Tales of the “Craig Nedd” Riverbank:

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I moved to 32 Craig Nedd, Glynneath on New Years Eve 1955 when I was 1 1/2 years old. The council estate we lived on had all new houses and flats and there were an abundance of recently married couples with their young children moving in at the same time as us. The street we lived on was right next to the River Neath and you can imagine as a young child the pull the river had on us young children. We spent many a happy hour or three on it’s banks or in the river itself, times have changed now and I don’t think you would see the children of today being allowed to do what we did in our time. There was even a wood across the river for us to play in, and beyond that the main railway line and the branch line which crossed the river at the Langy Bridge to the Glynneath sidings.

The following blog traces the history of the river during my time of living at Craig Nedd and all the changes that have taken place over that time. It will follow the events that have taken place from floods, cold spells, changes to the river bank due to the floods and will also look at the river during all seasons. I was lucky enough to have a father who was a photographer, so I will use his photo collection to illustrate the events as they took place at the time.

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Picture 1

So let’s start at the beginning, just before I was born, the housing estate was built on two fields to the right of the Cwmgwrach river bridge as you leave the village, you can see the fields and the river (pic 1) before the houses were built. My mother clearly remembers that these two fields were regularly flooded, but nevertheless the council decided to build there anyway, nothing changes eh!!

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Picture 2

My first memory was having to help my father to clear the back garden from all the debris and as there was a tree on the garden that had been chopped down cutting it up for firewood, Although I must say I was very young so I was probably more of an hinderance than a help. (See pic 2) I remember my mother and father always reminiscing about the fantastic crop of potatoes they had the first year they planted up the garden.

 

 

 

 

There were many children on the estate and in the summer we would spend hours paddling in the river (pic 3) and catching small fish in the pools at the side of the river, (Bombleyes, catfish, minnows) we would even try to damn the river when the river level was low. There were even some deeper pools were you could swim a little bit, but overall it was mainly paddling. Other activities taking place on the river bank were building bonfires on Guy Fawkes night, building dens and fishing as we got older.

 

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Picture 3

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The winter of 1963 (The Big Freeze) was a particularly bad winter with a long cold spell which lasted from just before the new year until the first week in March, and in this time the river froze over completely . (see pic 4 and 5) This was an idea playground for youngsters and we quickly fashioned sledges and donned our winter woolies for some fun on the ice. If I remember correctly the schools were mostly closed during this time as well. There has been many large snowfalls since in 1982 and 1991, but we have not seen such a cold spell to freeze the river like it did in 1963.

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Picture 4

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Picture 5

There have been a number of big floods over the years, mostly in the spring, where we would see from the comfort of our upstairs bedroom window whole large trees being carried.down the river and sometimes getting stuck under the Cwmgwrach bridge. If these floods coincided with a big tide

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Picture 6

the depth of the water would be further increased, I have seen the water actually coming into the bottom of our garden and at night you would lay awake and hear the boulders rumbling along the river bedThe worst of these floods took place in 1974? when the river bank was washed away. We went to bed one night and when we woke up in the morning found that the houses below us had all been evacuated. The river bank had washed away and half the gardens of the housed below us towards the Cwmgwrach bridge were no longer there. You can see a picture of this flood in (pic 6) and you can see the reconstruction work in the following link.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Picture 7

 

 

Further deterioration to the river bank occurred over the years mostly due to the building of the new road and retaining walls that were built.The retaining walls on the other side of the river had a tendency to push the river to the other band were it started to wash the bank away. After this was pointed out to the river authorities they carried out an investigation and concluded that a retaining wall needed to be built. This flood defence wall was constructed in 2000 and again my father took pictures of the work in progress (pic 7) which can be seen by following the link to the  slideshow. Unfortunately the downside of this wall is that it has now cut off access to the river and our view of the river as well…….. Progress? I’m not too sure.

 

Edward Davies a Glynneath man who died during WW2

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Edward Davies Glynneath man who died in WW2.

