ONCE the small north Pembrokeshire town of Newport saw more than pleasure trips and small fishing boats make use of its quays but its maritime tradition is fading away. 

The new single from Newport born and raised folk singer Lowri Evans, ‘Hwylio gyda’r lli’ (Sailing with the tide) laments a lost way of life and is a response to the second homes crisis which is making the town, and others like it across Wales, unaffordable and simply less vibrant than it once was. 

The single is released today while a ‘Nid yw Cymru ar Werth’ (Wales is not for sale) rally is taking place in Newport at 1pm on Saturday, October 23.

It is part of a series of rallies supported by the Welsh language society, Cymdeithas yr Iaith, to demand action on the housing crisis which in areas like Pembrokeshire is often fuelled by second home ownership. 

They are issues close to the heart of singer Lowri who performs under her own name but accompanied by her musical, and life, partner Lee Mason. 

“A two-bed house is now £375,000. Who in Pembrokeshire can afford that? Nobody local but its pocket money to someone in London looking for a second home,” says Lowri of the housing market in her hometown. 

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Written by friend, Hedd Ladd-Lewis, who was also born and raised in Newport, the song conjures up the imagery of a community that more than simply changing is disappearing. 

“See how it used to be, we’ll go and see the tide come in and go and see our history and listen to the birds and sea gulls sing and remember how it used to be. 

“We’ll run out with the river Nevern with my love to where there used to be a community but now there’s just dust. Where are the lights on the captain’s houses and the warm welcome?  

“I feel the hiraeth for what used to be, hiraeth for the old companions who’ve sailed away with the tide,” says Lowri running through a quick translation of the lyrics. 

The National Wales: The beach at Newport/Trefdraeth in Pembrokeshire Picture: Visit WalesThe beach at Newport/Trefdraeth in Pembrokeshire Picture: Visit Wales

While the days of sea captains living in the houses overlooking Newport’s Parrog Beach have long since passed many of the homes are often empty, with the lights out and nobody at home, as the town has become a favoured spot for holiday homes. 

“A lot of things have changed in Newport, there used to be a lot more people living here and I think someone has said there are nearly 50 per cent second homes. You can’t lump them all in the same boat, some will use those homes a lot, but others are used only a couple of times a year and are just empty,” is Lowri’s assessment. 

READ MORE: Cornish housing crisis recalls deep links with Wales

Lyricist Hedd, who has organised Saturday’ rally, was motivated by a sense of hiraeth for something he sees ebbing away. 

“There are no lights on now, you can’t really call it a community any more as they are just empty houses that aren’t occupied as opposed to the vibrant community that was. 

“I walk down Parrog Beach now and I’ve a terrible sense of sadness. Young people want to continue living here, and have a right to, but are not able to do so. It is a serious problem and house prices are totally out of control. 

“A terrace house in Newport, along that stretch of the coast, is £400,000 to £500,000 for three bedrooms and no parking,” says Hedd who thinks the Welsh Government need to take tougher action than the consultation on mitigation measures it announced this summer. 

The song chimes with the story of the nearby village of Cwm yr Eglwys which in June hit the headlines when it was revealed just two of 50 properties had full time residents, and with only one elderly Welsh speaker remaining.

READ MORE: Theo Davies-Lewis on the second homes crisis in Wales

For Hedd, 55, the situation in Newport, which in Welsh is Trefdraeth - meaning town on the beach - is more critical.

"Cwm yr Eglwys stopped being a viable community over 30 years ago but Newport is a town. We've been aware of this for a long time but it is reaching a crisis point." 

The impact, similar to other areas in Wales that have become holiday home hotspots, is that many young families cannot afford to live in the community which has a knock on effect on the viability of services such as schools and the Welsh language. 

READ MORE: Decision to close Ysgol Abersoch in question

Though Lowri, 42, is supporting the latest wave of action, calling for the Welsh Government to address the issue of second home ownership and affordable housing, with the issue having been prominent for much of this year – she doesn’t believe it’s a new problem. 

“It’s been an issue for a while though it probably has got progressively worse over the last few years but maybe it’s that social media has played a part in making people more aware.” 

Lowri has shared a performance of 'Hywlio gydar's lli', recorded, with Lee, for S4C's Noson Lawen programme, via her Twitter account

 

From her own experience the full time musician has seen the impact of rising house prices: “We have an ex local authority house which we bought five years ago and there is a covenant that you have to live and work in the area for three years but people are being priced out of those houses now. 

“We could probably sell our house for 40 or 50 per cent more than what we paid for it but the next house would probably be £350,000 so there is no moving up the ladder.” 

READ MORE: Second homes reaching crisis point for Welsh communities

The impact of such changes is also reflected with Welsh heard less as a community language. 

That is despite the local primary, which was bilingual when Lowri attended, having switched to become a Welsh medium school. 

“When the kids come out of school I don’t hear any of them speaking Welsh, they’re not using their Welsh and that could be a problem. The Welsh language does seem to go through trends, some times it’s trendy but other times friends might say it’s not ‘cool’ to speak it so there is a lot of peer pressure for kids as well.” 

READ MORE: Welsh medium plan for Bro Hyddgen backed by Powys council

Lowri, who records and performs in both Welsh and English, making modern folk and Americana inspired music, has found an international audience for her songs in both languages but she would also like to see more mainstream representation of Welsh language music on BBC Radio Wales. 

The National Wales: Lowri Evans signs the Tafia flag o fame at Spencers Jolly Posh in Chicago after performing in America in 2014Lowri Evans signs the Tafia flag o fame at Spencers Jolly Posh in Chicago after performing in America in 2014

Her music, in both languages, has been played by Adam Walton on the station’s Saturday night specialist show while Lowri and singer Sera have teamed up to form Tapestri and recorded alternative Welsh and English language versions of their latest single. 

“The DJ on Radio Ulster in Northern Ireland chose to play the Welsh version,” says Lowri. 

“I don’t know what Radio Wales’ policy is, on how much Welsh language music they will play, and they do have the Welsh artist A-list, which is good, and you will get the occasional Welsh language song but a bit more Welsh language tracks on Radio Wales wouldn’t go a miss.” 

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