Solar Photovoltaic Panels



Considering tomorrow today

Solar Photovoltaic Panels

We wish you a Happy Christmas and may the New Year bring you good fortune. Let us all hope that 2023 is the turning point for addressing climate change; let us all take action and create change. This month Forum member Ken looks at Solar Panel installation.


Solar Photovoltaic Panels

If you ever considered Solar Panels to be an unreliable investment with a long payback, think again! The current price of energy means that you will have to pay a lot and you can choose whether you want to keep paying for all your electricity or use at least some of that money as an investment with a typical simple payback of around six years and free power thereafter. This paper identifies potential pitfalls so that you can take care.

The rise in prices for energy have resulted in havoc for the solar energy market with large numbers of suppliers being inundated with enquiries and orders. Some have simply stopped considering new enquiries because they already have enough work until spring. Many entrepreneurs have recognised the opportunities of this market and started or bought small businesses to quote for supply and fitting of solar panels and related equipment but I wonder how many of these will fail, as do most new small businesses, within the first few years. Customers risk price increases before installations are completed and the lack of assurance that the supplier will exist to provide any follow up.

For most new customers, the potential purchase of solar panels is comparable in size to that of their car but there the similarity of transactions ends. For cars, the market is awash with product information and comparisons and innumerable registered dealers backed by the car manufacturers. For Solar Panels every request for information seems to result in a sales person making their assessment of what you need and giving a quote which may include product brochures but little opportunity to compare and assess anything more than total cost and a payback calculation that is totally dependent on the assumptions made by the sales person.

The general assumption that your current annual consumption is a good basis to identify the number of solar panels is not good enough unless you really use the same amount of electricity every day. Check your electricity bills and note the amount used (in KWH) each month. Identify reasons for peaks and troughs and whether they should be included in forecasts of the future.

Typical usage will be highest in the winter and unfortunately that coincides with the period in which the solar panels produce the lowest amount of power. It is not worth quintupling the number of panels in order to cover January, but simply doubling the number needed to cover June will cover March to September and make a good contribution in the other months.


Free solar power is not the only benefit of installing solar panels and a battery. The battery can be charged with relatively very low cost electricity overnight and that has clear benefits in the darker 4 months. So choose your electricity provider on the basis of both day time and night time tariffs and what you can get for exporting your excess power.

Before you contract and pay a deposit, investigate whether the company is one you want to rely upon and whether any deposit would truly be covered by any guarantee scheme. It took me a long time to recover my deposit from a company that was not a member of the scheme stated in their contract.

The author has no financial interest in any related business and readers are welcome to address any questions on this subject directly to Ken putting Ken Solar Panels in the title box.


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 Neath Canals 

 Neath Canals 

This is an easy walk in the Vale of Neath, following the Neath Canal and back along the Tennant Canal.

The river Neath is known to have been navigable to Neath town bridge for sea going ships since Roman times. The Neath canal was preceded by several smaller canals connecting industrial sites to the river. In 1790 it was decided that a canal from Pontneddfechan to Neath would be of public benefit. Construction started in 1791, one of the building contractors was imprisoned over financial irregularities in 1794, and it was completed in 1795. For the first 60 years of its existence the canal prospered and in 1845 a £100 share was worth £350. As much as 200,000 tons of coal was carried annually, as well as iron, ironstone, fire/clay bricks, silica, lime, gunpowder and building stone. The opening of the Neath and Swansea junction canal (Tennant canal) in 1824 led to traffic being diverted, as Swansea had better shipping facilities. When the Vale of Neath railway opened in 1851, canal trade dwindled and in the 20th century the canal closed. It was maintained for the supply of water to industry, but navigational structures (locks) were abandoned and became derelict.

Restoration began in 1974 with the formation of The Neath and Tennant Canals Trust. Both canals are owned by private companies who have lost their income from selling water so there is little money for maintenance, and they are wary of others working on the canals because of insurance liabilities. The Trust is limited to work approved by the canal owners which is often just litter picking. They want to see a master plan created which would preserve the canals and promote them for well-being and tourism.

It was a wet day and we set off in full waterproof gear. As we began our walk along the Neath canal, we puzzled over what looked like a dog’s kennel on the opposite bank of the canal – a cheap duck’s house? Then we walked past a huge gas depot – every type of canister and gas you could imagine.

