Rebecca Perry, Author at Monlife

First Minister celebrates 10 years of the Wales Coastal Path with visit to Chepstow

The Wales Coastal Path is celebrating its tenth anniversary this week, with celebrations beginning with First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, meeting with local walkers, artists and pupils in Chepstow on Thursday 11th May.

With Chepstow being the official start (or finish) of the Coastal Path, Mark Drakeford met with local walkers and creatives in the town after being greeted by pupils of the Dell Primary school. The 870-mile (1,400 km) long-distance walking trail runs from the Welsh border near Chester to Chepstow, connecting historic coastal trails, such as Anglesey, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Award winning broadcaster and National Poet of Wales, Ifor ap Glyn wrote a poem especially for the milestone, naming it ‘A Wales Coast Path Blessing’. The poem was presented by Ifor at Thursday’s event just after the First Minister unveiled a bespoke, handcrafted bench designed by Tony Bonnici from Newport Wrought Ironwork, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Coastal Path.

Ifor ap Glyn reading his poem ‘A Wales Coast Path Blessing’ to pupils of The Dell Primary

Thursday’s event in Chepstow also showcased art installations from local artists Sheila Moya Harris and Toby Garratt, showcasing examples of seal sculptures, linking to the importance of the environment along Wales Coastal Path. The sculptures will be exhibited by the riverside in Chepstow as part of the Festival of Arts on July 16th, and then placed on a seal trail around the town’s landmarks for the rest of the year.

Local artists Sheila Moya Harris & Tony Garratt

Year 2 pupils from the Dell Primary School gave a delightful performance of Penblwydd Hapus/Happy Birthday to celebrate the 10-year milestone, accompanied with handmade cakes made from Chepstow School’s year 9 ‘Bake off’ winners.

The Wales Coast Path has made it easier than ever to explore Wales’ coastline. In Monmouthshire, you can enjoy the trail in short sections or walk the whole 14-mile (22km) length from Chepstow to Magor. Black Rock is a popular spot along the Coastal Path as it offers spectacular views of the Severn Bridge and the Prince of Wales Bridge, and a peaceful spot to enjoy picnics and bird watching.

Year 2 pupils from The Dell Primary celebrate the milestone

A year-long programme of events and activities celebrating the Wales Coast Path will take place throughout 2022, including walking festivals, virtual challenges and art installations. Since its opening in 2012, the Wales Coast Path has established itself as a beacon of our nation’s natural beauty. The path guides walkers along Wales’ picturesque coastline, weaving its way past a hundred beaches and 16 castles.

Tony Bonnici presents his bespoke, handcrafted bench to the First Minister

First Minister Mark Drakeford, who spent time meeting all the people involved in the celebrations, said: “The coastal path is one of the crowning glories of Wales and one of the proudest achievements of devolution. I would like to thank all those involved in the management of the path. Particularly the staff and volunteers, who are out in all weathers, working hard to maintain the path to such high standards. If I had to choose my favourite stretch of the path, the portion between Pendine and Amroth would be a candidate: starting in my own home county of Carmarthenshire and ending in Pembrokeshire. It may not be the most well-known part of the path, but it offers huge variety: some challenging climbs, outstanding variety of flowers, secret coves and plenty of historical interest.”

Chepstow School’s ‘Bake off’ winners talk with the First Minister

The Welsh Government will build on the successes of the first ten years so that more people are able to enjoy the path, from more backgrounds, more easily, and with more benefits for local communities, businesses and the environment.

If you would like to walk a stretch of the Wales Coastal Path in Monmouthshire, you can find out more information here: Wales Coast Path – Visit MonmouthshireTags: ChepstowFirst MinisterMark DrakefordMonmouthshireWales Coast PathWales Coastal Path


New trees planted in Bailey Park to improve Green Infrastructure

With help from Cantref Primary School’s eco club, Abergavenny’s Bailey Park now has five brand new English Oak trees and five Copper Beech trees, which have been dedicated to Her Majesty the Queen for the Platinum Jubilee under the Queen’s Green Canopy project.

