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Not a pretty sight I usually like to put a positive spin on my news from Twmbarlwm - I prefer to focus on the fantastic work our members and volunteers achieve – our fence building, tree planting, landscape repairs and of course our litter picking. I certainly don’t like to Half a dozen fly-tip incidents on illustrate the vandalism, abuse Mynydd Machen and unsightly mounds of rubbish that appear on our landscape. The more observant reader will notice that the lead photograph is of Twmbarlwm’s neighbour, Mynydd Machen – I include it simply because of the shock it gave me when I recently visited there and which prompted this rant. Not just with the horrendous fly-tipping incidents there but also the abuse of the landscape by two and four wheeled off-roaders – a mirror image of the problems we face on Twmbarlwm. After I took this photo I posted it online to register my disgust and was unsurprised to see dozens of responses to it within a couple of hours – One of four burnt out cars in which led me to wonder why so many people are moved by littering and 2015 on Mynydd Twmbarlwm fly-tipping but so few people do anything about it. Going through my photos and records of the past who simply toss aside their food wrappers and empty year I was amazed to see the amount of rubbish CTS drink bottles or those more serious offenders who don’t has dealt with – four burnt out vehicles, half a dozen give a second thought to dumping an entire household lorry-sized fly-tips and each of our monthly litter picks clearance in the countryside instead of their local tip. has averaged eight full rubbish bags. Other good This disease, I call litter-blindness, costs the taxpayer citizens also do regular litter picking on the millions of pounds every year – just go to mountainside too. Weigh that lot up over a year websites such as and it amounts to …well, an awful lot. or to see Recently I have noticed an increase on their facts and figures. a national scale, of articles in newspapers, In these days of austerity, in which on TV and radio concerning littering, it is local councils need to make serious obviously a very emotive subject and begs cutbacks on their services, it seems the question “Why is it so rife?”. inevitable that waste disposal policies are Most people I talk to when out and about going to suffer. Solutions such as closing or agree and appear as dumbfounded as I am in restricting access to local recycling centres are understanding the mentality of these litter louts. enforced. This results in some people who can’t dispose Everybody tells me that they have brought up their kids of their household waste easily and cheaply will revert to appreciate their environment and dispose of their to dumping it in the nearest, quietest location. rubbish properly - but oh so many don’t! Unfortunately, the quietest locations are generally our As an example, at one of our recent litter-pick days beautiful, remote countryside spots. Usually where a family of four adults and four children came by (a very farmers are likely to have their livestock and where nice family they were too). They stopped for a chat and people walk with family, children and pets. In other one volunteered to take a rubbish bag and pick-up words, where broken glass, ceramic tiles, sharp metal, stick on his walk – within 100 yards he handed them paint pots, screws, nails, torn plastic, polystyrene, back to us saying the rest of the party “gave him grief” electric cable and an endless list of hazardous materials for doing so because it would spoil their family stroll. will seriously threaten the life and limb of any passing What sort of message did this send out to the children? person or animal. If we don’t educate our children in the appreciation It takes groups like CTS to make a difference and I of our environment we will always be plagued by those believe if we all work together to take responsibility for our waste and take pride in our communities we can build a future where fly-tipping is socially unacceptable. Terry Evans (Chair Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society)

A gang of the CTS litter-gathering fairies 24

CTS meet at the car park for a litter pick and volunteer workday on the last Sunday of every month to which everyone is invited, it’s not all hard work and it’s a great opportunity to find your way around up there. We organise walks and other events up the mountain throughout the year so watch our website and Facebook page for details – come and join us some time. January 2016

Now and Then…

It looks awful at the moment but we hope that time and NRW will one day return our mountainside to its former glory.

Both photos above were taken from virtually the same spot, but about two years apart. This route up to Twmbarlwm used to be my favourite, it was beautifully atmospheric to walk through the avenue of tall trees and emerge onto the common below the tump before climbing to the top. We always knew this landscape was going to change one day because, after all, the trees were a “crop” planted back in the day when the wood was needed as pit props for the coal industry. Despite the demise of mining, the market for timber was still a profitable one and the larch forests of south Wales are now seen as an integral part of our landscape. But nobody foresaw the threat of Phytophthora Ramorum, a disease that affects larch trees and has infected over six million trees in Wales. Since the disease was first identified in Wales in 2010, more than PleaSe make a note that Good Friday this year falls on 25th march – as I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss “The Hot Cross Bun Walk” – that’s when, according to local tradition, people from miles around come to walk up the mountain like pilgrims used to do centuries ago. there will be organised walks leaving from the Stoney Bridge, Pontymister; Cwmcarn Visitor Centre and Greenmeadow Farm, Cwmbran. But most people like to make their own way up the tump by their preferred route just like generations have done before them. We’ll be happy to see you however you get there – it’s always a great family day out and the society distributes hot cross buns to everyone who makes the climb.

