By the time you read this there should be a lot more blossom about. In mid February we can see the first white splashes in the hedgerows of Blackthorn, from which you get your sloes, and early flowering cherries are popular in gardens. At the entrance to Clos Llanfair is a quite uncommon Purple-leaved Plum or Black Cherry Plum, one of the Myrobalan or Cherry Plum family. This variety is named after Monsieur Pissard, the French Head Gardener to the Shah of Persia, who sent the first one back to France in 1880. This is already covered in blossom which in a good year is followed by plenty of fruit.
Wild Cherry Blossom
Whilst Blackthorn, sometimes called Quickthorn, is abundant in our hedgerows, there does not seem to have been much interest in planting other fruit trees in hedges and it will be some time before we see the next splashes of white; the Hawthorn, also called May blossom for the month in which it traditionally bloomed. One exception is Crab apple which does pop up all over the parish. It is not always easy to spot as it straggles up between the Hazel, Hawthorn and other taller trees but once the apples appear it is difficult to miss. However, in other parts of the country other fruiting trees have been planted which help the hedgerow to be more than just a stock-proofing fence. You have only to drive up to Herefordshire and towards Shropshire to see the masses of Cherry blossom by the side of the road. Faversham in Kent and Harrogate in Yorkshire also have spectacular displays. We have little growing wild in the parish although it has been planted in the Wild Orchard at St Lythans and the trees are already galloping skywards.
Most people around here will not have heard of Bullace but this wild plum, somewhere between a sloe and damson in size, is much more common in some parts of the country. The Wildlife Group have planted it in the Wild Orchard and in 2019 our jam and preserve expert, Daisy Graze, made Bullace jam which she considered one of the most flavoursome she had made. The real wild pear, Pyrus pyraster, is hardly recorded now in South Wales yet has been around since the Stone Age. You can find it planted on the edge of the Upper Orchid Field and, of course, the Wild Orchard. It can be very difficult to buy so it is hoped that cuttings can be taken and will lead to further plantings around the parish. The Wild Service Tree or Checker Tree is a rare native, samples of which can be seen growing above the cliffs of Jacksons Bay in Barry. The blossom is followed by a fruit like a small pear, often called Chequers and, as they were once used in the beer-brewing process, it is thought this led to many pubs being called Chequers. The tree is particularly good for a variety of wildlife. You can find them in the Wild Orchard but one also grows in the Community Orchard.
So, enjoy the blossom and the fruit that often follows. Find some space in your garden for these more unusual trees and encourage our Councils to include them in our park and roadside-planting schemes.
Kenfig became a National Nature Reserve in 1989 and an SSSI in 1950s. Inland from the beach is a complex landscape of dunes and wetlands covering about 1300 acres. It is home to many rare species of plants, insects, birds and animals. Kenfig is one of the wettest dune systems in the UK as the sand sits on clay.
As we set off from the main car park we aimed for Sker House, near the beach, it is a deep yellow colour and probably the oldest house, in the area, still occupied. It was built as a monastic grange linked to Neath Abbey. Passing through the edge of the golf course we kept a sharp lookout for any flying balls.
The day was overcast with poor visibility – Port Talbot steel works largely unseen except for the flames. We skirted Sker house to make our way onto the beach which is a delight as you can stride out without looking where you are planting your feet – indeed one of our group was seen to break into a jog at one point – helped by the wind at our backs. We spotted the skeleton of a wrecked boat. Turning north and inland through a break in the dunes we had lunch in the shelter of a dune to get out of the wind, but pouring rain drenched us. Still we had a good view of a ‘lake’ below us –created by the heavy rainfall this winter.
Following the river Kenfig, we arrived at Kenfig castle – the site of a medieval castle and town. The BBC’s Time Team undertook an extensive exploration of the area – you can view the programme at https://youtu.be/VJwCaCBhD4U or go to YouTube and search for season 19 episode 8 of Time Team.
For 200 years from mid-12thC Kenfig was a thriving community. Then sand began to arrive and after another 100 years nearly everyone had left. The town was an Anglo- Norman settlement, established with the objective of asserting and maintaining rule over the Welsh population. It sat on the border between English Glamorgan and Wales to the north and west. It was regularly assaulted by the Welsh highlanders and burned several times, each time it was rebuilt but what the Welsh failed to achieve the elements did. High tides and storms deposited huge amounts of sand. Further north the dunes remained stable and it is thought that the destruction was partly due to human habitation as their grazing animals destroyed the vegetation which kept the dunes stable. Research shows that winds with speeds over 20 knots will carry sand and Kenfig is exposed to these on average 80 days every year.
