Amgueddfa Blog

Wool is being heralded as the all-natural, planet friendly, renewable and biodegradable future fibre. In an age in which we must question the impact that clothing and fast fashion are having on the planet, a growing number of consumers are returning to natural fibres – not just for clothing, but also to insulate and furnish their home. Preserving traditional skills are an important part of the work of the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, but with this growing interest in natural and sustainable fibres, as well as the upsurge in homespun fashion and textiles, what have for years been considered ‘heritage crafts’ may well become important skills for the future.

Visitors to the National Wool Museum in Drefach Felindre already enjoy watching the master weavers of Melin Teifi, a commercial woollen mill who are tenants at the museum, weave beautiful fabrics in traditional patterns on mechanised looms. They provide visitors with a fascinating insight into the workings and processes of a working mill. But sadly, Melin Teifi is the last mill in Wales producing traditional Welsh flannel. At the height of the industry in the twentieth century there were 217 mills in Wales, mainly producing Welsh blankets, flannel and tapestry cloth. There are currently 7 to 8 woollen mills operating in Wales, and there is a serious danger that these skills will not be preserved for the future, unless a concerted effort is made.

That is why National Museums and Galleries of Wales are especially delighted to welcome three new trainee Crafters to our team at the National Wool Museum. They are James Whittall, Jay Jones and Richard Collins.  They joined in December and have already begun their training in heritage craft skills. They’ve recently begin demonstrating some of their newly acquired hand craft skills, to our visitors. This helps us bring the story of the wool industry and the museum’s collection alive. As they develop weaving skills over the coming months and years, they may also help us fulfil some of the increasing demand for products with provenance and develop new commercial activity for the museum.

Our hope is that such activity could in the future, support our rural economy and stimulate opportunities for our young people to realise the potential of gaining skilled work and fulfilling lives in this region, with the added benefit of supporting the maintenance and development of the Welsh language. The landscape of the woollen industry in Wales is likely to change over the coming years, and there is potential for the growth of ‘micro mills’, providing that traditional skills are retained to enable supply to Welsh designers. We are delighted to be playing our part in reclaiming these valuable skills to support the regeneration of what has historically been one of Wales’ most important industries.

Follow the progress of our Crafters as they learn new skills and hone their crafts………..

Hello Bulb Buddies,

I hope that you have had a good half term. Have any of your plants flowered over the holidays? Remember to enter the date your plant flowers and the height of your plant in mm to the website. We ask for the flowering date for every single plant to be entered, these are then used to work out the average flowering date for your school.

Schools that are taking part in the Edina Trust Extension Project are also asked to note whether each daffodil record they enter is from a bulb planted in the ground or in a pot.

We talk a lot about the weather records you take each week, but the flower records are just as important. We are investigating how changes in the weather effect the flowering dates of spring plants. To do this we need to be able to compare flowering dates for each year the investigation has been running.

The bar chart below shows the average flowering dates for spring plants in Wales since 2006. You can see from the chart that 2019 saw the earliest flowering dates since 2008. Do you think our plants will flower earlier or later this year Bulb Buddies?

Average flowering dates for Wales 2006-2019








The bar chart below shows the average flowering date for each country in 2019. You can see from the chart that plants flowered earliest in Northern Ireland and latest in Scotland. Do you think we will see the same pattern this year Bulb Buddies?

Average flowering dates 2019







Watch your plants closely over the next few weeks. Last year the average flowering dates for crocus was 22 February.

It’s fascinating to see how your plants change over time. There are activities on the website about the life cycle of plants:

Remember to share your photos with me Bulb Buddies.

Professor Plant

Sadly, Dippy has now left National Museum Cardiff and continued on his tour to Rochdale. But he won't be forgotten! This video, made by Dippy volunteer Ben, says farewell to the super sauropod, and acknowledges the importance of the volunteers in making the exhibition such a success! 

Music credit : Cherry Blossom by Kevin MacLeod

If you missed it, check out our other volunteer-made Dippy video!


The current display Imagine a Castle: Paintings from the National Gallery, London offers a great opportunity to see a selection of European Old Master paintings for the first time in Wales alongside Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s own collection.

Comparing European and Welsh castles and the history and legends that come with them plays a vital part in defining Welsh cultural identity. Yet the history of castles in Wales is, for some, contentious.

