Friday, 15 April 2011
Ambition is Critical*
Blaenllechau is beautiful. Nestled at the top of the Rhondda Fach, it is surrounded by mountains and forestry, a rural idyll with no through road. If it was in south Dorset, where I recently spent a weekend with an old friend, the houses would be worth at least half a million each. But this is the valleys, where good quality former chapel buildings, with planning permission for conversion to a residential property are on the market for offers of around £30,000.
In the last five years, tiny Blaenlleachau has lost its post office, shop, primary school and its community centre has closed. They used to have a polling station on election day, but the council has taken that away now too.
Just outside Blaenllechau, a social enterprise called Rhondda Life has rebuilt the local rugby club and have plans to promote the area to tourists as well as activities for local people.
And on the mountain just above Blaenllechau is one of the valleys hidden gems, my personal favourite of the Valleys Essentials - the Brynffynon in Llanwonno.
And Vic Doyle is linking up with the Bryncynon Strategy to turn the land at Ffaldau Farm into a permaculture food production business, training local young people in horticultural and business skills.
All of these give Blaenllechau hope. But ambition is critical.
Vic is backing the Greenprint for the Valleys because he sees the proposals as one way to stop the decline in places like Blaenllechau, a chance to turn things around, because he has ambition for Blaenllechau. And he'll have the chance to tell Wales's Minister for Economic Development all about it next week.
* with thanks to David Hughes, Swansea poet, 'Ambition is critical'.