South mid-Wales Fair Trade Nation focus group meeting

South mid-Wales Fair Trade Nation focus group  meeting Cardiff Tuesday 24 July 5.30pm-6.30pm, short walk from Cardiff Central Station at the Shree Kutchi Leva Patel Samaj, Community Centre, Mardy St, CF11 6QT Cardiff.

For an idea of the issues (there's no fixed agenda) see the online survey:


For more info:

Aileen Burmeister
National Coordinator | Cydlynydd Cenedlaethol

Fair Trade Wales | Cymru Masnach Deg

Hub Cymru Africa
Funded by Welsh Government | Ariennir gan Lywodraeth Cymru

02920 821 056 | 07772 032142

Temple of Peace, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3AP 

Y Deml Heddwch, Parc Cathays, Caerdydd, CF10 3AP. 

@FairTradeWales on twitter

On ‘Cog y Brain’: a view from what would have been the third tee of the Merthyr Mawr golf course

by Robert Minhinnick, 
Images: Merryn Hutchings

Porthcawl Friends of the Earth was formed in 1981 by Dorothy Hemming and Margaret Minhinnick. 

Its first campaign was to assist Steve Moon and Wilf Nelson at the Kenfig Nature Reserve to limit an extension of wildfowlers’ rights. 

Image: Merryn Hutchings, click to enlarge.

Porthcawl FoE was to grow into ‘Wales Friends of the Earth’ and subsequently Friends of the Earth / Cyfeillion y Ddaear Cymru.

In 1983, Merthyr Mawr Estates proposed turning an area of Newton Burrows and the Merthyr Mawr duneland on the south Wales coast near Porthcawl, into a golf course.

Porthcawl FoE was young and vigorous, and buoyed by what it perceived as a campaign ‘success’ at Kenfig. The golf course plan seemed like sacrilege. There were already several golf courses in the area, and there are more today. 

The area to be affected would include land where Bronze Age, Beaker People and Roman remains had been discovered.  Particular dunes such as ‘Twmpath y Ddaear’, ‘Pwll Swil’ and ‘Riley’s Tump’ had already been partly excavated. 

It was supposed that discoveries made there might have been only the tip of the iceberg. The flora and fauna of the dunes were considered rich, with unusual plants such as birthwort identified. Orchids were abundant.

Porthcawl FoE joined a coalition of larger organisations. This was a real achievement for the young group.  Robert Minhinnick compiled a dossier of archaeological and botanic evidence as to why the golf proposal should not go ahead. 

Friends of the Earth national (i.e. England and Wales) ‘Countryside Campaigner’, Charles Secrett was invited to the threatened area. 

He and Margaret Minhinnick climbed Cog y Brain, which affords a panorama of the dunes. Immediately Secrett commented: “This feels old!”

(The dunes visible from Cog y Brain are thought to comprise in part a ‘Neolithic field system’ that was inundated by sand in the Middle Ages, and affected by the ‘Bristol Channel tsunami’ of January 30, 1607.)

(Cog y Brain is part of a limestone ridge against which sand has been blown. In this respect, it is not a ‘true’ dune system at all.)

Charles Secrett went on to become Director of Friends of the Earth, and one of the most significant environmentalists of the 1980s and ‘90s. 

Like several other ‘campaigners’ at FoE at the time, such as Jonathon Porrit, Andrew Lees and Chris Rose, he was a ferocious workaholic. 

I remember travelling with him and other FoE members by minivan from London to Amsterdam. We were to lobby the International Monetary Fund against policies that encouraged destruction of the tropical rainforest in ‘East Timor’. His driving was memorable. 

Charles Secrett was thus a significant influence on Friends of the Earth Cymru and the ‘campaign style’ of FoE in Wales. 

Moreover, the golf course campaign was eventually successful, so much so that the area of dunes known in Welsh as ‘Ffynnon Pwll’ and in English as  ‘the Burrows Well’ was scheduled as an ‘ancient monument’. This protects it from further development. 

‘Cog y Brain’ (hillock of the crows), inaccurately described by Minhinnick in his dossier as “the highest sand dune in Western Europe”, was saved. It had been earmarked as the third tee.

Merthyr Mawr was one of countless FoE and FoE Cymru campaigns that helped raise environmental awareness amongst the public. It was a very early example of the importance of green coalitions.

Nearly thirty years later, Charles Secrett, in an article in The Guardian on June 13, 2011, described what green awareness and environmental ‘radicalism’ had meant for the environmental movement. 

(This was the political world which the newly created Friends of the Earth Cymru entered in 1984.) 

Not everyone in Friends of the Earth agreed with the creation of FoE Cymru. Moreover, there were many opponents of ‘devolution’ of political power to Wales. These included senior environmentalists in Friends of the Earth.)

The 1979 devolution referendum in Wales had seen a 75% – 25% victory for opponents. In 1997, the Referendum result achieved a ‘Senedd’ by a hairsbreadth margin). Thus the change in political and social cultures between 1979 and 1997 was extraordinary. 

