The Cletwr Big Build Blog

What's Occurin'?

Little boxes, little boxes…

What I thought I’d ordered was a 2.00m high Ikea bookcase for the Welsh Library. Did I miss the decimal point out?

Yep, the building kit has arrived! I must admit there are times (mainly when it’s not chucking it down) when it looks like being a builder is really quite a fun job. You get to work in the fresh air with what are basically giant kids toys! I sometimes wonder whether I made the right decision when I chose a career as a Nobel-prize winning Astrophysicist.

(Okay, I admit the career didn’t quite work out as planned, but cleaning toilets in Pier Pressure is a perfectly honourable profession – it takes years of experience to be able to do it properly. And those so-called scientists who rejected my work will pay – once I have my new command bunker and missile launch system they’ll soon learn the consequences of spurning my genius! Mwaaa hah hah hah….)

Cat on a hot tin roof!

well, cat on a hot concrete floor, to be accurate.

Not only are our team of heroic builders expert extreme Jenga players (see previous posts) it seems they are highly respected for their skills at competitive mega-spaghetti eating as well. Our first photo today shows them laying out several hundred yards of spaghetti prior to hoovering it up for their lunch.

Oh alright, yes I know, it’s too thick for spaghetti. It’s actually the underfloor heating pipes that will run under the floor of the entire building. It will be seriously toasty warm. I can see most of the staff leaving their shoes at the door and wandering around in bare feet (one of those funny French foot baths will be provided in the staff loo)

And the pipework is now totally hidden. We’ve been lucky with the weather this week and so the concrete mixers turned up on Wednesday to put down the concrete base slab. Isn’t it pretty?

Notice the various pipes and tubes sticking out of the floor. You may be forgiven in thinking that these are where the various waste pipes will be going, for the loos, sinks etc. That would be partly true. What isn’t so obvious is their secondary purpose – they’re the launch silos for our micro-ICBMs (Inter Cantref Ballistic Missiles). These have a considerable range, and, if we are threatened, can rain cleansing nuclear fire on the hostile Gwyneddian and Powysian hordes as far away as Dolgellau and, if the wind is favourable, Welshpool. I suggest that customers might avoid using the toilets during times of inter-cantref tension, in case they get a nasty surprise.

The funny mess of tubes in the middle look like the heating controls, but are also the launch controls for the missiles. They’ll be hidden behind the secret wall in the booze stockroom, where there will also be the lift down to the command bunker.

The timber frame kit will be arriving from Ikea on Monday 6th, and we hope should be in place in a couple of weeks. We’re really looking forward to being able to wander round inside then and get a real feel for the space. In the meantime we’re busy looking at equipment catalogues for machines that will automate everything and make our life easy – nice clever coffee machines and dishwashers and something to mix the perfect cocktail (staff use only).

And in other, minor, development news, we now have some signs up to suggest that only cars and motorbikes should use the car park by the shop – larger vehicles should probably try and park (safely) on the road. The little alleyway to the shop between the workshop and Huw and Sue’s house is now a little bit safer after dark, and no longer a haven for all the local muggers, murderers and monsters as we now have a couple of motion-activated lights down there. Hopefully you can now see the step before you trip over it. We feel slightly guilty about making the muggers homeless so, as we are doing for the bats with their en-suite bat-boxes on the new building, we’ll see about providing some nice dark mugger-boxes in the shadows.

And one last thing – does anyone know where I can get hold of a large, fluffy white Persian cat, a bit like the one in the piccie. It seems to be an essential accessory, and will go well with the 60ft high gold statue (which incidentally is actually going to be useful – it’s not some silly vanity project as has been suggested by some jealous voices who just wish it was a statue of them – we’re going to see about fitting a mobile phone mast in the torch so at last we might get more than one bar round here – although of course you already get a choice of three bars if you pop into the Wildfowler – I prefer the public one these days, very popular on a Friday night. And don’t forget to turn out for Chris’ wonderful fortnightly quizzzzes, complete with beer and grub)

It’ll be Yuuuuge!

