Ty Hafan

#family friday

Why Iolo's urging us all to walk for Tŷ Hafan

Passionate conservationist, broadcaster and long-time supporter of Tŷ Hafan, Iolo Williams of BBC Countryfile and Springwatch took time out of filming to chat with us in Builth Wells to explain what makes him tick  and why he’d love even more people across Wales to join him in supporting Tŷ Hafan.

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“I’m not a stranger to Tŷ Hafan. The first time I went there was 2003, when I walked from the site of Tŷ Gobaith, which was just being built to Tŷ Hafan.

“When we arrived I remember telling myself ‘Come on now, Iolo. It’s going to be very sad in here because obviously it’s about children with life-limiting conditions.’ As a parent myself, I can’t imagine anything worse than losing a child. And I thought to myself, ‘Come on now, deep breath now, in we go.’ And then opening the doors and finding one of the happiest places I have ever been in.

iolo williams ty hafan walk

“Tŷ Hafan was just the exact opposite of what I expected but in such a pleasant way. It was just an amazing place.

“The positive energy, seeping out of the walls, out of every single individual working in there, even from the families and the parents. I was blown away by the place. This is just an amazingly positive place. It really was.

“I’ve been once since then to hand over a couple of nest boxes. I would love to come back. I will come back and bring you two nest boxes, but special ones with cameras in so that they can be plugged into TV screens, so that you can follow the ups and downs of families of Blue Tits, Great Tits, whatever is in there.

“So why am I asking people to support Tŷ Hafan? I would just ask people to stop for a minute and imagine what it would be like to have a child with a life-limiting condition.

“You all, as a family have to live with that, 24 hours a day and having somewhere like Tŷ Hafan is literally a godsend. It’s often the only respite that you get as a family.

“For the child, it’s a brilliant place, because of all the stimulation in there, so I would say to people, just please, please, please think about that because obviously in an ideal world it would all be funded by governments and there would be plenty of money. It’s not an ideal world, far from it, so Tŷ Hafan rely on donations, on people raising money and some people are already doing fantastic work in that respect.

“Of course, the more of us who take part, the more money we can raise, the more Tŷ Hafan can do, and the more the children and their families will benefit.

“It’s funny. My history is I am a conservationist, I’m not a TV personality really, I am just a conservationist who stumbled across TV and radio. When I was young I was a very angry, a very passionate young man about the Welsh countryside and wildlife because I could see it disappearing and I thought I would mellow with age.

“But I have become a very angry middle aged man, I haven’t lost any of it! And I am pleased that I haven’t! And I hope that I become a very angry old man, as well. I’m more passionate than ever because I have seen even more of it disappear.

“As a youngster I remember going out and walking the fields and seeing common birds then like lap-wings and curlews and skylarks, you know, and they have gone from the vast majority Wales now. It is so tremendously sad.

“And so that's what drives me. That’s what absolutely drives me and that is why I get so frustrated with decision-makers, with politicians, that we can turn this around. It’s not rocket science. We know what’s going wrong, we know what we need and there’s an unwillingness to be able to turn it around. So that’s what drives me, that’s what I am passionate about.

iolo williams ty hafan walk

“But as I have got older other things have also become very important in my life. Family is one of them. I am a very open person, I hope I am a very honest person, but when it comes to family I am actually quite secretive. Because my family is very separate from my life in the public eye. I keep family separate from that. I’ve got a wife, Ceri, and two boys, Dewi and Tomos, well, they are men now really and I really enjoy spending time with them. I really do.

“And the older I’ve got, the more I enjoy it. As a family we had a few days off last week, the boys still come if dad pays, of course, and it was lovely. Just having fun. They are friends, but also they are sons. I don’t want them to be my best mate because it’s important that they have their own lives, very important that they have that. But I do enjoy their company. They make me laugh. So family has become more and more important as time has gone on.

“I am the world’s worst at advertising my own stuff. I am, honestly! I have got a website but it’s about 20 years out of date. I can’t use computers so I don’t want to update it. So I am genuinely dreadful. I rely on other people – Come on a Tour with Iolo Williams, blah blah blah. I am absolutely useless. And what’s great is that I am 59, I have just turned 59 now last week, and you’ve reached the age where, on the whole, you couldn’t give two hoots about what people say about you and what people think about you and all. I think to myself, ‘Do you know what, I couldn’t give a damn.’

“So it’s a lovely age. You are happy in your own skin. There are things that upset you obviously but, you know, if people attack you on social media or face to face, you think, ‘I don’t give a damn’. And it’s a lovely feeling!

“But I think what I value maybe above all else is the fact that, touch wood, I’ve got two happy healthy boys – men – and that’s why you see places like Tŷ Hafan and you just think, ‘Wow, I am incredibly lucky.’

“That’s why I hope people can look at home, and hopefully they’ve got healthy kids, and they can think, do you know what ‘We are lucky, maybe we should be doing more to help people like Tŷ Hafan, because you give up a day of your time a year. That’s nothing. We’ve all got a day a year spare. So I hope people will read this, or listen to this, or whatever it is and think, We should be doing more to help too, maybe’.”

tyhafan · Iolo Williams talks Tŷ Hafan

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