The second instalment of my blog is about a relative who was killed during the 2nd World War, I think it`s important that we keep their memories alive as they gave the ultimate sacrifice to make our world a safer place to live in.

The person in question is Edward E Davies who was the son of Daniel and Lily Beatrice Davies of Glynneath and was also a step brother of my grandmother. You can see his name on the memorial in Glynneath Welfare grounds, I have included a picture for you to see. (3rd Row 9 names down)

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Eddie signed up when he was living in Bath and served in the 4th Battalion of the King`s Own Scottish Borderers. ( I don`t know why he chose this regiment) He was a Private and his service number was 11272371. We cannot find much information on his service record, but do know that he died due to an accident when defending the town of Walcheren in Holland.

Eddie died on the 7th January 1945 at the young age of 26 and was buried at the Brunssum War Cemetery in a joint grave, numbered 234-235. I have included a picture of his grave and a link to the Brunssum War Cemetry web site.

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Link to Brunssum war Cemetery web sire: Brunsumm War Cemetery

I know that my Grandmother and step-sister Vira probably along with my Grandfather visited the grave in 1952 and you can see some photos of this visit below. It looks like there was some sort of civic reception for them in the town. My Grandmother also kept in touch with a lady from the town and wrote many letters over the years, I have copied one of these letters below.

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I contacted the war Cemetery by email to see if they could confirm the locations in the pictures and the name of the person who my grandparent were in contact with. I received a reply from a  Mr Rudd Scholten (Chairman of the War Cemetery Foundation) who sent a number of photo`s of Tiny Bex and her daughter Rosie who looked after the grave for a number of years after the war and who was in contact with my grandparents. (see photo`s  below.)

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I must thank the people of Brunssum for their dedication in keeping the cemetery in such good condition, they are unique as the only War Cemetery to adopt every grave. This means that someone from the town is dedicated to looking after an individual grave. I take my hat off to them for their dedication and continued support of the Cemetery.

 

 

Glynneath Cadets visit Paris 1946

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I mention in my last post that I would like to give some more details to some of the photos in my fathers photo collection, so here is my first blog.

In the Easter of 1946 the Glynneath Cadets visited Paris to see the France v`s Wales Rugby International, the war had just ended the year before, and they were the first official visiting party to be given approval by the relevant authorities. This visit was reported in the papers at the time and I have copied the text from one of these reports below, so that you can read for yourself the story of the trip.

GLAMORGAN CADETS GO TO PARIS

Enterprise of the Glyn-Neath Company of the 15th Battalion

Some months ago the Army Cadets at Glyn-Neath decided that they would like to go to Paris to see the Wales  v, France Rugby International. The authority of the War Office was sought with the result that, although the time was not opportune to authorise an official party, the Army authorities replied that they had no objection to them going in uniform if they could make their own arrangements.

Captain D.L. Nicholas, the Company Commander, with his usual resourcefulness set about the task. First of all the Cadets who could go started to save up their money, contact was made with the French Consul in Swansea who promised his unstinted help. Lieut.-Colonel  K.M Jones, the Battalion Commander asked the County Commandant, whom he found had a personal friend at the Embassy in Paris, if he could assist.

Various agencies were written to and seen with the result that before very long it appeared thet the trip was “On,” and that more detailed arrangements could be made, and finally twelve Cadets left Glyn-Neath under the Command of Captain D.L. Nicholas, with Under Officer Wynn Lloyd, Under Officer Meredith Davies and C.S.M. David Nicholas.

Before leaving Neath, the party were recipients of daffodils, presented with the good wishes of Lieut.-Colonel  H.M. Jones and Mrs. Jones.

After a few hours in London they left on the 7:30 a.m. train for Newhaven, and after a rather rough crossing arrived at Dieppe at about 2 p.m. The lads were thrilled to think that they were the first Army Cadets to visit France and as soon as they were ashore they went exploring the shopping centre of the French port. Leaving Dieppe, they were very excited when they saw the lights of Paris about 15 kilometres away, but there was some speculation as to how they would fare when they arrived and whether any arrangements had been successfully made.