There is a ditch around the castle with 2 roads running north/south and east/ west converging at the castle. The town was a large settlement extending outside the castle ramparts though the outer buildings appear to have been animal shelters, forges etc. which people will have used for their work.
Making our way to Kenfig Pool we climbed to the top of a dune plotting our route through the flooded paths. We passed many trees up to their knees in ponds. At one point a boardwalk is provided across a marshy area. The only trouble being that the edge of the boardwalk was about 2ft from dry land with water deeper than the height of the tops of our boots – I was the lucky one that benefitted from lovely cold water soaking one foot with a cold sensation which soon warmed up. The soaking was forgotten until, taking off my boots, I realised that grit in the water had caused a fair bit of wear on my favourite socks! Boots had to be washed inside and out on returning home – a very rare occurrence.
On our way back to the car we came across some handsome cattle grazing; their coats warm brown colours – they were a mix of Highland Cattle and North Devon Ruby Reds.
Walk 7.25miles 250ft + a bit for ‘scaling’ sand dunes.
If you are not a confident map reader and would like to visit the area, an easy option is to park on the seafront at Porthcawl, near Nottage, and follow the footpaths west along the coast. There is a choice between hard surface, grass and beach for large sections of the walk with numerous seats. A walkway covers a long stretch to protect the land which creates an easy walk.
I did this on a sunny and very blustery day (the day before storm Ciara) and walked into Kenfig Nature reserve before turning back the way I had come (about 5 miles flat walking). Visibility was brilliant and there were dozens of kite surfers out on the water at Rest Bay.
The walk can be extended by following the coastal path further into Kenfig.
In Africa the Big 5 are a huge attraction for people visiting the safari parks: rhino, lion, elephant, leopard and buffalo. On the Living with Cancer stroll in February the group were treated to the Little 5 and enjoyed spotting a rabbit, squirrel, Dalmatian, blue tit and pigeon! Eyes could be occasionally lifted from the mud below our feet to enjoy the wildlife, as walkers had to be very careful to navigate themselves through the quagmire created by Storm Ciara the previous weekend.
Two new walkers were welcomed to the group and enjoyed the walking, talking and refreshments. If you want to join us, we are back to our normal schedule in March: the first Thursday of the month, 10:30, Cosmeston.
We would like to thank ‘The Works’ of Wenvoe for their kind donation to our Christmas Raffle. The Works have supported many raffles at the Play-group and we would like to show our appreciation for their continued support by sharing our thanks in the What’s On.
Many local businesses support Wenvoe Playgroup CIO and we would like to thank everyone for their donations and support. It is thanks to local business-es, the Community and our Families, that Wenvoe Playgroup CIO remains today. We would like to thank everyone who has believed in us and we are now operating stronger than ever with the support of our community, so thank you.
The 30 Hour Free Childcare has also made a differ-ence to the operation of Playgroup. We now have over forty families enrolled with us and many on our waiting lists for September 2020.
To find out more about the 30 Hour Free Childcare Offer for September, please contact your local Family Information Centre to see if you are eligible for the offer. Both parents or single parent family must be working A MINIMUM of 16 hours per week on minimum wage. The offer is for families with Children, the term after their 3rd Birthday until they attend reception class. 12.5 hours of the 30 hours are used in LEA Nurseries. Here at Playgroup we run term time only alongside Gwenfo Nursery.
Here at Wenvoe Playgroup we support 17.5 hours of Free Care, which we can be flexible in our ar-rangements. Most children with us at this time at-tend 5 mornings per week 9 – 1pm and transit across to Gwenfo Nursery for 1pm until 3:30pm. A packed lunch is provided from home and parents pay a top up fee per week of £11.25 as they attend 20 hours per week.
Of course, you may attend a four day week from 9am until 1pm for FREE using 16 hours. Some pre-fer to use 15 hours , 8am UNTIL 1pm and pay a top up fee for breakfast club of 50p per day (£1.50 per week).
