Orchids in the Churchyard
Ancient stone stile
Ancient oak tree
Parish Plan for Dulas
DRAFT November 2004
Dulas is a rural parish centred around Dulas Court and Dulas Church. There is no village centre; dwellings are mostly farmhouses and scattered cottages. There are 65 adults living in the community with nearly twice as many women as men on the electoral roll. Many are frail elderly people living at Dulas Court Residential Home.
Dulas has very few facilities. There is no shop or pub or school or public telephone. There are two post boxes in the parish. Although there is an attractive nineteenth century church, it is locked most of the time and services are held only occasionally. Most residents go to Ewyas Harold for their needs, or further afield to Hereford or Abergavenny. There are no facilities for children or young people. Dulas Court (a private residential home) offers day care once a week to local elderly people on a fee basis.
Amazing Parish Plan discovery
Until we started this Parish Plan we thought there was no public building in the parish. However we have discovered that "The Barn" at Dulas Court has been renovated with a grant from the public purse. As a result, the proprietor of Dulas Court is happy to offer this pleasant modern meeting room for small groups and events. Needless to say the Parish Plan Group has made it their headquarters!
Apart from the daily school bus (running from Craswall to Pontrilas via Dulas) there is only one public bus service which goes to Abergavenny at 9.45am on a Tuesday. There are no designated bus stops or bus shelters in the Parish. Car ownership is high, as you would expect in a Parish with virtually no public transport. Measures introduced by government and local councils aimed at curbing car ownership (high car parking fees, reduced parking provision in town) hit the residents of parishes like Dulas very hard. The Dore Valley Transport Group service and Dial-a-Ride are vital lifelines for those without access to a car.
The church of St. Michael is the only public building in the parish. It is surrounded by an outstanding churchyard of great natural history interest which is full of orchids in the spring. It was built in the nineteenth century to replace a much older church that formerly lay in the grounds of Dulas Court. Although it is an attractive church, it is not considered to be of great architectural importance. Services are still held at Dulas Church but congregations are very small. During the winter months services are sometimes held in the comfort of Dulas Court by kind permission of the proprietor.
The maintenance and repair of the church has been difficult. Funds have been raised to repair the roof but this work has not been carried out. The money is held in a Restricted Fund at present. The diocese has suggested the church should be closed but only the Parochial Church Council can take that decision.
Dulas was formerly economically dependent on agriculture, however the decline in farm earnings has meant that there have been considerable changes in the parish. Surviving farms have either specialized in intensive agriculture such as egg production or they have diversified, using the premises to support a range of small businesses. Although it is a tiny parish, there is an astonishing diversity of economic activity. Agricultural contracting and forestry are traditional occupations, but there is also a builder's yard, a computer program design initiative, a journalist, a medical internet sales company, a forestry consultancy and a horse livery business. The major employer in the area is Dulas Court Residential Nursing Home. Some agricultural smallholdings have become "hobby farms" supported by wages earned outside the parish or by retirement income.
In common with many rural areas, Dulas is home to a number of commuters. Employment patterns have changed. Some people commute daily to nearby employment in Herefordshire and Monmouthshire. However some are travelling considerably longer distances in the course of their work, going daily to Newport and Bristol. Others are making regular (but not daily) journeys to London or Birmingham and other distant areas.
Travel by train is popular and local residents go to Abergavenny or Hereford to access the rail network. Commuters say they would welcome the reopening of the Pontrilas Railway Halt and would use it.
Dulas Churchyard is the most outstanding natural feature in the Parish. Thanks to careful management the churchyard is wonderfully rich in wild flowers, particularly orchids in the Spring. Visitors come from far and wide to admire the remnants of Herefordshire's natural flora which has mostly disappeared out as a result of modern farming practises.
Rising in Newton St. Margarets and fed by springs, the Brook runs down the Dulas Valley and through the centre of Ewyas Harold before it joins the Monnow. This stream enjoys excellent water quality and it is rich in wildlife. The endangered White-clawed crayfish and otter use the brook as a corridor. Kingfisher, pied flycatcher and dipper are regularly seen here. It is an important trout-breeding stream which has economic value for the whole region.