6,000 hectares (14,500 acres) of woodland have become infected, a large proportion of which is in the forests around twmbarlwm. to combat the disease natural Resources Wales, who manage the forests, has begun one of the largest felling operations ever mounted in Wales – thus changing the scenery around us, probably for generations to come. When the news first broke of the operation and subsequent closure of the popular Cwmcarn Forest Drive, many locals joined the campaign to keep the drive open and ensure the work of nRW is done sympathetically – thus Friends of Cwmcarn Forest Drive was born. there was standing room only at Cwmcarn Workingmen’s Club when the group had its official launch in January at a public meeting, that was attended by many local politicians, nRW officials and representatives of supporting groups such as CtS. the nRW personnel were quizzed vigorously and gave assurances of their commitment to listen to the wishes of the local community, through FoCFD, and most politicians pledged their support too. I have no doubt that FoCFD, with the support of CtS and local people will ensure that the “powers-that-be” will stick to their promises and we will see our beloved mountainside returned to its former glory to be enjoyed for generations to come. For more info on the Friends of Cwmcarn Forest Drive go to their Facebook page at Terry Evans (Chair Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society)

CTS meet at the car park for a litter pick and volunteer workday on the last Sunday of every month to which everyone is invited, it’s not all hard work and it’s a great opportunity to find your way around up there. We organise walks and other events up the mountain throughout the year so watch our website and Facebook page for details – come and join us some time. 24

February 2016

Walk Yourself Fit On The Local Hills When I tell people that the Risca and Crosskeys area is one of the best places for walking, laughter is the most common response. Yet when I take someone for one of my guided walks hereabouts I always bring home a convert. With four mountains to choose from; Twmbarlwm, Mynydd Machen, Mynydd y Lan and Mynydd Medart – you could go out every day for a couple of months and do a different walk. Each of these has an abundance of forest roads and tracks and on the upper slopes, Open Access Land. We are free to walk wherever we want in the forests and on common land. We can also use public rights of way; footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and BOATs. Only walkers may use a footpath and walkers have priority on the other rights of way, though it is probably wise and polite to give way to horseriders and cyclists where it is safe to do so. It has never been easier to go out for a walk. You don’t have to be able to read a map. You can get an app on your smart phone which will track the line of your walk. You can see if you’re sticking to the line of the footpath, it tells you how far you’ve walked and at the end of the walk you’ll be able to see how many calories you’ve used. If you’re still worried that you wouldn’t be able to find your way, get in touch with Islwyn Ramblers. You can join them for three walks before you’re expected to become a member. Once you’re a member of the Ramblers you can walk with any group. Cardiff and Caerphilly Ramblers walk in lower Islwyn frequently and the walks programmes are advertised on their respective websites. The photo above encapsulates what we have on our doorstep. The scene shows Twmbarlwm in the distance. The walkers, a group of mostly retired folk set off from Blackvein Road, Crosskeys making it a fairly tough eight mile walk. Other than Twmbarlwm, one of my favourite walks is to Mynyddislwyn starting out at Pandy Park and returning via Hafod Tudor Valley. This valley is spectacular. Stop and have a break by the stile on the top. Can you believe that it’s just above Wattsville?

Not only do you get magnificent views like this, but walking will also raise your spirits and improve your general health.

But if you’re not ready for that level of walk yet you can drive up to the new car park on Mountain Road. Go through the gateway, up the gently sloping rough track to the ridgeway and then it’s a short flat walk to the Tump itself. Not only will this raise your heart rate a little you will be rewarded with the most wonderful views. If people in their 50s, 60s and 70s can do it, so can you! Much is written about the health benefits of walking and this was illustrated to me when a local man was told by his doctor that he had type 2 diabetes brought on by his lifestyle choices. He was in his early 50s and didn’t want to spend the rest of his life on medication. He started walking with a group, lost weight and is no longer in danger from diabetes. It wasn’t only his health that improved. He gained new friends and he felt spiritually uplifted. Walking does that to you. It’s fine to look up from the valley floor and appreciate the beauty which surrounds us, but that appreciation intensifies tenfold when you’re at the top. Even if you’re young, fit and healthy, put your walking boots on and find out all the hidden gems in your own backyard. The pint will taste a lot better at the end of a hearty walk, believe me. Islwyn Ramblers have walks on Thursdays and alternate Saturdays and Sundays. Maggie Thomas leads local walks for Cardiff Ramblers on some Wednesdays and Caerphilly Ramblers some Thursdays. Maggie Thomas is a Trustee of Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society, a member of Ramblers and is the correspondent for the Open Spaces Society for Caerphilly County Borough. CTS meet at the car park for a litter pick and volunteer workday on the last Sunday of every month to which everyone is invited, it’s not all hard work and it’s a great opportunity to find your way around up there. We organise walks and other events up the mountain throughout the year so watch our website and Facebook page for details – come and join us some time. 4

