Rising to the Challenge
How have three of Ruthin’s villages responded to the demands of
the coronavirus? From a safe distance, Peter Daniels investigates
It’s remarkable how the villages of Clawddnewydd, Clocaenog and
Derwen have always enjoyed and maintained a high degree of
community spirit and interdependency. In 2001, against the odds, it
raised a significant sum towards a brand new community centre in
Clawdnewydd. Several years later, it re-opened the
Clawddnewydd village shop. Perhaps the greatest achievement was the purchase for the
community at an impossibly short 10 weeks of the Glan Llyn Inn.
The response to the rigours of coronavirus have not just been typical of the way in which the
community works together, it has exceeded even their own high standards and expectations.
Early in the crisis, Antur Cae Cymro (the community venture responsible for the Glan Llyn Inn and
Siop y Fro, Clawddnewydd) recognised that there were many in the community through age or
illness who had to self-isolate or who feared making essential trips into town. When, on March 20th,
the Welsh & UK governments closed the pubs, Antur Cae Cymro repurposed its bar staff to serve in
the shop. This maintained income levels locally. It also hired some additional staff, as the shop
expanded not just in size—it’s now at least 50 per cent bigger—but also in terms of the range of
goods on offer. To its credit, all those who regularly staff the shop are waged. The shop has
extended opening hours, for ten hours a day till 8p.m. The shop was also an early adopter of the
now ubiquitous one-way customer system.
The shop range now goes well beyond the basic essentials once
available. This includes some relatively exotic vegetables not
previously stocked, such as courgettes and avocados. It now
sells pre-packed fish. It is a hub for the collection of prescription
medicines. It receives meats daily. Cotteswold Milk and the
Village Bakery also drop daily and both will make a second pass
if required. Price’s of Mold brings in vegetables. Ruthin’s
Bakehouse provides products such as home cooked pasties.
Siwgar a Speis, Llanrwst, is another local supplier. Eggs are from
Ty’n y Celyn, Clocaenog.
The emphasis is indeed on local suppliers, where possible. To
supplement this, Siop Clawdd uses Tesco-owned Booker. Since
January, because Booker now refuses to deliver, post-
caronavirus, the usual weekly visit is now at least three times a
week. It’s between a 40 to 60 mile round trip to premises at
Capenhurst or Rhostyllen. Here, the association operates in partnership with the community shop in
Pwllglas, taking orders and delivering directly to the Pwllglas premises.
Bookers is often quite empty, however, and Antur Cae Cymro has used its connections within the
pub trade to source goods in bulk and then to re-bag them in consumer quantities for general sale.
So, at the time of writing, for example, Siop Clawdd is one of the few places in Britain where you can
actually buy flour, bought in bulk but split into 2.2lb bags. You'll also find hand sanitiser, pasta and
toilet paper, all products that were at the time in short supply elsewhere.
Using a dozen-and-a-half volunteers, it also began an audacious grocery delivery service, which
now reaches as far as Melin y Wig, Cyffylliog, Llanelidan & Bryn SM, alongside the three core
villages and their more outlying farms. Even one of Denbighshire Corporation Transport’s own bus
drivers now delivers food to self-isolating people rather than bringing people to supermarkets out of
the rural area. This is a ground-breaking partnership between Antur Cae Cymro and the County
Council. Deliveries are available during each weekday but Tuesdays are busy. Fridays, however,
were described as “bonkers”.
Not only this, but the pub restaurant now offers takeaway food each night bar Sunday. It operates on
a pay-and-collect principle and you need to secure a timeslot but will deliver chilled ready meals
where necessary. It has a number of themed evenings. It is not unusual to sell up to 40 meals on
Fridays or Saturdays; and Sunday lunches have reached 50.
We’ve already mentioned that the villages are very closely knit. But the changes Antur Cae Cymro
has made resulted in a far greater reach within its core communities, with new faces in the shop and
old faces repeating business as they discover the way in which the committee has expanded its
range of goods & services. It would be unfair to suggest that coronavirus has resulted in unexpected
benefits but Antur Cae Cymro has certainly risen to the challenge in serving its community at this
time. It is exploiting new markets in ways previously unthought of. In fact, it has built on the self-
reliance already very evident. It is a coronavirus success by any yardstick you might wish to use.
Village Owned Pub
As village pubs close at an alarming rate, in December 2013, in just under 10 weeks, locals in the
Clawddnewydd, Clocaenog & Derwen areas had reached their target of £180,000 and had
bought the Glan Llyn Inn, which otherwise would have ceased trading. £90,000 came from local
fund-raising and Antur Cae Cymro secured a loan of £90,000 from the Welsh Council Voluntary
There followed a refurbishment to include a new decking area to the front, a new sports bar and
refitted kitchen. The Glan Llyn now employs a full-time chef. Staff and volunteers are all local.