Skip to main content

A blustery but brilliant day in Bronllys

We had a super day out in Bronllys after an eight week pause due to illness among Swansea volunteers during which we checked that inviting people for a day out was still a good way to be spending  money and effort. We were reassured by this statement from Maria about the days out:- ‘I think that a price cannot be put on their value. They change desperate people’s lives, if only in the short term but  for many in the longer term.’ With this endorsement we planned the day out in Bronllys with renewed vigour and have future days in the pipeline.
The hall being prepared, The welcomers getting ready, some of the donations, some of the  kitchen team.
It is always hard to know how to write something interesting and novel  about a day that has many of the same elements as any of our other days out but has been  in its own way entirely unique, life affirming and joyous. This was our third [or fourth? ] visit to Bronllys and certainly easier than our first when we had no proper taps [ or kitchen due to refurbishment!]  and only intermittent  electricity. On this occasion, as before, Bronllys, Talgarth and environs rose to the occasion. Sue , admirably supported by Gez, Daisy and Daisy’s husband, had encouraged so many people to help out and donate gifts and food that even with Storm Callum trying to muscle in,  the day was always going to be a great success.  Sarah, Melrose, Penny, Carola, Barbara, Reg,  Steve and many others were  in the kitchen sorting the many stews, curries, chillies and salads, Janet and  Ellen bagging up take-home bags of food, toiletries and other goodies, Erica sorting things for children, Jan planning her story telling, Phil and Mac welcoming and informing and some of the rest of us put out tables and generally milled around. Then Alex arrived with Kathy and the children and a vast amount of  the most delicious sour dough bread. For at least 10 minutes all pretence of work was abandoned as we all tasted and re-tasted this manna. The crust was slightly caramelised and crispy and the inside chewy. Immediately, it was decided that we didn’t need to cook rice, or Couscous or any other carbohydrate – bread was all that was needed to  start the day and to mop up the juices from the stews.
Alex’s Sourdough Bread, Jan’s Cornbread, Alex and Penny discussing breadmaking, Barbara preparing the breakfast table.
Storm Callum put off about 20 of the planned guests but our wonderful driver Stuart had ensured that his route was not going to be blocked by floods or trees. Ellen had somehow managed to escape from the island of Crickhowell,  the rest of us negotiated large puddles on our way in and although  we  trusted the weather forecast  of sunshine after lunch, Sue had planned for lots of indoor activities, just in case.
Breakfast X2, M and T setting up the play area, Sue’s Lists.
Nearly 40  people from Swansea arrived at around 11.30 in what in Ireland passes for ‘a caress’ and everyone else calls drizzle. The coffee, tea, soft drinks, biscuits, fruit [and did I mention bread?] were ready and quickly people sat with food, drink  and with friends old and new. Even Stuart was encouraged to try the bread and he too came back for seconds. Chatter was interspersed with laughter and the clatter of Jenga and Scrabble. Some ventured excitedly  into the smaller room to hear stories with Jan and after these finished, to play with the vast bags of toys that 7 year old Riley had donated and many children were thrilled to have new cars to take home. The drawing facilities supervised by Erica were well used with one young girl bringing pictures occasionally up onto the stage and displaying them there.  A tutorial on safeguarding for one lady who is just starting an access to nursing course was being given by one of the teenagers with comments and suggestions from many others.
Lunch followed quickly with everyone having plentiful amounts of  delicious food and suddenly the sun was out! Many stayed to wash up and prepare tea and cakes but others walked round to the playground so the children could run around and a few played keepy-uppy with a football [ there not being enough people for a game ].
Some of us went for a walk with Gez and saw a side of Bronllys not known even to other locals – so many footpaths! Gez had decided he wasn’t brave enough to see the castle again having apparently had nightmares after his last visit there with about 40 young men from Swansea who tested the railings and leant out  with total disregard for their own safety! So we saw the site of an old manor house, many sheep, the caravan park and mobile homes , Bronllys hospital, a walk down Haemorrhage Hill , an Horsechestnut  tree and new and old houses. We chatted about languages, different words, different cultures and games of conkers, sheep hierarchy, camels and lions, whether the glasses 6 year old O found might have belonged to a dead person [ we decided they were probably just lost] old treatments for TB and new uses for old hospitals, buildings in different countries and admired the views so often that Gez thought we’d miss tea.
Then it was tea time and time for many different cakes to be eaten. Take home bags safely stowed on board and Maria and Phil’s car laden with excess food for use in the drop ins, it was time to say good bye and good luck.

some of the take home bags and this young boy cried until he was reassured that he could take his new digger home

After such a wonderful day full of joy and happiness, it is hard to recollect that so many of these lovely people are living with terrible memories of past traumas and having to face the hostile environment of the Home Office whilst living in poverty in slum style accommodation. For the day these worries and problems vanished and many good memories were made and shared.

