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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Tea room has its official opening

* Carl Pottenger and Sally Roberts with Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas.
Photographs by Mark Fetherstone. 

* Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir sang at the official opening.

A former derelict chapel has been brought back to life thanks to a couple who quit their jobs to make their dream of running a tea room come true. 

Business partners Sally Roberts and Carl Pottenger of Trevor, near Llangollen, took on the ambitious project in 2016 to convert the former Bryn Seion Chapel on Station Road into the Pontcysyllte Chapel Tea Room, close to Thomas Telford’s famous Aqueduct.

The aqueduct gained World Heritage Status in 2004 and has seen the area boosted by increased visitor numbers since.   

Sally and Carl recognised the gap in the market to provide those visitors with a quality eatery close by, showcasing some of the best local produce available. 

The ambitious project was boosted by a £30k grant from the Welsh Government’s Tourism Investment Support Scheme. They now employ 12 staff on a full-time, part-time and casual basis.

Carl oversaw the renovations, ensuring local craftsmen were employed to carry out the work. Sally set about identifying and applying for funding, before quitting her job with a high street bank last year to concentrate on the project full time. 

Phase two of the project is already underway with the transformation of the remainder of the building into five modern, airy bedrooms - two on the ground floor, including one with disabled access and three on the upper floor. It is intended that two bedrooms will be completed and available from mid-July. 

Sally Roberts said: “It was certainly a daunting prospect to purchase the chapel but I’d seen it falling into disrepair on a daily basis in recent years and thought what a great tea room and B&B it would make. So when I met Carl we both decided to make it a joint venture and took the leap to buy the property.

“We have received such a lot of support from advisors including the Welsh Government and Business in Wales, as well as the community. We are now focusing our efforts on attracting more day visitors from further afield. It’s important we link closely with other areas in the vicinity of the aqueduct to improve the visitor experience to the area as tourism is the lifeblood of many communities around here, particularly being so close to Llangollen.”

Carl Pottenger, who was brought up on the other side of the aqueduct in nearby Froncysyllte said: “The chapel was in a pretty bad state of repair when we got it but that didn’t put us off. We decided very early on that we wanted to create a real ‘wow’ factor when you stepped through our doors and we believe we have achieved that with the help of some superb local craftspeople who have worked with us. We’ve even matched the woodwork to the original pulpit which we have preserved as a key piece in the premises.”

The Pontcysyllte Tea Room opened its doors in February and was officially opened by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, AM and Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport on Monday.

The Wales Government offers grants under the Tourism Investment Support Scheme for ‘Distinctive Stand Out Projects’. 

Lord Elis-Thomas said: “I’d like to congratulate Sally and Carl for their vision in seeing the potential in this historic building and turning it into this excellent tea room. As well as being a welcome addition for visitors attracted to this iconic World Heritage Site, they’re also creating new jobs in the tourism sector in north east Wales.

"With the ambiance of a Welsh Chapel, the nearby Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the Welsh produce on offer - the Pontcysyllte Chapel Tea Room has a strong sense of place and an excellent story to tell. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support this venture and wish the owners well as they complete the accommodation phase of the project.”

Councillor Rondo Roberts, Wrexham County Borough Councillor for Llangollen Rural ward, said: “Sally and Carl have invested so much time, effort and money into making sure this project is successful and also given the local economy a boost by creating brand new jobs and using local suppliers throughout the process. They continue to do this as the business is growing by engaging with food producers in the locality to create a real taste of Wales experience. I wish them well for the future.”

