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The Cletwr Big Build

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Postcard: The old Cletwr in the 1960s

Postcard: The old Cletwr in the 1960s

AN EXCITING new change is well underway for the people of Machynlleth and the wider area, which will guarantee to brings smiles all round.

After establishing in 2011, May 2013 saw the new Cletwr in Tre’r Ddôl spring back to life, with the Siop Cynfelyn and Caffi Cletwr opening their doors to the public and becoming more popular than ever.

Taking into consideration the building errors of the rent-free property, a small group of volunteers at Cletwr then set a target to raise enough money through local funds and applications to create a sustainable building as an alternative.

With the brand new building set to open by summer 2017, the community will be able to look forward to a modern and environmentally sound building which will hold a larger shop and cafe, a meeting room and offices to support community activities.

In addition to that, the building will even have solar panels to further reduce energy.

Cletwr has been very fortunate to have a wide range of funding from various sources, including £497,000 from the Big Lottery Fund, (of which about £300,000 went to buy the site), £172,000 from a Welsh Government grant and £88,000 from an EU grant.

There have also been smaller grants given to them by Ceredigion County Council, Trusthouse and donations from locals.

November brought even better news for Cletwr as they received a letter from the EU Rural Communities Development Fund, stating that all of the funding for the new build was officially in place.

North Ceredigion is known for being a relatively poor area and, with that in mind, one of the main aims of Cletwr is to tackle various issues affecting our community such as isolation, lack of services and poverty.

The Herald was able to interview the newly appointed Chair of Cwni Cymunedol Cletwr, Nigel Callaghan, where he was able to explain about the on-going development in greater detail: “Cwmni Cletwr was originally established in 2011, with the simple aim of re-opening the old Cletwr Services in Tre’r Ddôl as a village shop and cafe.

“The shop and cafe duly re-opened in Spring 2013, staffed mainly by volunteers. The owners of the site let us have the property rent-free for over 18 months, to help us get established. But then it got complicated – we became very popular!

“At that point, we decided to aim a bit higher, and seek funds to buy the site for the community and to build a replacement building; the existing one has a number of structural and environmental problems, and a new building could be an example of sustainable building.”

He continued: “We considered renovation of the present building as a cheaper alternative, but it would have meant closing for many months.”

Describing the inspirations behind the project, Nigel said that it was to ‘build a stronger and better community’. “When we started, the community had lost virtually all its services: shops, cafe, Post Office and petrol station all closed.

“Since then, we’ve also lost the school and the church. All that was left was a pub, a chapel, and a village hall. People had few or no opportunities to meet their neighbours. The community was in danger of becoming a dormitory.

“Initially, we aimed for the shop and cafe, but the scope of the project has now grown. We became aware that we could and should aim to provide far more than a shop and cafe, so instead we aimed to provide a wider range of services and facilities to tackle many of the problems associated with life in a rural area.

“Recent studies show that over 20% of the children in the community live in poverty. We do not think that is acceptable and through Cletwr we, as a community, can start to do something about that.”

We went on to talk about one of Nigel’s blog entries, where he said that ‘there should be some nice landscaping too, making the whole place a worthy ‘Gateway to North Ceredigion”. From that, Nigel described to us in detail about what people are able to look forward to with the new building: “The new building will be a model of sustainable building: highly energy-efficient, generating (hopefully) more electricity than it consumes.

“Our architect, Arwyn George of George a Tomos, Machynlleth, has ensured that it will be an attractive and interesting building.

“The old Cletwr services were a familiar and popular stop for travellers on the A487 for decades, and the new Cletwr is no different. It’s a convenient stop for coffee, a bacon sarnie and clean toilets, and a chance to buy a last minute present for Auntie May.

“We will also be extending the facilities for tourists, with more information about the immediate area, but also Ceredigion as a whole, and encouraging visitors to stop and spend money in the county!.”

“In your blog, you say that the Big Lottery, Welsh Government and the EU, plus Cyngor Ceredigion and Trusthouse, have all contributed costs towards the development. What were the procedures behind this and how would you encourage the public to continuously support the development?” we asked Nigel. He answered: “None of this would have been possible without considerable support from many organisations – public and private, large and small. One lesson that we have learned is that there are a lot of sources out there for funds for worthwhile projects, provided the aims of your project match theirs.

