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Saturday, August 31, 2013

AM questions ambulance response times

Latest figures for emergency ambulance response times in North Wales show a huge variation between council areas and this is being questioned by Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Aled Roberts.
“The Welsh Government has commissioned 9 reports into the overall poor performance of the ambulance service in Wales which has by far the worst record in mainland UK,” commented Aled Roberts. 
“But the overall figures hide large variations which suggest that some parts of North Wales are much better organized than others.
“Wrexham comes out top not just in the North but throughout Wales with a figure of 73.7% for emergency calls attended within the target time of 8 minutes during July. However, the figure for Anglesey is 48.9% which is by far the lowest in North Wales followed by Flintshire on 56.8% and Gwynedd on 57%. These are all below the UK target of 65%, whereas Conwy on 70.5% is well above and Denbighshire is just above on 66.2%
"Overall there are clearly problems Wales-wide which were thoroughly investigated in Professor McClelland’s recommendations which were published in April of this year. But these latest figures indicate that the differences cannot be explained away by issues of rurality. There have been major improvements in Scotland in recent years and yet in Wales the Welsh Government and management at the LHBs appear unable to improve the service. I am writing to the Director of the Ambulance Service in North Wales demanding that more be done to ensure that good practice is shared across the region.
"Poor ambulance response times are nothing new and yet the Welsh Government does not appear to be doing anything about it. Recommendations from the McClelland Report published in April have still not been acted upon. The report clearly indicates that there is an urgent need to tackle these issues regardless of any long term decisions on the future structure of the ambulance service. When the Assembly reconvenes next month I will be questioning the Health Minister, Mark Drakeford as to what action is to be taken to improve the situation in North Wales in the meantime.”
The raw statistics can be found here:

Temporary closure of Corwen swimming pool

Users of the swimming pool at Corwen's Leisure Centre are being informed that the pool will be closed on Thursday and Friday (5 and 6 September), due to planned essential maintenance work.

The swimming pool will re-open as normal on Saturday, 7 September.

Denbighshire Leisure Services would like to thank pool users for their co-operation.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Temporary lights for tree cutting

Latest traffic update from Denbighshire County Council shows the A539 Llangollen Road will have temporary lights for the day next Monday, September 2, to allow tree cutting to go ahead.

Police appeal for witnesses after indecent assault on woman

Police are appealing for information after a woman was indecently assaulted in Ruabon.
The incident happened at around 4.05pm on Tuesday August 27 on New Hall Road when the victim, who was at the junction Black Brook Drive and the footpath which leads across the A483, became aware of a man on her right who indecently assaulted her and walked on towards Ruabon.
He was seen entering the Gower estate at the roundabout junction.
The victim, in her late teens, was not hurt during the incident.
The offender is described as white, between 30 and 45 years old, about 5'9'' tall, slim to medium build with blue eyes and dark grey spikey hair. The gelled spikes appeared vertical over the top of his head.
He was wearing a white t-shirt and dark blue jeans.
Anyone with information is asked to call North Wales Police on 101.

Local MP welcomes Commons vote on Syria

Clywd South MP Susan Elan Jones has warmly welcomed last night’s House of Commons vote that Britain should not enter military conflict in Syria.
Ms Jones, who is a Labour whip and who voted against David Cameron’s proposal, said: ‘The House of Commons rightly stopped the Government in its dangerous tracks in a way that has not happened since the Suez Crisis in 1956.
"People do not want war. The international community must deal firmly with the issue of Syria and chemical weapons but David Cameron’s plans would have made things much worse.
"I am delighted that the House of Commons and the Labour Party had the guts to do the right thing on this and to allow the common sense views of most British people to be heard."

AM's concern over Minister's statement on stations access

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has expressed concern about the “limited” response provided to him by the Transport Minister on improvements to disabled access at Chirk and Ruabon railway stations, despite her predecessor having detailed direct Welsh Government engagement.

Mr Isherwood, who is  Co-Chair of the Assembly Cross Party Group on Disability, wrote to the Minister, Edwina Hart, at the beginning of the month asking what plans the Welsh Government has to improve disabled access at Chirk and Ruabon railway stations and when this will happen.

