The announcement also means that Caergwrle Castle will now feature on CADW’s website and receive national publicity. The Minister and CADW have been impressed by the level of community involvement at the site and want this to continue as part of a partnership between CADW and the community. It is anticipated that there will be a series of promotional and community engagement events which will continue to raise the profile of the Castle and put Caergwrle on the map. Meanwhile the surrounding woodland of the Castle Hill will continue to be managed by Flintshire Countryside Service on behalf of Hope Community Council.
It is expected that local businesses will benefit from the increase in visits to the area by tourists. Tourists stimulate the local economy and help communities to sustain themselves without adding to the list of patients at local medical practices or increasing the demand for school places. CADW involvement can therefore provide a boost to the rural economy.
CADW itself has been known to make purchases of properties which add to the visitor experience and benefit the local economy of the area. It is unlikely that this will happen soon in the case of Caergwrle unless there is a dramatic increase in footfall. Harlech Castle is part of the chain of castles which form part of a World Heritage Site. It was here where CADW actually bought up the nearby Castle Hotel and adapted it to form a visitor centre. It also facilitated the development of apartments which are let by a company to enable tourists to stay in Harlech itself. The project, which includes a floating footbridge, received £6M in funding from the Welsh Government and won the Tourism and Leisure Category at the 2017 RICS Awards. CADW’s website includes the comment made by the judges who were impressed by the initiative:
'The visitor centre is an integral part of the visitor experience to the castle and it is hard to now imagine the site without it. The centre appears not only to have added to the overall visitor experience of the World Heritage Site but it has changed the nature of the town centre from one of quiet decay to one of optimism, with new business start-ups and expansion of existing businesses. The centre also now appears to act as a central anchor for local businesses. Future plans for the castle itself can only add to long term success.’
It has to be admitted that Harlech Castle is in a different league from that of Caergwrle but that should not stop us from holding out a vision of some of the things that could eventually happen as a result of CADW involvement. Not all of us may welcome apartments for tourists but a visitors’ centre with public toilet facilities and disability access to the Castle would be assets worth having. The locality also boasts one of the best examples of a Packhorse Bridge in Wales, a Jacobean Mansion, evidence of both Offa’s and Wat’s Dykes, the hill fort of Bryn y Gaer, the hidden gem of Hope Parish Church, the (so far unrecognised) site of the discovery of the Bronze Age Caergwrle Bowl, the Wales Link Path and the emerging Park in the Past Project. The local area has the potential to offer a unique visitor experience and the latest move by CADW is a step in the right direction in moving our community from one of ‘quiet decay to one of optimism.’
Some readers will sense something of a sea-change with regard to what has been perceived to have been CADW’s traditional position vis-à-vis castles in Wales. There has been a strong emphasis on the over-awing castles of King Edward I that form part of the World Heritage Site. The acquisition of Caergwrle, with a plaque dedicated to the native Prince Dafydd ap Gruffudd, has strong Ministerial support and represents the beginning of a new emphasis on castles built by the princes of Wales. This puts Caergwrle at the forefront of a story set to run. It is good news for enthusiasts of local history and good news for our rural economy.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the policy of Flintshire County Council. Readers are welcome to contact the author with any news or views on the local heritage at DHealey204@aol.com or by telephoning 01978 761 523.