A CARDIGAN businessman has joined forces with the Church in Wales to launch a unique new tourist business.

James Lynch, the man behind the fforest and Pizzatitpi brands, is looking to bring closed churches back to life by using them to house visiting cyclists.

And the idea has been highlighted by Welsh Government to kickstart Wales' Year of Discovery 2019.

Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Elis-Thomas has visited two sites in the Cardigan area - at Cilgerran and Cwmtydu - to launch the tourism initiative with the aim of encouraging people to rediscover Wales and find something new about Wales and about themselves.

Lord Ellis-Thomas visited the team at fforest, at Cilgerran, which is celebrating 12 years since starting the business. The team has recently revealed a new project for 2019, in collaboration with The Representative Body of the Church in Wales.

The SpiritCymru project will create a network of discovery, connecting chapels and churches in west Wales through unique cycle touring journeys and overnight stays in remote historic church and chapel buildings - which provide a window of discovery to the rural communities and small legends of Wales.

Fforest boss James Lynch said: “We know that there are some 800 chapels and churches in the rural and coastal communities of Wales – many of which are facing an uncertain future.

“SpiritCymru will celebrate and promote the heritage values of these beautiful buildings and provide a new sustainable model for continued community engagement and use.”

Alex Glanville, head of property services at the Church in Wales, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to work in partnership with fforest to find a new, innovative purpose for churches that have been closed.

“These buildings remain special places which will find a new audience through SpiritCymru.”

The unique sleeping pods and services to be put in the churches are an installation, not a conversion. The comfortable, self-contained rooms are based on a Japanese/Scandinavian concept and designed for cyclists’ needs. Journeys will begin and end at fforest.

The Minister also visited another new venture in Ceredigion. Ty Cwch, Cwmtydu is the first accommodation in Wales for outdoor activities made entirely from refashioned shipping containers.

For the Year of Discovery, Ty Cwch will work with local outdoor activities instructors offering tailored discovery courses.

Nigel Humphrey, from Ty Cwch , said: “A Year of Discovery is a very appropriate theme with the growing popularity of outdoor activities. This might be for groups or families who want organised activities or merely to get away from it all and enjoy the great countryside.

“The Welsh coast is highly suited to both.”

Lord Ellis-Thomas said: “Wales is full of hidden corners as well as world-class attractions, and these projects which I’ve seen are an excellent way for people to discover more about Wales, find a hidden corner and try out a new experience.”

“Wales’ strengths are adventure, culture and the outdoors, and the aim of our themed years is to reinforce these strengths – we will return to these themes time and again, to ensure that we have clear and consistent messages about what Wales has to offer.

“This will be more important than ever as we work to adapt to the challenges and opportunities ahead.”