After inspections of Bailey Park’s green infrastructure, a number of the trees in the park had to be removed for safety reasons. To compensate for the loss, 21 trees have been planted this year. Working well as a team in some challenging weather, Cantref Primary School’s eco club gave a helping hand to the council’s grounds staff with the planting of ten of the new trees, five English Oak and five Copper Beech. The Friends of Bailey Park have also planted wildflowers during the winter and plan to improve the park’s green infrastructure will be developed this summer, including a review of the brook and a long term tree management and planting plan.

Grants from Welsh Government, through the Gwent Green Grid Partnership (GGGP), have allowed the council to improve and develop green infrastructure in Monmouthshire, with Bailey Park being the latest beneficiary. The GGGP is a three-year project running from March 2020 to March 2023.  

The GGGP aims to improve and develop green infrastructure – a term used to describe the network of natural and semi-natural features, green spaces, rivers and lakes that intersperse and connect villages, towns and cities – as well as providing green job opportunities within the area.

A spokesperson for Monmouthshire County Council said: “Improving our green infrastructure is so important to our green spaces. The Gwent Green Grid Partnership aims to improve green infrastructure in the Gwent area, providing real benefits to local communities. Green infrastructure has a crucial role to play in addressing nature, climate and health emergencies. It is wonderful to see the enthusiasm of local school children planting trees in Bailey Park to improve our natural environment, and their local park.”

Monmouthshire County Council, working with Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Newport and Torfaen councils as well as Natural Resources Wales, Forest Research and the Severn Wye Energy Agency, leads the GGG Partnership. The organisations will work together to ensure that the area’s natural resources are healthy, resilient to pressures and threats and thereby better able to provide vital health and well-being benefits for current and future generations.

This 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.


The next steps in the improvement of Chepstow Leisure Centre

Chepstow Swimming Pool

At Wednesday’s meeting of Monmouthshire County Council’s full cabinet, the ongoing improvements to Chepstow Leisure Centre was discussed, which when completed will represent a total investment of more than £1.6million.

The programme of work, which has been underway since March 2021, forms part of the council’s ‘Looking Ahead, Delivering Now Our Strategy to Summer 2022. Chepstow Leisure Centre is benefiting from significant improvements to facilities which include the sports hall, outdoor playing facilities and pitches, swimming and fitness facilities. The investment is also testament to Monmouthshire County Council’s MonLife commitment to addressing the issue of health inequality, enabling more people have an improved experience in its leisure centres, and more opportunities to continue to increase their health and wellbeing. 

There are three main phases of the investment for the overall project at the Chepstow site. The first phase included measures as part of the council’s aim to reduce its carbon footprint and is already completed. Improvements included LED lighting and shower upgrades, swimming pool plant and boiler replacements and a refurbishment of the pool hall.

The second phase starts next week and is expected to be completed by July. This will see health, fitness and wellbeing improvements including an upgrade of the fitness and studio equipment.

The third and final phase of proposed improvements to the outdoor facilities and pitches see improvements to the outdoor play areas and pitches. In December 2021, MonLife was invited to apply for a grant from the Welsh Government, via Sport Wales, and a separate grant from Football Association of Wales, to develop the outdoor playing facilities and pitches at Chepstow Comprehensive School and Leisure Centre.  The overall total project funding and grant funding was £101,997 from Monmouthshire County Council, with an additional £433,058 sought from the funding bodies.

The proposed project of improvements has been developed in consultation with Chepstow Leisure Centre, Chepstow Comprehensive School, Sport Wales, Football Association of Wales, Hockey Wales and Monmouthshire Junior Football League.

Cllr. Lisa Dymock, cabinet member for Social Wellbeing said: “These proposed improvements will see the Chepstow site future-proofed, with the ability to enhance and improve many different sports, enabling growth and providing opportunities for all.

“The sustainability of outdoor facilities, fresh air and the ability to exercise and play in a safe, secure environment.is more important than ever before. The leisure centre will continue to build on the excellent work already being undertaken to increase provision and an improved community sport hub.”


