Sunday 10 March 2013

So near I can almost touch it

As the Drala Jong fund grows, in recent times there have been a number of requests from donors and volunteers to get a more tangible sense of what Drala Jong will be, what facilities will be there, what work will need to be done to get it up and running, where it will be located and so on.

Well, it's confession time. . . mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. . . I've been reticent to blog about these things, because the answer to all these questions is very much 'it depends'.  It depends, for example, on how much money we finally do raise.if we raise £450,000 the project will still go ahead, on a slightly different scale.  Alternatively, we could easily spend £1,000,000 is someone were so moved to donate that much money.  Everything's relative (although as someone once said 'If everything is relative, why don't they send me Birthday cards?').  Those intimate with the project have not wanted to flag up a specific building because until the fund is closer to the £500,000 mark, it would mean, like Jim Bowen, we'd be saying 'Let's look at what you could have won'  If supporters set their hearts on a particular set of sash windows, they may ultimately be saddened if the property of their dreams isn't the one we end up acquiring.

Not the property of our dreams! Your dreams may differ. . .

What we've decided to do to respond to these requests is to meet people half way, and start to make the vision that is Drala Jong just that little bit more tangible by covering some of the key qualities that Drala Jong will possess.

There a various ways of enumerating the considerations in deciding what Drala Jong will look like, and where it will be, but they can all be captured under the headings of cost, location, facilities, condition, and flexibility.

For this installment, since finding property is all about location, location, location (so Kirsty tells us, and who are we to argue?), we thought we'd start with that element.  In terms of project goals, there is a balance in choosing a location remote enough to be suitably private, in an environment supportive of practices that are performed out of doors, yet close enough to major transport links and local towns and cities.  Sangha members and the public who have attended public retreats with us in Britain over the last 20 years will know that many of our retreats have been in various parts of Wales.  In recent times, they've been in and around Llandeilo and Llandovery.  Drala Jong will be a rural retreat centre - that is a given - and past retreatants will be used to having to travel some distance to get to our events.  Since our lineage holders had to travel to India and Nepal to receive teachings, our efforts are relatively easy by comparison.  The good news is, whether travelling within Great Britain or from abroad, the intention is to be more accessible than Llandeilo - our main location of the last 15 years.

The fund raising brochure stated it would be 'close to an hour from Cardiff' - the home of the lineage holders, and one of the sangha hubs.  With this in mind the location is going to be within the area encompassed by South East Wales and the Southern end of the Welsh Marches.  Specifically, in the region of Brecon, Abergavenny, Usk, Monmouth, Ross or Hereford.

All these locations are within the orbit of the main areas where many British-based sangha live - Cardiff and Bristol - the latter being particularly important given the presence of our Bristol Aro Ling centre.  These locations are also within reasonable distance of 3 regional airports at Cardiff (Wales), Bristol (South West England) and Birmingham (Midlands) for European travelers, with many being on rail or coach routes from Heathrow airport for transatlantic visitors.

For those used to travelling from South Wales or Bristol, compared Llandeilo these locations are closer in time and distance for all likely travelers.  Many are very considerably closer.  To give a sense of this, the travel times in minutes by road follow below (c/o the Automobile Association website):

mins. Cardiff Bristol Birmingham Heathrow
Llandeilo 75 114 173 204
Brecon 63 96 130 185
Abergavenny 53 64 105 155
Usk 39 46 98 135
Chepstow 42 27 99 116
Hereford 80 87 80 165
Ross 67 72 72 144
Monmouth 51 58 88 147

All these locations have direct or indirect links to the M4, M5 and M50 motorways:

For public transport users, and international travelers, most of these locations also have National Rail or National Express Coach connections which link to the regional airports and the national hubs around London.  Current travel times by public transport, and the number of changes needed - if any - for Sunday travel are as follows.  NB. we chose to show  Sunday travel times because retreats commonly end on a Sunday, and also because if you can get public transport on a Sunday in Britain it will definitely be possible to travel on a weekday (commonly far more quickly, with less changes - 'C' for change):

Rail? Cardiff Bristol Birmingham Heathrow
Llandeilo C/2hrs16m C/3hrs 2C/4hrs14m 2C/5hrs20m
Abergavenny 45mins C/1hr C/2hrs 2C/3hrs15m
Chepstow 44mins C/1hr C/90mins 2C/4hrs
Hereford 1hr6m C/1hr28m 1hr40m C/3hrs39m

Coach? Cardiff Bristol Birmingham Heathrow
Chepstow 1hr 30mins C14hrs30m 2hrs5m
Hereford 2C/7hrs20m C/4hrs35m 2hrs16m C/4hrs50m
Ross 1hr30m C/4hr15m 1hr25m C/4hr20m
Monmouth 1hr5m C/4hr15m 1hr45m X

In essence, all the rail or coach connected areas are within 2 hours travel of Cardiff, Bristol and Birmingham by public transport, even on the worst travel day of the week (Sunday).  All the areas with good public transport links are much more easily accessed than Llandeilo, by 30 to 60 minutes.

So, that's location.  In the next installment of this Blog, we'll look at cost, and specifically what £500,000 would buy today in each of these locations.