If one wanted to attest to the natural beauty of the valleys and the warmth and continued ambition of its people, then two recent visits we paid to the Rhondda (Fawr) to discuss project plans with community partners were firm evidence of that.
The first trip was to Treherbert. The weather was at best unforgiving as we snaked our way up the valley, past Porth where the two rivers, Rhondda Fawr and Rhondda Fach meet, and then past Tonypandy and through Llwynypia and Treorchy and other renowned towns and villages to arrive at our destination, the Dunraven Hotel.
The initial intention was to walk and talk with our partners up through the wonderful geological landscapes of Cwm Saerbren. But the heavy rain put paid to that. As we entered, we were met by a host of hosts from a wonderful collection of groups and organisations. With the welcome as warming as the tea, the conversations were soon animated and brimming with passion and ideas. This is a community that is really seeking to create a new future based on its natural assets and the topic of powering that future was a focus. What will Treherbert, Blaencwm and Blaenrhondda be like in 2050? A sofa in the street as a way to engage the wider community perhaps – Sofa Siarad, anyone? More on that again. For now, we wanted to just listen and explore the possibilities. As we left, energised by the discussions, the weather broke for majestic Pen Pych to emerge dramatically from the clearing clouds high above the terraced houses. Treherbert, the future awaits…
A couple of weeks later and this time I find myself on my own making a shorter journey. Having met with Lauren and Hugh at Meadow Prospect, the charitable arm of RCT Homes, to find out more about their exciting energy plans, I again headed north west past Porth before dashing west near Tonypandy to wend my way up Clydach Vale or Cwm Clydach, birthplace of one of Wales’ greatest ever boxers, the ‘Tonypandy Terror’, Tommy Farr whose heroics against the legendary Joe Louis in 1937 will live on rightly in these parts and well beyond.
Almost 50 years ago, Clydach Vale was struck by tragedy. Towards the end of the morning shift on Monday 17th May 1965, an explosion ripped through the P26 district of the village’s Cambrian Colliery and 31 miners lost their lives, the second time the pit had been the scene of a major disaster with 33 men having died in 1905.
The Cambrian Colliery closed not long afterwards in 1967. Today the scene is totally different with the site being the location of two lakes as part of the wonderful Cwm Clydach Country Park. My meeting at the Sky Blue Café on the banks of the lower lake with the Friends group that oversees the park was as warm as the glorious early spring sunshine, despite my late arrival!
Before I leave, Spencer and Jeff proudly show me around the micro-hydro scheme whose proceeds help sustain the Café and the Community Development Centre. There are well advanced plans for a second scheme but they are having to be on hold at present. As with Treherbert, the visit emphasised the continued lofty aspirations of valleys to forge a new future powered by new energy.