“People have questioned whether what we are doing is the best use of half a million pounds and whether it could be better spent on Bronglais. Undoubtedly, we all want more money spent on Bronglais, but it’s the Welsh Government that decides how to spend the money.

“They earmarked a fund for addressing poverty and deprivation and that’s what we received money for. Rural poverty is just as real as urban poverty, even if it is more subtle.”

“The funding wouldn’t have been possible without incredible work by several of our volunteers, who have invested weeks, even months, of their time, unpaid, identifying sources of funding, preparing the applications, and responding to questions.”

Nigel further added: “Some applications failed. Many involved very detailed written plans, running to dozens of pages. And once the money has been allocated, considerable time is spent doing the paperwork afterwards. The money is there but don’t underestimate the effort required to get it.”

Nigel then went to talk about one of his blog entries, where he said that one of the aims of the building is to tackle a number of issues affecting the community. Regarding this, we asked him what ways he believes the building will benefit in bringing the community together: “The impact of Cletwr, as a shop, cafe and community hub, is already being felt. We have over 50 regular volunteers, of all ages, helping with a wide range of activities, from serving in the shop and cafe, to baking award-winning welsh-cakes, cutting the grass and sorting out the WiFi.

“It’s already a place where people in the community meet up for coffee or attend one of our frequent events – the walks are very popular. A common comment from people is that there is a ‘buzz’ about the place. People stop to actually talk to their friends and neighbours.

“We organise activities that support Welsh in the community, including regular sessions for learners to mix with fluent speakers and develop their language skills. We also offer a free library of Welsh books for people to borrow.”

Nigel further explained: “Parents of young children like to meet up there as they can have a coffee and some homemade cake in a child-friendly space, with a proper play-area, well equipped with toys and books. The new building will allow us to offer a wider range of services, activities and products in the shop, providing even more reasons for people to call in and get involved.

“The shop, under the skillful management of Karen Evans, is already attracting customers who specifically call in because of the range of products, including many local and Welsh items.

“One of the most important aspects of Cletwr is that in involves all parts of the community: young and old, working and retired, incomers and people who have lived here all their lives, Welsh-speakers and non-Welsh speakers.

“Before we had Cletwr, there were few opportunities for people to mix. People talked about ‘community’ but that was just a geographical idea. With Cletwr, the idea is becoming a reality.”

Continuing his emphasis on how the building will benefit the community, Nigel added: “Cwmni Cletwr has been set up as a non-profit group. Any surplus we make will be invested back in the community, helping other groups within Taliesin and Tre’r Ddôl and the surrounding area, not just kept for Cletwr activities.

“With never-ending cuts in funding for local services, it is clear that communities will need to become more and more self-sufficient. A local community company can be a good starting point for this, but it requires dedication and effort from many people in the community.

“Of course, it’s not compulsory for people to volunteer in the shop to be a supporter; people have many demands on their time – work, family, health – and simply coming in from time to time to use the shop and cafe is just as important as helping with the washing up.

“Too many villages in Ceredigion, and throughout Wales and the UK, have turned into ghost towns as their shops and services have closed. Many are now starting to fight back.

“We’ve had a lot of help and advice from the Plunkett Foundation, who advise community groups on running businesses. Many already exist in Wales, from groups running a shop for a few hours a day to others who have taken over the village pub and Post Office.

“With services available again, it becomes worthwhile for people to think about leaving their homes during the day to use them. No need to take an expensive bus into town to go shopping.”

Nigel concluded the interview by telling The Herald:

“Our long-term aim is to ensure that there is a long-term future for our community. Through Cletwr and other activities, we want to make Llangynfelyn somewhere that people will want to live, somewhere where they can work, raise a family, and eventually live out a comfortable retirement, surrounded by a supportive community of friends and family.”