South of Tonna is the Neath canal Depot where there was a smithy, workshop, wood seasoning shed and sawpit as well as the lock keeper’s cottage and stables. In its heyday it would have been extremely busy with lock gates being built and repaired, boats maintained and horses which towed the barges being cared for. Some of the buildings are still standing. The man living in the cottage obviously has a sense of humour as there were several figures on the land past the house including skeletons and large cats sprawling on tree stumps. Ducks and geese swam peacefully on the canal.

Soon we arrived at the 13th century, church of St Illtyd. The last time we walked here we saw a bride arriving at the church by barge. Sadly, this would be impossible now as the canal is overgrown and not navigable.

The present St Illtyd church is built on the site of a much older church and probably the location of a hermit’s refuge. The tower of the church is Norman but the actual church dates to the time of St Illtyd, centuries before the Norman conquest. St Illtyd’s was the parish church for nearby Neath until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. The present church was rebuilt in 1859. CADW restored it in 2005/6, the final part of the restoration being to paint the outside of the church white with a solution of lime and tallow just as they did in the Middle Ages.

At Tonna we saw the river Neath. The canal passed through several tunnels, and we walked along what felt like narrow paths at its side. One of the tunnels was quite long so very dark on this cloudy day. Another had an ornate metal bridge over it and fascinating reflections of the ceiling and sides in the water.

After this our path became narrower until we came to an area where there were several small bridges across the canal, a rusted-out barge, and some derelict locks. Here we crossed to the Tennant canal. We planned to lunch here, but the pool was overgrown and the ground wet. Someone explored and we went to a small beach on the river Neath with an excellent view of the Aberdulais aqueduct, viaduct and lockhouse. The river was full, and we watched the water swirling around the arches and the weir as we ate. In 2020 Storm Dennis damaged the aqueduct overwhelming the low arches but the Inlands Waterways Association with the help of the Neath and Tennant Canals Trust formulated a plan in 2021 to save the aqueduct.

The weather was a bit brighter now and the remainder of the walk was delightful with reflections of trees in the canal and leafy walkways.

Walk 6m 170ft. Map OS165

The Life of William Price


The Life of William Price

On September 1st Wenvoe WI met for the first time in this year’s programme.

Our speaker for our October meeting was Mr Dean Powell from Llantrisant. Dean gave us a most entertaining account of the life of William Price – the founder of cremation. By all accounts Mr Price led a spectacularly colourful life to the end of his days.

In complete contrast, our November meeting comprised a demonstration of ‘How to Wrap your Christmas Presents’ by Mrs Yvonne Randall. Our members were mesmerised by Yvonne’s simple, yet amazing demonstration of how to transform ordinary wrapping paper into a parcel that looked quite magical and different.

We have a busy time ahead, commencing with a visit to what used to be ‘Blooms’ in the middle of November for some Christmas shopping. Then we have our Christmas Party on 1st December, a Festive Lunch on the 7th December at the Wenvoe Arms, and our Christmas coffee morning on the 12th December in the Church Hall.

We hope to ‘kick start’ the New Year at our January meeting, when we will hold our usual ‘Bring and Buy’ meeting – a chance to declutter and get rid of all the unwanted Christmas presents and ‘junk’.

May I take the opportunity to wish everyone a truly Happy Christmas, and to say that new members are always most welcome. Wenvoe WI meets on the first Thursday of each month in the Church Hall.

Jan Young (President)

Cat Attack


It was mid October and there was a great commotion going on in our garden. First there was a bang as something ran into the metal gate alongside the house. Then a blur as a creature ran past followed by another blur in hot pursuit. The first was a squirrel, the second a local cat – plain blue/grey in colour. Then several minutes of chasing – the squirrel trying to hide with the cat hurling itself into and onto the shrubs the squirrel was sheltering in. Three times the squirrel got to a tree but the cat grabbed it by the tail and pulled it down. A moment of confrontation and the chase was on again. Eventually the squirrel got up a tree to seeming safety. However the cat had not read the health and safety guidelines and followed up the trunk. For another 10 minutes the cat tried to reach the squirrel, perched on the tip of a branch, but this was too spindly to support the cat’s weight. Eventually the cat got bored and tried to get back to the ground but going up is often easier than coming down! After some too-ing and fro-ing and considerable loss of dignity, the cat reached safety and wandered off. The result a draw with plenty of exercise but no obvious damage to either party.

