‘Little Offa’s’ Throne, the new draw at the Offa’s Dyke Centre – also available for hire by film companies
For many years the Offa’s Dyke Association has carried out the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) function for Knighton under a service level agreement with Powys County Council. At the beginning of 2018 the county confirmed what we already knew, that it had decided to withdraw financial support from all community-run TICs in Powys.
We were not unprepared for the news, in fact the past 18 months or so has witnessed a radical restructure of the business and we are more focused on delivering our charitable aims. Our membership has started to grow again, we have invested in new facilities and equipment at the Offa’s Dyke Centre, there is the new website, meeting room hire is on the up, we have our basement tenant and wherever possible we have reduced costs.
On the charitable aim side we have established our own Conservation Fund, awarding four modest but important awards, without which the conservation-based projects would not have gone ahead. We are the lead client, alongside Cadw and Historic England, for the forthcoming Conservation Management Plan for Offa’s Dyke. After two year’s planning and research the plan will be published in the summer. We are also active members of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory and in March this year we co-hosted with the Collaboratory a successful conference, Offa’s Dyke Heritage, here at the Centre.
We have much to look forward to this year. In July the Clwyd Powys Archaeology Trust is organising an Archaeology Day, based at the Centre and in the park in Knighton, with re-enactors and fun activities for people of all ages. We are also assisting the Collaboratory with a public conference in September in Oswestry.
There is of course Offa’s Throne, our new hands-on, or rather sit-on, display item at the Centre. Made possible with generous funding from the Kay Trust Fund it is a serious interpretation of a medieval ceremonial chair, strongly influenced by St Stephen’s Chair in Hereford Cathedral. The carpentry is 100% faithful to the construction and jointing techniques of the early second millennium, likewise the decoration. We hope that visitors and Trail walkers will want to have their photos taken sitting in the chair – in exchange we hope for a generous donation. We might, perhaps, interest film production companies in hiring it out for historical dramas?
Meanwhile we are on the lookout for volunteers to lend a hand here at the Centre. We cannot afford to employ any more staff yet we are acutely aware, as the busy summer period approaches, that the business, in particular the tea room, needs additional staffing.
By the end of 2018 we will know the direction of travel that the ODA and the Centre will be going in. This will continue to be a very challenging year but at the same time let’s Iook forward to celebrating our 50th anniversary here in 2019. To help us get there please consider joining the ODA or by making a donation.
A big thank you to the Backpackers Club for inviting me to talk on 21st April to the Club’s Annual Gathering Weekend, held this year in Newcastle-on-Clun. A large and very friendly audience packed the village hall and listened to my presentation on Offa’s Dyke and the challenges facing its conservation. The Club made a donation to the ODA on the night but since then we have received a number of additional private donations. We are very grateful for all of them. The money will go towards our next Conservation Fund project.
Two important consultation meetings for the forthcoming Offa’s Dyke Conservation Management Pan (ODCMP)were held at the Offa’s Dyke Centre on Thursday 12th April. Project consultant André Berry led the discussions, first in the morning for archaeology and heritage management staff representing a stable of organisations from both sides of the border, and in the afternoon for National Trail, Countryside and Public Rights of Way staff.
The Conservation Management Plan is a partnership project comprising the ODA, Cadw and Historic England. With the fieldwork survey now complete André presented one of its main conclusions, which is that:
“Benign neglect is considered by the Offa’s Dyke Conservation Management Plan to constitute the greatest threat to the continued survival of Offa’s Dyke”
The ODCMP presents a wake up call to every individual and organisation with an interest in Offa’s Dyke and over the next few years the ODA will play its part in what will become a multi-faceted project. Dr Paul Belford, Director (CEO) Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, reports on the meetings on the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory website.
See also André’s presentation to the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory workshop, also held at the Offa’s Dyke Centre on 23rd March.
When you join the Offa’s Dyke Association a part of your membership fee is used to help pay for practical works along the line of the monument and National Trail. The main thrust of our work is conservation and we financially support projects that bring long term conservation benefits to the Dyke but we will also fund works that help walkers and other visitors to access and understand it.
Until now the section of Offa’s Dyke at Pinner’s Hole in Knighton, only two minutes’ walk from the Offa’s Dyke Centre, was missed by most visitors. However, a new signpost paid for by the ODA today points the way to the section of Dyke where in July 1971 Lord John Hunt formally opened the Trail.
More members will enable us to fund more good works such as this. Please consider joining the ODA (membership from £11 per year) or if you are already a member, then thank you and please forward this link to anyone who you think might be interested.
The third meeting of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory was co-hosted by the ODA at the Offa’s Dyke Centre. The 23rd March event brought together thirty delegates, altogether a new audience to the Centre, including two people who travelled all the way from from the Republic of Ireland.
Eight speakers discussed the heritage conservation, management and interpretation of Offa’s Dyke, Wat’s Dyke and other linear earthworks of the Welsh Marches. For a full account of the day, including the actual presentations, visit the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory website.
We hope that everyone enjoyed the day and found the content stimulating. Note that anyone can join the Collaboratory, at nil cost.