“We are all one community, there is no difference here. The way I have always seen it is it is a village within a village,” says one resident.
But for people living in Evanstown in Gilfach Goch, the local lockdown rules that apply to their friends and family, who live just a short walk over the dividing river, won’t apply here.
Gilfach Goch, which loosely translates to a small red place/little red creek, sits right on the border of Rhondda Cynon Taf and most of the valley falls under RCT council.
There is one road into the village, and the same road is the only way out.
At the top of the former mining village is a separate small village called Evanstown.
As you cross over the river into Evanstown, you cross from Rhondda Cynon Taf into Bridgend County Borough Council.
This poses an issue for residents in Evanstown whose friends, families, essential services and jobs are mixed between the two areas.
It is quite literally the case that an Evanstown resident will only have to walk to the bottom of their street to enter RCT.
Alison Patterson is a resident in Evanstown and said while she doesn’t disagree with the restrictions, she thinks common sense should prevail in these circumstances.
The 56-year-old said: “I have to drive past my mother’s house, which is quarter of a mile down the road, to get out of Gilfach. So now my brother has to come three to four miles to Trealaw to see my mum, you know, it just doesn’t make sense to any of us really.”
Residents in Evanstown are more likely to have friends and family living in the rest of the Gilfach valley than they are to have family in Bridgend, which makes the situation ever more frustrating for them.
In Alison’s instance, her brother who lives in Trealaw, near the bottom Rhondda where the rise in cases in RCT was first recorded, is allowed to visit their mother outdoors, but Alison from the Bridgend council area, where there hasn’t been a significant rise, is not allowed.
“I would have thought for the purposes of Covid we would have been classed as RCT, it just makes sense, it makes sense for us all
“We have all got family both sides of the river, we have all worked both sides of the river, we all see it as one community but now due to the lockdown regulations, now they are saying we can’t go into RCT, we can drive through, or we can work in RCT.”
Alison owns a bridal wear shop in Porth, which is in RCT, and as she said, she is still allowed to go to work there despite technically being a Bridgend resident, however her neighbours or anyone else can’t
“Obviously people can’t go from boundary to boundary, so someone from Evanstown can’t visit the shop but somebody from just over the road in Glenavon can come to the shop
“It is going to have an impact because more than 50% of our brides come from outside RCT so that is going to have an impact obviously, we are already one of the industries hit by Covid and this is going to have an additional headache on top of it.”
Alison’s frustration at the rules are shared by many.
The valley, which is small and circular up the top, is a popular walking route.
One Evanstown resident made the joke that they will have to walk halfway around, stop, and turn back again, so not to enter RCT.
And the river that flows through the middle of the two sides has become a popular walking trail in lockdown, decorated with toys and ‘fairy sheds’.
Are RCT residents not to walk the path along the dividing river as it winds between RCT and Bridgend?
Are they allowed to use the newly built Co-op store in the RCT side of Gilfach Goch or are they to travel some 10 miles to access the closest store in Bridgend?
Chris Elmore, the MP for Ogmore whose ward covers the whole of Gilfach Goch, not just the Bridgend side, sought clarification from the Welsh Labour Government on what the new RCT lockdown means for them.
He wants to reassure Evanstown residents that the police, Bridgend council and RCT council are all aware of the unique position they are in.
He said: “Evanstown has always occupied a unique place in the Ogmore constituency, and events over the past 24 hours have proved a stark reminder of this.
“It is important to remember that Evanstown residents can enter RCT for school, work, medical appointments and food shopping. Police and the authorities are aware of the particular challenges Evanstown residents are facing, and will continue to respond accordingly.”
Chris added that he is not going to pretend that it will be easy for residents in Evanstown as they are advised not to meet other households from RCT outdoors, but hopes the guidance will provide clarity on what they can and can’t do and encouraged residents to get in touch with any concerns.
There is also a school in Evanstown which takes children from both sides of the valley. One resident told us that their son was supposed to attend football training on Thursday evening, and while he can still go as he lives on the Bridgend side, any of his classmates, who he mixes with in school, are not allowed.
This is likely one of the first times the area will be so divided. Usually the only telling sign each side is run by different councils is when the gritters are out and turn around before they get to RCT, or only start at the Bridgend boundary.
Some residents are, however, pleased that their side of the valley isn’t covered by the local lockdown rules and are still able to leave the area, visit people indoors as long as they are not in RCT and follow the Welsh-wide restrictions.
Stephen Clee lives in Cambrian Avenue, one of the last streets in Evanstown before the RCT boundary.
He said: “My son and his wife and my grandchildren are in Cardiff and they said ‘oh you can’t come and see us now’, I said well actually I can escape because we are not in that rule of lockdown, so all I have got to do is head towards the end of Gilfach, turn right and I’m free, because it is not covered by it.
“I think it is nuts.”
Steve, 66, has recently semi-retired so won’t need to travel for work either, but he does think the idea that the Ogwr (Bridgend) side of the valley is ‘safe’ but the RCT side is not is confusing.
He said: “This business that Rhondda Cynon Taff is not safe and Ogwr is safe… it is the same place!
“But then to add to that, to say you are going to do lockdown from tomorrow, you are giving everyone license to go out and party the day before so you are encouraging social mixing if you do that.
“It is absolutely bonkers, if you are going to do a lockdown which is sensible, I have seen someone who has had the coronavirus and it is not nice, then you should do a lockdown immediately encompassing everywhere.”
He thinks the local lockdowns are “nonsense” and believes people will still break the rules.
“To have these segmented lockdowns to me is nonsense, and people are going to break the rules, how can you possibly police it? It is impossible to police.
“They need to be more specific and stop generalising then and make it everywhere and not just bits and pieces really.”
Stewart Edwards lives on the Bridgend side and also works in Bridgend
He said: “The river is our boundary between RCT and the Ogwr (Bridgend) borough, we happen to be on the boundaries here.
“I’ve got a small holding up on the mountain so we fall into the Ogwr borough, the strange part of it is now we have to travel through RCT for me to get to Bridgend into work, I believe I am okay to do that,” he explained.
“It has thrown us in a really awkward position actually, my daughter lives in Penygraig and my wife babysits for her, that has become a bit awkward as well.
“It is going to have a massive impact, we have done all we have been asked to do and things seem to be getting better and now its like we’ve been thrown in the deep end again.”
Stewart’s situation with family in RCT will be a shared experience for many living in Evanstown.
The village is closer to the likes of Tonyrefail, Porth and Talbot Green than it is to neighbouring Ogmore valleys such as Ogmore Vale and Nantymoel.
“People mix more with people on the other side of the valley (RCT) than they do in Bridgend.
“You have to drive through RCT to get out. Gilfach is in a unique position with the two councils, I can’t think of any other village that is in this position you know.
“It is a community, we don’t look at ourselves as two different councils, so socially, shopping wise, we have a new Co-op that has been built in RCT in Gilfach. The majority of people in Gilfach will go to RCT to the Co-op, I can’t see that changing.
“There are two small shops one in the RCT side and one in Evanstown and theres pubs both sides.
“There is the Griffin in the RCT side, most people like a pub environment and tend to go to the one I just mentioned.”
When asked does he think people on both sides of the valley will stop mixing due to the new lockdown rules, he said: “Honestly not, I don’t think it will. I can understand the advice that has come from our local councils where we are advised to stay in our own community, but realistically, I can’t see that happening.”