news: Ffynnon Dyfnog, Llanrhaeadr

I was thinking over the holidays that much of my reporting here in recent months has taken the form of revisiting and revising previous posts as wells are cleared, investigated or other changes take place. While obviously it is useful to have all the information regarding a site in one place, and that information should be as up to date as possible, the blog was created as a record of visits to sites, and as the entry changes that spontaneity of recording what we see becomes lost.

I considered the idea of shorter update posts, linked back to the original to document how things change on succeeding visits, and I suspect a combination of the two – sometimes editing the original, particularly to correct or update the history; and separate updates to highlight changes may be my way forward.

This also allows me to bring in news items which may arise, and I was immediately handed a good example of this when my attention was drawn to this item on the BBC news website this weekend.

6th Century St Dyfnog’s Well to be restored

We have noted in the past the campaign and plans to restore Ffynnon Ddyfnog at Llanrhaeadr and it seems as though these plans may finally be coming to fruition, which we should welcome. I suspect that there may be some element of journalistic hyperbole in the BBC account that might lead one to assume that a wholesale redevelopment is planned at Llanrhaeadr which I am sure is  not the case.

The report is relatively light in detail, and I suspect this represents the state of planning at present where an outline wish list may be ready without concrete details of the precise form it may take. A visitor centre can take on many forms, from a full blown, paid for, audio visual experience to a shelter housing interpretative posters, earlier evidence  suggested something along the lines of  the latter was planned here, which would form a welcome addition at this  location;although the new BBC article states “The group now intends to create a £300,000 religious tourist attraction, environmental centre and education facility.” which does sound like something on a wholly different scale. Images of a St Dyfnog theme park briefly pass before the eyes, though I suspect (and hope) that the quoted price tag is actually largely made up of  the full cost of all the restoration and landscaping works rather than being blown on computer wizardry.

We are certainly not of the persuasion that sites such as this should be preserved as they stand for posterity. This has never happened in the past and it is normally relatively meaningless, a bit like musical chairs, to say that centuries of change and development should suddenly be stopped and frozen at some arbitrary moment in time. The well we see at present is part of such a progression, probably owing more to eighteenth century outdoor bathing and nineteenth century landscaping habits than to the activities of sixth century saints or medieval pilgrims. I assume that the pool we see today would be totally unrecognisable to those who visited three, five or seven hundred years ago.

Thus, like so many, the site is complex with a chequered history and what happens next is merely the latest in a chain of re-imaginings for the site. One would hope that as a part of any works and archaeological investigation would be carried out which might enable some of the previous changes to be better understood and included within the interpretation provided for the site.

Regular readers may know that I might appear hard to please, having complained about both sites that have become overgrown and allowed to deteriorate and at the same time criticising the manicured, council maintained wells that appear to have been drained of all character in their restoration. There must be some happy medium of protecting a site from tourist feet whilst at the same time preserving some element of its prevailing atmosphere and we believe that this is what is planned and Llanrhaeadr. We shall, of course follow developments with interest.


  1. It will be interesting to see what plans emerge, the promoters have so far always said that they favour a light touch approach, which is needed. It is my suspicion that this is still the intention, and it is just the BBC report that is exaggerating the scale of the thing. It is quite possible that this would not need to go through any planning process if this is the case.

    I shall try to find out what is really now proposed and comment as necessary.

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