Penarth Pier has today been crowned as Wales’ official Special Place, in a national competition that has seen the Welsh public debate and back the places that mean the most to them.
For eight weeks celebrities, AMs, schoolchildren and the general public have been involved in a national conversation that has seen them voting in their thousands for their Special Place in Wales – as part of a major campaign by the National Trust Wales to find Wales’ most treasured landmark.
The pier fought off stiff competition from nine other outstanding locations across north and south Wales, including Cyfarthfa Castle and the Lonely Tree which both came in second and third respectively.
The top five revealed today are:
1) Penarth Pier
2) Cyfarthfa Castle
3) The Lonely Tree
5) The Gower
The winner was revealed today at the National Eisteddfod in Llanelli by the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart AM, as well as a selection of the official Special Places judging panel – a mixture of heritage and travel experts who whittled down the public’s top 25 into a shortlist of ten, which was then put back to public vote at the Royal Welsh Show on Wednesday 23rd July. Judges included broadcaster Roy Noble, travel journalist Simon Calder and TV wildlife presenter Iolo Williams.
Since the shortlist was unveiled, celebrities, AMs and local townspeople have been getting behind their Special Place and voting in their masses on social media and at official ballot boxes at the shortlist locations – including backing from celebrities Julien Macdonald, Matthew Rhys and Bryn Terfel.
Launched following research by the conservation charity which showed that 67% of the Welsh public consider the National Trust as the main trusted protector of Special Places throughout the country, the campaign has aimed to uncover Wales’ most treasured space and award them with support by the Trust and other partners in the coming year – whether this be help with local fundraising, a celebratory event or support to help preserve it for everyone to enjoy.
The fully restored art deco pier pavilion, which was voted “Pier of the Year” by the National Piers Society earlier this year, which was nominated because of its iconic structure and breath-taking views, went on to beat all others in the competition’s final stages to be crowned the most-loved spot in the whole of Wales.
In order to spark conversation everywhere from schools to the Senedd, National Trust Wales has held events across the country since the start of the campaign to urge people to get behind their own special place and shout about what makes them so unique. Just last month, AM’s attended an event at the National Assembly for Wales to cast their votes and children at Barry Primary School attended a workshop with staff from Dyffryn Gardens to learn about what makes it so special.
The campaign has received backing from Visit Wales, Cadw, Cynnal Cymru, Media Wales and Ramblers Cymru and a number of other Welsh cultural and heritage organisations.
Speaking of the news, Dr David Trotman, Director of the Penarth Pier Pavilion said: “I am delighted that Penarth Pier has been crowned the nation’s Special Place. The Pavilion and Pier mean a huge amount to me, personally, but it’s great to see that it is also special to the people of Wales. Many people have worked tirelessly over the years in order to make the pavilion a place for all to enjoy. To walk away with the title shows how the pavilion and the pier are loved, and it’s a great honour and privilege to be thought of in this way.”
Grammy Award-winning opera singer and Penarth local, Rebecca Evans, said of her special place: “It’s no surprise to me that Penarth Pier has been voted as the nation’s special place. It really is such a special place to everyone and certainly for me – an operation last year I was told to walk a lot and my route every single day included Penarth Pier. I found it very healing, very spiritual and very uplifting. I think the recent redevelopment of the pier is absolutely amazing and that’s probably why it’s stolen the hearts of everyone in the Vale and beyond- all you need is a Wurlitzer and it would be complete.”
Cllr Lis Burnett, local councillor and a long-term champion of Penarth Pier, said: “It’s great news that Penarth Pier has been crowned Wales’ Special Place. For decades, local residents and tourists alike have visited the pier for its stunning views and impressive architecture. The amazing restoration of this sea front landmark means that this important element of the town’s history has been preserved for future generations to enjoy.”
Gillian Clarke, National Poet for Wales who grew up in Penarth, said: “I am delighted to hear that Penarth Pier has won the popular vote. I lived in Penarth from the age of 10, and spent a great deal of time on the pier, especially waiting for a Campbell steamer to take me on a trip across the Bristol Channel! I loved the fact that the pier experiences the second highest rise and fall of the tide in the world.”
Speaking about the announcement, Justin Albert, Director of National Trust Wales and Special Places judge said: “We are delighted to see that the Welsh public have been so passionate about their Special Places this year. With our research showing that people in Wales see us as the organisation that protects their special places above all others, we felt strongly about starting a conversation across Wales to find the place that people really value the most – so that we can play our part in helping to preserve it for everyone.
“Penarth Pier was up against some amazing competition but it’s clear to see why it ranked so highly; its iconic architecture, beautiful views and its representation of the Welsh Seaside culture in general. I hope that people will take the rest of the summer to explore those Special Places they haven’t yet visited”.
With the research also showing that childhood memories from places where we grew up (44 per cent) is what makes a place truly special – the summer campaign has encouraged the public to get behind their own place, shout about what makes it unique to them and celebrate a host of varied locations all across Wales – from castles to coastlines and countryside.
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