Whilst current Story 3 activity is focused on the Story Studio at Treherbert, yesterday also saw three of us return both in person and spirit to Ynysybwl. Driving up and over to Cwm Clydach from Blaenllechau in the Rhondda Fach, we paused near the top to take in the wonderful views north and west across the valleys and south to the hills of Exmoor in the far distance beyond the Bristol Channel, courtesy of the clearing cloud and emerging blue skies.
If there was ever a need to remind ourselves of the evolving energy landscapes of the south Wales valleys this was it. Within a few hundred metres of us was Old Smokey, a now-greening coal waste tip towering over Tylorstown, which can be seen for miles and whose name seemingly derives from a long lasting fire within it that was only stopped by lopping off its top! Created by the spoil from the now-vanished collieries below, it provided a stark reminder of the valleys’ proud mining past that powered a substantial portion of the latter part of Britain’s industrial revolution. Ahead of us rose the immediate future of energy production here. Across and beyond the Rhondda Fach below us, the mountain tops were punctuated at regular intervals by fast developing huge wind turbines, a source of much debate at the Studio in Treherbert. A very rough count exceeded 50.
Carrying on towards Ynysybwl, the landscape again changed as we dropped down through Llanwonno Forest, proposed as a location of one of four regional parks in the valleys in the late 1940s, and past St. Gwynno’s Church, final resting place of Griffith Morgan, better known as Guto Nyth Bran. Now there was a man who had energy – faster than a boiling kettle! Eventually we entered old ‘Bwl, the locals’ term for the original part of the village and the site of a renowned farmers fair in the nineteenth century where the picturesque aspect is still largely rural in nature.
Alerted to the opportunities in Ynysybwl (and indeed Treherbert) to mine a wonderful wealth of tales and insights by the ever-knowledgeable Ken Moon at Interlink RCT and Community Energy Wales, we have spent the past couple of months capturing stories in the village with the tremendous backing of Tony Burnell and others. The warmth of the local people we have had the pleasure of working with has been overwhelming. Short clips of their stories have triggered further reminiscences in the listening chairs at Treherbert where the evocative, questioning poetry of the ‘Bwl’s Tom Cadwallader has been providing further food for thought around energy; past, present, and future.
We look forward to returning in the near future to the ‘Bwl, where preparations are in full swing for the village’s “Gwyl” (Festival) in late August (https://www.facebook.com/YnysybwlFestival) to work with the Village Voices there.