Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009
How green is my parish
St Joseph's Cwmaman
Solar powered St Joseph's in Cwmaman is now selling its surplus electricity back to the National Grid.

When Father David Way became vicar of St Joseph's church in Cwmaman in 2002 the church had fallen into such disrepair he feared it might close.

The congregation was determined to raise funds to renovate the church in an eco-friendly way.

The church already ran an annual heritage festival and it had a growing interest in environmental issues.

Today the church is solar powered, runs an annual environmental and sculpture festival and plans to build a bunkhouse

Father David admits that he was met with despair when he arrived at the church. 'There wasn't a window that didn't have a smashed panel, there was a lot of mould inside and outside'.

However he realised once he met the congregation that there was a lot of effort being made to keep the church open and wanting to ensure that it was kept open and could be redeveloped.

Father David Way

The church was already running an annual heritage festival when Father David arrived at the parish but the congregation was becoming increasingly interested in environmental issues. As they were looking to renovate the church they decided to try to ensure that their plans for renovation and redevelopment were more environmentally friendly.

Initially the congregation said they were looking to do some improvements to the church and were looking for £26,000 to do this.

Once Father David starting looking into the improvements needed and getting architects involved the figure soon escalated until the church was looking to find £750,000 to bring the building back to the condition that it's in today.

The church had to look for funding for their project from a variety of different sources including the European Social Fund, Rhondda Cynon Taff council and the Welsh Assembly. The whole process took around three years.

Once they'd secured funding the building work took around a year and was completed in December 2006.

Father David adds 'It was a dream come true, we couldn't believe how wonderful it looked and how efficient it was in what we were trying to do'.

Interior St Joseph's
It took three years to raise the 750,000 needed to return the church to its current state

He admits that one of the simplest steps the church has taken to be more eco-friendly was to fit energy saving light bulbs to all of its lights. However fitting solar panels to the roof of the church have made a huge difference to their energy bills.

There are 30 panels on the roof and they generate enough electricity during daylight hours to run the church.

The excess electricity generated by the solar panels is being sold to the national grid.

Over recent years the church has held an annual heritage festival which has developed into an environmental festival. Artists come each year and spend the week creating wood sculptures.

At least one sculpture every year is placed on the sculpture trail. They're carved from locally sourced wood and the sculptures are placed in a trail on land which is the site of the former coal mine that surrounds the church.

The Miner by Robert Koenig
Robert Koenig's 'The Miner' is one of the sculptures created at the church's annual environment festival.

The church has created tarmac paths to enable everyone to access the sculptures.

'We did have a vision years ago that people could come in here and enjoy the environment and enjoy walking around. '

'Over the last two summers we've seen this. We've seen all age groups being able to walk around what was the old mine years ago and is now a beautiful woodland, looking at these wonderful pieces of art that have been created in Cwmaman.'

Moving forward the church has plans to build an eco-bunkhouse with education space. They want to attract visitors to the area to enjoy the beautiful open spaces and scenery that surround Cwmaman. They want the development to be sustainable and have zero carbon footprint.

Father David hopes that local people can be involved in the project and learn environmentally friendly building skills and that it'll lead to future employment opportunities.

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