Many cats are loved by their owners but it is estimated they kill around 27 million songbirds in the UK each year and many more millions of mice and voles. There are suggested ways in which you can reduce these numbers such as fitting a bell to your cats collar. None of the many cats which wander through our garden has a bell attached.

Squirrels are regarded as a pest by many. They have contributed to the decline of our native red squirrel in several ways including spreading Squirrel Pox to them, to which the Greys are immune. They also damage trees, particularly newly planted ones, by gnawing away at the bark. And your house may not be immune as they chew through cables and enlarge holes to get access to roof spaces. So for many, this battle was between two villains.

Attacking squirrels can be risky for cats. They can get scratched by the squirrel which can put up quite a fight and as squirrels can carry diseases the scratch can become infected. Some cats will eat squirrels which brings additional problems such as small bones blocking the cat’s airways and catching diseases such as Toxoplasmosis or taking in parasites. For some days there was no sign of any squirrel in our garden but then a wary and very tentative one re-appeared and normal business has been resumed.

In all the years we have lived here, this is the first time we have witnessed such a contest. It would be interesting to know if any other readers have noticed something similar.


The Heart is a Lonely Hunter


“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers’ first novel is known as a modern-day classic. To an extent it mirrors her own background of growing up in a poor mill town in the Southern United States.

The story tells of the lives of some of the townspeople and how they all gravitate towards a deaf mute called John Singer. They each confide in him with their problems and aspirations. There is Biff Bannon the local café owner, a teenage girl Mick Kelly who dreams of making something of herself, Jake Blount a political activist and the town’s African-American doctor Benedict Copeland. This doctor, despite his efforts and position in the town, is unable to change the residents’ attitudes of racism.

John Singer is patient whilst they offload their problems; they are completely unaware that he has his own pain, mourning his friend Spiros Antonapoulos, who has been banished to an insane asylum. McCullers, writing beautifully, portrays a sad collection of hopeless characters; yet there is something haunting about this book which most of us found to be food for thought and a good read. We gave it a score of 7.5.

Tricia Coulthard

Our Current Value Is Compassion

  Gwenfo School News – November Notes

It’s been another lovely month at Gwenfo. Our current value is compassion, and we have seen so many of our children living this value in school and at home. Many of our pupils attended the Remembrance Service at St Mary’s, representing both school and the Scouts, and we were so proud of how well our Head Boy and Head Girl did with their readings. We are so grateful for the ongoing generosity of our school family in their dedication to the charities we support, including recently supporting the Food Bank at Harvest and Children in Need. We are also grateful to the Book Council for a recent donation of books that the children have been able to take home.

Year 6 had an amazing time on their residential trip before half term, taking part in activities such as climbing and bushcraft. They hugely enjoyed their trip and were very tired when they returned to school! Huge thanks to the staff who took them for giving them such an amazing experience.

It was so lovely to have a visit from Vicar Lyndon and his wife Chris in assembly recently; we loved showing them our school and are so excited to be a part of their new adventure in Wales.

We continue to have wonderful sessions from Wild Thymes Forest School, Cardiff City Foundation and Forces Fitness, as well as weekly visits from Baxter the dog, from The Baxter Project, which all work to support our children’s well-being.

We are in the throes of our Christmas Concert practise and can’t wait to share the children’s hard work with their families. The song practise already sounds wonderful, and we are sure the children will do an incredible job. Across the school we are looking forward to our Christmas trips to the theatre which will take place at the end of November and in December.

When passing the school have a look out for our brand-new signage reminding people to park safely and respectfully on the roads around our school. We hope this will not only keep our children safe but also make driving past school easier, especially at busy times.

Nature is Wonderful,

The Stress Buster Strollers

So much to experience on the Stress Buster walk this month. A plane flew overhead on Cold Knap Point. Beautiful orange leaves underfoot in Romilly Park. An eclipse could be seen through gloomy grey clouds and balmy sunshine, unlike the usual October weather. Nature is wonderful, and walking in it and through it is a fabulous tonic for everyone.


