Tribute to the late Ian Stuart Watt, Diana Road, Llandeilo

It initially came as something of a shock to Ian Watt in 1970 when as District Officer in the Forestry Commission he was moved from Scotland to the FC office in Llandovery. However, this was to prove a most beneficial move to himself and to the community in the area around Llandeilo, Dynefwr Castle and Castle Woods and so it is appropriate to recall some of the formative experiences in his life before his coming to Wales.

Aerial view of Dinefwr Castle from the south. Photo by T. A. James (Dyfed Archaeological Trust)

Aerial view of Dinefwr Castle from the south. Photo by T. A. James (Dyfed Archaeological Trust)

He was born in 1921, to Annie and William, the manager of a rubber plantation in Malaya, where he lived for his first 7 years following which he continued his schooling in the home city of Aberdeen. With the outbreak of World War II he served as a Bomber Commander until demobbed in 1946, after which he only then could devote himself to his university studies in Forestry. His early forestry work included spells of walking and surveying the wilder parts of Scotland culminating in the Forestry Commission's largest acquisition of 50,000 acres in the now famous Glen Affric. His enduring love of and respect for nature became very strong during these early professional years in Scotland, nurtured also by his wife Enid.

After the professional move to Wales, they initially lived in Llangadog but then the opportunity arose to move to a house in Llandeilo on Diana Road, right opposite the driveway to Dynefwr Park.

Dinefwr Castle by Vaughn Matthews

Dinefwr Castle by Vaughn Matthews

Until he retired in 1983, he was working with foresters, timber merchants, landed gentry, farmers, ecologists, developers, and council officials; at times the challenge was how to satisfy the opposing parties and square the circle, and these qualities stood him in good stead in future negotiations over the future of Castle Woods.

Whilst not having the Welsh language, his warm and lively but thoughtful nature soon enabled him to make many friends throughout the region, building up a network of contacts, not least through his tireless evening talks to local societies throughout South Wales. Thus when the possible sale of Castle Woods for commercial forestry was mooted, he was swiftly able to recruit allies in the cause to save these magnificent woods with veteran trees and a historic castle and church with the help of Enid and many other local wildlife enthusiasts. By these means a total of £71,500 was raised and in 1979 Castle Woods and Llandyfeisant Church was secured for the Wildlife Trust and for people's enjoyment.

In these early days, a young warden was employed to live in the woods during the summer months and these people, I know, have fond memories of their wonderful time spent here, when they also had the pleasures of frequent visits and hot meals with Enid and Ian. The Wildlife Trust invested Ian with the role as Honorary Warden on his retirement and his time and efforts were rewarded in due course with a visit by the Prince of Wales and an MBE in 1982.

His years as Honorary Warden were unfortunately marred by a stroke in 1992 but he fought back as well as he could and continued to play an active role to the best of his abilities until his death at the ripe age of 81. A couple of years earlier, on his 80th birthday, his daughter Elizabeth and son John helped organise a celebration of his 80th birthday when he planted a sweet chestnut tree outside Newtown House near the veteran sweet chestnut trees, and many shared this happy occasion.

At that time some lines from John Dyer's poem 'On Grongar Hill' were inscribed in the National Trust remembrance book. These imaginative lines might equally have been composed for Dynefwr as for the neighbouring Grongar, for they evoke so effectively our feelings on coming to Dynfwr Park. They serve to remind us how fortunate it was that Ian Watt was able to enthuse the local population to put in some much time, effort and money into saving this place for future generations to enjoy.

'Old castles on the cliff arise,
Proudly towering in the skies!

Below the trees unnumbered rise,
Beautiful in various dyes.'