Council issues update on velo park plans for Abergavenny

Plans for a new velo park at Llanfoist, Abergavenny were discussed at Monmouthshire County Council’s meeting of full cabinet on Wednesday 2nd March. The project would help provide facilities for cyclists across Monmouthshire, as well as hosting some local and national events.

Council members agreed that a capital budget of £492,000 be created in the 2021/22 financial year to fund the construction of the first phase of the Abergavenny velo park. The report was put forward by Councillor Lisa Dymock, cabinet member for Social Wellbeing, who said: “The project has been developed in consultation with a number of stakeholders including Sport Wales, British Cycling, the national governing body and two local cycling clubs. The provision of a velo park in Llanfoist is a key component of the council’s emerging cycling strategy and is intended to form part of a network of regional facilities promoted by Welsh Cycling, the governing body of the sport in Wales.”

In 2020 the council was awarded a grant from the Welsh Government, via Sport Wales, to develop a project for the construction of a velo park (to include a purpose-built closed road circuit (CRC) and some recreational trails) at Racecourse Farm, Llanfoist.

The project has been complex to develop, because of the site’s topography, biodiversity and ecology, with a number of protected species identified on or immediately adjacent to the site.

The council has been working closely with senior managers at Welsh Cycling and with local cycling clubs to develop proposals for ongoing management of the velo park, which will be comparable to those at other similar facilities elsewhere in Wales and the UK. The site will host a range of cycling related activities and events organised by the council, local cycling clubs and by Welsh Cycling. It will also be available for use by schools and will have a booking facility for cycling clubs to hire, so as to produce income to offset annual running costs. At this stage it is

envisaged that a limited number of regional or national events may be held on the site each year.

Temporary/overflow parking provision has been made in the management plan on nearby land in council ownership. Use of the site will not be restricted to just cycling and will include opportunities for all wheeled sports (including wheelchair users, roller blades, etc.), walking and running.

There is a separate but adjoining proposal by the owner of Grove Farm and the Gwent Wildlife Trust, with support from Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, to develop a wetland reserve on the water meadows situated between the River Usk and the proposed velo park. The wetland proposal is located on land in council ownership, which could provide the opportunity for future partnership on managing the new habitats proposed as part of the velo track.

Further updates will be announced as the project progresses.


Share your feedback on the existing connections through Abergavenny’s Castle Meadows

Monmouthshire County Council has launched a survey seeking views on how residents would like to use existing paths and access points for Castle Meadows in Abergavenny. 

Plans have been launched that propose improvements to the existing walking and cycling routes across Castle Meadows. This entails resurfacing and widening specific existing routes across Castle Meadows to 3m wide, to make them active travel compliant shared pedestrian/cycle routes. The proposals also include a replacement of the existing footbridge over the River Gavenny, with a new 3m wide, active travel compliant shared pedestrian/cycle bridge. This proposal fits in to the wider Abergavenny active travel scheme, including a new bridge across the River Usk and community connections into Llanfoist and beyond, providing a cohesive network of routes across the settlement. The proposals can be found on the council’s website: Castle Meadows, Abergavenny – The Proposals – Monmouthshire

Each of the proposed new routes, including the upgraded bridges, will be fully lit by low-level lighting. In addition, it is proposed to upgrade the existing gates on entry/exit from Castle Meadows, to make them more accessible to all users. These gates will allow to retain the cattle within Castle Meadows. The biodiversity and ecological sensitivity of Castle Meadows is a key factor in the management of the site and will remain so.  The active travel programme takes these matters very seriously and will be looking to add benefit to the biodiversity of the site as part of the scheme.

Active Travel remains a key priority to Monmouthshire County Council in the response to Climate Change and in line with the Welsh Government Transport Hierarchy. The purpose of Active Travel is to provide a network of routes, initially focusing on the Council’s seven designated localities, to provide opportunities to change shorter car journeys for more active modes of transport, such as walking, cycling and wheeling

Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for Infrastructure, Cllr. Jane Pratt said: “We want as many residents as possible to participate in the survey so we can shape the county’s accessibility in the best way possible. It is extremely important that residents share their thoughts and opinions.”