Think About Homes For Wildlife

Think About Homes For Wildlife

Now is a good time to be thinking about installing homes for wildlife. You can often buy them cheaply on-line or at the budget supermarkets. Alternatively, they can be constructed at home quite simply with instructions found easily online. For example, the RSPB website tells you how to build both birdboxes and bug hotels. Birds will start looking for potential nesting locations quite early in the season – just remember to site them away from spots that are very sunny as the nestlings might get too hot. Also, they should be placed where cats cannot get at them. In contrast, bug hotels should be located in the sunniest spot in your garden. These will be used by solitary bees which are usually no threat to man or beast.

No harm in putting out hedgehog homes although most of them will already be hibernating; can also be found online or in garden centres. The advice is to find a spot in your garden which is quiet, dry, sheltered and shady and avoid the entrance facing north as this will be colder. A number of gardens in the middle of Wenvoe have occupied hedgehog homes and whilst there are only so many hedgehogs to go around, you could be lucky.


Gardening in December


This month’s tips come from the most popular person on the planet at this time of year – Father Christmas

  1. When we get on in years the main gift we want for Christmas is our health. That’s why the other presents dry up.
  2. Please send letters to me, otherwise you will end up with socks and another scarf.
  3. Families cannot fathom why you would want a roll of bubble wrap but stick to your guns.
  4. Don’t tell the friends and relatives that you can’t help with the clearing up after the Christmas dinner because you need to water the allotment, they won’t believe it.
  5. If friends buy you a year’s magazine subscription, don’t expect it to continue indefinitely.
  6. Unlike myself you only have to wear your Christmas jumper this month, so go for it – you know you want to.
  7. Before the big day make a space in the shed and when the partner asks you why, just say you’re expecting a sizeable gift. Disclaimer, it doesn’t always work.
  8. Don’t take your new gloves to the allotment in January as the conditions will make them unusable for the rest of the year.
  9. Give yourself a bit of extra time to think about New Near resolutions, that way some might be achievable.
  10. Gardeners are a sociable lot and have many friends. Just give a thought to those on their own. Loneliness is miserable.


Although we haven’t had any significant frosts in our area before Christmas for a couple of years it is still best to insulate the greenhouse, replace any broken glass and use a clear flexible mastic on loose panels. A single layer of polythene beneath the glass will reduce the amount of sunlight able to get in by 10%, which at this time of year should not affect the

plants. We need to have all pots that are outside, up off the floor to allow drainage. Watering will be at a minimum at this time of year, so it may be a good idea to empty out water butts and leave upside down. With high winds guaranteed, check that any trellis is safe and that plant stakes are fit for purpose.

Bare root plants are available now and are good value compared to potted ones. Plant them up as soon as they arrive but they won’t need a feed. Apple trees, vines and acers can be pruned now. If you wait, they may start to bleed which can make them susceptible to diseases. Take hard wood cuttings from now until late winter. Gardener’s World magazine says most deciduous plants will take but some evergreens, such as cotoneaster and holly, are also worth trying. Just take off the soft growth and cut above a bud, then cut just below a bud anything from 6 – 12 inches from the top and stick in a pot or the ground leaving a third above ground. These are going to have to stay put until next Autumn then you can move them to either their own pot or a patch of ground. Blackspot on hellebores is a problem at present. Pull the infected leaves off but don’t compost them; put them in the bin. While you’re dealing with this remove some of the lower leaves to show off the flowers.

At the allotment Bernard will be on hand for any advice you may need over the winter period. There will be a lot of netting rolled out to protect brassicas from hungry pigeons. People who put onion sets in will have to place them quite deep or birds will pull them out and they only do this to annoy you.

A big thank you to all who contributed to this page (whether they wanted to or not) over the past year and to the What’s On team for giving me space in the magazine.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

from the village gardener.


Orchid Field Volunteers



‘Rain stopped play’ for the November meeting. The field has now had its autumn cut and places the tractor was unable to reach now require cutting by hand; these include areas under the trees, around benches and some of the paths. Anybody wishing to do work before we next meet is welcome to tackle any of these areas or take on a winter project of clearing an overgrown bramble patch at the top of the field.

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