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After 5 long years battling against an opencast mine planned for Nant Llesg (an area of outstanding natural beauty) – United Valleys Action Group – with help from FOE – Coal Action Network -Reclaim the Power – and local communities who signed the petition – have won. Thank you all.
Here is the correspondence received by a UVAG member on 19th September 2018:
Further to previous correspondence on this matter, I have today been advised that the Planning Inspectorate has written to the legal representatives of the appellants for the Nant Llesg appeal advising them that the appeal will now be closed, and no further action will be taken with it. Please let me know if you have any queries.
I am sure this will be very welcome and a great relief to the communities of the Upper Rhymney Valley.
Welsh Labour Assembly Member/Aelod Cynulliad Llafur Cymru
Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney/Merthyr Tydfil a Rhymni
In 2015 the mine plans were rejected and went to appeal. In 2016 the plans were again rejected. There should have been a decision on this matter within a six week period but extensions were given and it has taken two years for this final decision to be made.
Here is some coverage of the initial victory in 2015
After years of campaigning against a new opencast mine in the Rhymney, Fochriw, Bedlinog, Pontlottyn. Deri, Abertwsswg, Valley campaigners were delighted with the decision by the local council planning committee to recommend against the development unanimously.
Passionate speeches from members of UVAG, GVA, FOE, RSPB and local community representatives covered the following issues in relation to the detrimental effects of opencast mining:
- Health and well being
- Loss of clean jobs and future inward investment
- Wildlife habitat
- Water pollution
- Visual impact
- Light pollution
- Climate change
Those who spoke up against the mine covered all issues through thorough factual research:
United Valleys Action Group (UVAG). Some of their members having experienced first hand the detrimental effect of a mine close to their community in Merthyr. The existing mine at Ffos Y Fran has caused nothing but hardship since it opened in 2006. Dust and noise prevail despite Miller Argent’s promise that the mine would have no impact. The desecration and visual impact on the area has to be seen to be believed.
Green Valleys Alliance (GVA). Local business man Mitchell Field has supported the campaign all along. He has put his money where his mouth is and paid for studies undertaken by Cardiff University to look into the lack of inward investments to areas that have opencast mines. After thirty years in the area his business, Richards & Appleby, which makes cosmetics for outlets that include Harrods, was under threat.
If the mine went ahead job losses for locals would have devastated the communities. He can now plan to bring back an investment which went to Italy which could create another 50 jobs.
Friends of the Earth (FOE) have worked closely with campaigners from the time that the existing mine in Ffos Y Fran was put forward in 2006.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released facts about the detriment of unseen airborne particles and diesel fumes from the monstrous Komatsu trucks used on site.
Climate Change Cymru have documented the adverse effects of carbon emissions from digging and burning coal.
RSPB are concerned for the loss of natural habitat for birds which nest, wade and use the area as a migratory path. These include: Lapwing, Ring Plovers, Great Crested Grebes, Dunlin, Curlews, Snipe, Skylarks, Meadow Pipit, Reed buntin, Moorhen. Also the Long Billed Dowatcher has been spotted by the many ornithologists which frequent the area around Rhas Las pond.
On the small ponds there are many species of Dragon Fly and Damsel Fly. Great Crested Newts, a protected species, have also been spotted in Rhas Las. Rhas Las pond is the largest remaining feature of the Dowlais Free Drainage system. it was built around 1818 and was used to feed water to the various local iron works as well as Fochriw and Rhymney pit engines. In later years it was also used by the Ebbw Vale steel works. Since being de-industrialised Rhas Las has become an integral part of the moorland eco-environment. The unique, marshland and moorland habitat to the South, West and East has been untouched since time began.
The water from the Nant Llesg stream was used to make beer by the Rhymney Brewery because of its high quality and purity. This would be spoiled or completely destroyed.
There are also many historical stories attached to the area that is under threat:
The Bargoed History Society produced a book last year telling the story of King Arthur’s time in the area, The Coming of Caliburn. This was supported and funded by Caerphilly Council.
Today International Financiers are disinvesting from coal. Last month the G7 under the chair of Angela Merkel stated their intention to stop burning coal in the next decade. Global warming caused by burning fossil fuels is causing untold world suffering among the poor in the third world.
It was suggested that Caerphilly County Borough Council live up to their slogan, A Greener Place to Live, Work and Visit, and turn Nant Llesg into a nature reserve extending from the Brecon Beacons National Park to the North and Parc Cwm Darran, itself a former colliery, to the South. This would attract much needed tourism to the area.
Videos courtesy of Eddy Blanche (UVAG)
2016 – Shutting down the mine – Reclaim the Power Camp
Photographs by Ian Tog Jenkins and Chris Austin
The long awaited album – Every Valley – was launched at Ebbw Vale Institute on June 8th and 9th 2017 where it was also recorded. Myself and my partner were lucky enough to be invited along by band founder, Mr. John Willgoose Esq., as guests for the small part we played in researching the history of the South Wales Miners. John contacted me in 2016 regarding a book that I collaborated on with my fellow student, (at the time) Natalie Thompson, and ex-miners and their families – How Black Were Our Valleys. He was looking for an introduction to some of the people involved in the book. I was happy to introduce him and we eventually met up at Big Pit Mining Museum.
