Victory to Anti – Opencast Campaigners – NO to Nant Llesg

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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
  • Biodiversity
  • Water pollution
  • Visual impact
  • Light pollution
  • Noise
  • Dust
  • Climate change
  • Tourism

  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. 



Autumn Leaves

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Autumn Leaves


As autumn approaches, the evergreens stay the same,

But the cherry trees they turn to flame,

A festival of colours, as far as the eye can see,

Yellow, red and gold, adorn the maples and oak trees,

Sycamore and Poplar, Horse-chestnut and Ash,

Their shades change dramatically, as if painted in a flash,

Before the winter takes their leaves,

Before the swallows nest in eaves,

See their glory shining bright,

Against the backdrop of the light,

Even when the skies are grey,

Magical their beauty stays,

An ever changing colour scheme,

Is nature’s gift to us, as lucid as a dream.

Aberfan and the Free Wales Army – 48 years on

How the Free Wales Army helped the Families of Aberfan

The injustices that the bereaved families of Aberfan had to deal with on top of their grief were beyond belief.


At 9.15am on the 21st October 1966, in a small mining village that quickly became know worldwide, ‘The Aberfan Disaster’ struck.  The unsuspecting Pantglas Junior School pupils and staff were preparing for a normal day.  Looming above them was the Mynydd Merthyr; the National Coal Boards’ dumping ground.  A deafening roar was heard by many, but there was no time to react.  The landslide took out 20 houses and demolished Pantglas; quickly burying it in a debris of slurry and loose rock.  Rescuers came from nearby villages to try and help the frantic parents, but to no avail.  144 lives were lost that day, of those 116 were children.

Who was responsible? The NCB of course.  Did they have the decency to acknowledge their blame, to bow their heads in shame, of course not!  That’s not how those capitalists work.  The raw pain visible on those families faces, packed no punches with the hard nosed bosses.  The NCB’s Lord Roben’s excuse was, there must have been: ‘An Unknown Water Source!’  What a deceitful response, every map of the area showed natural underwater springs, many directly below the dumping ground.  The people who grew up in Aberfan used to play in those once clear and beautiful pools, when they themselves were children.

The Wilson government found the NCB guilty; the price they placed on each small head was just £500.  The indignity of it.  Worldwide, people were less insensitive; donations poured in on a daily basis and a trust fund was set up.  But yet another insult ensued, the bereaved families were not thought to be competent enough to distribute the funds.  An initial committee was selected; but not one person from Aberfan was included.  The grieving families were outraged.  The villagers took it upon themselves to form a Parents and Residents Association.  Their solicitors eventually persuaded bureaucrats to include five representatives from Aberfan.  The ten officials not from Aberfan, accepted highly paid salaries from the fund.

Tensions were running high, applications to the fund were complicated and the Aberfan people were proud.  The complacency those families had to deal with was unacceptable, something had to be done.   Perversely the Barrister in charge was now installed in the newly built offices at Merthyr Town Hall, paid for by The Aberfan Disaster Fund.  A demand for £150,000 for clearance of the tips, was also paid to the government and the NCB. ‘To make the area safe,’ they said!

The journalist John Summers was plagued by the residents plight, out of desperation he contacted The Free Wales Army. When The FWA heard of the miscarriage of justice, they knew they had to take action. The fact that the families had had to pay for their own children’s funerals was abhorrent.  Whilst using the fund to pay for the clearance of the tips, was just another insufferable, smack in the face to all of those families who were experiencing enough pain already.  They vowed to challenge the authoritarian figures in charge of releasing monies from the fund.  Not just challenge, they would make sure that the bereaved families received what they were entitled to.

Dennis Coslett and David Bonar Thomas met with The Aberfan Residents Committee to discuss immediate action.  The following day a press conference was called, the venue, The Morlais Castle public house.  More than fifty Free Wales Army representatives, dressed in their uniforms marched through Merthyr High Street.  Flags flying, white eagles adorned their berets, as they proudly sang their battle hymn:


“Behold the Red Dragon Flag,

Is floating across the silver sea,

And the soul of Wales is crying,

In the very heart of me.


Crying Justice, Crying Vengeance,

Pray my sons for strength anew,

For the many that’ll be dying,

At the falling of the dew…


They issued forth an ultimatum to be printed by the many press present:


£5000 must be paid to each family within one week or let the consequences be on your heads.  Our first action will be to bomb The Town Hall where the disaster fund committee sits.  Next the acting solicitor, then the treasury if we must.  If all that fails we’ll blow up The County Government Offices and then The Government Offices in Cardiff.


The money came forth within a matter of days.  Now a memorial for those who died could be erected. The families of Aberfan had waited almost a year for this money.


The following was printed in The Daily Telegraph magazine on 6th October 1967:


Families of the 116 dead children are to get £5,000 each, but the rest of the huge Aberfan disaster fund sits at Merthyr Tydfil, where the man who launched it says: ‘Even when all the survivors are dead, still most of the fund will be unspent. Then it will go to the Exchequer.’


The fund was growing fast, there was over £1,800,000, but people were saying that the money was being used to give Merthyr Town a facelift!


Why did the government pay out so quickly after the intervention of the FWA? Well, prior to 1967, the Free Wales Army had been linked to a bombing that took place in the Clwedog Valley in March 1966.  A forage cap dropped in the area with their emblem on had thrown suspicion upon the Nationalist group, but nothing had ever been proved.  However, the incident had resulted in them now being under the surveillance of The Regional Crime Squad.

