June 2020

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.
Archive from 2013 Historic Interest
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 Associations. 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.