May/June 2016

Busy on Twmbarlwm I must admit, on our monthly workdays on Twmbarlwm, we sometimes look like a wierd few people wandering around picking up the occasional plastic bottle or McDonald’s wrapper – but other times we are obviously a determined force repairing fences or shovelling up someone’s illegally discarded garage contents. One of the nice things on such days is when people stop and ask what we are up to, and the past couple of months we have been “up to” quite a lot. Of note was the Queen’s 90th Birthday Beacon. Together with Risca Community Council we organised the lighting of a beacon on the top of the mountain simultaneously with hundreds of others around the UK. Over 40 people attended on a cold, windy night in April and local MP Chris Evans read a message from the Queen and led a rendition of the national anthems. Also in April, CTS met with Caerphilly CBC who, in partnership with Torfaen CBC, planned some landscape improvements around the mountain. We discussed what we would like to see done and since then we have seen the completion of dry-stone walled gateways, new bar-

The Queen’s 90th birthday beacon with Chris Evans MP (left) delivering her message. Left centre: The beautiful new stone wall at the car park below the Tump. Left below: CTS litterpick days are the last Sunday of every month

riers and boulders placed on illegal tracks to prevent further damage by off-roaders. There is more work planned under this council initiative, including fence and path improvements and which will involve CTS volunteers. But it’s not all hard work, we organise walks around the mountain or the occasional informative talk, usually at Crosskeys RFC – so watch our website or Facebook page for details. Come and join us some time. Terry Evans (Chair, Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society)

A Burning Issue for Our Countryside Summer is, in theory, upon us and with it comes the danger of fire to the vast areas of dry undergrowth on our mountainsides. Last year South Wales was left counting the cost of damage due to reckless and deliberate grass fires. The naïve actions of the few had a huge impact on the many. Grass fires divert essential emergency services away from those vulnerable and in need. This year, as with previous years, the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service say that they will not tolerate the deliberate fire-setting that leads to the destruction of grassland, mountainsides and wildlife as well as putting lives at risk across Wales. The message is clear, if you set a grass fire, you are a criminal. One silly action can have serious

consequences on a person’s future. Parents, guardians, teachers and members of the public are urged to look out for signs of a dubious nature such as smelling of smoke or accelerant, possession of matches and other suspicious behaviour. Deliberately setting grass fires is stupid, dangerous and illegal. Yet accidentally starting a fire through ill considered use of BBQs or campfires is no less irresponsible. Indeed our own mountain is vulnerable to the risk of fire as shown by the recent evidence shown below. Whether set deliberately or not, the consequences to both the landscape and wildlife are obvious. So we ask everyone to be diligent in spotting any potential incidents and inform the appropriate authorities. 4

July/August 2016

We are ALL responsible for this… All the photographs on this page were taken on one weekend at the local beauty spot of Twmbarlwm Mountain

It’s Monday morning – the day after one of our Twmbarlwm litter picks – and before I start my ‘real’ work I’ll go through my photos of the piles of rubbish we discovered and collected yesterday. Then I’ll send the photographic evidence in an e-mail to the council to report the fly tips. If I don’t do this, another CTS member will, and eventually the council will get around to collecting the rubbish. Our contacts at the council are very patient with us and I bet they dread receiving our emails – but without our information the job might take much longer to get done. In this day and age with ever constrained budgets, it’s a difficult operation to achieve effectively and a disgrace that the fly-tipping perpetrators create the problem in the first place. Occasionally I’ll also post some of these photos on the society’s Facebook page - and, oh boy, what a reaction they get in the “comments” box, such as: “…these fly-tippers are scum of the earth.” or “…we should lock up those people who ruin our countryside like this.” or “…what do these animals teach their kids?” and “…when are the police/council going to do something about this – they’re useless!” The point is that if you, like most respectable people, are so infuriated by the sights illustrated on this page, why don’t YOU do something about it. I don’t mean for you to join a society like ours (although that would be great) or to report every dropped piece of litter (although that would be great too) – but I would encourage everyone to be more vigilant and conscientious about teaching others that littering is not to be tolerated. Twmbarlwm is a remote spot with just one road in and out – surely someone must spot a pickup truck containing rubbish going up the lane, why are they 4