Jenga on steroids

The lads are really taking their Jenga preparations seriously. Not content with the smaller concrete blocks, they’ve just taken delivery of their practice blocks for the next round of the competition…

I’m assuming they only practice during coffee breaks – the rest of the time they’re busy filling in trenches and putting down the base for the concrete floor slab. Moving fast…

Now that the footings are in you can see how the different bits will fit together: it looks quite small, but I’m assured it will feel a lot bigger once we move in.

And a new feature of the blog – classified adverts. This week – for sale

For Sale: 30 T-54s – very cheap

These were bought on ebay from a nice bloke called Vlad, who led me to believe that what I was getting was a regiment of ex-Red Army T-54 tanks (that’ll keep the Gwynedd hordes at bay). In fact they were model T Trabant cars (made from papier-mache) dating from 1954.

No reasonable offer refused – contact the shop for details and a test drive (if we can get them to start – the engines appear to be missing)


…and celebrations, when I tell everyone that you’re in love with me…

(and if you can remember when that one came out I pity you and suggest it’s high time you considered retiring. But when you’ve retired there are excellent volunteering opportunities at Cletwr – phone 832113 for details)

Those of you who follow the exciting, informative and useful Cletwr Stalkerbook account will have seen a recent post by our Senior Vice-President in charge of online marketing, social media, ‘n’ similar stuff, to the effect that she suspects that our builders are playing Jenga.

She suspects right. And not for fun either. We have to congratulate the skilled team that is Davies and Evans on reaching the quarter finals of the European Building Federation’s Extreme Jenga knock-out competition, having beaten a strong team from an amazingly-long-established team of builders in Salisbury who have many years (nay, millenia) experience playing at their practice ground on the nearby Plain (but using Welsh stones I hasten to add). In their next game they will meet either a team from Athens or from Poland (currently working on site in Essex, to get acclimatised to the British weather). Get down to Ladbrokes now.

Work proceeds apace, as the photos show. Next big date is in about three weeks when Ikea are due to deliver the timber frame kit (fully complete and ready to assemble, except for an extra part B3 instead of a B7, and 3 missing bolts No. 13. Instructions in pictures on one sheet of A4)

Lots of discussions and decisions about some of the details – colours of the window frames etc. It’s going to look great!

Someone commented on the aforementioned Stalkerbook post with a suggestion that the foundations look like a maze. Wrong. They’re actually laying the foundations so that they will be visible through the glass floor of the new building, and will be painted to form a large-scale map of the central London transport system so we can play Mornington Crescent when we get bored.

I was looking at the building works this morning and I’m getting ever so slightly worried that we may have made a mistake on the plans for the walls. 12″ high does mean 12 feet, doesn’t it?

And for those of you who have expressed concern that I may be getting a little paranoid (and I know who you are) I can assure you I’m not. The last week has been blissfully quiet, no whispering, no little cliques muttering together in the carpark, in fact the plotters seem to have completely and mysteriously vanished. [Isn’t it handy when someone is pouring lots of wet concrete nearby. Hope the Building Inspector doesn’t check the foundations too closely.]



(he has made an ‘ole)

Yes, after several years of planning and fund-raising, the big day has come. Thunderbirds are go. Work on our glorious new palace of the people started on Tuesday 3rd January. The noble team from Davies and Evans moved in and things are moving fast. As an aside, we expect cafe turnover from the sale of bacon butties and our excellent Meat Feast Breakfasts (available 9.30-2.30) to increase considerably over the coming months.

People are now asking “When will it be finished?”. I dunno, some people will never be satisfied. “Are we nearly there yet?” Remember, Grasshopper, the longest journey begins with a single step. The journey should be savoured. Tourists worry about the destination, true travellers enjoy every minute of the process, marvelling at the varied vistas that unroll along the road.

Come on, cut to the mustard! (excellent Toloja mustard available in the shop, remember) When WILL it be finished? Don’t ask me! How should I know? If I could see six months into the future I’d be lying on a sunny beach somewhere, spending my Lottery winnings.