After receiving an initial response from her stating only that “rail infrastructure matters are not devolved”, Mr Isherwood wrote again requesting further detail  in the context of a 2011 statement by her predecessor Carl Sargeant AM.

Mr Isherwood has now received her subsequent reply, in which she simply states that “under the UK Government National Programme, there is a scheme to improve access at Chirk Station. These improvement works are due for completion in 2014. At Ruabon Station, improvements can be considered should further funding become available from the UK Government.  

In contrast her predecessor’s December 2011 Statement when Chirk, and four other stations (Llandaf, Machynlleth, Radyr and Ystrad Mynach) were awarded funding from the UK Government included: “The  (Welsh Government) Department For Transport will fund 50% of the costs of this programme at those stations and my officials are currently finalising funding details with each relevant regional transport consortia, which will fund the remaining 50% of costs over the lifetime of these projects.
“Improving accessibility at railway stations in Wales is a key priority for the Welsh Government , and will allow more passengers to use the rail network. Although this is a non devolved area, we have funded station improvements from our own budget, where we have resource available and believe this is the right thing to do.”
Mr Isherwood said:  “The current Minister has established a track record for downgrading commitments to transport infrastructure in North Wales and her reply is simply not good enough. The people of our region must not be disabled by her apparent low level of interest in their needs and deserve a proper update to the matters detailed in her predecessor’s statement.

 “It is totally unacceptable that the Transport Minister is so dismissive of the situation.  Disabled rail users should have the same access to travel as every other rail user and I will continue pressing the Minister until they do.”  

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Llangollen lands coveted Cittaslow status

* The Mayor of Llangollen, Cllr Robert Lube, accepts
Cittaslow accreditation from  representatives of the
organisation in Mold Andrea Mearns, left, and Sarah Pratt.
Bid group members celebrate the achievement in the background.
LLANGOLLEN has just officially become part of a select worldwide community dedicated to safeguarding precious resources.   

The town’s year-long bid to become part of the international Cittaslow movement, which fosters economic, social and environmental sustainability, was rewarded this week when it was formally granted accreditation by the organisation. 

Bosses of the Denbighshire tourist mecca say this will now bring a range of benefits, including reassuring potential visitors and investors that it is well run and progressive, and unlocking funds from central government and the EU to help finance local initiatives.  

Llangollen has become only the second Cittaslow town in Wales after Mold, and is only the sixth in the UK. 

Mold is said to have benefited enormously from holding the status. 

Cittaslow grew from the Slow Food Movement, another international scheme which links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment by promoting local, seasonal produce and reconnecting people with where their food comes from.

The name Cittaslow is derived from the Italian word for city or town and is pronounced almost like 'cheetah'. Slow is English. 

Under the umbrella of the town council, Llangollen set up a working group dedicated to winning Cittaslow status. 

The group’s 14 members, including councillors and non-councillors, have spent the past year putting together a formal bid package which demonstrated every aspect of the town’s suitability for accreditation, including the strength of its local produce and products and its hospitality and community assets. 

The bid was showcased by group members to two Cittaslow representatives from Mold during a presentation held in the town hall on Wednesday evening. 

At the end of it, Mold town councillor Andrea Mearns told them: “This is a very sound application and we’ll be recommending you are accepted as a Cittaslow town. 

“You have done very well and have produced a good body of evidence to support your application. You will be welcomed into the Cittaslow network.” 

She went on to explain that each of the UK’s six Cittaslow towns has a place on the national board which is one of 23 representing countries across the world. 

Businesses in Llangollen will now be entitled to carry the official Cittaslow logo on their websites and Llangollen Town Council is investigating the possibility of flying a Cittaslow flag over the town hall. 

Members of the bid group are currently working on plans to spread the word locally about the benefits Cittaslow membership. 

Spokesman and town councillor Phil Thane said: “We are delighted to have won accreditation  which is a tribute to the hard work put in by the bid group and of our town clerk Gareth Thomas. 

