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There were no supermarkets in existence when our grandparents were children. Every town had small specialist shops selling items imported and more selling more local produce. Nearly every home had their own back garden to grow fruit and vegetables.
They made their own jams and conserves. Some even brewed their own beer or wine. They helped each other when it was time to harvest and would share their successes and failures. Very little chemicals were used on the food back then, where agricultural and industrial techniques were only ideas for some.
To cut a long story short - their food systems were healthier, more tasty and more robust. There was more biodiversity and less mental health problems or food allergies.
This is the misson of the Bro Ffestiniog Skyline project:
To bring food, the fuel and the knowledge back to the communities where they once thrived. Together, we are to develop a trading and effective garden, an affordable and sustainable firewood enterprise as well as a traditional skills centre to teach old skills to the new generations.
Coed Call was established to try and address the fuel poverty situation in the area. We are grateful to J. W Greaves, Llechwedd, for the use of a piece of land near Pant yr Afon, whilst Cyngor Gwynedd and Snowdonia National Park donate tonnes of wood which has been cut on public land. We will be processing these with the help of volunteers and then drying them in purpose built sheds.
The majority of the wood will be sold to help others pay their gas, oil and electricity bills. Our future plans include acquiring and managing a woodland from Natural Resource Wales so that we can make our log bank more sustainable long term. We welcome donations of firewood, and we have qualified staff to cut and move trees that have fallen.
The second part of the Bro Ffestiniog Skyline project is the Traditional Skills Centre, near the Antur Stiniog bike tracks. We have bought 25 tonnes of Douglas Firs from Lake Vyrnwy, and we will be processing the wood to build an octagonal roundhouse to teach traditional skills like green woodworking, carving, basket making and much more. Our aim is to sell these experiences to tourists so that we can fund free courses to local people
It's likely that the third project is the more ambitious. We are planning to create a network of gardening projects that will be producing enough fruit and vegetables to feed the town. Whilst this aim is very ambitious, through Skyline's support we believe that the aim is very realistic, and by 2032 here in Bro Ffestiniog we are aiming to be totally self-sufficient in producing fruit and vegetables.
Not only will this help to tackle food poverty and obeseity, but also open up gardening opportunities to the town's adults and children - something that brings huge benefits to mental health. We will be building a shed on our site behind the Manod hotel, with a warm fire for people to sit around or to plant seeds or to process the harvest.
Funded by Welsh Government, and in partnership with Y Dref Werdd, we have started the work on the three sites around Blaenau Ffestiniog. The support from the volunteers will be paramount for the success of the projects, and they will be awarded with excellent barbecues and never ending cups of tea, not to mention the reassuring knowledge that they are contributing towards something so positive in their community.
If you would like to hear more, or volunteer, contact Wil Gritten on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone our main office on 01766 830 082.