Go on, give us a hint… Oh all right, if things go according to plan, the main building should be ready about September. We’ll then move in some time in October, when we’re quiet. The intention is that we’ll stay open throughout the process, although we’ll probably have to shut the kitchen for a few days while equipment is moved over – we’ll still do our excellent coffee and home-made cakes, but no sarnies or hot food. The existing building will then be demolished in November and the space re-developed as car-parking. So, apart from some minor landscaping work it’ll all be over by Christmas. (I seem to remember someone said that in 1914, and four years later…)

And thinking of car-parking: obviously we’ve lost quite a few parking spaces. There are still nine spaces at the side of the building, which are reserved for customers. Please be careful when entering or leaving – we have a mirror on order to reduce the risk of collisions at the corner.

The state of progress can be seen in the photo above. As you can see, the main activity to date has been the delivery and installation of a large hole where the petrol station used to be. We were very lucky to be able to commission the Welsh subsidiary of a world-leading hole manufacturer to prepare this hole for us. The parent company, based in Shropshire, were pioneers in the use of metal in the manufacture of industrial and domestic holes. Everyone in Wales is familiar with the All-English Tin Hole Manufacturing Company Ltd. In the past they have worked with a major British maker of minted confectionary, as well as the state government of Arizona in the Colorado pond redevelopment project (now the Grand Canyon).

Oh yes, and you can just see the entrance to my command bunker just to the right of Thunderbird 7. The emergency escape tunnel will lead from there up to a deserted lead mine in the hills, from where I can command our forces in the event of a hostile attack by the evil inhabitants of Meirioneth with their crazed plans for Mid-Welsh domination.

I think that’s all the news for this week – exciting isn’t it! We’ll keep publishing progress reports and photos, but remember, we’re staying open, so come on in and spend, spend, spend. (We have some jolly good deals on remaindered Christmas goodies at the moment)

[and don’t think I’ve forgotten about the whispering…you may have tried to be clever, but I still see your little cliques muttering together out in the car park, dressed as “builders”.  And don’t think that disguising yourselves as five-year-olds playing with the big jigsaw will help…I have eyes and ears everywhere…]

There’s a chield amang us, takin’ notes…

…and, faith, he’ll prent it! (Apologies for the dodgy Scots accent)

This is getting worse, first it was the whispering and muttering behind my back, all those secret meeting that I wasn’t invited to, but now they’re coming out in the open and actually printing all their stories! And not just in a nice slim volume of privately-printed verse, oh no, in a local paper, the Ceredigion Herald, seen by thousands. Even worse, because some sneaky person has posted this PDF of the article, now people all round the WORLD can see it! And they mention me BY NAME! How dare they? I know what they’re planning, they think I don’t, but I have eyes and ears everywhere…

Mutter, mutter…

Anyway, what else has been happening in the world of Cletwr? Well, I’m told that there is some sort of festivity next weekend, not sure what, but I’ve been instructed to point out that Siop Cynfelyn at Cletwr has plenty of excellent products in stock, suitable for giving to people (if that’s the sort of thing you do). Allegedly the “Hampers” are a particularly good deal.

But what of the build? Things move. Our Project Manager, Jacinta, is getting in to the swing of things, and our first claim for dosh will be going in shortly. Contrary to rumour it will all be given to the Contractor, and not spent on gin for the Directors. But the biggest news is that work will start straight after the seasonal holidays (it’s ridiculous, who needs ten days off at this time of the year? When I worked for dear old Mr Scrooge we were glad to have a single day away from the office. Ah happy days!) The timber frame kit has been ordered and is due for delivery on 23rd January, so we should start seeing the shape of the new place within a matter of weeks. Of course before the frame goes up the foundations go down. And before the foundations go in there’s the small matter of converting the old petrol tanks into my underground command bunker.

Isn’t it all exciting!


We’re making plans for Nigel…

Actually I hope there isn’t anyone out there making plans for Nigel behind my back. If they are I want to know about them. And will you please STOP RIGHT NOW! I know you’re doing it…I can see you…I hear you whispering behind my back…

Oops, sorry, where was I? Oh yes, plans…

An incredible amount of work has already gone into this project, particularly in drawing up very detailed plans for the new building. These have been dplanone by our architect, Arwyn George of George a Tomos, Machynlleth.