We also have children using 17.5 hours with us, as their local school does not have an LEA Nursery provision and they are just outside the Gwenfo Catchment Area. Some also choose not to move onto their catchment nursery as they have settled with us, hence limited spaces during the Spring and Summer months. Our advice to you is; if you are thinking of joining us in the academic year 2020 to 2021 for wrap around care, then contact us and share your wishes. Although Nursery admissions for September 2020 will not be notified until the end of May, we can keep you in mind for a place from September should you be successful.
We also provide a Breakfast Club for children who attend Gwenfo Reception for £5 per day. Breakfast club opens at 8am here at the Village Hall and chil-dren are taken safely to reception at Gwenfo for 8:50am start.
Nursery Children who attend morning Nursery at Gwenfo, also attend breakfast and we take them across at 8:50am or they stay until 1pm and are tak-en across for the afternoon session. The latter is the most popular. You can see from the above how flex-ible we are to meet your needs. Just please don’t ask us to do overnight or weekends ha ha.
If you are interested in how we can help you, then please contact us either by email-ing email@example.com or phone 02920507494.
For further information, please visit our web-site; www.wenvoeplaygroup.co.uk.
Caring relatives provide an extremely valuable service and the responsibility of care giving often falls on one person’s shoulders. The strain that carers are under and their invaluable contribution to care is often not acknowledged. Most carers cope with little or no support and caring can become a socially isolating experience. If you are a carer and would like some social contact and light physical exercise, then join our Carers walk at Barry Island.
On the first walk of 2020, there seemed to be a colourful theme as the walkers wore bright coloured coats, hats, scarfs..and…shorts in one case! Bright colours are not compulsory, just a desire to take a break from caring duties and enjoy a sociable chat and stroll. If you would like to join us, it’s the last Thursday of every month, 10 30am, Barry Island station.
Our Spring/Summer programme began with a social evening when everyone was able to have a chat and enjoy a quiz. This was followed by a trip to the Millenium Centre to see “The King and I” which every-one enjoyed.
Our first talk was given By Peter Cox and was entitled “My Life as a Spy”. Peter had been employed for 32 years at GCHQ and was able to give us a fascinating insight into the world of British Intelligence. Although still bound by the Official Secrets Act everything he told us is now in the public do-main so no rules were broken in the giving of this talk.
Peter began by explaining how British Intelligence is organised and what function the various bodies perform. The intelligence services are responsible for Homeland Security, Foreign policy, Military support, combating organised crime and global security and this is devolved to MI5, MI6 or GCHQ.
GCHQ is known as the 5-eyes community as information is gathered and shared by the UK, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Peter was recruited in 1980 primarily because he had studied Russian and joined the Technical Language Service but later worked in other departments.
To help us understand how the security services work we were played a tape concerning the shooting down of Flight MH17 and the various conversations taking place were explained so that the West knew from these recordings that the plane had been shot down by a Russian missile.
Peter then went on to describe some missions to explain how the various agencies cooperate in for example the disruption of drug shipments.
Finally Peter explained the vital importance of Global Communication networks and how GCHQ is able to watch every move as it has the power to intercept internet traffic on fibre optic systems.
This talk was fascinating and it is obviously true that Big Brother is watching you and that we are all being protected by our Secret Services who are working tirelessly to combat all manner of crimes.
In many ways our next talk led on from our previous speaker as this was about scams and how information can be gathered about us without us suspect-ing. The talk entitled “Friends Against Scams” was given by Greg Couch a Nat West Community Banker.
Greg introduced his talk by showing a video when we were introduced to the various scam techniques. The National Trading Standards Initiative has been set up to protect and prevent people from becoming the victim of scams.
After the video Greg showed us some facts and figures relating to scams. It was interesting to note that the 16 – 25 age group are currently being targeted more and that there are different scams for different age groups.
£5 to £10 billion is lost to the British economy through scams and only 5% are reported. Action Fraud is a new initiative set up by the police and this is a dedicated task force to clamp down on scammers.
Telephone scams are the most prolific and a system called Call Guardian which serves to block callers by dialling 1572 was explained.
The importance of having secure passwords to make on-line scams more difficult and a site called “howsecureismypassword.net “ can be used to see how long it would take someone to crack your existing passwords.
