Village Halls: Yr Hen Ysgol, Dinas
Yr Hen Ysgol (YHY), The Old School, situated in the heart of Dinas Cross is a restored Victorian school now providing a Community Hall and excellent facilities for the area.
In 2005 this former local authority school was generously gifted to the people of Dinas Cross by the Barony of Kemaes, which in the 19th century originally gave the land to the community to build a school.
YHY was set up as a company in 2006 and a charity in 2008 and is administered by trustees and a management committee, all volunteers. In 2008 a 10-year strategic plan to repair, improve, and extend the building was instituted, and funding totalling £215,000 was obtained from a variety of grant-giving bodies (see yrhenysgoldinas.org.uk/strategic-plan). This restoration has transformed YHY into one of the best community halls in Pembrokeshire. It is now a large, airy building in an ideal location, with ample car parking to the front and a lovely peaceful rear garden.
Over the years the Friends of Yr Hen Ysgol, who have strong connections to the school and the area, have contributed generously to a capital fund to ensure the building is kept in good order.
Wendy Ratcliffe, chair of the management committee at YHY showed me around.
There are three main rooms available for let. The main hall, is a large space with a capacity of 80. It has an oak floor with underfloor heating, and projection equipment, and it connects to a large, well-equipped, stainless-steel kitchen with a new range cooker, a dishwasher and an efficient air-extractor system; in all, a perfect venue for cookery groups or for pop-up restaurants or cafés.
Catering facilities are five-star-rated. There are two further rooms, Garn Fawr, suitable for 40 people, is equipped with a large TV monitor; and Garn Fach is ideal for smaller meetings. Both rooms have their own kitchen areas.
A large internal hall connects to a new exhibition display area, currently featuring the “Dinas Boys” who gave their lives in the First World War.
All rooms have acoustic panels to reduce echoing. The building is on the level and approached by a ramp.
There are male, female and disabled toilets. Central heating throughout is by oil, and lights use LEDs. The policy of YHY is to use local labour wherever possible, and a local self-employed cleaner keeps the building fresh and clean.
What events and activities happen here?
Wendy explained that with annual day-to-day running costs of approximately £12,500, income comes largely from booking fees, fundraising by volunteers and a contribution from the Community Council.
“We have a number of regular weekly events here. Yoga is very popular and we have three sessions a week, two of hatha yoga and one of chair yoga, and one session of Pilates. Anne Hughes runs two Singing for Fun sessions, and we have quilting, table tennis, bridge, life drawing and Happy Mondays, a creative group. There is also Active Somatics, a monthly lunch club for the over 55s; a WI which meets monthly; and the Historical Society. The major event in aid of YHY funds is the Christmas Fair at the start of December.
Wendy tells me that the flexibility of space available in YHY is reflected in the variety of different groups that have used its facilities. These have included a wedding reception, the British Wheel of Yoga, a designer dress agency; a Pony Club quiz; Newport Garden Club; and a number of other organisations that book the centre on a regular basis.
Wendy shows me the garden, which would make a delightful venue for weddings and other celebrations. “I am a keen gardener,” she says, “and I would like to see some raised beds for growing food and herbs out there. We are having some planters being made locally for the front of the building to add colour and will be buying new garden furniture for the garden area.”
Does she want new volunteers?
‘Yes please. We want to focus on promoting the centre and try some new events, and to get more local people involved.
“We are drawing from a select few dedicated volunteers, who are wonderful, but more volunteers and more ideas would be very welcome. We want to see Yr Hen Ysgol humming with life and ideas.”
I couldn’t agree more. It’s a lovely light-filled building with beautiful views and a delightful, peaceful garden. There is plenty of off-road parking and, while not having a hearing loop system for the deaf, the building is otherwise very accessible.
Booking fees are very competitive – see the website.
Would you like to know more? Book a room? Offer your time as a volunteer? Have brilliant ideas for events or activities you would like to see in the future? Contact:
General enquiries: info/yrhenysgoldinas.org.uk
The hall has a coded entry system for users.