As Phil tried to leave he noted a flat tyre and had plenty of helpful advice and concern. Once everyone else had tried to help, C sorted it so we didn’t have to resort to Gez and the large mallet…

 Thanks to
 Sue and Gez for arranging the day,
The very many people who came and helped  in so many ways
To those who made  food and who weren’t able to come.
To the churches and worshippers of Boughrood, Llyswen, Llandeilo Graban, Bronllys and Talgarth for sharing their Harvest Festival produce with us,
To Archdeacon Griffiths and Mynydd Ddu Schools  for generous donations of food and toiletries,
To many anonymous donors who  left parcels at Sue’s door,
To the Co op and Aldi for donations of surplus food and to the Coop for coffee, milk and sugar.
To Bronllys Garage, Anchorage shop, the Honey Cafe for donations,
 To Royston Hall for allowing us a preferential rate for the day,
 To Lou and Miv for cutlery,
To Riley [ And Kate] for the lovely toys,
What never ceases to astonish me is that after so many respite days, some returning to familiar venues, is how different each one is. Each day has the same essence of welcome, warmth, friendship, acceptance and generosity – however the dynamics of the weather, the venue, and our guests always ensure a unique and uplifting experience.

As volunteers, we do not take for granted the quality of these days. How can the food be any better? The welcome more warm? Each and every time, we and our friends are greeted with familiar warmth, a wonderful day ensues, and a large group of men, women and children leave in a different frame of mind than when they arrived. The difference is palpable. 
We work with our friends on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. We are stretched, but try to give them our time and attention. Often, this is not enough- a few minutes and a smile is better than nothing, but we know that many need more. 
The days that HBTSR host offer true respite. We worry about the weather, the numbers and whether we have enough ‘ sick bags’ for the bus. HBTSR hosts probably worry if there is enough food ( there always is!), the weather, the number of goodie bags and entertainment etc etc. Yet, without fail, a day ensues where we witness our friends visibly relax, smile, laugh and enjoy the ‘normal’ things in life.
Today, we enjoyed a wonderful day at Bronllys, organised by the wonderful Sue and Gez. Melrose was ever present in the kitchen with a fantastic team of helpers. We were happy to see many familiar faces, and new people who are always welcome and appreciated. We would like to thank each and every one for their part in another positive and life affirming day. We would like to thank those, not present on the day, but who had kindly shopped, cooked, donated and fundraised in order for it to be so successful. Thanks always to Ailsa who quietly and efficiently coordinates everything.
Today was another different day. We had visited Bronllys before, but with a different group of people. Steve, quietly ever present, helped the day to run smoothly. Alex and his family generously contributed an enormous amount of fantastic home made bread, and their presence added to the day. Dishes miraculously disappeared and were washed up. Fresh fruit, home made cakes and various beverages were ever present.
The weather was not good, meaning there was a slightly smaller number of guests than usual. This however, allowed a more intimate day. I witnessed a lot of people chatting with our hosts one to one. Jenga  was very popular. One young man who is usually isolated  became engrossed in the game. One lady that I had not seen before was introduced to me by one of our friends. She said, ” I started talking to x because he was looking sad.” She was right. He was sad. She noticed and made a difference to his day. A wonderful walk ,led by Gez was enjoyed by many.
As a result of a slightly smaller number of people, I became more aware of how some HBTSR members quietly maintain contact with our friends throughout the year. Continuing on from these respite days, relationships have been formed which have transformed lives. One couple have supported a single mother through pregnancy, birth and beyond. They visit this mum regularly in Swansea , and also meet for coffee with two delightful young Sudanese men who really benefit from this interaction. A couple offered support to a man who has waited for 5 years for his visa , and now needs a guarantor in order to secure accommodation. This will change his life.
 Many offer support to our friends who have the frightening experience of attending interviews with the Home Offfice, and Court appearances in Newport. This requires time and patience – money cannot buy it. HBTSR supporters offer it! It changes lives. 
I was most taken today with a conversation I had with a  lovely lady from Pakistan. She has two children, one is disabled, and  she has only recently started to attend drop ins and access other support. She had stayed indoors for two years alone. N could not believe the kindness of the people that hosted today. She reiterated how something may seem small to the person giving, but to the recipient in need , it is worth the world. She said she felt ‘at home’ in Bronllys, it was like her village in Pakistan. She said when her children were older she wanted to contribute and help to do what they were doing. Time and time again, our friends tell us of the kindness, the welcome and the acceptance they feel on these days. N said, ” maybe people in the cities know we are asylum seekers ,that we are too many and they don’t want us, but here, we are welcome and wanted and feel special- I love it.”
Fresh flowers placed on the tables are noticed, and given to men and women alike, as they get on the bus. As we left, the sun came out and we saw Bronllys and the surrounding hills in all their glory – peaceful, “fresh” and healing.
I feel proud, heartened and uplifted to be in the company of this amazing group of people. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to you all. 

From all of us from Swansea who benefited from this wonderful day.

These are some thoughts people had about living in Wales that may be turned into a poem.

One says, ‘I like the mountains and the sheep. Maybe tomorrow I will die but today I have a nice day’…