Presented by Alison Alexander at the 2023 AGM.
The Steering Group Committee has met eight times in the past year. Public meetings have changed to monthly in-person meetings at the Cross Keys, on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Many thanks to all who have served on the Steering Committee this year, with diligence, seriousness and good humour as ever. Special mentions are due in particular to Diana Allen for her meticulous bookkeeping, to Alan Bridger for his fastidious administrative and website work and to Fiona Slater for her effective management of BRACE’s social media platforms and advertising of events in other community Facebook groups. The Chair continues to promote the group’s work via regular coverage in the monthly Tanat Valley Chronicle, Powys County Times, Shropshire Star and occasional radio interviews on BBC Radio Shropshire.
Membership, as measured by newsletter sign-ups, stands at 85. Many thanks to all who have so enthusiastically participated in running events and projects this year.
In spring, we were unexpectedly awarded a grant of £8000 by Cae Post, a recycling charity distributing its funds prior to closure. A large portion of the fund was earmarked to create a Library of Things, in line with Cae Post’s charitable purpose, but permission was granted for some to be used for general running costs.
BRACE cares for four spaces around Llanfyllin: the Gardd y Fro community garden behind the Public Institute, Cae Bodfach Community Orchard and two small plots on Brook Street and at the Workhouse.
The group presents surplus produce at the town’s weekly market in return for donations. Thanks are particularly due to Sue Dolman for leading the gardening for the past three years and to the team that has formed to continue organising the work programme as Sue stepped back from her coordinator role, partly to be able to develop the grounds more at the Work House. There, the gardeners planted trees, laid hedges and created a stunning dead hedge for invertebrate habitat this year.
Volunteers again partnered with Llanfyllin Town Council to give the bank on the entrance to town by Bachie Road its annual cut and rake for the fourth year running. The variety and extent of wildflowers on the 80m stretch of roadside verge has increased to 16 different species of flowering plants plus an array of grasses.
BRACE members who are also residents of Bronygaer estate have been working together with Powys County Council officers and other tenants and homeowners to improve the biodiversity on their land. After a consultation facilitated by PCC showed support for wildflower planting and improved hedges the group raised funds for seed, bulbs and tools. The first planting day will take place this autumn.
Ysgol Llanfyllin Eco Committee
Following on from last year’s project creating pollinator-friendly plantings at Ysgol Llanfyllin, gardeners returned to help the primary pupils’ Eco Committee create a wildflower meadow on a bank outside their classroom window.
OsBorders Repair Café
The Repair Café, organised in partnership with Extinction Rebellion Oswestry, goes from strength to strength, still alternating between Oswestry and Llanfyllin except during the month of August. The bookings system introduced after the lifting of lockdown has continued but organisers have opened up some walk-in slots for the end of sessions. This hybrid arrangement has reduced the time pressure on fixperts and created greater flexibility. Particular thanks are due to Colin Hargis for taking on so much of the administration, notably the bookings. Rob Allen’s partnership with Llanfyllin Charity Shop continues to be a success, allowing them to sell PAT-tested electricals. The group’s admin team attended a Q&A in Ellesmere in early spring to help volunteers prepare for the town’s new repair café. The inaugural session, supported by OsBorders fixperts, drew a huge crowd and heralded a successful first year for the new café. In April, the OsBorders group had a stand at St Martin’s Earth Day and Whittington Green Fair.
This partnership between BRACE and The Cross Keys launched after a short delay in February. Many thanks are due to the Cross Keys for overseeing the management of the fridge with the support of BRACE volunteers. A small but steady stream of produce, of both chilled and store cupboard items, has passed through the doors.
Come Dine with Me
In another partnership with the Cross Keys, and with nutritionist Natasha Wilcock, volunteers gave eleven Year 11 Ysgol Llanfyllin pupils an introduction to meal planning and cooking. During the summer term, the children spent three hours at the Cross Keys after school on four consecutive Mondays. In the first session Natasha volunteered her time to teach the youngsters about healthy eating and planned menus for the following weeks. They took turns to cook, play table tennis, listen to music and visit the community garden and orchard.
Library of Things
The next big project in the making this year is the Library of Things (LoT). Benthyg Cymru is a nationwide movement aiming to reduce waste and preserve the Earth’s resources. Tools and gadgets that people only need to use occasionally are made available to borrow for a low fee. The LoT was initially earmarked to launch in late October but it has been delayed due to a last minute hiccough. It is nevertheless imminent. In the meantime the LoT team continues to collect items in readiness, initially focussing on small items that can be easily stored – kitchen gadgets, garden hand tools, cleanable toddlers’ toys, mobility aids and DIY tools. Most items will be under £5 for a week, some significantly less.
Energy and electric car club working group
In the early part of the year, this group spent time researching solar power opportunities and taking inspiration from electric car clubs elsewhere in Wales. They carried out an audit of the town’s rooftops in coordination with consultant Dave Green, with a view to joining together with other communities from Powys to put in a bid for community solar funding. The ongoing uncertainty over timelines for building work at Ysgol Llanfyllin and the start of the leisure centre review has paused the project for the time being. The Public Institute committee were pleased to take part in the research work and resolved to pursue solar power for their building.
Cain Valley River Group
Dewi Morris has taken a lead on CVRG activity this year within his role as project officer at the Severn Rivers Trust. BRACE largely serves as an additional conduit for volunteers.
20 minute communities project
Last year’s 20-minute neighbourhood research project, coordinated by Lesley Sweet, John Dady and Diana Allen and written by Resources for Change, has been put to good use this year. The report has made a useful contribution to the work of Owen Davies Consultancy, the company charged with creating a vision for the town centre.
The year kicked off with an informal wassailing gathering in Cae Bodfach orchard – a first attempt at this ancient ritual that is due to be repeated again on Twelfth Night in 2024. A winter fruit pruning session took place later in January, one of several tidy up events through 2023. In March, we held a willow spilling workshop.
Easter Friday saw the return of the Cae Bodfach mini festival, another well attended, educational event with so many members pitching in to create a joyful, relaxed atmosphere.
Volunteers enjoyed a return visit to Pili Pala Farm in May for a guided tour of the market garden now in its second year from owner Tom Edwards. Garden lovers had a rare opportunity to visit a hidden treasure in Llanfyllin. Jane Pawley kindly opened her gates for visitors to marvel at the spring colour in the enchanting oasis she has created at The Chestnuts, raising £120 for Y Pantri.
Big Green Week in June was a hectic and hugely enjoyable time for BRACE. The nine-day nationwide celebration of the environment kicked off for Llanfyllin with the Repair Café, followed by the Community Garden Open Day and plant sale/ swap. Members travelled to Powys County Council’s Climate Conference in Llandrindod Wells mid week to learn about what local councils and communities can do to help tackle the nature emergency. They heard about the support available from organisations like One Voice Wales, Powys Nature Partnership, the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), Severn Wye Energy, Moondance (for carbon literacy training) and Planning Aid Wales to increase nature cover in towns and villages The festival ended with BRACE spreading the word about its projects on a stall at St Myllin’s Day and taking a guided walk around Ty Brith, the traditional hay meadow managed by Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, where 149 species of flowering plants and 234 different insect species have been recorded.
One Saturday in October, about 50 members of the public joined us for Apple Day, fruit picking in Cae Bodfach in the morning and apple pressing at Gardd y Fro in the afternoon with home made soup and cakes for lunch. Quote of the day from one family: “We only meant to come for a couple of hours in the morning and ended up spending the whole day. It has been the best thing we’ve done this year.” Many thanks to local film maker and photographer Vlad Morozov for recording the event.