My life on Byways Estate
by Val Sinderby
Val was born in Blackwood and moved to Cwmbran in 1967 after the birth of her first child. She and her husband moved in just 6 weeks after their application was submitted. The house was brand new, had big rooms and a lovely view right over the Bristol channel. She thought the house was lovely when she first saw it!
The top part of the estate had yet to be built and Val remembers open fields where she used to walk her dog and lie down in the long grass with a book, listening to the sky larks!
Val remembers the Threepenny Bit community centre being well used during those days. There was a playgroup in the early 70s and Val would help out 2 or 3 times a week reading stories to the children. There was also a keep fit class which she used to attend. The hall was also hired out for social occasions and Val’s sister held her wedding reception there. Val did the catering for about 30 – 40 people.
There has always been a shop on the estate, known as the Pantry shop. The first owners were a couple called Mr and Mrs James, who lived in the flat above the shop. There was no telephone box on the estate and few people had their own telephone. Mr and Mrs James would let people use their phone and Val remembers her husband knocking them up at 2.00 am in the morning to ring for an ambulance when she went into labour!
Val has seen a lot of changes on the estate over the years. There weren’t many trees on the estate when it was first built but new ones were planted and these have matured over the years attracting birds and wildlife. There used to be a maintenance team employed by the old Cwmbran Development Corporation who would go round keeping the grounds tidy. It deteriorated over the years as the numbers of ground workers decreased.
There was a stronger sense of community spirit in the past. Val remembers street parties being held on the Pantry Shop car park for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969 and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. The organisers went round the houses collecting and bought food and drink and organised games for the children. By this time the estate had been built for a few years and everyone had had time to gel together and get to know one another.
A lot of people have moved on over the years. The estate has quite a fluid population – people come and go. Some have moved up the property ladder but Val still likes where she lives and would not chose to live anywhere else even if she could.