The important message that we were able to take home was that any suspected fraud activity should be reported and that any scam e-mails should be deleted after being reported.
The Thursday Wenvoe Walkers’ Group undertook a walk on New Year’s Day from Cosmeston to Penarth and return. The walk is usually held monthly on a Thursday afternoon and generally covers some 5 miles with a cut-off for those people requiring a shorter route. On this occasion the weather did not deter any-one and 23 people turned up.
RHS top tips for this month.
- Divide perennials.
- Prune bush and climbing roses.
- Top dress containers with new compost.
4 Start feeding the fish and switch on the pumps.
- Mow the lawns on dry days.
Environment team top five for March
- Be careful of late frosts.
- Try to resist buying overpriced small plants at garden centres.
- Get early potatoes in.
- Please refrain from using the best house scissors to cut back plants.
- Add a bit of lime to your soil.
Buying very small plants at premium prices at this time of year can result in a lot of work trying to bring them on. Watering, feeding, potting on as well as frost protection. Then off to the garden centre to purchase bigger plants later, if your efforts fail.
I have mentioned before in this column about the benefits of adding lime to the soil. The soil in and around Wenvoe has a lot of clay in it. Putting lime on the garden will make the clay friable which in turn will enable the soil to hold on to nutrients whilst raising the Ph level. Just be aware that you must keep lime away from your acid loving plants such as Azaleas and Camellias.
Plants in tubs and containers need the top layer of compost replaced now as this layer will be harbouring all manner of pests and diseases harmful to your plants. Do not put the waste material on to the garden until it has been composted.
Make sure you finish cutting back the roses this month. You can be quite severe in this task as this will encourage a growth spurt. A lot of the plants in the garden will be showing signs of new life so be on the lookout for increased slug activity or the new shoots we have been looking forward to seeing will be decimated. Summer flowering bulbs such as gladioli, lilies and agapanthus, can be planted now. Plant up dahlias in pots to give them a good start and plant out after the last frosts. Vegetable gardens will be a hive of activity now with shallots. onion sets and early potatoes being planted out. Too early for kidney bean plants yet. I have found that, even when you plant the beans a few weeks apart, as soon as the sun warms the ground they catch up with the earlier ones.
We will be holding a Spring Plant Sale and Cafe in the Church Hall from noon till 4pm on Saturday the 2nd of May. Local crafts people will once again be present and amongst them will be Llinos Metcalfe, who will, probably, have the best strawberry plants for sale this side of Offas Dyke. There will also be the usual raffle, proceeds from which are to be donated to the Royal British Legion to tie in with our celebrations for the 75th anniversary of VE Day the following weekend. Next month sees the return of Gardeners Question Time hosted by Library volunteers. This will take place in the Community Centre where the panel will include global plants woman Joyce Hoy and the irrepressible, and most knowledgeable of Welshmen, Gordon Jones. Hope to see you there.
Take care and happy gardening
THE VILLAGE GARDENER
Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinators met on February 19 2020 and items from the discussions included:
Poor health had forced Trevor Case to resign from the Watch after many years as a Co-ordinator and Vice Chairman.
Building in the St Lythams Park estate is now almost complete but there are only 2 Co-ordinators. More are needed.
If you live in St Lytham’s Park and are interested in helping to deter crime in your locality and establish a community spirit, would you consider becoming a Co-ordinator?
If so, please contact our Secretary/Treasurer Jackie Gauci on 07876 207843 or jackie.gauci47 @gmail.com
A reply from the Clerk to the Community Council about the nuisance of dogs fouling Wenvoe Playing Field confirmed that the field was a “dogs on lead” area. It was noted that some dogs are brought as a group, probably by people conducting dog walking businesses and it was agreed to explore the legal position about this practice.
One Co-ordinator had introduced a register of contact numbers for residents which was shared among the residents themselves. It could be used at times such as accidents at home when local help was needed.
Co-ordinators were invited to take part in the village activities over the weekend of May 8-10 when the 75th anniversary of the ending of World War II in Europe was to be marked.
Parking on the pavement near Old Market had caused obstruction and the PCSO had been informed.
Officers elected for 2020/21 were:
Chairman Alan French
Vice Chairman Colin Thomas
Secretary/Treasurer Jackie Gauci