The gig in Ebbw Vale was brilliant, packed to the rafters with fans and those newly converted. People of all ages enjoyed the band’s signature combination of video footage and music that keeps history alive.
They also played some of their previous releases from the albums – Inform, Educate, Entertain and Race for Space.
Go and see them live if you get a chance. Forthcoming tour dates…
For more background on the making of Every Valley you can read John’s Blog – A Willgoose Writes -Tumblr.
There are also plenty of videos available on Youtube – you can subscribe to PSBHQ – or watch and listen without subscribing if you prefer.
The Making of Every Valley:
They Gave Me A Lamp:
Mother of the Village – featuring the voice of Ron Stoate NUM.
I’d also like to say a big thank you to John and the boys for sending us a copy of the album on vinyl.
James Dilley is a PhD student at Southampton University. He is also a skilled craftsman working with materials such as flint, wood, bone, horn, leather, ceramics, metals, natural fibres and wool.
His outreach object is to encourage people of all ages to learn about ancient crafts by bringing our ancestors’ skills and knowledge back to life.
He is dedicated and enthusiastic, an expert in his field, and an excellent teacher.
You can find out more about James on his website: ancientcraft.co.uk
As members of The Darran Valley History Group, we were lucky enough to be invited to Parc Cwm Darran for a hands on Neolithic skills course taught by James that involved flint knapping, bronze age metal casting, woodwork and making nettle cordage. We joined Andy Wilkinson (Senior Environmental Education Ranger for CCBC‘s Countryside Service – Parc Penallta), Mark Batchelder (The Winding House Museum – New Tredegar), and Morgan Roberts (Welsh Language Voice Project Officer for Menter Caerffili) for a thoroughly informative and enjoyable week.
As part of Neolithic skills week at Parc Cwm Darran, James gave a demonstration of traditional bronze age copper smelting. Copper smelts at approx 1100 degrees centigrade. Bellows are used to keep the temperature up. A small pit is dug and a crucible filled with alternate layers of blue malachite and charcoal is placed into the charcoal furnace. The whole process takes around half an hour.
The main part of the course involved flint knapping. Flint is one of the sharpest materials on earth, how it is formed still remains a mystery. Its composition is similar only to that of glass. The use of flint dates back to before the Neolithic times where it was a highly useful material for making tools necessary for survival.
Because flint is so sharp it was necessary to take health and safety precautions when knapping. A kit consists of: Leather leg cover, Gloves, Goggles.
Basic knapping, to create flakes, is hitting the flint nodule on a flat surface (platform) using a hammer-stone (pebble) no more than 1cm from an edge that is not over 90 degrees.
The flakes are formed underneath the area that you are working on.
Flint knapping is a skill that takes many years of practise in order to become accomplished. We did, throughout the week, manage to make a selection of tools that we used to fashion our own knives with by the end of the course.
They included; Scrapers, Saws, Knife Blades, Harpoon Blades.
I’m Andy Wilkinson and I’m the Senior Environmental Education Ranger for CCBCs Countryside Service. I’m constantly looking at ways of engaging people in the fantastic local countryside we have in Caerphilly. We are blessed by incredible biking trails, walk, wildlife etc. right on our doorstep. Our local countryside has seen humans living on it for thousands of years and there are many ancient remains and signs hidden all over it. You just have to look. As the Darran Valley has some excellent remains, along with Mark Batchelder from the Winding House, we decided to put a Neolithic project together which would celebrate this fact and be very hands on. Hence I ended up learning Neolithic crafts for a week at Parc Cwm Darran with James Dilley. The week was fascinating, frustrating, rewarding and illuminating! I think my biggest impression was that Stone Age man was extremely intelligent. The incredible skills and understanding needed to chip a flint at the right angles, force etc. is incredibly detailed. It is a very difficult thing to do to create stone tools, but incredibly rewarding too. The week opened my eyes to new skills and I enjoyed the company, enthusiasm and shared knowledge of my fellow students. Now its time to put it all together to create a 2 day project that, hopefully, will build self esteem and inspire!
A big thank you to James Dilley for his enthusiasm and patience. Thanks also to all the guys who made the week so much fun.
Before attending University, I also wrote a trilogy of stories, with my friend Poppy, the cat, about two baby hedgehogs called Itchee and Scratchee. The books were inspired by the hedgehogs that visit our garden on a nightly basis. We are lucky enough to see them from early spring through to the end of October or early November depending on the weather.
Four years ago we had two of the tiniest hoglets we had ever seen turn up on a freezing November night. We brought them inside and put them in a box with some cat food water and a blanket to keep them warm. Unfortunately, during the night, one of them died. The next day, however, another one arrived. We named them Itchee and Scratchee.
