a new Nature isn’t Neat survey will be launched in May, Monmouthshire want to know what you think about its approach to ensure the right balance is maintained between nature and recreation. For more information visit: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/nin/ and www.monlife.co.uk/outdoor/nature-isnt-neat/o.uk/outdoor/nature-isnt-neat/ or follow @MonmouthshireCC and @Natureisntneat on social media channels.


Register now to vote in May, TikTok star reminds Monmouthshire’s young people

Register now to vote in May, TikTok star reminds Monmouthshire’s young people

Monmouthshire County Council’s MonLife Youth Service team have been out in schools across Monmouthshire to promote the up-coming elections. So far they’ve visited Caldicot and Abergavenny comprehensive schools and plan to make their way to Monmouth and Chepstow before the Easter holidays.

At King Henry School VIII in Abergavenny the team were joined by Welsh TikTok Star Lewis Leigh. @Lewisleighh’s TikToks with his nan currently have 1.6million followers –  to create some short clips to encourage young people to register to vote.

The Youth Services sessions have shown that Monmouthshire’s young people are keen to get involved and are interested in knowing more about the basics of the elections and the process. The Youth Services team are planning an online session on Wednesday 13th April for young people 14-25 who are interested in finding out more. They team will be joined by the Youth Council to discuss topics including ‘what is a local election’, ‘how can I take part’ and ‘where can I get information on my ward area and what members will be standing in my area’. If you are under 18 and would like to be involved in the discussion apply via this link https://forms.office.com/r/d7Rm49SBQ9

In this year’s elections, on 5th May, 16 and 17 year-olds will be able to take part but it’s essential that they register to vote before 14th April 2022.  From the age of 14 young people can register to vote here:

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote


Case Study: Green Infrastructure through Section 106

Case Study: Green Infrastructure through Section 106

Objective:

Develop and / or improve community facilities and various open spaces in Monmouthshire via Section 106 funding.


Implementation:

Funding known as Section 106 (S106) can be used to develop and / or improve community facilities and various open spaces. This funding has been secured through a planning obligation request which is a deed or agreement attached to the land that is the subject of a planning permission. Contributions secured through planning obligations are used to mitigate or compensate for the negative impacts of a development. As a result, MonLife’s GI team carried out the following projects:

The Caldicot Corridor Improvements project – Aimed to create enhancements along Woodstock way and Newport road in Caldicot.

Caldicot GI enhancement project – Green Infrastructure (GI) improvements in the eastern part of Caldicot town as part of the Council’s Green Connections project, made along a selection of green route ways and in parks and amenity spaces in Caldicot which form important Active Travel routes through the town.

Caldicot Castle Country Park Pollinators project – Aimed to deliver a grassland enhancement and tree planting scheme. The project delivered a grass cutting plan to maximise wildflower meadows at the site and included ‘over-seeding’ of some areas with native wildflower seed.

The Monmouth Community Nature Spaces project – Complimented the WG Local Places for Nature funding to deliver a total of 11 significantly enhanced greenspaces. The scheme will also result in a reduction in the use of pesticides across the area. Local interest groups have been involved in the site development and are keen to undertake tree and food growing once the sites are complete.

Link Road Corridors Enhancement project (Monmouth) – Fully funded S106 project delivering species and habitat management and enhancement to compensate for loss of habitat to facilitate development nearby.


Results

The Caldicot Corridor Improvements project:

  • – 31 trees, 40 fruit trees, 100 bee friendly shrubs, 4 climbing plants, 1685 indigenous hedgerow plants, 8 sacks of daffodils, 20 trays of pollinator friendly bedding plants.
  • – 100 volunteer hours ( Keep Caldicot Tidy, Caldicot in Bloom, Keep Wales Tidy, Caldicot Castle Community Garden, Local Sustrans rangers, Caldicot Comprehensive School)

Caldicot GI enhancement project:

Caldicot Castle Country Park Pollinators project:

The Monmouth Community Nature Spaces project :

Figure 1: Significant tree planting has taken place across the area including at the Hendre Close open space where a tree nursery will also be located
Figure 2: Tree shrub and hedge planting has been complemented by pollinator plants and wildflower seed to deliver a more diverse space including wild play

11 sites improved for pollinators

9 sites with improved mowing practices

11 areas of pollinator planting

11 tree planting sites

9 areas of community orchard planting

3 community food growing beds

1 tree nursery

11 Improved seating areas

Link Road Corridors Enhancement project (Monmouth)

– 0.4ha grassland /scrub to maintain and enhance grassland species; supporting habitats for slow worm & dormice.

– 1.3ha woodland management supporting a variety of species of breeding birds

– Installation and monitoring of 44 dormice boxes and 2 reptile refugia.

– The scheme involved the Building Bridges group (young people with additional needs) to make dormouse boxes and undertake nut searches in the woodland.