For those interested, and in the spirit of openness that we, as a community group, are committed to (and if we’re so open why is there all this secret whispering about me? STOP IT!) we are happy to publish the plans. These were prepared for the tender process, and so there may well be some minor differences between the plans and the finished, glorious, construction. (But obviously any significant changes will have to be cleared by the Ceredigion planners, so you can be sure it won’t suddenly turn into a 100-foot-high Tescoid carbuncle).(Actually, better make that fairly sure)

For those who prefer a more 3D approach (and who doesn’t?) please see the illustrations in my previous post.

One other change – in the last post I mentioned the 40ft tall nude gold-ish statue of our revered Cadeirydd. After consideration I realise this wouldn’t be appropriate. It’s going to be 60ft high, and covered in pure gold leaf.

And so here are the plans (as PDFs)

Elevations plan     Overall site plan     The internal plan

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid

What will the new building look like?

Our architects have been working on the plans for ages, (Thanks, Arwyn), and now their wonderfully clever technical stuff has made it possible to generate some pretty piccies of what the finished pleasure dome new community hub will look like.

Obviously they’re just to give us an idea. Details will obviously change as the build progresses and we see exactly what we can afford (gold taps in the staff loo?). One obvious omission from the picture is the 40ft high gold-ish nude statue of our new Cadeirydd holding a burning torch aloft that will be outside the front door.

View from the front. The cafe will be on the left of the building, the shop on the right.

View from the front. The cafe will be on the left of the building, the shop on the right.

Don’t try and repeat this view in real life as you’ll die, the viewpoint is from the middle of the road. Note the solar panels.


Close up of the covered seating area at the front, with glass panels above.

Close up of the covered seating area at the front, with glass panels above.

View from the back of the building (the Machynlleth side). Stock rooms and kitchen etc on the left, play area on the right, and more covered seating.

View from the back of the building (the Machynlleth side). Stock rooms and kitchen etc on the left, play area on the right, and more covered seating.

Inside. Standing in the cafe area, looking towards the conter, with the shop area beyond

Inside. Standing in the cafe area, looking towards the counter, with the shop area beyond

Nice, innit?


(not sure of the rest of the lyrics, something tumpty-tumpty-tumpty-tum, tumpty-tumpty-jah)

Why the hymns (and hurns) of praise? Cos at 5pm on Wednesday 30th November we got a letter from the EU Rural Communities Development Fund. This was the final written confirmation that all our funding for the new build is in place. That means we can start signing contracts and spending money. Our builders (Davies and Evans of Penegoes, just outside Machynlleth) can start ordering things and very soon the JCBs will roll.

Many, many thanks to our funders: BIG Lottery, Welsh Government and the EU, plus Cyngor Ceredigion and Trusthouse.approval_extract

The answer my friend…

…isn’t blowing in the wind, it’s written down here.qmark

The answer to what? All those odd questions people have about the new Cletwr building. What, When, Why, Where, Who, How etc.

Read on for enlightenment…..

So, what’s all this about a new building then?

After much consultation, it was agreed in 2014 to erect a wonderful new building on the Cletwr site, which will house a new shop and caffi, as well as a meeting room and offices to support our community activities. There should be some nice landscaping too, making the whole place a worthy ‘Gateway to North Ceredigion’

Sounds good. How much is this going to cost?

About £450,000. Plus VAT…(which we get back)

Wow! Not peanuts then. Where’s that sort of dosh coming from?

A mix of sources. We had £497,000 from the BIG Lottery Fund, of which about £300,000 went to buy the site. Then we have £172,000 from a Welsh Government grant and £88,000 from an EU grant. There have also been smaller grants from Ceredigion Council and Trusthouse. And of course a small amount in donations from locals, and, if necessary, something from the surplus generated by the shop and caffi.

Times are hard. Couldn’t that be better spent elsewhere? Bronglais?

