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An Introduction to the Diocese of Gullpool and Rockness

 

The Diocese of Gullpool and Rockness is the most diverse of the Church in Wales dioceses. The major city of Gullpool lies in the south of the diocese and is well served with communication links to the rest of Wales. Indeed its development owes much to its position as the original basin for the Cwmfelin and Gullpool Union Canal and subsequently the main goods marshalling yard for the All Wales Railway.

 

The creation of the railway line from Gullpool , through the mountains to the north to Rockness Ferry is regard as one of the great feats of Welsh engineering. Sadly this line was closed during the Beeching era and all attempts to reopen it have failed because of the challenges of refurbishing and maintaining the numerous tunnels on the line. All that remains is the spur line from the main line from Cwmfelin to Paddington which provides Gullpool with rail links to the rest of Wales.

 

The mountains to the north of Gullpool form a significant barrier and appear to cut the diocese in two. They also mark a linguistic barrier between the mainly English speaking south and the mainly Welsh speaking north of the diocese. Between the mountains and the coast at Rockness Ferry is an area of fertile farming country, dotted with small villages and hamlets. Rockness Ferry is a small port which benefits from a well sheltered harbour. As a result, not only is there the regular ferry to the Island of Rockness situated a mile off shore, but also there is a ferry sailing to Southern Ireland, which remains popular with tourists because of lack of commercial traffic using the route and the beauty of the first stages of the journey to Ireland along the coast of Wales.

 

The island of Rockness is also an attractive tourist destination having spectacular cliffs, interesting bird life and some secluded sandy bays. It is owned by an English company, but its resident population of nearly 1,000 are all native Welsh speakers and many speak only Welsh.

 

The Cathedral Church of St Francis is situated in the centre of Gullpool. The diocese and the Cathedral share office accommodation in the Cathedral close. The parish Church of St Prometheus, Rockness Ferry is officially designated as the proto-cathedral for the areas of the diocese beyond the mountains. The diocese has two Archdeaconries, Gullpool and Rockness, each of which has four deaneries.

 

The main road links within the diocese are the M413 spur that joins the M4 at Cwmfelin and the A1313 which links Gullpool and Rockness Ferry following a route that crosses the mountains at the lowest point which is on the western border of the diocese. The A487 passes through Rockness Ferry and provides road links to Cardigan, Aberystwyth and Fishguard.

 

There are three Local Authorities with responsibility for education in the diocese, two of which also cover areas of the neighbouring dioceses. Gullpool City Council covers the city itself and the area to the south as far as the Bristol Channel. The headquarters of the City council are in the Town Hall, which is within walking distance of the Cathedral.

 

The Grey Mountains District Authority covers that part of the diocese within the Grey Mountains National Park and the area to the South and east of the mountains including the town of Caebraf. The area north of the Mountains, including the island of Rockness, falls within in the Glyndwr District Council. The headquarters of both the district councils are located outside the diocese. None of these authorities is large in population terms and, as a result they are all limited in the resources that they are able to provide for school support. All three outsource school improvement issues to consultants.

 

The Diocesan Director of Education is Canon Stephen Wise. He combines this role with that of Residentiary Canon of the Cathedral. Before ordination he was briefly teacher of Religious Education in an Inner City Secondary school in Cardiff. He has held the post for a number of years and is well respected for his work both within the diocese and with the Local Authorities of the area.

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