* Follow the Pontcysyllte Chapel Tearoom on Facebook  and Twitter @ponttearoom

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

AM questions government on cannabis-based medicines

With the UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, having announced a review into the use of cannabis-based medicines in the UK, which could lead to their re-scheduling and pave the way for doctors to issue prescriptions for treatments,  North Wales Assembly Member and Chair of the Cross Party Group on Neurological Conditions, Mark Isherwood,  has called on the Welsh Government to outline how it proposes to deal with the matter.
In yesterday’s Business Statement Mr Isherwood, who has been working with MS Society Cymru on this issue for some time, backed the call for a Welsh Government Statement regarding the provision of medicinal cannabis on prescription, referring to the well-publicised case of Billy and Charlotte Caldwell.
He said: “You may recall that in January, I led a Debate in the Assembly, as Chair of the Cross Party Group on Neurological Conditions, highlighting that this wasn't about one person, it was about multiple people, with multiple conditions, who were already being forced to access cannabis illegally, rather than having individually distillated prescriptions to meet their particular needs.
“After that Debate, I hosted Billy and his mother Charlotte in this Assembly, and they told us their story. We heard that Billy used to suffer up to 100 seizures a day until he began treatment with cannabis oil, following successful treatment in Los Angeles by a children's epilepsy specialist, and he became virtually seizure free. On return from Los Angeles, Charlotte told us, he became the first person to be prescribed medicinal cannabis on the UK NHS. 

“Charlotte has been campaigning for medicinal cannabis from the NHS, recognising the desperation felt by many families fighting to be afforded the same access that she fought so hard for. And she was adamant, and remains adamant, that this is a separate issue entirely, and must not become confused with debates over recreational use, or broader drug legalization.

“She contacted me again in May, after her doctor was summoned to a meeting with Home Office officials and told to desist writing the prescriptions. After that, I wrote to the Home Secretary, urging him and his officials to urgently contact her to find a resolution and a way forward.

“We heard that the UK Government has now set out plans for an expert clinical panel to look at individual cases, and I know, in January, I was calling on the Welsh Government to put in place preparations within the Welsh NHS for potential prescription here. I would be grateful for a detailed statement acknowledging the issue and detailing how the Welsh Government proposes to address this, in alignment with the UK, but also in the devolved context, and hopefully add its voice of support, a voice that sadly wasn't fulsome when I led the Debate in January."

Leader of the House Julie James AM said she will “discuss with the Cabinet Secretary (Health) where we are and make sure that he updates Members in the most appropriate way."

Tourism Minister shown work on Corwen station

* From left: Phil Rogers (guide), Richard Dixon-Gough (project manager), Liz McGuinness (business manager) with Lord Elis Thomas AM.
Members of the Llangollen Railway’s Corwen station development team welcomed the Welsh Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Elis Thomas, on Monday when he visited the site to see progress on the volunteer-led project.

During an escorted visit he was shown the major civil engineering work which is creating a new terminus station for the Dee Valley’s heritage railway.
Apart from the continuing work on a new island platform, the Minister was able to see the newly installed water tank which has been built locally to modern standards and connects for supply with an environmentally friendly borehole.
In a briefing which followed the Minister was told about the effort still needed to complete the station in time for an opening in 2019, when the new rail facility will be connected to the existing rail head and trains can end close to town centre.
Project manager Richard Dixon-Gough said: “We were delighted with the opportunity to welcome the Minister and show him the substantial progress that has been made with the building of the new platform which has received 80% grant aid funding from the European Rural Development Fund for Wales.”

Lord Elis Thomas said: "I am very impressed with what has been achieved by the volunteer-led project team in creating the new railway station for Corwen.
"The completion of this project will add a new dimension to tourist facilities in North East Wales and will secure the future of the Llangollen Railway as a major attraction in the beautiful Dee Valley."

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Band needs new talent to keep on playing

* The Silver Band in its early days, probably before World Ware One, passing by what is now Centenary Square at the end of Bridge Street.
Look closely to see a fountain amongst the trees.

* The present-day Silver Band, led by Mia Thomas, in last year's Eisteddfod parade.  

* ... and braving the weather in last year's Christmas parade.
Special llanblogger report
Llangollen Silver Band, which has played on without a break since 1904, is now on the lookout for new blood to help keep it in tune for at least another century.
Its chairman Bob Lube, who himself joined the band’s ranks as a drummer 41 years ago, says the search is currently on for a new conductor for its successful senior section along with likely players of any age from eight years onwards.

