Category Archives: Conservation


We have just heard from CADW, that our wonderfully unusual grey telephone box at the entrance to the valley has been given Grade II Listed status!!

Many a resident has given direction to their house as “keep straight on at the grey telephone box” and the thought of BT painting it red or, heaven forbid, taking it away altogether wasn’t worth thinking about.

Some years ago BT removed the red box opposite Coed Dias, without so much as asking us. For some reason they decided that it was in Monmouthshire and so consulted the wrong Council, who obviously weren’t concerned.

Then they tried to paint it red and we managed to stop that and gave it a coat of (BT supplied) Battleship Grey. {BTW Residents, it is going to need to be done again this Spring}

Fast forward to August 2020, and undercover of COVID lockdowns, a little notice appeared inside the box – subtle – which our very own Vicky Jones spotted with her eagle eye. They were going to remove our iconic box! We contacted BT as we were under the impression that it was already Listed, but apparently not.

So we ‘mobilised the troops’ and bombarded Monmouthshire CC , whose final decision it was, with pleas to maintain the box. Our argument obviously held sway – that it is the only emergency telephone in the whole area – and we learned that it had been reprieved – for now!

Whilst residents were writing to the Council, Vicky and I were busy pestering CADW (the Welsh ancient monuments organisation) to get a full Listing. The National Park weighed in by getting it included on the regional Historic Environment Record. Things were looking up. Thanks Alice.

On 31st December we heard that it had been “recommended for Grade II listing” What a way to end a horrible year!

Then on February 1st we received the official notification that ‘our box’ is a Listed Building, and so is saved for the nation and posterity!

Perseverance pays off!

Why grey? Well many years back it was decided that telephone boxes in places like National Parks should be less obtrusive in the landscape and so many were painted grey. One in the next valley, at Capel y Ffin was also grey, but has now reverted to red. BT have tried on many occasions to re-red ours, but thanks to local vigilance from people like the late Lord Crickhowell, who lived just opposite, the grey was preserved, so we are just making formal what we have known all along – grey boxes for National Parks.

Footnote: Just as I finished writing this blog, I received an e-mail from my contact at BT Payphones with this:

I’ve been preparing some material for a possible press release about phone boxes in general and I came across an extract from a 1935 or 1936 letter from the designer of the traditional phone box (Sir Giles Gilbert Scott) to the Postmaster General:

“I do feel very strongly that the rural kiosk should not be bright red. I am more convinced than ever that bright red kiosks in an old village street or a village green will be an abomination. Red looks well in the busy streets of a city with coloured motor buses and coloured signs of all kinds but the English Rural atmosphere is entirely different, it is essentially quiet in tone and peaceful and bright red kiosks will jar the nerves of all who love rural England.”

The designer’s preferred colour was grey and I’m sure he would have held the similar views about boxes in Wales!

Maybe his spirit lives on near you!

Stemming the scourge of the off road motor bike

The article below appeared (in slightly different forms in the Abergavenny Chronicle and Valley Views)

Most of us have been annoyed by off–road motor vehicles, particularly bikes, in the Grwyne Fawr for some time. However a new initiative between the residents and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) will hopefully go some way to deterring and informing riders, especially those who hop from side to side of the valley via the tarmacked road.

Last year Grwyne Fawr residents set up a Community Interest Company (CIC) that has enabled us to bid for grant funding for projects. At the end of 2015 the CIC found itself successful in obtaining a grant of £10,000 from Welsh Government to improve the barriers on the forest roads and put up new signage indicating that motorised vehicles are prohibited in the forest and on the common land.

Ian Mabberley, one of the directors of the CIC, said “the problem has been around for some time. We have worked with the Park and Police in the past which has had a short term effect due to lack of resources to maintain the vigils, but the bikes eventually return. I don’t think that the bikers realise that they are causing so much damage to the environment, to the enjoyment of walkers and cyclists and to the quality of life of the residents. In fact four motor bikes nearly ended up in our garden a few weeks ago, way off any legal routes.”

"i didn't know" isn't going to be an alibi any longer!

“i didn’t know” isn’t going to be an alibi any longer!

“We have beefed up the existing barriers with an extra beam, installed horse step-overs and, off the Car Parks, disabled access kissing gates and fenced and are installing block stones alongside. New signs indicating that motorised vehicles are prohibited in the forest and that vehicles could be seized and crushed, will also inform the riders that they are not allowed to be there. We have also purchased some surveillance cameras to allow us to spot illegal use. This won’t, of course, affect those with legitimate access rights to the forest. The new barriers should make it almost impossible for off-roaders to link sections of the forest roads by hopping on and off of the valley road. This allied to the signage indicating that their bikes could be seized and crushed may help to deter them longer term.”

Michael Cresswell, Land Management Officer for NRW, who manages the forest said: “It has been fantastic working alongside the Grwyne Fawr Community Interest Company to reduce the effects of this illegal activity in Mynydd Du forest. Illegal off road trespass is a problem throughout Wales, with Mynydd Du being a particular ‘hot spot’ in my area. This activity damages the natural environment, impacts on legitimate users’ enjoyment and causes financial implications for the organisation. I really appreciate the ongoing support from the local residents reporting incidents and keeping an eye on the forest. I implore anyone who visits any NRW forest to report any suspicious or obvious acts of an illegal nature to the Police via 101, or 999 in an emergency”.

Ian adds “We’d like to ask all residents to report any and all instances of anti-social behaviour to either the Police, NRW or to me. The more we react the more chance we have of stopping such activities.”

Carbon neutral?

This week has seen the coming on line of the third micro-hydro electricity generator in the Valley.  The three systems, all running off different streams that feed into the main Grwyne Fawr river, have a combined maximum power output of around 24KwH, which works out at about 576Kw a day or around 38Kw per household per day.  I reckon that this is plenty to run each house quite comfortably, which seems to make the Grwyne Fawr a Carbon Neutral (or even Carbon negative!) valley.

OK it doesn’t rain all the time – in fact it didn’t rain much all summer – but there are also a couple of Solar PV arrays which can pump 4KwH each into the system when the sun shines.

There are also proposals afoot for up to three more hydros, so we could become a major “green power station”!!!

New grants available

The Welsh Government has announced a new set of environment grants for organisations such as ours and we will be looking more closely at this in the next few days.

A draft proposal was formulated late last year for undertaking a number of initiatives in the valley to improve visitor understanding and enjoyment, but fell through due to the then funding partner pulling out.  Now Conservation Director, Ian Mabberley, is again working with organisations including the Brecon Beacons National Park to resurrect the plans.

More details will be posted on this site as matters progress.