I then researched on the internet about how big they needed to be to survive the winter. Ideally they needed to weigh at least 750 grammes. We weighed Itchee and Scratchee on a kitchen scale and Itchee, the smallest one weighed only 110 grammes, whilst Scratchee weighed in at 230 grammes. There was no way that they would survive the winter outside so we decided to bring them into the house.
That evening we bought a rabbit hutch that we found on Gumtree from Tredegar in the next valley over. We cleaned it and put some straw in for bedding and placed it in our lounge next to the radiator. We also put some cat litter into the lid of an old shoe box, hoping that they would learn to use it. Fortunately, they were clever enough to do so. We fed them on wet cat food, crunchies and meal worms and a bowl of fresh water for them to drink. After a week they had doubled in size so we were obviously doing the right thing.
We kept blankets on top of the hutch which could be folded down to prevent them having too much daylight. My friend Poppy, her kitten, Mini-me and her brother Tyger then decided to sleep on top of the hutch.
One morning, when I looked in the hutch, there was a bright green lump of jelly in the litter tray. At first I thought it belonged to the boys, some sort of Alien Goo which they used to like playing with. I later found out it wasn’t, so I researched on the internet and found out it was a sign of intestinal worms. If left untreated, the hedgehogs could have died.
Once again, I returned to my computer and found a hedgehog hospital a few miles from our home, in Pontlanfraith. I rang them and they asked us to take them over as soon as possible. Itchee was infected but Scratchee needed treatment too because they had been caged together. After a series of antibiotic injections, they were kept in an incubator where they stayed until March. They were then released back into the wild.
Since then, our hedgehog population has thrived. We now have at least 15 seasonal visitors every night. They have their own plate of food which unfortunately the rats are partial to as well. We have seen a rat and a hedgehog sat side by side munching away many times. We have also gained a new black cat, Bagheera, Baghee for short, who is fascinated by our spiky friends. We are looking forward to the hedgehogs returning in the next fortnight. Last year the first ones were sighted on 16th March.
All the books are available on Amazon – take a look by clicking on the images.
Me and Poppy welcoming Itchee and Scratchee home.
Baby Hoglets, drawn by the children of Deri Primary School and Lorna Card’s grandchildren (Tir Y Berth), and their new friends, the Owlet triplets, drawn by myself.
One evening, a couple of years ago, during the summer, we had a surprise. We were sat in the lounge, the back door was open, and we heard a strange scratching noise underneath the table. Upon investigation this is what we saw…
A cheeky little hedgehog had made his/her way inside.
Today is the first day of the 5th year of BBTS publications – Not bad for a sheep – My work involves writing/editing and publishing. I also help people to understand the process of Self – Publishing or Indie Publishing as it has become popularly known. As little as 6 years ago Indie Publishing was frowned upon, thankfully today people’s views have changed for the better.If you would like more information on my services please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
What began as a one off publication, ‘Save Our Valleys – A Sheep’s Tail,’ printed and bound from the comfort of my field, has become a proper entrepreneurial adventure. After encouragement from friends and local people, I published the book via the Createspace Platform on Amazon.
The book was written to raise awareness of a local campaign group, (UVAG) United Valley’s Action Group, who were opposing a proposal for an incinerator on the mountain at Ffos Y Fran, Cwmbargoed. Details of the successful campaign can be read at the following links:
Initially I wrote a story about the animals from the mountain helping the campaigners with their fight. This was to try and encourage younger people to get involved. Due to its political nature, no publisher would get involved, that is how I came to self-publish. The book now sits on the library shelves in Caerphilly County Borough.
Click on the Image to view the book on Amazon
The second publication was a poetry anthology by locals to raise money for another, ongoing, fight. A new opencast mine opposite the existing black hole at Ffos Y Fran. Nant Llesg is an untouched site of natural beauty. The habitat is perfect for migrating birds. Rhaslas pond, situated in the middle of the site is of historical interest as well as being a spectacularly beautiful part of the area. Despite Caerphilly Council’s unanimous decision against the proposal in August 2015, the company involved, Nant Llesg Ltd, a subsidiary of Miller Argent, have decided to appeal. The most recent opposal by UVAG has been against Nant Llesg Ltd’s intention to fence off the area.
Click on Image to view book on Amazon
Details of the ongoing campaign by UVAG against Nant Llesg can be read on the links below:
After the success of the first two books, I was encouraged to go to University by a friend of mine who had just completed her BA Honours in Creative and Professional Writing. To be honest, I didn’t think I stood a chance of getting in. The last time I attended school was over 30 years ago. But to my surprise I was accepted on the initial course which was a two year foundation degree in English and History at Lambridge University, formerly Glamorgan, Treforest, and now known as The University of South Wales.
Part 2 coming soon…. Watch this space.
This gallery contains 14 photos.
After the second hearing in August, Anti-opencast campaigners were delighted that the local counsellors upheld their unanimous decision to vote against the Nant llesg surface mine proposal. Miller Argent (Nant Llesg Ltd.) put in an appeal just prior to Christmas. But this is where things get strange. It has been confirmed that Miller Argent have […]