“We were formed 114 years ago and are very proud of the fact that we’ve been playing continuously ever since, even during wartime,” he said.
“We play regular dates throughout the year, which includes about 15 concerts and lots of fetes and special events such as leading the Remembrance Day, Christmas and International Eisteddfod parades in Llangollen.

“We perform mostly in north Wales but we’ve also appeared in the neighbouring areas of England such as Cheshire and Shropshire.”
Now, Bob added, the band is looking for a likely candidate to take over the important role of conductor to the senior band.

He explained: “We have three sections – the senior band, which currently comprises about 20 accomplished players, the youth band of about 15-16 members and the training band with around the same number.
“The senior band is obviously one which plays all the important dates and it’s their conductor we’re after.

“The role was admirably filled for a number of years by Trevor Williams and more recently we’ve had the very promising young conductor Mia Thomas. But now she’s moved on and we’re in need of a replacement.
“The person we appoint could be any age but obviously must have experience of conducting. They should also be capable of fitting in with the band and helping to bring on our young players, which is very important to us.

“The person could also be local but we’re prepared to pay reasonable expenses for anyone who has to travel a bit.”
Bob said the silver band is also hoping to recruit new players to boost its ranks.

“As with most things, we have young people joining us as children and then when they grow up they often move away to go to university and things like that. So it would be good to recruit a few more potential players aged eight and over to fill the gaps this creates.
“But it’s not just youngsters, we’re also after more mature players. These might be people who have played an instrument when they were younger, given it up but now want to get back into it. At the moment, we’re particularly looking for a drummer.

“Our motto is music at the heart of the community, which was personified by one of our most stalwart members, Albert Hammonds who died in 2012. We have a proud record of playing since 1904 and want to keep going for another century.”
Regular practice sessions for the seniors are held on Mondays from 7-9pm in the Band Room in Parade Street, which underwent a £100,000 refurbishment in 2012 thanks to grants and the band’s own fundraising. The training and youth bands meet up every Friday in the same place from 6-8.30pm.

* More details about vacancies can be found on the band’s website at:          

Monday, June 18, 2018

County unveils new plans for waste disposal

Denbighshire County Council is informing residents about new proposals to increase recycling and reduce waste in the county and says it wants to work with communities to rise to the challenge.
The county has historically one of the best recycling rates in Wales and residents have played a significant part in that success.
Despite all the efforts, more than 5,000 tonnes of recycling are still being thrown away through general waste collections costing £500,000 which could be spent on protecting vital council services.
This is a significant challenge and the council needs to recycle more and reduce unnecessary disposal costs.
It says this can only be done by changing the way in which its waste collection works and by changing the way residents recycle.
The proposed changes to the recycling service will provide residents with:

  • a new weekly collection for recyclables such as paper, glass, cans, and plastic
  • a weekly collection for food waste
  • a new fortnightly collection for clothes and small electrical items

With 64% of waste already being recycled and a weekly recycling collection with extra capacity there should only be small amounts of non-recyclable waste left in the black bin. 

The council is therefore proposing to change the collection of non-recyclable waste to every four weeks.  Instead of the current 140 litre black bins, the council would provide new, larger 240 litre black bins instead.

Overall, households will have an additional 35 litres of capacity each week to manage their waste and the focus will be more on recycling to help prevent recyclable material being put unnecessarily in the black bin. 
The council believes that increasing the size of the bins to the new larger ones and introducing weekly and recycling collections, supported by other special collections, should meet the needs of residents.  
It says the majority of households in Denbighshire can be switched to the proposed system. The households at which the proposed system may be unsuitable are being identified. Where necessary alternative collection models, designed to achieve the highest levels of recycling practicable, will be introduced.

Councillor Brian Jones, Cabinet Lead Member for Highways, Planning and Sustainable Travel, said: “Denbighshire residents have always been very good at recycling, and we achieved the Welsh Government target to recycle 64% of household waste two years early. Thank you for making a real difference.

