On Wednesday (3rd July) some 90 primary school children, parents and teachers gathered in the ballroom of the Bridges Centre in Monmouth for the prize-giving ceremony of Monmouthshire CPRW’s and Eco-Schools Wales’ annual painting and poetry competition for schools.

The competition was set up by Monmouthshire CPRW about 20yrs ago to try and get children excited about our Monmouthshire countryside and the natural world in general – and to encourage them to be aware of the things that threaten it.

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales is a voluntary organisation that works to protect the special qualities of the Welsh countryside and the towns and villages within it. For several years now the Monmouthshire branch has been running this competition jointly with Keep Wales Tidy - an environmental charity which manages the Eco-Schools Programme in Wales.

This year’s theme was The Treasures and Troubles of our Rivers.

A very topical theme in view of the recent uproar over the state of the rivers Wye and Usk in particular – and a theme that even made it onto the manifestoes of some of our local candidates standing in Thursday’s elections. Although, it seems that the state of our environment and our planet in general comes pretty low down most of the parties’ list of priorities, this competition has shown that it’s pretty high on the agenda of our local school children – and that’s a cause for hope! The paintings and poems showed a real love for our local rivers and a real concern for their protection.

The CPRW annual painting and poetry competition

The prizes – book tokens ranging from £10 to £25 - were shared between 31 children from 8 primary schools in the area. In the art competition, The Dell School from Chepstow did particularly well, claiming 7 of the 13 prizes.

It was a great pleasure and privilege to have Angela Jones present the prizes and share a little about her passion for our local rivers and her work to protect them.

Known as ‘the Wild Woman of the Wye’ (and more recently of the Usk too) and the Swimming Detective, Angela has travelled the country – often dressed in weird and wonderful costumes – to spread her message. She has even spoken at the Houses of Parliament. She’s made many TV appearances on programmes such as Panorama, Countryfile and Good Morning Britain and she once interrupted BBC’s Newsnight with a live protest.

After the ceremony parents, children and organisers mingled and chatted over tea, coffee, fruit juices and Welsh Cakes. Parents shared how engaged their children had been in the subject area. Speaking after the event, Bryony Bromley, Education Manager at Keep Wales Tidy, said

“We were amazed by the standard of entries this year and the clear emotion that was shown through both the poems and the art for the situation facing our rivers. The children showed an in depth knowledge of both the threats but also what needs to change for our rivers to thrive again”.

The opening paragraph from one of the winning poems by Isabelle Philson In Year 4 at Trellech Primary reads as follows:

Rivers are running to keep us healthy

Not dying and crying to make us feel wealthy

Our rivers need help, and its up to us!

How can we save our beloved River Usk?