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The Landscapes, The Environment, The Industries, The Workers, The Community, are just some of The Forces That Shape Our Communities, not only in the past, but now & in the future. 

The Swansea Valley & the area surrounding the Craig-Y-Nos, country park, was based on farming & industry; carving out the landscape we see today, transforming the communities who live & work there. Recent events, such as increase in tourism, Covid, climate change, furloughing, working from home, have transformed todays working environment, as well as resulting in mental health, work & community issues.

The Forces That Shape Our Communities is a 3 year Heritage Funded project based at Craig-y-Nos & the Swansea Valley, looking at old industrial work places, & the history of the workers’ home lives & work conditions; the skills they had, the materials & plants they used, the effect their work had on the landscape. ​This project aims to support & encourage the reopening/development of community projects & centres, enrich the tourist experience by developing genuine engagement with the landscape, enable individuals to think creatively & acquire skills & qualifications. 

Some of the old quarries, limestone kilns, & other heritage sites risk becoming overgrown & unidentified. There is a danger of memories fading & being lost, old skills being neglected & no longer used. Recollections & records of those whose ancestors worked at Craig-y-nos in the time of the opera singer, Adelina Patti, together with the staff at the house & its subsequent use as a tuberculosis hospital risk being forgotten; as also are the old uses of plants & fibres. The workers who dug the coal in the Ystradgynlais area, that kickstarted the Industrial Revolution - who were they? what dialects did they introduce? where did they go? 

Big Skill is all about finding a way to help people manage changes in a spirit of reciprosity, enabling participants to come together, post-covid, in accessible, free, coffee & chat sessions, at local communities centres & outdoors, where everyone’s abilities & contributions are valued. Big Skill’s motivation is in Community Building, everyone needs to feel, or learn to realise that, they have something to offer in order to truly engage. Our Workshops revolve around skill sharing, exchanging ideas & support between everyone: teachers, learners & our host organisations or venues alike. This is how a thriving community functions. Everything is made available at no cost to our participants & therefore open to all. We work with the often vulnerable in our society: those with disabilities, people with mental health, the lonely & isolated - boosting well-being & promoting positive interaction, as well as environmental understanding through recycling skills & traditional crafts. We have a team of skilled, experienced, adaptable practitioners who provide accessible, hands-on craft & rural skills activities. Join us & show pride in your heritage as you:-

Step out on the geology and history, droving, forgotten plants, walks.

Research & capture the history surrounding world-famous opera singer Adelina Patti at the castle & her creation the gardens/country park. Then how lives changed, when the castle became a TB hospital.

Record your memories or those of your forbears with our video recordings & drawing, painting, writing, photography workshops.

Gain a qualification with one of our willow, glass, painting, recycling accredited courses.

Show & share your creative flare with our wide-ranging craft & chat workshops.

Work in wood in the park with the hedge-laying, charcoal making, wood product sessions.

Plan & create in clay, & install in the woodlands at Craig-y-Nos country park engaging & informative, durable, contemporary artworks. See how your creativity can be interwoven into the work of others & take on & bring new life in different contexts. In the coming year with the Resurgence & the Three Ladies from the Mabinogion project, you can tell stories in clay, prose & pictures, & plan, create & ultimately leave an environmental impact  in in the old gardens of Adelina Patti at Craig-y-Nos country park,, with the placement in the woodlands three clay figures in a Historical Walk, & and two-part environmental figures set by the crystal-clear historical Resurgence Spring. 

At the far end of the beautiful woodland walk at Craig y Nos Country Park, near to one of the Park’s entrance points, a crystal clear natural spring leaves a giant maze of limestone caves under the Ogof Ffynnon Ddu cave system, having first fallen upon Craig y Rhiwarth behind this spot. The waters springing out of the Resurgence, became known as Hospital Rising (after the Craig-y-Nos castle was used as a TB Hospital, last century).  The Three Ladies, (Gwellian, Rhiannon, Blodeuwedd), are part of the eleven tales of the Mabinogion, based upon the 13th century ‘Red book of Hergest’ manuscript, which draws upon the mystical world of the Celtic people. Intertwining myths, folklore, tradition & history.