FoE Cymru’s creation in 1994 was an indication of this.

Charles Secrett wrote in his 2011Guardian article:

“People were angry and frustrated. Something different had to be done.

“For FoE, whose founding motto was "Think globally, act locally", that meant getting the public directly involved in changing government policy and company behaviour. 

“National groups supported networks of largely autonomous local groups who tackled local problems, and provided a community voice to national and international campaigns.

“Street theatre, consumer boycotts, marches and rallies, backed by authoritative analysis and political campaigning, underpinned strategy.

“In-house lawyers drafted new environmental laws, and expert researchers worked on alternative development paths in energy, agriculture, resource use and transport.

Greenpeace became the masters of peaceful direct action. They understood the power of video and dramatic image. They relied on small numbers of brave, professional activists to do what their supporters couldn't: harass whaling ships, block polluting outflow pipes and hang bloody great banners from power plant chimney stacks to generate worldwide publicity for their campaigns.

“Over the next decades, the protest tactics of the 70s were rolled out time and again, often to significant effect. They were augmented by new initiatives, such as formal complaints to the European Commission over government and company infractions, judicial reviews and coalition campaigning by a broad spectrum of environment and development NGOs, unions and social organisations like the Women's Institute.”

This article describes real achievements by NGOs, and the elation some green groups experienced. But as it continues, Charles Secrett indicates the exhaustion this brought. The article continues:

“The agenda swelled to cover every available issue under the sun, from climate change and rainforest protection to the equitable distribution of earth's resources and rampant consumerism. 

“Staff numbers grew rapidly. Membership and funds soared. Management jobs and full-blown teams in finance, administration, fundraising, HR and communications became the norm. 

“Salaries rose significantly and pension plans began. For the first time, working for FoE and Greenpeace became a permanent career move for many whose background lay outside campaigning and activism. Things were changing.

The article contains almost inevitable disillusion:

“Worryingly, in every major green group, managers, administrators, communicators and fundraisers outnumber campaigners and researchers. 

“Too many staff have become obsessed with the process of running an organisation. Interminable meetings, not action, are the order of most days. All too often, fundraisers and PR teams, not campaigners, call the shots.

And maybe unpleasant realization:

“Today's activists regard once radical organisations as part of the NGO establishment: out-of-touch, ineffective and bureaucratic. The wheel has turned full circle. It is time to rethink and reorganise again.”

The ‘green agenda’ became integral to the social and political world. For many people, it defines it. Catastrophic climate change, like the threat of nuclear annihilation, is these people’s motivation. 

One of the many possible answers to climate change is localized renewable energy. I remember the horror I felt when I first learned of the plans to turn Cog y Brain into the third tee of the latest golf course.

But this essay closes with an image of a wind turbine erected at the Cenin energy cluster, less than one mile away from the dunes, at Parc Stormy (Stormy Down).  It is visible from the limestone ridge.

Cenin features in ‘Shine a Light?/Golau Newydd?’, the film released by Sustainable Wales in 2016, made by ParkSix Productions, about community energy schemes. It is available on this site.

As to the Senedd, established after the 1997 referendum, it contains (from 2016) seven elected representatives of the United Kingdom Independence Party. 

This party has thus has a strong foothold in Wales. It is reluctant to accept or meaningfully discuss, the issue of climate change. 

At the eastern edge of the ‘limestone ridge’, a wind turbine can be viewed. This has been erected at the Cenin renewable energy site at Parc Stormy, one mile north of Cog y Brain.

This blog By Robert Minhinnick is part two in a series of three.

Cenin figures in the forthcoming Sustainable Wales blog, ‘Solar’.

See: Friends of the Earth Cymru



Channel 5 documentary looking for people about to change their lives

Pi Productions is casting for a brand new documentary series for Channel 5 that follows people as they relocate for a major lifestyle and career change.

We are looking for families or couples who are planning to ditch the 9 to 5 to pursue a career and lifestyle in something they are passionate about. You could be moving to the countryside to run a farm or smallholding, moving to the seaside to open a campsite or eco glamping site, or you could be starting an artisan bakery or even a yoga retreat. We want to showcase the amazing lifestyle business opportunities out there and show what it’s really like to relocate and change your whole lifestyle.

We would love to feature a story about a family choosing to quit the rat race and go self-sufficient or live sustainably in the countryside. It’s a hugely aspirational lifestyle choice and we are keen to capture that in our series. We would also love to feature a story in Wales - it’s a great country for sustainability and a popular and sought after place to move to.

We want to feature positive and aspirational stories. This is a brilliant opportunity for “life changers” to feature themselves and their new venture on a prime time documentary, and inspire other people in the process.

We are looking for people who are embarking on their journey this summer.

If this sounds like you, or if you would like to recommend someone you know, then we would love to hear from you.

