A new feature for the magazine where we simply have a chat with some well know Clydach faces and find out about their time in Clydach. Alan and Pam Cram have both been heavily involved with the local community with various project. I spoke with them to find out more:-
How did you end up in Clydach?
Pam: My fault. I am an ordained Methodist minister. We had been in Pontarddulais for a number of years and then we moved into the Swansea Gower circuit and ended up living in Clydach; that was twenty years ago. I retired four and a half years ago.
How do you become a minister?
In my case, I had been preaching but it really started with a few people putting the idea in my head. Three different people from totally different backgrounds said to me effectively ‘have you ever thought about ministry?’ One of them was joking but because it was the third after two others I kind of thought ‘hang on’. So, I applied. You must go through all sorts of hurdles of tests and committees etc… and eventually they say, ‘yes or no’. I started in North Wales because Alan was teaching in Cheshire and it was possible for him to carry on working where he had been.
Where and what did you teach Alan?
Alan. I ended up being head of Biology in Gorseinon College and had some good years there. I was there 16 years and retired ten years ago and was lucky in mainly doing A-level, which was nice. On the whole you have kids who want to be there and want to study. They are there by choice and most are fairly well motivated.
With you both retired, what made you stay in Clydach?
Pam: He said that he wasn’t moving again! Obviously with my job, ministers do traditionally move about a lot and we had uprooted the family previously and he said ‘we are not moving again!’. It was a good place to retire in, we have a nice house, why would we move? The village keeps improving, especially over the last couple of years, it has really taken off. The Men’s Shed and the community garden are just a couple of examples.
Alan: It is a nice place to live in terms of access to the countryside, the cycle track, footpaths, the Brecon beacons half hour up the road, the coast the other way. The community council are very pro-active, they are very good people with new ideas. We have no intention of moving.
We are in the Ty Croeso building, (socially distancing with our masks on). How did this place begin?
Alan: About 8 years ago, a group of us, mainly from different churches in the area but also from other groups decided that we needed to get out into the community and so we rented this place. Originally the idea was a drop-in centre for people to call in and have a chat and if there was a particular issue then we could direct them to the appropriate agency. But that didn’t happen. People did not drop in. The next step was that we got linked up with the Trussell Trust Swansea foodbank which we opened about 7 years ago. Through that and other things, the building has kind of become the drop-in centre which we originally hoped although Covid obviously restricts this at the moment.
Pam: we were doing other things in the meantime (prior to the food bank), and there was a successful bereavement support group for several years and other bits and pieces. We tried lots of things that failed but you must risk it and try it to see what happens.
Do you expect things to get worse with the foodbank in coming months as people sadly lose jobs?
Alan: I think in terms of the usage of foodbanks, it will increase. Probably to a greater extent than during the Covid lockdown. It is likely that we will see an awful lot of people losing their jobs. One of our clients yesterday was someone who had a job, had to finish and at their age with a health condition, it is hard for them to find something new. We have had more people recently who have had jobs or run their own business which has shut down and it is going to happen more.
It is easy to be judgemental, people arrive here in nice cars and you think; ‘you have a nice car there, how come you are using the foodbank?’ and you find out that if they get rid of the car then it’s getting rid of their one chance of finding employment. We take everyone as they come. I think it is slightly easier for people to use foodbanks these days as most people know someone else who have used it but for some people it is still hard to ask for the help.
Alan: We like to offer people a coffee and give them a chance to have a chat and stay as long as they like but obviously at the moment we can’t do it as normal: we can have a brief chat but we are losing the social aspect somewhat.
Pam: (we are seeing) more of those people who have not been particularly wealthy but have been getting-by but have no savings. They are going to be hit if they lose their employment or maybe they are still in employment but work less hours. Most people don’t have a lot of savings. People who have never asked for help before, but they may need to.
Another project that I know you are involved with is the Repair café
Pam: Yes, we got going but it had to stop because of Covid but we are slowly starting again. Originally the idea was that people could come along with an item which needed mending and keep it out of landfill. A qualified person would look at the item and the idea was not just to mend it but to also teach the person on how to fix it next time. We use the community hall which was offered to us for free. We re-started in September but now by appointment only, and very controlled for Covid.
It is a national organisation and the rules and guidance are all based on their advice. Another way of working is home delivery to a repairer who is shielding and is electronics expert. We can link her with the person who needs something repaired. They then arrange to get the item dropped off somewhere safe and leave it for 72 hours before she looks at it, tries to fix it and then leaves it for that person to pick up. If that keeps her safe and gives her something to do whilst shielding then the two benefits are there.
What is your favourite thing about Clydach:
Alan: I think the community. It is a very close community and you wouldn’t dream of passing someone on the pavement without saying ‘hello’ and they usually beat you to it. It has its problems like anywhere, but it is a very close knit community.
Pam: I’d say the same really, we have access to Swansea if we want it, not that we often go there. But we have the countryside. On the community, one thing which is noticeable here in comparison with some of our other churches in the Swansea area is how supportive members are with one another during this pandemic. They are on the phone with each other all the time, not in an intrusive way but checking up on one another, checking that they are OK. Even though a lot of them are isolating because of their age.
MISSING A TRICK?
Do you think we undersell ourselves as a tourist destination?
Alan: I think that’s true yes, I think historically, it used to be a mining village. There was no sort of tourism back then. It’s difficult to move on and sell the idea I guess. I suppose some decent B&Bs in the village would take time to get established but it would be a good project for someone to set-up.
Sometimes it seems we need someone to move into the area to see what is there?
I think it’s true to say but that has its dangers too as you get people coming in with these ‘wonderful’ ideas and treading on people’s feet upsetting everyone, with projects falling flat and leaving people disillusioned. It is about working with the local people, assessing their needs and what’s needed and obviously some things have been very successful here. You still get people saying ‘Clydach is boring there is nothing here’ but you just feel like saying ‘well get out, get away from your tele’.
Pam: we have had a few examples of that here in Ty Croeso, people with great ambitions but what they think might work doesn’t always. What is often the case is that small is beautiful, ambition yes but you can be over ambitious and then fall but I think that it’s better to go step-by-step. We have had a couple of examples of people with grand plans but then disappear into thin air. I think people have discovered more things locally because of Covid. We see it because we see the canal from our back garden and the large number of people walking along all the time, particularly during lockdown. I think they are realising what is around them.
What is the one thing which you would change about Clydach?
Alan: Dare I say, more traffic calming measures on all the roads? Pontardawe road is used like a race track, not just by the young lads but older people and we want to create a safe place for people to feel safe to walk and cycle.