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Craig-y-Nos country park

Craig-y-Nos castle & grounds were once the estate of the celebrated opera diva Adelina Patti who during her lifetime ( 1843-1919 ) became one of the worlds most famous and highly rewarded entertainers. Moving in the highest echelons of Victorian society, she became, after Queen Victoria. the second most celebrated woman in the world in the year 1900. Some of her more prestigious fans included Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens, Napoleon II, The Prince of Wales, Tolstoy, Rossini & George Bernard Shaw

Whilst married to her first husband the Marquis de Caux, she purchased Craig-y-Nos in 1878. She divorced him in 1885 & married her colleague Earnest Nicolini, in Ystradgynlais.  Twelve months after his death in France, she, at the age of 56, married the 28 year old Swedish Baron Rolf Cederström at St. Michael’s Church, Brecon. 

Whilst at Craig-y-Nos Adelina added servants, wings & a clock tower, stocked the river with fish & installed an electric light plant in the grounds (rumoured to be the first private residence in the UK to be powered by electricity, & have a modern conveniences & running water). Adelina’s toilet in the pavilion can be seen but sorry, can’t be sat on! 

In 1891, the magnificent Patti Theatre was officially opened at Craig-y-Nos. Adelina also opened the Severn Tunnel in 1887 which enabled the direct London – Neath train to operate. In May 1897 she was made an Honorary Burgess of Brecon & given the freedom of the borough. A ward in Swansea Hospital was named after her, & in July of the same year she took part in the opening of the city’s Grand Theatre. In 1912 she was also awarded the freedom of the city of Swansea & became the only woman in the UK to be honoured by two boroughs. Extremely generous to the people in the surrounding area, Adelina played a number of charity concerts in Swansea & Brecon.

Following Adelina’s death, in 1920, Craig-y-Nos was put up for sale. The Winter Garden had been promised to Swansea, thus it was dismantled and removed to the city, where it remains as The Patti Pavilion.

The Welsh National Memorial Association purchased Craig-y-Nos & the surrounding 48 acres in 1921, establishing a tuberculosis sanatorium. 

In the 1950’s it became a geriatric hospital and remained so until 1986.

Workshops & Courses at Craig-y-Nos 2023


Mon. 9th January: Camera Conversations, Welfare Hall, Ystrad – videoing ‘what did your ancestors leave to you’ & ‘painting your ancestors’. Plus ‘figures in clay’. 9 – 13.

Mondays 16th, 23rd, 30th Jan & 6th Feb. Patchwork From Pre-Loved Fabrics, Agored Cymru accredited course. Geohub, Craig-y-Nos

Sunday 29th  Paint a scene of Craig-y-Nos country park & launch of Beacons Open Studios

Monday 30th, then 6/23/20 Feb. Stained glass Agored Cymru accredited course. Craig-y-Nos



Wednesday 1st Charcoal, Charcloth & Sketching Charcoal. CYN

Sat. 11th Photography – the features of CYN. 11 – 3

Wednesday 8th Charcoal Making a.m. Green Woodwork  p.m. CYN

Wednesday 15th Green Woodwork a.m. Charcoal Making p.m. CYN

Sat. 18th Feb. Talk on the Drovers 10 – 11. Drovers Walk 11.30 – 13.00. CYN

(Wed, 22nd Feb. Painting for 0-5s the Library Ystradgynlais)

Thurs 23rd Feb Hedgelaying. CYN

Sun, 26th Paint a scene of Craig-y-Nos country park & launch of Beacons Open Studios. CYN



Wed. 1st Zoom session with Adele. The Three Ladies of the Mabinogion (cancelled)


Tues. 7th Hedgelaying. CYN


The history of Craig-y-Nos in pictures & bulletins (Observational Drawing & Painting on Location accredited  course). CYN

Wed 22nd Mar: Food: The Stocking Lake & CYN Walled Garden.


Wed 29th  Mar: Enjoyment: The Boating Lake, Pavilion & Lawns, plus

Wed 29th Mar: Adele – the bulletin board of CYN. 


Wed 5th Apr. Features: Resurgence Spring, The Two Rivers, Rhododendron Walk, plus

Wed  5th Apr Adele – the bulletin board of CYN


Wed 12th Apr: The Castle: Adelina Patti, TB Hospital, The Morgue, The Hunting Lodge.