Interested parties can email the casting team on or give us a call on 0203 761 4522. There is no pressure to take part at the initial enquiry stage.

Pi Productions is a TV company run by John Silver, who created Grand Designs and reinvented MasterChef. Please have a look at our website for more information about us: You can also follow us on Twitter: @PiProdCasting.  

Talitha Smith

Assistant Producer


Listen to the Election Hustings Meeting in Porthcawl - Bridgend constituency

Candidates and representatives in the Bridgend constituency face questions from a lively audience in Porthcawl. This grassroots "Question Time" was organised by Sustainable Wales, ahead of the Welsh Assembly Government elections in May 2016. Chaired by Richard Thomas, Chair of Sustainable Wales. Present were candidates and representatives from all the main parties in front of an engaged and numerous audience. Thanks to the YMCA Y Centre in Porthcawl that hosted the event.

On the panel:

Green - Charlotte Barlow            
Liberal Democrat - Jonathan Pratt            
Conservative - George Jabbour            
UKIP - Caroline Jones            
Labour - Huw Irranca-Davies (for Carwyn Jones)            
Plaid Cymru - James Radcliffe

Listen to the audio recording here (this can also be downloaded from SoundCloud).

Also available are our Green Room Podcasts.

Refugees - Texts written at the Ty Newydd Writing Centre, March 2016

Texts written at the Ty Newydd Writing Centre, Llanystumdwy, Cricieth, Gwynedd, 17.3.16.

Authors: Sarah Blake, Emma Ormond, Kaye Lee, Yuko Adams, Camilla Lambert, Jennie Bailey, Barry 

Tutor: Robert Minhinnick

I don’t know where we lost her. She isn’t here. That is all I know. Maybe it happened right at the start. I don’t remember how. I carry on conversations with her in my head. I don’t mean to. Thoughts slip into her. Mud on my boots. Numb hands. I talk to her every day here. I remember her hand holding mine inside her coat pocket on the way to school. I remember sitting at her feet, watching her draw. Her hands have oval nails and there are plump lines in her palms. How soft she was. I remember the face cream trace she left in the air and how she always burned the onions. Never had the patience to let them sweat slowly, turn sweet and yielding in the pan.

My jumper is made of links,

rough and bubbled, sutures

of thin thread that cannot

close the wounds underneath

which are only superficial on the surface on the surface

buried in it my nose unearths

dirt, sweat. Hope, petrol and apples,

the taste of cold stone and vinegar

as I are them,

the wool creaks, stiff from its journey,

shedding grit and dirt,

remnants carried with me from home.

I will never let it be washed.

These trousers would steam

if I ever found somewhere warm.

They still have the salty grit

of two days on a boat

and tonight I’ll keep them on

when we lie down under the sheets

of plastic, our make-do home.

I can’t pray anymore, my head and my heart are sodden, too many uncried tears, saltier than

Aisha’s sea-wet jacket – the jacket

that her granny wrapped round

her shoulders as we climbed into the truck.

I wish I could sleep – a few hours -

to dream we’re back home,

to forget the razor wire

that tears us to shreds

if we try to move on.

I come across a rose

That is standing in a front garden

On my way to nowhere.

I sniff and smell the scent

but it is too meagre

as I cannot step in.

In the next town I arrive

I may find another rose

but I don’t think I can smell it.

It’s somebody else’s rose

growing from somebody else’s soil

I cannot grasp.

Mehemet has woken up crying

like last night and the one before.

His head is hot like a burnt potato.

At home we’d fetch the pink medicine

from the bathroom cupboard, tuck the quilt

my mother made, scraps of red and brown

from her mother’s village, soothe him.

He’d be better in the morning.

Here, no medicine, once we’d used up

the stuff they gave us near the fence,

no quilt, just a pile of all our clothes,

smelling of mud, a musty, cheesy smell.

I am lying on my side again, I feel

In my pocket for the crooked house key:

It fits my fingers like it always did.

It’s getting light, earlier now, invading

through the cracks in the tent,

won’t be kept out, allow one more hour

of not remembering. The others

are moving about, a few curses from

those Aleppo people, different consonants,

same whine in the nostrils.

It’s raining again.

My heart still beats fast. I have just woken up, but remain curled up under my old army greatcoat on what I think is a slate floor. The cold slate causes me to roll over on to my other hip. I cannot feel my left shoulder, but hopefully it will get better circulation now I have moved.

I can hear the clatter of cattle hooves, this could be a farm. I wonder if I should look for a drink of water, or risk seeking out someone to help me.

I have counted

  red ants that slip into my sleeping bag.

I have counted

  stars in a snowglobe sky.

I have counted

  degrees downward to freezing.


This evening I saw

  children clustered in feathered clothes around fires.

This evening I saw

  blood sunset over the Jungle.

This evening I saw

  shield beetle man beat women with black batons.


In the morning

   perhaps swallow blue ribbons instead of black flags.

In the morning

   perhaps a weak sun will waken wings.