The next meeting of the Friends will take place this Thursday at 6.30pm at the Cwmdonkin Park Kiosk. We will be joined by John Ashley, the Council’s Walking Development Officer, to discuss the potential for leading Health Walks.
The park has undergone many changes as a result of winning heritage lottery funding and these alterations culminated in celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Dylan Thomas’ birth in 2014.
The Friends of Cwmdonkin Park is a community group dedicated to supporting the council and community in its attempts to keep the park a beautiful space for everyone to use. This includes:
• Sponsoring and supporting activity that maintains and improves the park
• Encouraging people to use the park by providing local events and activities
We are always looking for people who wish to help in our objectives, either informally, by helping at events, or, formally, by serving on our committee and helping to run things. If this is you, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us using the contact form on the website.
If you have memories of this beautiful park, which nestles in the heart of the city and which Dylan Thomas called “this world within the worldof the sea town”, we would welcome your contributions, old photographs, your memories and your stories. And, of course, if you want to join us, so much the better.
During the Second World War, the reservoir was brought back into use to as water storage against bombing. Its use as a water source had long since been passed to much larger reservoirs further up the valley. A use was found for the reservoir as a container for rubble from the redevelopment of Swansea during the 1950’s and the bottom of the park was grassed over, becoming the children’s play area and large green space it remains to till today.
The other most noticeable changes were the creation of the Dylan Thomas Memorial Gardens in the early 1970’s. Although its name has since changed, you can still see the memorial stone which was the centre of a pretty garden at the centre of the park. At much the same time, public subscription raised money for a memorial shelter to the poet, standing at the top of the old path that ran round the the reservoir.
Although the planting in the park is a shadow of its Edwardian heyday, you can still catch glimpses of the shape and design of the park as it was set out in its first days, and turning a corner, it’s still possible to imagine yourself as much in the past as in the present.
Opened in July 1874, Cwmdonkin Park was, like many of the Parks of Britain, a Victorian creation. The park was built on the land already occupied by Cwmdonkin reservoir and from two fields bought from the Ffynone Estate belonging to a local landowner, Mr James Walters. The cost of the purchase of the fields was £4,650, but the use of public funds to purchase the park was consdered somewhat controversial at the time, according to the Borough records and those of the Cambrian newspaper.
Building parks was an extremely fashionable topic in the professional journals and newspapers of the day, where the need for relaxation, leisure and exercise was discussed and debated avidly. It is no surprise then that the park was created at the Western edge of the town in what was essentially a professional area.
The other great public preoccupation of the Victorians, health, had been behind the building of reservoirs in Swansea, following the two cholera outbreaks of 1832 and 1849, but the land around the reservoir was rather a mess if we are to believe the discussions preceding the park’s creation. It was described variously as “the destructive pit at Cwmdonkin, euphemistically called a reservoir”, and “at present the land surrounding the Cwmdonkin reservoir is waste. The hedges on the upper side are in so dilapidated a condition that cattle may get through and trespass on the fields.”
The fields and the area round the reservoir were landscaped and planted over the next few years with the sort of features you would expect in a Victorian park. It was laid out with the informal paths you can see to this day, and included a bandstand for concerts by the local police and military bands. The planting of the park started in 1876 and probably reached its peak in Edwardian times, and the 1910 catalogue describes 15,000 species of plants in the park. Many of these were exotics that would be considered totally inapporopriate today.
Do you have any memories of Cwmdonkin Park?
One of our aims is to build a record of the park in pictures, words and recordings. So if you have items you would be prepared to share with us, then please get in touch so we can add the details to the site.
If you follow this link, you can email your interest in participating, or you can contact Annie on 0781 775 3376.
To prompt some memories, this is the famous drinking fountain mentioned in Dylan Thomas’ “Hunchback in the Park”, still standing in 2011, even if it looks a little sorry for itself in the spring sunshine.
The memories of Dylan Thomas and Cwmdonkin Park are closely interwoven. It is clear from his fond descriptions that he saw the park as a wonderful, safe place where the imagination of a young boy was allowed to run wild. “And in the park was a world within the world of the seatown,” as he wrote in his Remiscences of Childhood.
“Quite near where I lived, so near that on summer evenings, I could listen in my bed to the voices of the older children playing ball on the sloping, paper-littered bank; the park was full of terrors and treasures. Though it was only a little park, it held within its borders of the old tall trees, notched with our names and shabby from our climbing, as many secret places, caverns and forests, prairies and deserts as a country somewhere at the end of the sea.”
Although the reservoir,the bandstand, the elms and the rockery have long since gone, today’s children can often be seen running where they shouldn’t go and playing the same games as Dylan Thomas was seen seen to play by the park-keeper he mentions in his reminiscences.
“Oh yes, yes, I know him well. He used to climb the reservoir ralings and pelt the old swans. Run like a billygoat over the grass you should keep off. Cut branches from the trees. Carve words on the benches. Pull up the moss in the rockery. Go skip though the dahlias. Fight in the bandstand. Climb up the elmsand moon up the top like an owl. Light fires in the bushes. Play on the green bank. Oh yes, I knew him well. I think he was happy all the time. I’ve known him by the thousands.”
There are two listed trails. They do involve a little hill climbing, but not too much distance to walk.
The Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Cwmdonkin Park will take place this Thursday, 21st June, at 6.30pm in St. James Parish Hall.
The park has 4 tennis courts and one basketball area for you to play all year long. The systems works on a first come, first served basis, so please just turn up to enjoy these great outdoor activities.
Summertime always adds a warm glow when we are outside, tinting the most harsh of landscapes. We are fortunate in the park to have great colours all around the year, but especially in the summer months the greens are luscious, verdant and inviting.
Have a look at images taken during the summer in our Gallery.