Their minds, however, were quickly at rest as they were met at St. Lazaire Station by the Assistant Military Attache from the Embassy and they were within ten minutes comfortably housed at the Hotel Cavour in Rue Lafayette, the very efficient arrangements for their accommodation having been arranged by the British Leave Club.

On Saturday morning they were received by the Governor of Paris, Colonel Rogeot, and accompanied by other officers of the French Army were entertained at the Officers Club De France. Later they were conducted around the Invalides by the Field-Marshal Earl Haig`s niece and a French Cavalry officer.

After this they visited the Arc de Triomphe, where they filed past the tomb of the Unknown Warrior to pay a tribute. Later they paid a visit to the Grand Palais Versailles, the Petit Palais, the little hamlet being fully described to them. They also saw the Bastille, Chamber of deputies, Champs Elysees and the Trocadero.  Lieut. Stewart of the French Army very kindly conducted them and was a most interesting and informative guide.

On Easter Sunday they attended service at the Notre Dame and the ceremony of kissing the feet at Madeleine Chapel undoubtedly left a lasting impression on the minds of the lads. Other places of note visited were the Aquarium, Grande Palace (where President Le Brun lived), Eiffel Tower, Hotal de Ville (City Hall), and the Church Sacre Coeur.

They visited both the Secondary Schools and were guests at the Wales v. France Rugby match.

In the broadcast account of the match it was stated that two Welsh Guards climbed the goal posts before the match to attach the traditional leeks, the crowd being very amused. In actual fact they were not two Welsh Guardsmen but two Welsh Cadets from Glyn-Neath. At the end, although their National side were defeated, they carried the French captain off the field, a gesture that was much appreciated by the spectators and given headlines in the French newspapers.

They arrived home happy and tired, but having enjoyed every minute of their trip and having brought back many memories. The splendid hospitality accorded to them by the French was a feature of their visit, and their first visit to the Continent can be called a very great success. They are all most grateful to those who took an interest in their enterprise, to the Embassy, to the French Consul in Swansea, to the British Leave Club and to the French authorities—especially the Army.

Next year, yes, already next year is being thought about, they hope it will be the Belgian capital, Brussels, then.

 

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I have also include some pictures from the game, a copy of the programme and the text from 2 of the newspapers that reported the trip.

I wonder who the 2 Cadets were that climbed the posts? Anyone know?

 

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My father Billy can be seen in the last picture, the 3rd cadet from the right.

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Link to Glynneath and Cwmgwrach Historical Society

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A couple of new developments for this site:

The first is that the Glynneath and Cwmgwrach Historical Society has created a link in their web site to this web site, and I have also reciprocated by including their web site link in the Link page. ( I will in future also include other links to sites I think may be of interest to people.)

Over the last few months I have been adding my fathers name to the photographs he has taken so that people can identify which pictures he has taken himself,  with regard to the other picture in his collection again I have added a comment to this effect.

I would like to point out that the photos in the collection have been donated by many people over the years, most notably Glyn Davies, Richard Evans, and Tom Pritchard and if I have missed anyone out then please accept my apologies.

Glyn`s link to my father goes back many years and I know Glyn has donated many hundreds of photo`s to my father and in return my father has donated many photos to the excellent books “Reflections of a Bygone Century” compiled by Glyn regarding the Upper Neath Valley and Resolven and District. I believe the photos shown in this web site compliments the work carried out by Glyn and I would like to mention that Glyn has recently given his permission for me to show the photos he donated to my father in this web site, so a massive thanks to Glyn.

A word to the future of this web site perhaps:

In the coming months I would like to start writing short “blogs” to give some of the story behind some of  these pictures. If anyone else would like to contribute something regarding any of the pictures on this site then they would be gratefully received and I could also show these on the site. You can use the Contact Page on the site to get in touch with me.

Updating web site

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Just to let you know, I have been busy updating the website. I have added a bit on my father in the “About” page, and added pictures of the local industries in the “Industry in the Upper Neath Valley” page. It`s still work in progress so I`ll keep you informed of developments as they happen.