Monday, 4 February 2013

Save Cardiff Riding School!

Not too long ago I blogged about how much I was looking forward to the upcoming swallow season; 2013 looked full of promise on the back of 2012, the most productive year for the birds since the project started.

For me the swallow season starts on the 1st of April each year with the re-sighting of individually colour-ringed birds as they return, having travelled 1000s of miles from Africa. So you can imagine I was more than a little bit miffed to hear that Cardiff Council announced they would cease funding the site on the very same day.

The Cardiff Riding School, which opened in 1970, is a much cherished part of Cardiff’s heritage and is one of a swathe of sites and services that the council are looking to axe.  I learnt horse riding there as a kid  (until I realised that I am quiet scared of horses, especially being atop of them) and for the last 7 years I’ve engrossed myself in the happenings of the site’s Swallow population. Quite frankly it is one of my favourite places to be; each year I can't wait to hear the chattering calls of swallows coming from the various stables.

The class of 2012; nearly 1000 swallows to hatch at the stables in the last 7 years
Around 20 pairs of swallows make the site their home each year – making this one of the, if not the most, urban population for the species in Wales.  Over the past year 7 years close to 1000 swallows have hatched at the stables.

The paddocks are packed full of other bird species too; in winter hundreds of winter thrushes and starlings fill the paddocks, and lesser spotted woodpecker has bred within the site’s boundary; buzzards frequent the trees and you can even glimpse wheatear making their way through. I’ve even seen snipe! All a stone’s from Cardiff’s City Centre. In my eyes these should be reasons enough to protect this site, even if they are rather self-indulgent reasons.

But the swallows are just one small reason in a sea of good reasons not to close the Cardiff Riding School. It is home to almost 50 horses (many of which I’m told won’t be up for rehoming), and is used by no less than five Riding for the Disabled Groups, through its steads and staff it has had a positive influence on the lives of a many people. It integrates seamlessly into the parks it is part of, adding to a city scape to be proud of and a resource even for those of us that don't ride.
The Cardiff Ringers urge anyone and everyone that has enjoyed Cardiff Riding School, or just likes swallows, to contact Cardiff Council and voice their disgust at any plan to close this much cherished facility. We hope you’ll sign the petition to help Save Cardiff Riding School, its horses and of course its swallows:

And while you're at it, help save Flat Holm from the getting the chop as well
Hopefully Cardiff' Riding School, its horses and its Swallows will have a future

Friday, 1 February 2013

Flat Holm

The detail of the proposal by Cardiff Council to dispose of Flat Holm, saving £150k pa in expenditure, is as follows:

Cease Operation of Flatholm Island and Consider Options for Disposal - the visitor and income profile for Flatholm demonstrates that demand for the island is highly concentrated in the summer months and is insufficient to cover the operating costs of the facility. It is proposed to cease all visits to the island, and dispose of the island to a third party with no further Council involvement. Visits to the island could be ceased promptly whilst options for disposal are explored. The budget saving reflects retention of a small contingency for service visits during closure. The proposal also includes the disposal of the Lewis Alexander, the vessel currently used to service the island which has increasing costs associated with keeping it serviceable and licensed due to age. If minded to retain some operation of the Island whilst disposal is explored and effected, revision of operations so that visits and overnight stays are only facilitated in the summer could be implemented saving the lower amount of £100k, with visitor access provided by partner commercial boat operators, with emergency/ service visits by Council staff facilitated through the Harbour Authority's "survey vessel".

One can't help but reflect that from our point of view almost any alternative would be better than the current regime, whereby although the Wardens on the island have been supportive, it has become more or less impossible to get any shore-based person involved in the management of the island to respond to any communication whatsoever.

The Council do not appear to put a figure on what the sale of the island might raise.