The Cwm Gwendraeth Valley is home to over 21,000 people, mainly in the larger towns of Cross Hands, Tumble, Gorslas, Llanon, Pontyberem, Pontyates and Cefneithin.
You’ll notice straight away that something is different about the Cwm Gwendraeth Valley from the way we always refer to it with that little prefix, ‘Cwm’. That’s because the valley is one of Wales’ most welsh places. The vast majority of the people who live there think of it as Cwm Gwendraeth before thinking about it as the Gwendraeth Valley.
The valley is a stronghold of the welsh language with Menter Cwm Gwendraeth, a pioneering community-based Welsh language initiative, based in Pontyberem. Statistics show that it is the most Welsh speaking area in Carmarthenshire and one of the most Welsh speaking regions in all of Wales.
Surrounding the Cwm Gwendraeth Valley are Carmarthenshire’s 3 main towns; Carmarthen, Llanelli and Ammanford. In this sense the valley is as central as you can get, yet in another sense it leaves the valley isolated and overlooked as people tend towards the (relatively!) urban towns that surround it.
Cross Hands, the largest town in the valley, is something of a focal point as it is homes a significant proportion of the population, a number of popular shops and supermarkets, has fantastic road links to the rest of Carmarthenshire, and is now the primary location for secondary education. Many people know Cross Hands only as a place you drive through on the way from/to west Wales.
Nearby Tumble is, thanks to ongoing building, so close to Cross Hands it’s a little difficult to recognise where one ends and the other begins. Yet it is definitely it’s own place with it’s own identity and is divided up between ‘Upper’ and ‘Lower’ Tumble.
Pontyberem is geographically at the heart of the valley. Iit lies almost equidistantly between Cross Hands (to the east), Carmarthen (to the north), Kidwelly (to the west) and Llanelli (to the south). The BBC’s longest running television soap opera Pobol-y-Cwm is located in the fictional village of Cwmderi in the Cwm Gwendraeth Valley said to be based on Pontyberem.
Many people will have visited the Cwm Gwendraeth Valley to enjoy one of Carmarthenshire’s finest beauty spots, Llyn Llech Owain. The nature park is steeped in history and folk history as well as being well equipped for a family day out.
With all that said it’s fair to say that the valley is spiritually a hard and dark place. During the 1904 revival it was one of the least touched areas of Wales with a relatively small awakening. There are a few glowing embers in the church’s that have existed in the valley for decades and a few sparks of life that we pray will cause a blaze in the near future.
This is why Ammanford Evangelical Church has chosen to plant into it’s neighbouring valley with Hope Gwendraeth and why it is our prayer that we will, sooner rather than later, be able to plant a second church dedicated to reaching out in the Welsh language.
You can follow the progress of Hope Gwendraeth (formerly CrossHands Church) on the web hopegwendraeth.com, on twitter @hopegwendraeth or on facebook www.fb.com/hopegwednraeth