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Feature

The wheel of time must not turn full circle

07 Apr 2024 5 minute read
Derelict Seven Sisters Colliery

William Thomas

During my very early years as a Dulais Valley boy, I lived in a thriving valley in which there were many collieries producing anthracite coal.

This product was used for the domestic and export market. Within my village of Seven Sisters, the colliery had been operational since the 1870’s. 

Thousands of miners were employed in our valley collieries, spending much of their hard-earned wages in the villages in which they lived, mainly the Swansea, Dulais and Neath Valleys.

As I entered secondary education, I travelled daily to the grammar school in Neath and witnessed the gradual closures of these collieries in the 1960’s, including that of Seven Sisters, and with that, experienced the economic decline of the valley.

Seven Sisters Colliery in full production

By the early 1970’s many mines had ceased production leaving only their empty shells as evidence of their former glory.

Prosperity was disappearing and being replaced by social deprivation, particularly in the upper reaches of the Dulais Valley. The ruins of the old collieries remained for many years before their removal.

Hirfynydd today

After many decades of exploitation spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, the Dulais Valley has gradually returned to its former beauty, with Hirfynydd having recovered remarkably from the scars of opencast mining and quarrying.

Nevertheless, beneath the surface of Hirfynydd, there are vast areas of unmapped coal workings which had been excavated extensively for decades pre-nationalisation in 1947.

Old colliery workings under Hirfynydd

Currently, I enjoy the tranquillity of Hirfynydd. It is a pleasure not to be missed, nor taken for granted, due to its wide range of wildlife, beautiful scenery, and freedom to walk or ride undisturbed in clean-fresh air.

Clouds looming

However, very dark clouds are looming with the threat to both Hirfynydd and Marchywel being heavily industrialised with monstrous 200-metres turbines like the Martian invaders in the film “War of the Worlds.” 

Hirfynydd will also be covered with 130 acres of solar panels, like swarms of silver fish.

Whilst EDF, a French National company, intends to transform Hirfynydd into an industrial wasteland, another energy company (Tarenni Energy Company Ltd., an umbrella organisation of Bute Energy) has its eyes focused on Marchywel. It is waiting in the wings to see the outcome of the Hirfynydd submission.

At Nant-Y-Cafn, in Seven Sisters, a solar farm of around 70 acres is being proposed at Pencaerlan. 

The threat to Crynant village from the possible development on Marchywel

With these proposed developments, the village of Crynant will be surrounded, whilst most of Seven Sisters will suffer the full-frontal impact of the turbines.

The impending construction of the 120-metre anemometer on Hirfynydd (Wind measuring mast) will be visible in the Neath Valley villages which already suffer from unsightly windfarms. The Hirfynydd project will compound their woes. 

The extensive Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) with its huge containers and pylons to carry electricity to the grid at Swansea North, will be unsightly.

The BESS also brings with it significant fire and health risks. The cumulative impact on the Dulais and Neath Valleys is totally unacceptable.

Extraction

Many residents do not want this unsightly energy park on Hirfynydd as very few permanent jobs will be created. There will be no economic benefit to the valley villages, no reduction in energy costs, and neither will the electricity produced be used to power their homes.

They object strongly to this foreign company making excessive profits which will be sent back to France rather than being reinvested in the valley.

We will be left with the community fund which is pittance compared with the expected company profits.

Will this temporary 35-year intrusion be beneficial to our villages? I suspect not. This company will not reclaim the land to its former glory.

The thousands of tons of concrete (13,125 tonnes for 7 turbine), hardcore, and large quantities of steel that will be poured and submerged into the ground, will be left there for ever.

Seven Sisters Colliery early years

If the wheel of time turns full circle, I will have disappeared into the ground before the termination of the development.

Many of us will only be present for part of the time to experience the Welsh Government’s folly in its pursuit of net zero. 

I am asking:

  • Aren’t there better ways to produce energy without destroying our unique Hirfynydd?
  • Why is the Dulais Valley being subjected to a second period of unnecessary industrialisation for the financial benefit of the very few?
  • Why is the Welsh Government giving away our countryside for 30 pieces of silver?

Find out more about Stop Hirfynydd Energy Park here


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Annibendod
Annibendod
1 month ago

1. Yes
2. Because there’s a profit to be made
3. Because they are part of the neoliberal economic infrastructure of the UK and they are either unwilling or incapable of breaking with that consensus.

This is yet another example of wealth inequality. I presume the land was once farmed? Local assets being bought up by wealthy corporates? Profits go to the already wealthy? Symptomatic of everything wrong with UK capitalism.

Last edited 1 month ago by Annibendod
John doh
John doh
1 month ago

industrialisation 🤣 because of renewable energy? You taking the p**s or? Do these older generations not realize they won’t be any pretty views or wildlife if we carry on the way of fossil fuels. I’m sure some of these people would be happy to have kids back down the mines.

If you can’t work out that having renewable energy is better for the country vs fossil fuels then god help.

Sam
Sam
1 month ago

Objecting to monstrous wind turbines and getting the fuzzies for glorious coal mines is pure nostalgia

Glen
Glen
1 month ago

It seems almost every hillside in the valleys is now decorated with ugly turbines but looking across the channel there appears to be very few (if any) in Somerset and north Devon.

Now why would this be?

Last edited 1 month ago by Glen

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