Cllr. Lisa Dymock, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice said: “Currently, existing routes across Castle Meadows do not comply with current active travel standards, and do not cater for all users, especially those with mobility impairment. These decisions will impact those who use the fields regularly, so residents’ feedback is hugely valuable.”

The survey asks general questions about the way residents usually travel to the area, asking about your experiences in using Castle Meadows and Ysbytty Fields. The survey can be completed online here: Microsoft Forms (office.com). The survey will close on 25th March.


Abergavenny Swimming pool update

Exciting news, Abergavenny pool is back in action!

We’re delighted to announce that Abergavenny Leisure Centre Swimming Pool will re-open today (23rd March).

You no longer need to prebook swimming session, simply come along at your chosen lane swim or public swim time and enjoy!

Additionally, our Aqua Aerobics fitness class will be returning from Tuesday the 29th to help keep you active in a low impact environment. This can be booked online or via the MonLife App.

For our full pool and fitness class timetable visit our website HERE, or via the MonLife App.

Our Learn to Swim programme will also recommence from Monday 4th April, all swimmers on the programme will receive an email from our Aquatics Team shortly with more information.

If your child is attending The Monmouthshire Games this Spring half-term, please ensure they bring their swimming kits with them to enjoy this activity. Not signed up yet? You can register your child’s place here – The Monmouthshire Games – Monlife

Once again we’d like to thank you for your patience and understanding whilst all necessary works were undertaken, and we look forward to seeing you back in the pool.

MonLife Active Team

Thank you


Abergavenny’s £1.7m refurbished leisure centre now open to members

Following its £1.7m refurbishment, Abergavenny leisure centre has opened its doors to the public, revealing a host of new equipment and modern leisure facilities.

The refurbishment of Abergavenny Leisure Centre, which opened on the 4th January 2022, has created a wellness hub over the first floor to create modern leisure facilities for the local community, helping to increase participation in regular physical activity.

The new facilities include:

  • Extended Fitness Suite
  • Dedicated Group Exercise Studio
  • Spin Studio
  • New Fitness Changing Facilities
  • Ground Floor Coffee Vending Offer

Members are advised that due to unforeseen circumstances, the swimming pool at Abergavenny Leisure Centre will be closed during the month of January. Investigatory works are being carried out and updates will be available through MonLife’s website and social media channels soon.

This development follows the successful completion of the project at Monmouth leisure centre, which was completed in 2019. Elected members of Monmouthshire County Council have stated how committed they are to investing in and developing Leisure facilities across our county to support the health and wellbeing of our citizens. The continued investment into Monmouthshire’s leisure facilities will have a significant impact on wellbeing for not only now, but also for future generations.

Councillor Lisa Dymock, Monmouthshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice, said: “It is extremely fulfilling to see the doors open on this exciting project. We are committed to investing in and developing leisure facilities across our county, which has such a positive effect for not only our current residents, but future generations too. Seeing the incredible facilities shows just how hard MonLife have worked. Thank you to everyone for your continued hard work, being a fantastic way to start 2022.”

To celebrate its opening, MonLife Active are offering a membership deal, where members could get a 12-month membership for the price of 9, where more information can be found here: Be Extraordinary – Monlife


Gwent gets ready for Nature Isn’t Neat 2022

Following successful grassland management pilots to improve biodiversity across the Gwent local authorities, this year the Nature Isn’t Neat approach to management is being coordinated to cover wider areas across Gwent, with the mission of making it ‘pollinator friendly’ by allowing more wildflowers to grow in our green spaces.

The project which is to be delivered as part of the Gwent Green Grid Partnership, will engage with local communities across South-East Wales, raising awareness of pollinator decline and encouraging community ownership and empowerment to deliver actions that will help them recover. 

Nature Isn’t Neat will establish a joined-up approach to the management of green spaces, also known as Green Infrastructure (GI), to create wildflower-rich pollinator habitats across 5 local authority areas (Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen) An operative’s Code of Action and training programme will be delivered, supporting effective pollinator management within the region.

The project will also contribute to the development of Pollinator Policies for local authorities and other relevant organisations to secure wide scale land enhancement for pollinators, creating resilient ecological networks. 