To find out why we need to go back to the thriteenth century. During this time, there were many disputes between Welsh princes and English kings. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (last Prince of Wales) was involved in many disputes with Edward I, who launched a vicious campaign on the Welsh. This resulted in Llywelyn losing his power, land, titles and ultimately his life.

Following this English victory, Edward began the most ambitious castle-building policy ever seen in Europe. His collection of fortresses became known as the infamous ‘iron ring’ and included those at Harlech, Caernarfon and Conwy. They were intended to intimidate the Welsh and subdue uprisings. Along with these English-built fortresses came new towns that were intentionally populated with English settlers. Welsh people were forbidden to trade or sometimes even enter into the towns’ walls. Yet, while these castles remind us of English power over the Welsh, the strength of their construction underlines that Edward was conscious of the formidable and ever-present threat of Welsh resistance.

To acknowledge the histories of castles in Wales, we have included works from two Welsh artists, the ‘father of British landscape painting’, Richard Wilson, whose works offer an eighteenth-century perspective, and contemporary artist Peter Finnemore.

Wilson’s work reflects his travels to Italy and the influence of the hugely important French landscape painter, Claude Lorrain, whose work can also be seen in this exhibition. Wilson painted many Welsh landscapes and is recognised as changing the face of British landscape painting. While his work encouraged artists to come to Wales, many of his later Welsh compositions, such as Caernarfon Castle (Edward’s main seat in Wales) remind us more of the warmer climates of Italy. As such, they also point to his inspirations outside of Wales.

On the other hand, Finnemore’s photographic works, Lesson 56 – Wales and Ancient Ruler Worship (made especially for this display), look at castles in Wales from a more recent Welsh perspective. Finnemore’s work revolves around his Welsh-speaking grandmother’s school textbooks that were written from an English standpoint. Her childhood drawings in these books humorously undermine the didactic English text. Ancient Ruler Worship depicts Castell Carreg Cennen and looks back to World War II. It is taken from a still in Humphry Jennings’s propaganda film, Silent Village, that portrayed this castle as a site of Welsh resistance during an imagined Nazi invasion. The film demonstrated solidarity with Lidice, a mining village in the Czech Republic that was totally destroyed by the Nazis.

Whatever we may feel about their history, many of Edward’s Welsh castles are now designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Edward left a unique and internationally important legacy of medieval military architecture that can only be seen in Wales.

What is Ming?

Ocean Quahog shells - scientific name Arctica islandica

Ming is an Ocean Quahog clam with the scientific name of Arctica islandica. It was nicknamed Ming when scientists discovered that it would have been born in 1499 during the Ming Dynasty of China. Ocean Quahogs grow up to 13 cm long and the oldest one fished off the coast of Iceland was 507 years old, making it the oldest non-colonial animal known to science.

Where do Ocean Quahogs live?

These are the siphons of the Ocean Quahog - the shell is buried in the sand. It uses the siphons to suck in water and feed off tiny particles in the water

Ocean Quahogs belong to a big group of shells called ‘bivalves’. Most bivalves are filter feeders and suck in water through their tube-like siphons (you can see in the photo, the two holes surrounded by darker pink). While lying on the seabed or buried in the sand or mud bivalves can safely take food particles and oxygen from the water.

Ming was collected from the deep waters around Iceland but we get this species in British and Irish waters too, although it does not live to such a great age here. The waters surrounding our islands are warmer than those surrounding Iceland, which is just south of the Arctic Circle. Warm waters hold less dissolved oxygen than cold water and so around the UK the Ocean Quahog needs to work harder to get oxygen and so has a faster metabolism. A faster metabolism means that it grows quicker but when animals have a fast metabolism they do not live as long. In the colder waters surrounding Iceland the Ocean Quahog has a slower metabolism and so grows slowly and may even live for longer than 507 – scientists just haven’t found an older one yet!


How long do animals live?

Geoduck lives in the coastal waters of western Canada and USA and can live to 168 years

Some other bivalve molluscs can live for a long time as well. Giant clams can grow to 4 feet long (1.2 m) and live for around 100 years. They have tiny plant cells in their tissue that photosynthesize producing energy from the sun to give to the clam. This is why they reach such a large size – talk about plant power!

The Geoduck, which lives in the coastal waters of western Canada and USA, can live for 164 years. It is known as Gooey duck and has large meaty siphons that are a popular food for humans!

Come to our Insight gallery at Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd - National Museum Cardiff to to find out more about how long animals can live for and much more...

Giant clams live in the tropics and can reach over 4 feet long (1.2 m) and live for 100 years