MS Society Zoom Sessions – 10.30 - 12

Sat. 1st. Landscape Features & Telling Stories in Foil -

Wed. 12th. Rag Rug Brooches 

Mon. 17th . Painting – The Three Ladies from the Mabinogion 

Sat. 22nd. Tote Bags from T Shirts



Saturdays  22nd 29th April, 13th.20th May 10 – 14.00 Carig-y-Nos

Certificated Creative Photography course with Eleanor Greenwood

Creative Photography

A good image is all about composition, telling your story in an image or series of images. How to make the viewer 'read' what you want them to by deciding what to keep in or keep out of your frame. Strong compositions are the foundation of great photography whether you are using a high end DSLR Camera or a smart phone.


Day 1 - Composition, framing, perspective.

Explore how framing your image in different ways creates different feelings and how connected or not the viewer is to the subject matter. Tuition on basic camera settings can be covered if needed.


Day 2 - Discovering other photographers

None of us work in a creative vacuum and finding photographers whose work you enjoy can help develop your own style. Discussing how a photograph works and what emotions and story it conveys builds on understanding of composition from the previous workshop.


Day 3 - Light and Depth

All photographs, whether digital or analogue require light. Explore using environmental light and how to bounce this for portraits, close ups and what inexpensive equipment can be used. On camera and off camera flash. Explore exposure and depth of field and what can be achieved with your camera.


Day 4 - Project

Using all that has been covered, create a series of images on a set theme and present to the group.







Wednesdays 24th 31st May, 7th 14th June 10.30 – 2.30 CYN

From land to paper - ink making and lino printing


Making ink from pigments found in the landscape makes you feel connected to it in a very special and unique way. Over this four week course I will show you how to source suitable materials, and make ink that can be used to make lino printed illustrations based on the landscape around Craig Y Nos.

It will be very relaxed and no prior experience is needed.


It will start with a short walk through Craig Y Nos Estate finding suitable materials. I will show you the different methods and how to process them into good pigments and inks. Using photographs, sketches and plant materials we will look at the varied ways you can turn them into illustrations that create mood and atmosphere. Finally we will then work on carving the lino printing blocks, and printing the images with the lovely ink you have made.


31st Refugee Day – Telling Stories in Clay, Paint & Rags; plus Camera Conversations


Mon. 5th Creative Writing, The Three Ladies of the Mabinogion, zoom session with Adele, ‘Inspiring Poetic Words, not Set in Stone, but Created in Clay!’


Mon. 19th Drypoint Engraving for Healthy Lifestyles (Walk the Plank/BBNPA) Builth Wells

Mon, 26th Clay workshop for Healthy Lifestyles CYN


Friday 23rd Open Mic, The Muse, Brecon



Painting Julia’s group TBA


Sat 8th Mark Davis, Drovers Walk & Talk



Stained Glass accredited course with Helen, Thursday 3rd 10th 17th 24th August


Tues. 29 Aug. 5, 12,19, Sept Anna, Willow workshops accredited course


Friday 15th Sept Clay workshop


Crafts from Recycled Waste accredited course, Thursdays Sept. 14th, 21st 28th Oct. 5th, 12th, 19th  (Helen, Rachel, Bridget, Bridget, Tina. Bridget)


Wednesdays 24th  Sept & 1st, 8th 15th October Rural Skills accredited course. TBA




Mondays - 23rd & 30th October, 6th 13th November; accredited patchwork course with Tina



Sat & Sun 28th & 29th (+?) October Mabinogion Exhibition & Workshop 


Aberdare Week, June 17th – 26th  –  part of the Pen-y-Cymoedd Community Windfarm funded- Memorable Days in Aberdare - A Walk, A Workshop; A Coffee, A Chat;. A Picture, A Postcard

1) Sat 17th Rachel ink making Cynon Valley Museum


2) Sunday 18th Mark Davis walk and talk drovers


3) Monday 19th Karin painting memories in the style of Nicholas Evans 


4) Tuesday 20th Alan Bowring walk


5) Wed 21st Mike church writing workshop. St Elvan’s


6) Thursday 22nd Christina Davies textile workshop. St Elvan’s 


7) Friday 23rd Nigel camera conversations Aberdare Market


8) Saturday 24th tbc


9) Monday 26th Wendy Donovan photography workshop around Aberdare.

St Elvan & town

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