Activities and events are planned for 2022 to promote wildflower and pollinator management, so look out for further updates on the website(www.monlife.co.uk/outdoor/nature-isnt-neat/) or follow on Twitter @Natureisntneat and @Gwentgreengrid for all the latest news.

Monmouthshire County Council’s cabinet member for Climate Emergency, Cllr. Jane Pratt said: “This new year we are delighted to be able to build upon the progress made within each of the local authorities to enhance grassland biodiversity, including Nature Isn’t Neat across Monmouthshire. Pollinators are a vital part of ecosystems; most plants need pollen from another flower to complete their lifecycle and produce fruits and seeds.

Bees, butterflies and many more insects perform this free service, pollinating 88% of wild plants and 75% of global crop species. However, pollinators are in trouble. Since the 1980s, half of all pollinator species have become less widespread, and populations of bees and hoverflies have declined by 30%. While progress has been made, thanks to changes such as our selective mowing policy, there’s still work to be done and this year offers many fantastic opportunities to make a difference.”

Gwent has many species of pollinators which are at risk, including the nationally rare Shrill Carder Bee, which has one of its strongholds on the Gwent Levels.

Changes to help keep flowering species alive for longer, not only provide food and habitats for the pollinators and other species, but also increases water absorption, provides Carbon sequestration, and improves the health of the soil. Research suggests that creating environments which support a wider range of wildlife, benefits people’s health and mental wellbeing, while encouraging them to slow down and enjoy watching flowers, insects and other wildlife.  

Councillor Lisa Dymock, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member with responsibility for Green Infrastructure said: “We are excited about the coordination of the Nature isn’t Neat approach through the Gwent Green Grid Partnership, as this strategy is crucial in response to the decline in biodiversity and challenges of climate change. Using the Nature isn’t Neat approach, the project aims to improve prospects for wildlife, providing crucial stepping stones for species to move between good habitat areas at a regional level.”

This project is part of a series of programmes to be delivered under the Gwent Green Grid Partnership Project, which 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.

Find out more about the Gwent Green Grid at: www.monlife.co.uk/outdoor/green-infrastructure/green-infrastructure-partnerships-projects/gwent-green-grid-partnership/


Residents invited to share views on new walking and cycling route proposals in Monmouthshire

Residents are being invited to have their say on proposals for improvements to the local walking and cycling network between Caldicot, Portskewett and Caerwent/Crick. Monmouthshire County Council is currently working with Sustrans Cymru to make local active travel – a term used for journeys with a purpose – in the area accessible, more enjoyable and safer for the whole community, encouraging more journeys to be taken on foot or bicycle instead of by car.

Two new traffic-free routes are being designed: one through Caldicot Castle Grounds and another along the old disused railway line from Portskewett to Caerwent and Crick, focussing on Phase 1 between the castle grounds and the Severn Bridge Industrial Estate.

Sustrans, on behalf of the council, is now seeking ideas and feedback from the people that live, work and travel in the area who could benefit from the proposals, on what they would like to see along the new routes in the future. Ideas might include places to stop and sit, places to play, artwork, local information, items that add local distinctiveness, planting etc. All ideas will be considered and the information given will help inform the next steps of the project.

Residents can share their ideas and feedback by visiting the project website hosted by Sustrans: www.sustrans.info/CaldicotLinks The survey will be available online for four weeks until 20th February 2022. Paper versions can be obtained by contacting Sustrans Cymru by phoning their office on 029 2065 0602, emailing: caldicot@sustrans.org or writing to them at Sustrans Cymru, 123 Bute Street, CF10 5AE.


MonLife celebrates it’s 2nd year promoting a healthier and more inspiring Monmouthshire

This month, Monmouthshire County Council is celebrating MonLife’s second year of promoting healthier lives and inspirational experiences, promoting the vibrancy of Monmouthshire as a wonderful place to be.

For more information on the amazing achievements of MonLife please click on our 2nd Birthday Infographic above

As part of its celebrations, MonLife, which delivers leisure, youth and outdoor education, green infrastructure, countryside access, arts, museums, attractions and destination management services across the county, has reflected on many of its key achievements in what’s been a challenging period.