Ewyas Harold Common dominates the eastern part of the parish and some of the residents enjoy Graziers Rights. In addition many people living in the parish visit the Common to walk and enjoy its fine views. This recreation facility is regarded as an extremely important. Although an interesting wildlife area, Ewyas Harold Common is not an SSSI. Management policy is decided by the Graziers' Association.
An extremely old holow oak tree grows on a small ridge overlooking the Dulas Brook on Middle Cefn Farm. Another very old tree can be found a few hundred yards away in a field below Upper Cefn Farm. Both trees are on private land with no public access.
Several farmers have joined the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and have been able to profit from grants aimed at improving local habitat. This has resulted in raised awareness of environmental issues. The Dulas Brook falls within the catchment area of the Monnow Improvement Scheme and there is an opportunity here for farmers who own both sides of the Dulas brook to join the scheme.
HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY
Although it appears to be simply a large Victorian house now used as a residential home, Dulas Court is a historic site. The old Dulas Court was once owned by the Parrys of Newcourt in Bacton. Blanche Parry was nurse to Queen Elizabeth 1st and became Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. She served the Queen all her life and the Parry family profited from the connection. Dulas Court was later bought from the Hopton family by the Rev. Robert Mosley Fielden (1858) and passed on to his son who pulled down the Court as well as the old church (which spoilt the view!) in spite of the fact that it lay on the site of a former Benedictine priory.
Only a trace of the early establishment remains. Some of the profusely carved oak panels in the main hall of the modern Dulas Court are said to have come from the old church. The base and stem of the old preaching cross and two gravestones lie in the garden. An early 12th century archway, taken from the old church, has been erected as an entrance to the walled garden that lies on the other side of the Dulas Brook, north of Dulas Court. Where the Dulas Brook enters the Court grounds there is a raised mound surrounded by hollows. This may be the site of a former mill as the field opposite was known as Millpond Orchard.
There are numerous items of historic interest in the parish which need protection:
- 3 stone stiles (either inside or bordering the parish).
- An historic preaching cross
- A Norman arch, circa 1000AD which is Dymmock School (typical of group of Masons set up in Dymmock Gloucestershire before Norman Conquest).
- Boundary stones on the Common
LAW AND ORDER
Few incidents are reported from this area. There is no neighbourhood watch scheme in operation.
What residents would like to see done in the Parish.
- Dulas is not designated by any village signs on the highways which leads to confusion. Residents feel that local signs should be erected, but there is some difficulty on the Cefn Road in deciding where they should be placed.
- There should be GPC liaison with the Vicar and the parishioners of the church while they determine the future of Dulas Church.
- There should be more signs for walkers, so they don't get lost when entering or leaving the Common.
- The footpaths network should be carefully checked and old footpaths restored where they meet modern needs.
- It was suggested that Dulas Churchyard should be an SSSI or Special Wildlife Site.
- The road along the side of the Lawns meadow (west of Dulas Court) is undercut and eroded. Eastbound traffic is forced to pull over to avoid oncoming vehicles but the verge is deceptive and cars run the risk of rolling off the road and into the meadow. White lines have been painted down the side of the road, but drivers are unsure what they mean. An increase in heavy traffic has been reported along this road. Road improvements should be sought.
- Many residents complain of road drainage problems and poor road surfaces which require regular monitoring by the GPC.
- Local residents would like to see improved sports facilities (tennis courts and a swimming pool) in Ewyas Harold to serve south Herefordshire.
- There is a demand for improved recycling provision, either in Ewyas Harold or Pontrilas.
- Residents agree that they would like to see the Railway Halt at Pontrilas re-opened. Many say they would use the train in preference to driving if they could.
- Residents use the facilities in Ewyas Harold and would like to see the Memorial Hall updated and made more "user friendly". Suggest that it should host film shows.
This draft Parish Plan was written by Liz Overstall and is based on results and suggestions from the Questionnaire completed by residents of Dulas Parish at the Parish Plan Cheese and Wine Party 19th May 2004.