Wales Tourism Week (15-21 May) celebrated the contribution that tourism businesses make to people, places and prosperity in Wales. Tourism is hugely valuable to Monmouthshire’s economy and society, with heritage sites such as Treowen near Monmouth playing a vital role. I visited the Grade-I listed Jacobean manor house on Friday to hear about the fantastic work Dick and John Wheelock, who inherited the Treowen estate in 1991, are doing to preserve heritage and promote tourism. A succession of Catholic owners lived at Treowen and the troubled religious period of the 17th century is still evident in the priest hole on the stair landing. A secret trap door opens to reveal a specially concealed space under the floorboards where priests hid away during the time when Catholics were being persecuted. Treowen is now emerging from another challenging era and was badly hit by the Covid pandemic. Fortunately, the business is well-diversified and was able to weather the storm. Other, less diversified heritage sites are facing a more difficult situation and it is easy to see why these beautiful buildings can fall into ruin. I am grateful to John for showing me around and thank him for the enormous contribution he is making to the local economy.
I didn’t realise dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were the leading cause of death in England and Wales last year. As part of Dementia Action Week (15-21 May), I attended a parliamentary reception hosted by Alzheimer’s Society where I discovered that – unlike in England – NHS Wales does not publish a dementia diagnosis rate. There are around 50,000 people in Wales living with dementia, but Wales is lagging behind when it comes to collecting and publishing official diagnosis data. Everyone deserves access to a timely, accurate and high-quality diagnosis and I am told good data is the starting point for providing vital help. I hope the Welsh Labour Government heeds the concerns being raised by Alzheimer’s Society about these data limitations in Wales.
Cleaning up our rivers continues to be a pressing issue for both myself and the UK Government. I welcome the publication of Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s manifesto for improving river water quality in Wales and it was good to see Natural Resources Wales at a symposium organised by Friends of the Lower Wye in Monmouth on Friday evening. The UK Government has brought in restrictions to tackle sewage discharges from storm overflows but, of course, we don’t have any power on that in Wales. I was disappointed to hear Lesley Griffiths, Wales’ rural affairs minister, still hasn’t met with Friends of the Lower Wye and I will be writing to ask her to reconsider.
*Published in the Monmouthshire Beacon on 24 May 2023 and Abergavenny Chronicle on 25 May 2023*