Launching in January 2020 and at a time of uncertainty, MonLife has continued to provide services during restrictions and has adapted to make sure it was fit for purpose to ensure residents were still able to access services to help with their health and wellbeing.

The aims of MonLife are to enrich people’s lives through participation and activity, build strong communities in Monmouthshire and develop leadership skills for future generations. In the last two years, it’s been able to achieve these aims by attracting 863,000 visits to the four Monmouthshire leisure centres for physical activity, including over 2,000 children in the learn to swim programme. This has also included the provision of pre-recorded fitness videos from MonLife instructors, including Tai Chi, Yoga, HiiT and sports challenges to keep people active during the lockdowns.

Over 2498 children had the opportunity to take part in The Monmouthshire Games (TMG) in just 73 days of activity, The Games have also reached over 9,300 attendances over 73 days.  TMG will once again be returning for February Half Term and future school holidays across the four leisure centres.  

MonLife has delivered a wide and varied holiday provision for children and young people over the 2-year period.  This has included TMG, School Holiday Enrichment Programme and Open Access Play Sessions to name just a few.  During this period, we have supported 1153 vulnerable children providing a safe and enjoyable space over the school holidays.

MonLife Active, which operates the four leisure centres in Monmouthshire located in Abergavenny, Caldicot, Chepstow and Monmouth, has also continued to develop its sites and invested 2.5 million in services to ensure residents have access to a range of modern equipment and facilities.  Abergavenny Leisure Centre was part of this investment and opened on the 4th January 2022, creating a wellness hub over the first floor to create modern leisure facilities for the local community helping to increase participation in regular physical activity.

MonLife Connecthas worked incredibly hard over the last two years, connecting the community together throughout the pandemic.  The closing of youth centres meant youth workers stayed in touch with local young people through outreach and digital programmes, which included making time for chats and helping to run outdoor activities.  Young people could also stay connected via social media channels like Facebook and Instagram, as well as youth workers providing digital 1 to 1 support. Friendly Friday sessions were introduced, which included a wide range of topics that mattered to young people, including autism and voting.  86% of young people who were engaged in these projects perceived an improvement in two or more areas of their mental health/emotional well-being, which reflects on the importance of this service.  Our Sports Development team created online physical activity opportunities to support physical and mental health throughout the pandemic.

MonLife Heritage have also reached successful milestones in the last two years, with over 53,000 visitors, and over 200 hours of volunteering across Monmouthshire museums, and a combination of over 300,000 visitors across heritage sites in Monmouthshire.  Whilst keeping communities up to date with key facts and information on Museum collections and heritage sites on social media there was also access to live online historical lectures during the pandemic.  

MonLife Outdoors milestones included £2,912,000 worth of funding which was secured to deliver Biodiversity, Green Infrastructure and Active Travel projects for 2021.  658 young people from across Monmouthshire were involved in an expedition as part of their DofE award and 330 new young people were recruited from Monmouthshire’s comprehensive schools.

MonLife Creative engaged in activities with 700 older people and people living with dementia who have benefitted from using MonLife’s Reminiscence boxes which can be hired from Monmouth Museum.  The team also worked with 1564 children and young people.

This also marks the 2-year anniversary of MonLife taking a leading role in Active Travel for Monmouthshire County Council.  During this period, we have been successful in securing in excess of 4 million in grant funding and worked on 49 projects to help create an environment to increase walking and cycling levels.

Praising MonLife for its excellent contributions, Councillor Lisa Dymock, with responsibility for MonLife said: “The team have worked tirelessly over the first two years to deliver services to our communities. It has been a testing time, but we have a tremendous sense of pride in what has been achieved through all our teams’ endeavours and hard work. We are planning for 2022 to be an even better year, considering how we can enhance our services by consultations and listening to residents’ ideas.”

Ian Saunders, Chief Operating Officer “I would just like to thank our customers and teams who contribute each day to being part of MonLife services and programmes, we are all so very proud of the outcomes they deliver”

If you would like the chance to win some fantastic MonLife prizes please click HERE

For more information about the work MonLife is doing in Monmouthshire, please visit:  Home – Monlife