You would think so, but actually no. Most of these funds are earmarked for particular purposes, particularly tackling rural poverty and deprivation. North Ceredigion is actually a relatively poor area, even if the poverty isn’t as visible as in ex-mining communities in the Valleys. The aim of Cletwr is (amongst other things) to tackle a number of issues affecting our community – isolation, poverty, lack of services – through providing local services and facilities. We couldn’t have used the money for anything else, and if we hadn’t had the money it would have gone somewhere else in Wales, to do something similar.

But why a new building? I like the existing one.

We all like the existing Cletwr. It’s home. We’ve been familiar with it for years, and it has a nice warm friendly feeling about it. But that feeling comes from the people, not just the building. It’s the volunteers, the staff and the customers who make Cletwr what it is. And to be honest, the existing building is a bit of a nightmare. It evolved over years with extension added to extension. It has lots of unused space, but that space tends to have rising damp! Some of the materials used include asbestos (don’t worry, it’s all safely sealed in, but we’ll have to be careful with the demolition). There are cracks in the walls underneath the render. The electrics are dodgy and the heating bill is a nightmare due to the windows and general lack of insulation. (We spend £6000 a year on electricity – a lot of it for winter heating!) The kitchen needs a serious overhaul. The old flat upstairs had been condemned. A lot of money and volunteer time is spent doing DIY and repairs. And if we’re unlucky, we may find the building deteriorates to the point when we fail to meet health and safety and environmental standards. All in all, not somewhere that we want to have to cope with for the next few decades, especially if we were forced to close..

The new building will be very different. It will provide attractive, functional and much better designed spaces, (and a bigger shop and caffi), but will also be a modern, environmentally sound building, with virtually no heating requirements. Solar panels will further reduce the overall energy bill.

But couldn’t you have renovated the existing building for less money?

Yes. We considered several options for this, but the costs would still have been substantial, and we would have had to either close completely for some months, (meaning we would have to lay staff off) or at least offer a very restricted service from a Portakabin or two. Cletwr is now a very successful and popular enterprise. We’ve spent three years training people to stop here. Locals value the convenience (and the atmosphere). If we closed for six months or a year then we’d be back to square one. By putting up a new building at the other end of the site we can stay open throughout the build period, and continue to offer locals and passers-by the same services that they’ve come to expect.

And what about the flat? Aren’t you making someone homeless?

Yes, we have one flat that is rented out to a local worker. The other flat couldn’t be rented out owing to the poor condition. (We now use it for storage and offices for some of our staff). The flat that is in use is in less than wonderful condition and would need considerable expenditure in the near future to bring it up to the standards we would like.

We are helping our current tenant to find alternative accommodation.

Longer term we are considering looking at accommodation requirements in the community. Obviously Cletwr is not a housing association, but if someone is interested in working on a project to identify what the demand for smaller rental housing in the area is, (and funds for the research may be available from Cyngor Ceredigion) then it may be possible one day to work with a housing association to develop a site within the community that will meet a definite need.

So when does this all happen?

Work will hopefully start before Christmas, and the main build phase should be finished by mid summer. Demolition of the old building will have to wait until November (we have bats in the loft, and we can only demolish during the winter!) Apologies in advance for any disruption, but we’ll be working with the Contractor to keep it to an absolute minimum, and ensure site safety is enforced.

Oh yes, what happened to the petrol?

It got dropped from the plans. The safety rules about selling petrol are horrendous, you tie up £30K of capital in the ground and make 2p a litre. And Davmor got a buyer and stayed open, which meant that the Lottery wouldn’t have given us a grant if we had petrol. So, no petrol..

Can I find out more?

3D illustrations based on the architects plans will be on display in the shop, and we’ll also have the plans on display as well. You can see more of the documents, business plans etc. on our build blog at

Can I get involved?

Of course you can! The easiest way is just to keep shopping, drinking coffee and attending events as always. But we are always happy to see volunteers joining the team. Whatever you are interested in doing, we can probably fit you in. Contact or phone 01970 832113. Donations of vast sums of money (or small sums of money) probably wouldn’t be turned away.

Questions? email

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