Sunday 13 November 2016

The Curse of Gelli Aur

If you search "Golden Grove Wales" on Youtube, you will be presented with an episode from one of those daft ghost hunter shows aimed at the sort of people who read the Daily Express, but if Cneifiwr's rather more discerning readers (that doesn't include you lot in the council press office) were to enter the old mansion, they would undoubtedly be able to detect a rather more real ghostly presence in the form of the  Cold Hand of Cllr Meryl Gravell.

Cllr Gravell has been at the top table of our council since Carmarthenshire emerged from the ashes of Dyfed all those years ago, and she has been closely involved with the Victorian pile near Llandeilo for pretty much all of that time.

The story began with dreams of turning the place into an incubator for media companies, dreams which ended pretty quickly with the council's chosen partner skedaddling with hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money. In the years that followed, more interesting investors came and went at a dizzying rate. It was going to be an hotel, upmarket flats, a rest home for forces' veterans - in fact, pretty much anything you can think of except for a "wellness village".

The latest owner, Mr Richard Salmon, is a reclusive art dealer who bought the house and park and set up a trust, to which he transferred ownership along with a £1.5 million debt which the trust, devoid of any assets other than the house, is somehow expected to repay a year or so from now.

The park had been open to the public, but under Meryl's watch, it had fallen into a sad and sorry state. Soon after Mr Salmon's arrival the BBC boomed "Gelli Aur Country Park reopens to the public".

Time went by, and reports began to emerge that all was not well. The park was not as open as we had been led to believe, and the trust was on the verge of being struck off by the Charity Commissioner for failure to provide any returns.

Luckily, Meryl and her friend Edwina Hart came riding to the rescue in September 2015 with a grant of £989,000 to restore the park and ensure it remained open to the public.

Meryl was ecstatic:

With the financial challenges we face as a local authority, we are delighted to have brought our lease to a close with this happy outcome. The authority is grateful to the Trust for having the foresight and ambition to maintain and hopefully improve the public access and public offer at Gelli Aur. We look forward with much anticipation to watching this wonderful facility evolve.

But, as with so many of Meryl's regeneration schemes, things soon turned out to be rather less wonderful. The park opened on fewer and fewer days, and then closed a few months back, with the council removing the brown tourist signs.

One of the many mysteries surrounding Gelli Aur is the current owner, Mr Salmon. Unusually in this digital age, especially for a successful businessman, there is almost no trace of Mr Salmon on the internet. He had somehow managed to keep a lower profile than even the late Howard Hughes.

The last time Cneifiwr came upon someone as reclusive as Mr Salmon was Norma Woodword, the very shy UKIP candidate for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr who ended up threatening to sue her own party.

Thanks to a Daily Mail reading contributor, we now know a little more about Mr Salmon who is facing litigation in the High Court for recovery of 70 art works created by the late Derek Jarman.

Mr Salmon rejects the claims made by Jarman's former lover.

It is with some reluctance that Cneifiwr links to the rotten Daily Mail, but this latest twist in the Gelli Aur saga is too good to let pass.


jeff3 said...

oh dear me i remember the saga of a welsh group who had funds to by this property for those wounded squardies but the deal fell through yet how can this place be left to rot when it could and can be a jewel in crown for said county jeff3

Anonymous said...

Mr Salmon is a complex person , he uses 2 names Richard Salmon and another . Did the WG downy due diligent reports on this chaps before approving a grant for him

Anonymous said...

A County Court judgement search on him is enlightening.

10/08/17 £1,321 Unsatisfied Judgment

30/03/16 £9,045 Unsatisfied Judgment

03/08/16 £9,477 Judgment Satisfied (08/09/16)

Is this really a suitable person to run a charity?