240 children take part in Llangollen’s Big Pedal

In Llangollen 240 children got together on Friday 29th March to cycle to school.

The event was organised by Friends of the Earth Llangollen, and was part of ‘The Big Pedal’, a national event involving over 2,000 schools More than 70% of pupils from both the English and Welsh medium primary schools decided to cycle, scoot, or walk to school that day instead of travelling by car.

Elin aged 7 said “It was really fun to cycle to school with my friends. Usually there are lots of cars at school which makes it difficult to cycle, but today there were hardly any cars and it was a lot better. I wish it could happen every day.”

Friends of the Earth Llangollen group coordinator Warren Davies said “Today has shown how easy and fun cycling can be. It wakes you up, it’s better for your health, and it’s just fun being outside in the fresh air. I have two young children and we would prefer to cycle to school every day. When they’re a bit older I’d like them to be able to cycle on their own, but the number of cars and lack of safe routes makes this very difficult.”

A stream of students on their way to school up Brook Street in Llangollen.

“We know cycling or walking is better for climate change and air pollution compared to driving. We also know that children are more at risk from the effects of pollution, so it’s important that we do more to improve air quality. The Welsh Government launched the Active Travel Act in 2013. To make progress we need the Welsh Government to provide more funding and clear leadership to councils in Wales.”

Headteacher of Bryn Collen, Lisa Howden said “Our learners love a challenge and we’re delighted to have taken part in the Big Pedal. We’ve been focusing on physical well being this year, taking part in Fitness Frenzy each break and the Daily Mile, so encouraging everyone to be active on their journey to school really complements that. We’re proud that our learners are aware of, and want to learn about, environmental and social issues. One of our year groups has recently chosen to learn about air pollution, so this event is also a practical response to that!”

Headteacher of Ysgol y Gwernant, Bethan Jones said “It’s great to be encouraging pupils and parents to walk, cycle and scoot to school. We have a responsibility to teach our pupils how to develop healthy lifestyles. It also links in with our Eco school initiatives and reduced traffic and pollution outside the school.”

Without any traffic the journey was safe and pollution free.

In the UK 2,091 schools, nurseries, further education centres and after-school clubs are within 150 metres of a road with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide.1 Air pollution costs lives and billions of pounds. It is one of the UK’s biggest killers, causing up to 36,000 early deaths in the UK every year, more than obesity or alcohol. Dirty air leads to worsening asthma symptoms, heart disease and even lung cancer. Air pollution has even been associated with changes in the brain linked to dementia and can lead to children growing up with smaller lungs.

The event organised by Llangollen Friends of the Earth aimed to encourage children and parents to consider cycling or walking to school instead of driving, showing how fun and beneficial it can be.

Overflowing bike rack at school.

School closures and wind turbines

Schools hold small communities together, they give a village a focus point and allow parents to meet up and make friends. They allow children to get to know, and value their surroundings and the people who live within them. Strong communities promote positive, environmentally aware values.

Denbighshire council are currently in the process of what they call, ‘modernisation’ of the county’s primary schools. Closures are amongst some of the council’s proposals. There are many reasons cited for closing small community schools; surplus places, difficultly recruiting headteachers and rising overheads. In the end it all comes down to a lack of funds. By closing Ysgol Llandrillo, Denbighshire council will make a revenue saving of approximately £31,000 per annum. They will also avoid the maintenance backlog of around £140,000.

Between two of villages affected by the school closure, Cynwyd and Llandrillo, Scottish Power Renewables are proposing to build a wind farm. The Mynydd Mynyllod wind farm. The company promises to provide the local community with £2000 for every MW installed per annum. IF all 25 of the proposed turbines are installed, then this equates to an annual income of £150,000.

There are concerns in the area about the visual and economic impact the wind farm could have. The money on offer by Scottish Power, the ‘community benefit’, is seen by those campaigning against the wind farm as being little more than a bribe. The money would be made available to a wide area surrounding the wind farm, and so directing the money towards education in Llandrillo would require cooperation from a number of local communities. The council would also need to find a way of making an alternative funding source fit the ‘Modernisation’ agenda imposed upon them by the Welsh Government.

Wind farm money could present an opportunity for this area. However there are lots of differing interests within the area. If anything positive is to come out of the changes currently being proposed, both to eductation and landscape, then it is community cooperation that will be the key.