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Aberystwyth CID appeal following serious assault

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ABERYSTWYTH CID are investigating a serious assault that occurred in the Castle Street area of Aberystwyth at approx. 4.45pm on Tuesday, June 15 2021. Following medical treatment the victim is recovering at home. Police are appealing for any witnesses to the assault and anyone in the vicinity around this time, or immediately prior to the incident, that may have witnessed people acting suspiciously.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org. Quote reference: DP-20210615-268

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New Quay RNLI’s special artwork to honour local volunteers is unveiled

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ON SUNDAY (June 13) saw a special artwork unveiled at New Quay Lifeboat Station by RNLI’s Director of Lifesaving Operations, John Payne. The artwork was created by local amateur artist and wife of New Quay RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, Mrs Tina Couch who wanted to pay tribute to the special job the volunteers do, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mrs Couch talking about the artwork said, “Last year some of the volunteers went above and beyond and worked hard in the community by delivering food parcels and medicines to those shielding in the area. I wanted to pay tribute to all the volunteers at New Quay Lifeboat Station so decided to paint a mural with a portrait of each volunteer. This artwork is to recognise all the hard work they did during the lockdown, as well as being on call 24/7 to save lives at sea.” 

John Payne, RNLI’s Director of Lifesaving Operations added, “It was an honour to unveil this wonderful piece of artwork, a great end to celebrating Volunteers’ Week. Our communities benefit enormously from our volunteers’ selflessness and this is a special way to reflect on their achievements. I would like to thank every one of you who make the RNLI what it is today, and recognise the sacrifices and efforts undertaken in giving your time, energy and positivity to the organisation.”  

While Mr Payne was visiting New Quay Lifeboat Station he had another presentation to make, a certificate of thanks to Steffan Williams who raised over £2,200 for the RNLI’s Mayday Mile campaign. Steffan, aged 12, a pupil in Ysgol Bro Teifi, paddleboarded not just one mile but accomplished 10 miles in under four hours and smashed his target of £100.  

Mr Payne said, “This is a great achievement for someone so young. Steffan has shown his determination in being a lifesaver, and he is definitely someone to watch in the future as he continues his volunteering within the RNLI.”  

Steffan recieving award

Steffan said, “I am so pleased that I’ve raised so much for the RNLI and want to thank everyone who has donated. It is a charity close to my heart as my Dad is a crew member and I want to join when I’m older too. They are all volunteers and need our help to pay for equipment and lifeboats.” 

If you would like to volunteer for the RNLI please visit the website to find out more: https://rnli.org/support-us/volunteer/how-you-can-volunteer/be-a-lifeboat-station-volunteer

Or if you would like to donate to New Quay RNLI to help the volunteers save lives at sea please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/new-quay-wales

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Strategic plan to strengthen Welsh medium education

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A CONSULTATION period will be held during the autumn term this year to increase the number of pupils in Ceredigion who will be able to develop and learn through the medium of Welsh.

During a Cabinet meeting held virtually on Tuesday, 15 June 2021, members discussed the Welsh in Education Strategic Plan for 2022-2032. The plan is a 10 year strategy which sets out the requirements to reach the Welsh Government’s target of achieving one million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Cabinet Members agreed to hold a consultation period during the autumn term of 2021 for eight weeks, incorporating views by pupils, parents, schools and governing bodies.

The strategy outlines aims which include increasing the number of nursery and reception age pupils in Welsh medium education; encourage more learners to study Welsh as a subject and subjects through the medium of Welsh; increase the provision of Welsh medium education for pupils with additional learning needs and increase the number of teaching staff who can teach Welsh as a subject and subjects through the medium of Welsh.

Councillor Catrin Miles, Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet Member for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Support and Intervention, said: “The Welsh in Education Strategic Plan reinforces Ceredigion County Council’s aspiration to strengthen the position of the Welsh language through its Language Strategy. I’m pleased to see that a consultation period will be held this autumn to gather ideas in order to plan and develop Welsh medium education in our county.”

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council, added: “I welcome this draft document which aims to create more opportunities for pupils across the county to take full advantage of Welsh medium education.”

Following the consultation period, feedback will be considered and the plan will be reintroduced to the Healthier Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the full Council for consideration and final decision. The proposal supports the Council’s Strategic Objectives and the Welsh Government’s Million Speakers by 2050 Strategy.

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