HLF boost for two Welsh tourist sites
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HLF boost for two Welsh tourist sites

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Two of Wales' popular heritage visitor attractions have benefited from a £2.2m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Swansea County Council has been awarded £764,000 to conserve and enhance the Grade I listed Ancient Scheduled Monument, Oystermouth Castle. Founded by William de Londres in the early 12th century, its origins are in the Norman conquest of Wales and it has visible remains from the 12th up to the early 14th century. However, the castle has fallen into disrepair with about 50 per cent currently closed off to visitors. In a 2003 report, Cadw assessed Oystermouth as the castle in the worst condition of those that were open to the public in Wales and concluded that restoration work was critical in order to avoid its inevitable closure.

Conservation work is now underway on the building and a new indoor interpretation centre is being built within the disused chapel block which will provide hands-on experiences for visitors. The aim is to give visitors access to 95 per cent of the castle and increase visitor numbers from 4,500 to 20,000 per year. As part of the project, the City and County of Swansea has implemented its Beyond Bricks and Mortar Policy, which encourages training and employment opportunities where public money is being invested to further develop economic opportunities within Swansea.

Llanelli-based WRW Contractors won the contract to complete the conservation work and will provide approximately four apprentice placements primarily sourced through the West Workway's project. Elsewhere in south Wales, the Forgotten Landscapes Partnership is using its £1,474,000 HLF grant to conserve red grouse and heather moorland, and return Welsh ponies to the landscape around Blaenavon's World Heritage Site.

The project will enhance further promotion of the site, with the aim being for the landscape to act as a stepping stone into the Valleys Regional Park and a gateway to Valleys tourism. The site contains a variety of built and industrial heritage, boasting 17 scheduled ancient monuments and 109 listed buildings. Many of the features of interest are currently hidden but - as part of the project - work has already started on the restoration of archaeological features, such as the Pwll Du Tramway tunnel which was used to transport coal, limestone and pig iron between the valleys.

Abergavenny-based contractors Alun Griffiths (Contractors) is carrying out the work using a local work force. Highlighting its popularity, more than 50,000 visitors use the Keepers Pond car park at Blaenavon every year as a base for exploring the area. The most popular walking trail, the Coity Tip Trail, has reportedly shown a consistent year-on-year increase with 21,300 visitors in 2008, a 52 per cent increase in-line with the increased visitors to the Pontypool and Blaenavon railway site.

Jennifer Stewart of Visit Wales said: "Fundamental to the success of heritage attractions is the experience it offers the visitor. We've supported these two projects as they are focussed on making the heritage relevant for tourists and communities alike to enjoy through improved access and better interpretation. "They also both offer fantastic opportunities for volunteers to get actively involved, so not only will these important sites be safeguarded but also the skills needed to maintain them for the future."

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Two of Wales' popular heritage visitor attractions have benefited from a £2.2m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
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