going up the mountain? Take their number and report it to the police on their 101 service, you can do so anonymously if you don’t want to get involved. If you have building work done at home you should check that the builder disposes of all rubbish at a legal facility. It is your responsibility to ensure this, because if a fly-tip is traced back to you, you are liable to be prosecuted and fined as much as the offender. And I can assure you that the authorities do try to trace the origin of the offenders and successful prosecutions are on the rise. I recently heard from a colleague who was having a new shed delivered. He spent the weekend demolishing his old shed and as he stood on his driveway, considering piling the rubbish into the boot of his nice clean car to take to the tip, a man in a white van stopped, he said he was on his way to the tip and that he would drop off my friend’s rubbish for twenty quid. The shed remains were loaded into the van and whisked away in a half hour – I wonder where that shed is now? I make no apologies for raising this issue for the third time this year in this publication but littering and flytipping are subjects that affect our environment everywhere, not just Twmbarlwm. We must all take responsibility for getting the problem under control. Teach your kids that littering is simply unacceptable behaviour. Get involved, do not turn a blind eye to those who have no respect for our environment and Terry Evans (Chair, Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society) landscape. CTS meet at the car park for a litter pick and volunteer workday on the last Sunday of every month to which everyone is invited, it’s not all hard work and it’s a great opportunity to find your way around up there. We organise walks and other events up the mountain and at Crosskeys RFC throughout the year so watch our website and Facebook page for details – come and join us some time. August/September 2016

The Battle of Twmbarlwm 2013 - we helped create the car park

My apologies for the melodramatic heading above, but I needed to get your attention to update you on the work of Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society and hopefully persuade a few new foot-soldiers to join 2014 - we bu ilt fences & pl our ranks. anted trees CTS has been in existence for over six years. Our original aims were… “to research, restore and protect Gwent’s most iconic landmark”, at times that has seemed like a bruising fight, but has it been a worthwhile struggle? I’d like to think so. Regular readers may recall our earlier campaigns but if I’m to persuade some new recruits to join us let me outline some of our previous victories. to help out 2014 - we got MPs When CTS was formed in 2010 we set about lobbying the council to help with the serious problem of scramblers and 4x4s that were slowly destroying the landscape and we soon had the council building us a new car park and repairing damage to the Tump itself. We also instigated the appointment of a specialised police officer to the area. Soon after that we were awarded a grant from Welsh Government that enabled us to build nearly a mile of double fencing 4,000 trees were planted, four kissing gates installed and a 15 metre stone path laid. To round it all off an impressive stone cairn was erected to carry a “Welcome to Twmbarlwm” sign. All this work has 2014 - we built a cairn gone a long way to reduce the number of off-roaders. However, recently there has been an unprecedented number of burnt out cars on the mountain and a great deal of fly-tipping. Our members look out for these incidents and report them to the necessary authorities. As a result 2015 - we built path s CTS is part of a partnership with local councils, the police, fire service and other organisations to try to find a longer term solution to such anti-social behaviour. 2016 has been just as frenetic behind the scenes. We have linked with the Commoners Association to influence and advise the council’s work on providing new gateways, dry-stone walls and other improvements to the beautiful landscape we have around us. CTS meet at the car park for a litter pick and volunteer Apart from our volunteer days, when we litter pick, workday on the last Sunday of every month to which repair fences and paths etc, we have some exciting everyone is invited, it’s not all hard work and it’s a great projects lined up for next year. So if you think you have opportunity to find your way around up there. We some expertise that could help with our mission, or just organise walks and other events up the mountain and some muscle for our more physical skirmishes please at Crosskeys RFC throughout the year so watch our get in touch – or pop in to our AGM at Crosskeys RFC website and Facebook page for details – come and join us some time. on Monday 7th November at 7pm. Terry Evans (Chair, Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society)


November/December 2016

South Wales Directories - Twmbarlwm Articles 2016  

Articles written for Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society to appear in the South Wales Directories - published bi-monthly

South Wales Directories - Twmbarlwm Articles 2016  

Articles written for Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society to appear in the South Wales Directories - published bi-monthly