“However, we need to reach the next target of 70% by 2025, and there is discussion taking place about higher targets of possibly 80% in future. We therefore need to take steps to recycle more and waste less.   To make sure we develop the right model for Denbighshire, we want to understand more about people’s recycling needs, hear about any potential impacts these proposed changes may have on households and to work with communities to manage the proposed changes.
“We are confident that Denbighshire households will be able to rise to the challenge, but there will be some circumstances where this might be more difficult. Therefore, we are already looking at nappy/ incontinence wear waste collections; additional bins for larger households and continuing with offering assisted collections for those that need them.

Over the coming weeks, staff from the council will be out and about in communities, where people will have an opportunity to hear what is being proposed and to speak with officers directly.  This will be supported by a range of education initiatives to support residents in their recycling efforts. We will also engage with local Schools and businesses to reinforce our ambitions to meet the new recycling challenges. Details will appear on the council’s social media sites, on its website and in the media."

The council is also encouraging residents to complete an online survey at so that it can understand people’s recycling patterns and what steps need to be taken to prepare people for the proposed changes. Copies of the survey can also be found in libraries and main receptions across the county.
Frequently asked questions and details of opening hours of the recycling parks, together with a full list of what items can be recycled can also be found on the website:
The council expects that any proposed change would take place in 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions

Potential Concern
Will I be able to cope?

With weekly collections for recycling and food, new collections for other materials and a larger bin for your waste, there should be enough capacity for your waste. Remember that you can have extra recycling containers if you need them.  There will be special arrangements for larger families and the new nappy collections will also free up space in your bin.

What if my bin gets too heavy?

Please don’t struggle with containers- assisted collections will continue to be available for those that need some help. With many of the heavier types of waste such as food and recyclables being collected every week, you may find that your refuse bin is not too heavy. Non recyclable items are often quite light such as vacuum cleaner dust or plastics that can’t yet be recycled.

Could this lead to fly tipping?

The experience of other councils has been that fears about fly tipping just did not materialise with some areas seeing an improvement in the cleanliness of the streets.  By using the more frequent recycling collections, there is room in the bin for your waste.  There is never any excuse for fly tipping, and we have no reason to believe that Denbighshire residents will start doing so.

Are there problems associated with leaving waste for 4 weeks?

Concerns are sometimes expressed about possible smells, flies or pests. Using the weekly collection for food waste is the best way to prevent all these potential problems, especially as the food waste containers have lockable lids.  The new collections for nappy/ incontinence wear waste will also help and as long as other types of waste are securely wrapped before being put in the bin, there should be no problem.

What if the bin is too big or too small?
The Council will be considering requests from residents on a case by case basis.

List of items that CAN be recycled:
·         Empty tetrapaks
·         Paper and newspapers
·         Clean foil
·         Clean/empty plastic bottles
·         Clean/empty glass bottles and jars
·         Clean plastic food trays
·         Empty toiletry bottles
·         Boxes
·         Toilet roll
·         Empty food boxes
·         Birthday cards
·         Clean and empty yoghurt pots
·         Clean and empty tins and cans
·         Aerosol

Items that CANNOT be recycled:
Needles or sharps
Plastic bags
Hard plastics
Pet waste
Polystyrene foam or polystyrene packaging
Plastic wrap or polystyrene wrap
Car batteries
Food waste or any liquid
Wires/ hosepipes
Separate food and garden waste collection services are in place.

Police issue scam phone calls warning

North Wales Police are warning the public to be alert to two particular frauds that are instigated by a telephone call.

During the past week several victims have received a telephone call from a person purporting to be a police officer informing them of fraudulent activity on their bank account.

The caller then advises the victim to dial an extension number and they speak to another officer who asks them to go and withdraw money, as they are investigating counterfeit currency offences within the branch.

They are kept on the phone whilst in the bank and the money is collected from their home address.
In other cases people have been subjected to calls from individuals claiming to be from the Inland Revenue demanding payment.

Financial abuse safeguarding officer PC 1602 David Hall said: “We want to warn the public of this fraudulent activity, which has resulted in several people withdrawing thousands of pounds from their accounts and handing money over.”

Designing Out Crime Officer Norman Hughes added: “Our advice is that you do not engage in conversation however convincing or demanding the caller might be. Never follow their instructions and do not provide any personal information. You will not face any court proceedings as claimed by the scam callers.”

