30 Day Adventure in Faith Heritage in Wales Kicks Off This June
A significant boost to the faith tourism industry in Wales begins this month with the 30 day Landscapes of Faith festival taking to the road across South Wales for the whole of June. The initiative brings to life the Welsh Government's 2013 'Faith Tourism Action Plan for Wales' for communities and visitors.
The month-long festival comes in four journeys across South Wales celebrating the heritage and visitor offer of the world faith traditions in the landscape of modern Wales. Whilst the story of Christianity in Wales looms large in the history and culture the project is also celebrating the stories of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism, and the ancient pre-historic sites.
The festival is a community treasure hunt with local communities uncovering and celebrating their treasures, stories and places. The singer and cultural facilitator Richard Parry will lead the journey between sites on a slow bike ramble connecting up the people, places, offers and promoting the heritage and landscape of Wales.
The first journey begins at Strata Florida, near Tregaron, a ruined Abbey where the Welsh literature of medieval Wales flowered. Over five days it travels south to find what some claim to be Europe's oldest tree in the churchyard at Defynnog, visit Peace Mala - a Welsh interfaith mission that celebrates the peace traditions of all the world's main religions - and finishes by championing the world class collection of ancient Celtic stones and crosses on the Glamorganshire heritage coast, finishing at Llantwit Major where 1500 years ago the historically important Welsh saint, Illtud, founded Britain's first recorded centre of learning.
The second journey features the claim of the small mining village Banwen to be the birthplace of St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, whose festival on March 17th is celebrated worldwide. The Welsh St Patrick Memorial is situated in the village marking the spot where Patrick and his sister Darerca were kidnapped by pirates at the end of the Roman period and taken to Ireland as slaves. On St Patrick's Day this year the community were joined during online zoom celebrations by Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford who said he couldn't think of anywhere better in Wales to celebrate St Patrick's Day ( First Minister drops into Welsh St Patrick's Day celebrations ).
The founding legend of Merthyr Tydfil is celebrated in the third journey which begins in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The Tydfil story stretches back 1500 years when Tydfil, the daughter of the King Brychan, encounterd some marauding soldiers in the Merthyr valley near Aberfan. She fled up the valley but was killed where the town of Merthyr Tydfil stands today and gives her name to the famous Welsh town. To celebrate the story RunWales is organising a women's fun run through the Merthyr valley called Tydfil... run up the valley in which participants will receive a small ceramic replica of the Celtic cross in St Tydfil's church, Merthyr Tydfil. Wales' celebrated singer / song writer Kizzy Crawford ( Kizzy Crawford ) will write a song on the theme of Tydfil as a festival commission.
At the end of June the fourth journey sets out from Bristol following the footsteps of Methodism's founder John Wesley and his first visit to Wales. At the Roman town of Caerleon the story of some of Britian's earliest Christian martyrs will be explored, and the festival arrives in Cardiff to celebrate the heritage of the great world faith traditions that are an integral part of Welsh life today. The history of Wales' connections to Islam stretches back to the first millennium and the reign of the King Offa. The founding legend of the town of Barry will be celebrated, and the story of Barruc told on Barry Island. The travelling festival finishes on 30th June with the opening of an exhibition of photographs of Wales' landscapes of faith by the international award-winning photographer, Kiran Ridley ( www.kiran.eu ) at Llantwit Major.
The project had planned to deliver celebrations over six months last year, but the Covid-19 emergencies meant that the festival had to be postponed until this June, when it tours for thirty days in a jam-packed schedule. Because of Government Covid-19 regulations the festival activity is not offering public events at any of the sites, but the public can follow the journeys on the Landscapes of Faith website and make adventures, exploration and visits at their own leisure ( landscapes-of-faith-festival ).
Festival organiser Richard Parry who is taking to the road for the whole month to meet communities and learn about the landscapes of faith said:
"Our hills, valleys and coastal plains are teeming with a rich heritage of faith, yet many of the stories, heritage, sites and legends have been lost or hidden. This touring festival is a wonderful opportunity for people to discover the stories and places that have shaped the culture and story of Wales and that continue to bring inspiration and beauty today. Visitors can discover amazing places here in Wales when they are exploring, and receive a very warm welcome from communities that hold these treasures today."