Western Mail

The village split in two by Covid lockdown rule

Anna Lewis visited Aberbeeg yesterday to find how businesses and residents in both Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly are adjusting to the new restrictio­ns


IN THE small village of Aberbeeg, the River Ebbw runs through the middle. On one side residents live in Blaenau Gwent – the other in Caerphilly.

And while it might take 30 seconds to cross from one borough into the other, local lockdown rules imposed in Caerphilly have created an impossible, and worrying, situation for some.

On Pendarren Road Clare Wilkinson runs her childmindi­ng business Bobl Bach Clare from her home.

For the last few days she has been busy seeking clarificat­ion about whether she is able to carry on as normal and accept her clients from over the border. And it’s not just her business that has been impacted – two of her three children must go over to Blaenau Gwent to get a bus to Crickhowel­l for high school, meaning they must travel through three counties to start their day.

Clare, who now has to allocate one day per week for deep cleaning, said: “I had parents to get through to on Monday to work out whether they were still happy for their children to attend the setting. A lot of children live in Blaenau Gwent and obviously my house is situated on the border of Caerphilly.

“There’s very little guidance, I’ve had no-one to call to ask questions. It’s quite a scary time for me. It already has had an impact on me to the point where some parents are no longer employed and no longer need childcare. Some have sought support from friends and family and no longer need childcare.

“I am doing school runs across the different schools at six different times so my school run this morning took me an hour and a half.”

Next door to Clare, Glyn Elsey is at home working on a detailed model ship. Living metres from the boundary, he is technicall­y unable to visit areas of the village only minutes away without a reasonable excuse.

As of 6pm on Tuesday residents must now also wear a face mask when entering shops and are forbidden from visiting other households in their home.

For the Aberbeeg resident the local lockdown also means he is also unable to visit family he had only just begun to see again for the first time in sixth months.

Glyn, 78, said: “My youngest daughter had a child on February 29 and we have had to stop visiting her. We didn’t see the child for three-and-a-half months and now we have gone to see her two or three times.

“My son is in the Royal Navy and comes home infrequent­ly and now he can’t come home.

“My church is in Abertiller­y and we can’t go. There’s a funeral we can’t attend.”

For Glyn, the lockdown announceme­nt on Monday came as little surprise after seeing what he describes as a lack of social distancing in shops, roads and on the news.

It means that while he has been busy arranging for scaffoldin­g to be put up at the back of his house, his builder from Blaenau Gwent is not able to come and start the job modifying part of the chimney.

He added: “You have to walk around people in the road sometimes but they don’t seem to be bothered with it. That’s not only young people, it’s older people too.”

At the end of Pendarren Road, Bryn Jenkins, 69, is tidying away after his hedge cuttings singlehand­ed after his helper was unable to travel over from Cwmcarn.

Bryn said: “The lockdown has impacted me immediatel­y. The help I was expecting this morning to cut my hedge couldn’t come from over the border so I’ve had to carry on on my own. It’s fair enough but it’s nice to have help.”

Bryn said he and his wife, who is disabled, have remained at home over lockdown and have had food delivered to the house. His life, and the area he walks in, all revolves around the Caerphilly side of Aberbeeg, he said.

“If people are being sensible now then that’s good to hear,” he said.

“People stopped being cautious, got comfortabl­e and a bit lackadaisi­cal with it, hence we have got a second lockdown.

“People have got to start to realise this is a plague, it’s a brutal virus that leaves people in a shocking state.”

Despite being split down the middle, it’s not just Aberbeeg thrown into a difficult situation with the new rules.

Minutes away in Llanhillet­h, businesses are suffering too despite being in the borough of Blaenau Gwent.

In between deliveries, Gareth Short, of Short’s Butchers, said: “Business was really good but now lockdown has lifted it’s gone quiet.

“I’ve got customers out of the borough, out of Blaenau Gwent, I just don’t know what’s going to happen. They come from Newbridge, Oakdale, Trinant, Risca.

“I take orders to people, to customers, but this week I’ve not had an order at all.

“It’s knocked a lot of people, this Covid.”

Next door Gareth’s nephew Ashley Trow runs his salon The Hair Lounge.

Like many of his clients he lives across the borough in Cwmfelinfa­ch but travels to Blaenau Gwent for work. It’s his biggest fear that local lockdown may see stricter measures imposed, stopping him from commuting across.

Ashley said: “We have been shut for six, seven months so it has had a massive financial impact on everyone so we need to make sure everything stays the same.

“I have got a lot of people from Caerphilly that do come to the business so lockdown would probably financiall­y impact us. As I’ve said on social media and emails sent to Caerphilly residents, if you have got an appointmen­t that needs to be reschedule­d in October we will try to sort it out.

“I live in Caerphilly so I just need to be extra careful about what I do and who I speak to. I don’t want it to be a lockdown permanentl­y where they say you can’t go to work properly and I’d have to shut.”

Speaking about the previous lockdown, Ashely said government grants were useful but didn’t go the whole way.

He said: “Bills still had to be paid, I went to work in Asda in Blackwood to keep the business ticking over otherwise I didn’t know where we would be.”

 ?? Pictures: Rob Browne ?? Claire Wilkinson who lives in Aberbeeg
Pictures: Rob Browne Claire Wilkinson who lives in Aberbeeg
 ??  ?? > Bryn Jenkins
> Bryn Jenkins
 ??  ?? > Glyn Elsey
> Glyn Elsey

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