Police enquiries are ongoing and the following advice is being given:
  • If you receive a telephone call from someone asking to arrange transfer of funds or to collect funds from your home address end the call immediately. Visit the North Wales Police public web page and clicking on the fraud information box.  Here you will find advice on various types of fraud and a link to Action Fraud ( or call on 0300 123 2040
  • Do not give personal details, including banking details to anyone you do not know following unexpected requests for money made either in the street, on the doorstep, over the telephone or internet as these details can be used to steal your identity.
  • Beware of cold calls even when the caller appears to have personal information such as your address or bank account details.  Legitimate callers will never be offended if you ask to call back in order to confirm their identity.  When doing so always use a phone number that you have obtained from previous correspondence or an independent source such as phone book or an official website. 
  • If you want to call your bank, then do so from another telephone or visit your local branch.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

New play leads in the novel Dracula stakes

* Hanna Edwards as Lucy and Dan Pedley
in the title role of Dracula.
We know Dracula can turn himself into a bat or a big black dog.

But he can also become quite a cantankerous story character, or at least he can according to a new play premiered in Chirk last night (Saturday).
Penned by first-time playwright Esme Sallnow for PunkSteam Productions fresh from her acclaimed starring role in Llangollen Operatic Society’s recent smash-hit production of My Fair Lady, Dracula grafts a fascinating and humorous new twist onto the classic tale of the old Transylvanian bloodsucker.   

And, throughout the two acts of action, it sees the count holding regular, heated artistic conversations with its author Bram Stoker who’s sitting just off stage with Mrs Stoker scratching away at the legendary piece of Victorian melodrama.
Drac frequently breaks off his speeches to argue with his creator on the way his character is being portrayed, too hard, too soft etc.

It’s an interesting gambit which, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t detract too much from the plot while putting an interesting new human light on the guy who was the Prince of Darkness way before Ozzy Osbourne nicked the title.
And this new depth he’s given is interpreted well by the actor playing him, Dan Pedley, who’s already had his share of successes with a number of local amateur groups.

The play itself, directed by the author, sticks pretty much to the 1896-set Stoker novel, with a likely female victim Lucy Westenra falling under the spell and then the flashing fangs of the master vampire as she holidays in Whitby.
She’s played with a delicate touch by Hannah Edwards who is also rapidly making a name for herself on the area’s am-dram circuit.

Strong support comes from John Clifford, mainstay of many a local acting group, in the key role of vampire hunter Van Helsing, complete with doom-laden pronouncements delivered in a delightfully thick mittle European accent.
Like the rest of the cast he’s also clearly playing it for laughs wearing as he does a motorcycle helmet and goggles for the bit where he serves up the now-vampirical Lucy with a medium rare stake right through the heart.

This is something of a family affair for the Cliffords as John’s wife Lizzie gives a forceful interpretation of Mina Murray, Lucy’s cousin who eventually has quite an unexpected effect on Count D, while son Joe skilfully plays Arthur Holmwood, Lucy’s drippy fiancĂ©.   
Jo Lloyd, another accomplished amateur performer and director, takes the part of Lucy’s mother Mrs Westenra and does so with style. And further strong support comes from Rea Hughes as Dr Jane Seward who tries to make sense of everything when Lucy’s starts to get it in the neck.

Kevin Williams puts in a very neat performance as Mr Renfield, one of the count’s willing adherents who has rather a taste for live birds and spiders.
Valuable contributions to the action also come from Jim and Pat Broderick as the Stokers, Michael Wall who has a stagger-on part as Victor Frankenstein – yes, he’s in it too – Sandy Williams, Ann Wall, Katy Lloyd and Cady Williams, all multi-roling like mad.

This is a memorable first stab at playwriting by Esme Sallnow which could easily be the first of numerous successes.
Dracula now flaps off for an appearance at Hermon Chapel in Oswestry for performances on Thursday and Friday June 21 and 22.

* Tickets are £10 on the door and £5 age 16 and under. They are available direct from the venue on 01691 662196.