Vision Fund grants support activities that deliver a range of benefits for local communities – businesses, voluntary sector and community groups can all apply. Proposals need to be bold, ambitious and a bit out of the ordinary – and make a long-term positive difference. The latest projects supported range from a mountain bike festival to a Church Hall ground improvements project. Clearly all of these projects’ timelines have been impacted by COVID 19 and so we wish them all the best over next few months as we all find a new normal and look forward to seeing the results of these projects.
The River Cynon, A River For All project in the upper Cynon valley is led by South East Wales Rivers Trust. The £49,252 award will allow the organisation to engage the local communities residing alongside and close to the northern reaches of the River Cynon (and its tributaries such as the Dare) in the value of the river. There will be a range of benefits and outcomes, for local communities and participants and for local biodiversity and the environment. A Project Officer will set up a Community River Rangers’ Group and work to raise the profile of the river to raise awareness of its importance to local ecosystems and the many species it hosts and use it more for leisure and relaxation. In the longer-term they hope that the community will feel more ‘ownership’ and take stewardship of the river catchment.
Activities and benefits will include: Litter picking/river clean ups and fly tipping awareness involving at least 250 people / workshops with local primary schools – river engagement events, eel projects, workshops and activities. They will work with Salmon and Trout Cymru to train the local community on Fly monitoring. There will be a programme of events to improve community engagement and they will offer training and qualifications for local volunteers. The project will promote the area as a fishing destination for visitors and improve river quality and its aesthetic value to the area.
Refurbishment of the Hall at St George’s Church Cwmparc began over 5 years ago. The first phase included a new kitchen, the replacement of some windows, cure dry rot in a part of the building, replastering and redecorating where needed. Phase 2 followed last Summer with a new lower ceiling making the hall warmer and much more cost-effective to heat. The entrance to the grounds is situated on a very steep hill, making access difficult for those unable to walk far. Those being dropped off outside the entrance have to alight on the steep slope. The well-used church hall is situated behind the church necessitating a walk through the grounds to access it. This walk, although on a paved path, is not level and although there is a side entrance from a side street, this was closed years ago due to health and safety concerns. The Vision Fund grant of £20,000 will aid in the completion of the next stage, reopening this entrance as well as reinstating the former driveway to enable improved accessibility to the Church Vestry and Church Hall / establish a small parking and turning area near the Hall, providing limited disabled parking and adequate space to enable cars to turn round on site and rebuilding the steps with better landings, appropriate steps and handrails.
To date, including the Vision Fund Grant, over £75,000 has been raised to allow the above work to be completed with further applications being considered.
A £54,000 grant to a partnership project between Ystradfellte and Pontneddfechan Community Council working with Glynneath Town Council and Penderyn Community Council will support Waterfall Country Futures, a feasibility study to investigate and identify issues and opportunities, and to devise and develop a strategic plan and delivery options. The waterfalls area of the upper Neath, Cynon and Rhondda valleys is a special and beautiful landscape, with much potential for positive tourism benefits for its communities and businesses. It is a very popular area for visitors that has internationally important wildlife and a fascinating industrial heritage. Although there are many attractive waterfalls in the region, the area around Pontneddfechan is currently the most visited – and most impacted. Waterfalls in other nearby communities are also attractive and worthy of visiting, but they are relatively unknown and are not promoted. This project will find a way for communities to become involved in and exercise control over issues such as visitor management, volunteer development and tourism based economic development – this project is the first step.
A £16,066 grant to Sisters of Send will support the Sisters of Send Weekend, to be based at Bryn Bettws Lodge, Tonmawr. Individually working hard to get more women mountain biking for some years, the 3 women behind this festival are pooling their expertise to deliver a new 2-day women’s mountain biking festival. Originally planned for summer 2020, this will now take place in May 2021, due to Coronavirus restrictions. It’s intended that this will become an annual event. Whilst aimed at women riders, the festival will welcome the whole family to get involved and have fun. Funding will support the initial event and lead in planning. The weekend will be jam-packed with expert coaching and guiding from prominent professionals, an airbag for jump practice, yoga, a fancy-dress 4X race, an MTB Trail Crusade, exclusive use of selected bike trails, family entertainment and much more. The event village will feature big brand industry names and: Promote women’s mountain biking / Advocate mountain biking as an accessible, fun and inclusive sport that supports physical and mental wellbeing / Provide a nationally recognised platform for women professionals and female-led companies within the sport to showcase their skills and brands.
The event will utilise the services of local businesses as well as showcasing the Afan Valley as a world-class tourist destination.