Further suspicious activities in 1967, resulted in rumours that the FWA had formed an umbrella group with The Patriotic Front.  It was thought that the Anti-Investiture Front, were planning some kind of destructive action in relation to Prince Charles’s Investiture; which was to be held in Caernarfon in July 1969. This information led to an emergency meeting at Buckingham Palace, which included members of The Home Office and The Welsh Office.  There was sufficient information to treat this as a serious potential threat.  Members of the FWA were aware of the governments suspicions and the fact that as a group they were now considered to be a real menace to public order in Wales.

On the 17th November 1967 the FWA did blow up The Temple of Peace in Cardiff, when an all Wales conference of Lord Mayors was due to take place.  Princess Margaret would have been present.  The bomb went off at four in the morning.  At 11am the dignitaries arrived and were confronted with a wrecked building.


The following is a quote from Denis Coslett, who was at the forefront of the FWA:


“I think one of the proudest moments in my life, was to see those people at

Aberfan, having that bit of cash.  It wasn’t the money for itself they wanted.

Their grief couldn’t be soothed by money.  It was just the recognition that it

was their children who had paid the price – and no one else!”

Denis was presented with a watch by the parents association for his help.  Fred Gray, who is a leading member of the association, and who lost a child himself, had this to say:

“If it wasn’t for the FWA the families would never have received a penny.”


The money repaid in 1997 came about after the opening of public records, under the 30 year rule.  Iain Mclean wrote several newspaper features about the  behaviour of the NCB, The Ministry of Power, The Welsh Office and the FAILURE of the Heath government to hold anybody responsible for the disaster.  He sent an article to Ron Davies in May 1997, looking for the £150,000 to be repaid to the still extant; ‘Aberfan Memorial Trust,’ which maintains the cemetery and the memorial garden on the site of Pantglas Junior School.


The founder of the Free Wales Army was Julian Cayo Evans.  The book To Dream of Freedom, by Roy Clews has been referenced to tell this story.  The book ends with a tribute to Cayo and a poem by the great Harri Webb.  Cayo died three months after Harri  in March 1995.

Harri Webb’s Poem:


Far heard and faintly calling

Held between hill and hill,

Echo on echo falling

The thunder lingers still.


The highborn and the lowly

In their great love overthrown

For the earth that is more than holy,

For the land that is ours alone.


And by ways that are wonder and mystery

From silence and shadow they come

From memory and legend and history

They arise to the beat of the drum,


The heartbeat that hammers with longing

In the breasts of the few who are brave

That summons the heroes thronging

From the gallows and the grave.


And the sunrise shall not blind them

Who bestir to the last alarm

To the host that rallies behind them

And lends its strength to their arm.


Dharma11 2014



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Photographs courtesy of Nigel Pugh, Mark DarkMavis Davies and Wales Online.

NO  TA     to     NATO

Austerity measures in place

      Capitalism in your face!

Money spent on war – Food-banks for the poor.

Nuclear Alliance – Where’s the fucking sense?

So called humanitarian interventions!

Paid for by the tax-payer conventions!

A Berlin wall – 11 foot tall!

Billions of pounds wasted, on ego’s inflated!

Voted in by the people – In power deceitful.

These leaders – Soul reapers!

Our natural resources exploited, to the point of NO RETURN!

Mother earth is in turmoil but they have NO concern!

We must fight their oppression, regain possession,

Save our world from destruction, from overproduction.

Stop ethnic cleansing, we are brothers not others!

Our protests are peaceful,

But the police they are brutal.

Still we stand in solidarity – To stop this waste of humanity.



Dharma 11 Sept 2nd 2014


Our Garden – Biodiversity So Close to Home – Poems and Pics

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Biodiversity so close to home

As the sun shone in the blue sky high above,

I sat in our garden and acknowledged all we have:

Three chaffinches with little red berets, were busy investigating the flower beds,

Red Kites soared high above, playfully riding the warm thermals,

Jackdaws were calling, feeding young, their nest in a chimney top, safe from prey,

Blue tits brave upon the feeder, catch our gaze, chatting amongst the fertile Hawthorne, heavily laden with life sustaining nourishment.

Delicate fern fingers reaching toward heaven, bathing in the suns warmth, growing hearty,

Rosebuds cracking open, a hint of crimson colour,

Young elders, bushy, green,

Buddleia, their purple haze, nectar for our butterflies and  bees,

Lily of the valley, scent sublime, tiny droplets of ivory satin,

Carpet of blue Forget- me- nots, I’ll try…..



How Black Were Our Valleys – Commemorating 30 years since the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike

Natalie Butts-Thompson and Deborah Price

Natalie Butts-Thompson and Deborah Price

All profits from the sale of the book go to The South Wales Area – Miners’ Beneficiary Fund.  The books is to be launched at Big Pit Blaenavon on Saturday 5th April 2014.  Starting at 11am there is a day of Commemoration including The Red Choir.

How Black Were Our Valleys for blog

Read more about the book here…


Working Class Heroes – Commemorating 30 years since The 1984/85 Miners’ Strike

Back in 1984 the miners fought their own cold war

Secret documents now unfold

The truth at last it will be told.

It’s 30 years since that debilitating strike

When Dai and Phil and Ron and Mike

Fought every day for one whole year,

Families in poverty and fear.

To starve them back to work she tried

Stopping benefits for which they applied,

Sequestering funds from the NUM

She divided the country into us and them.

She called them ‘The enemy within’

Let them cast the first stone who is without sin.

Pit closures were what they wanted to prevent,

To save what they had, so they could pay the rent.

They travelled the country picketing for their rights,

‘Coal not Dole’ their slogan emphasised their fight.

Up each day at 3am,

Hard working heroes, real men,

With their women’s support, on they fought,

United above, as they were when underground.

Now she’s joined the miners, at last she’s in the ground,

But the legacy of destruction prevails all around,

Empty pits, face value tips,

Community spirit no more,

All because that evil bitch, shut the mine doors.

Dharma11 18th Feb 2014