“There are two major reasons for becoming a Cittaslow town. 

“Firstly, it provides a set of well recognised goals that serve to keep the town council and Denbighshire County Council up to scratch. 

“Also, when the council or a voluntary body in Llangollen applies for a grant from Cardiff, London or Brussels being a Cittaslow town shows that we are well organised and run and should help us bring more investment into the town. 

“One of our main aims is to involve as many people as possible in Cittaslow Llangollen, which is why we've set up a website to show you what we're doing at We are also on Facebook and Twitter.

* llanblogger is proud to have been part of the successful bid group.

Llyr Gruffydd, North Wales regional AM for Plaid Cymru, said: “I’m delighted that Llangollen has joined Mold as one of the Cittaslow towns – a third of all the UK’s Cittaslow towns are in North Wales [2 out of 6].
“Mold has worked hard to gain a reputation as a food town and I’m sure this new status will also help Llangollen’s food producers and outlets to benefit. We should be justifiably proud that our food and drink is of such high quality. The challenge now is to create the outlets for those products to be sold throughout the region.”

Thomas takes trip abroad after successful Llan appearance

* Owner Mike Pearce with Thomas the Tank engine at Llangollen
during the event held in August.

After a very successful series of Days Out With Thomas at Llangollen during August the star of the show has gone off on a continental working holiday.
Taking the ferry for Hook of Holland the Llangollen-based Thomas the Tank Engine has made another appearance at the heritage Museum Buurt Sporwegen  at Haarksbergen near Enschede in the Netherlands.
This was a repeat visit by popular request of the Dutch rail enthusiasts who operate the preservation scheme.
The famous blue engine No.1 continues on its way into Belgium where it has an appointment for a first appearance at the heritage railway centre at Stoon Centrum Maldegem, near Bruges during the weekend 7/8 September.
Later it will head off for a heritage railway in the Ardennes.
Mike Pearce, the owner of the Llangollen based Thomas, said: "These visits to Europe confirm the international appeal of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories as now promoted on the worldwide scene by HiT Entertainment.
"Combining three visits with one return ferry movement eases the costs for the railways hosting the events and we hope they are a big crowd puller for the Belgian children who will never have seen Thomas for real before.
"The appearance of the engine from Llangollen is also a big promotion for the town in North Wales.
"Our fans of Thomas at Llangollen need not worry however because Thomas will be back at Llangollen for the next series of Days Out with Thomas due at half term in October."
Meanwhile, Llangollen Railway is getting ready for its own three day steam gala this weekend, (30/31 August & 1 September) when the visiting engine will be No.7812 Erlestoke Manor, on hire briefly from the Severn Valley Railway.
The visitor will star alongside the railway's own flagship engine No.7822 Foxcote Manor and three other engines from the home fleet.
George Jones for Llangollen Railway said: "Once again the railway will be putting on a major steam event for rail fans and others as an intensive service is offered between Llangollen and Carrog.
"A near 45 minute interval service will operate starting from Llangollen at 10.00am and will feature Great Western freight locomotive No.3802, the Black Five 44806 and British Railways standard tank No.80072 for a recreation of the great days of steam.
"The first train of the day will feature both Manor locomotives when they are scheduled to double head the 10.00am departure.  Such a pairing was once appropriate for a Royal Train visit."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Artists to show off their work in the town

Starting on Friday 6th September, six artists in Llangollen will be showing work in their studios, local tea shops an historic local venue and a hotel in the town.

Each weekend and some Fridays throughout September painting, photography and ceramics will be on show as part of Helfa Gelf Art Trail 2013.

North Wales's tremendously popular Open Studios scheme now  in its eighth year, spanning five counties with over 300 artists showing work.

The project has received funding through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007 -2013 which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural fund for Rural Development and is offering artists throughout Wales wonderful opportunities.

Painters showing work in Llangollen  include Sue Hall at 5a Oak St, John Smout at Fouzi's Cafe Bar, Pat Pearson at The Pines, Abbey Rd and Janie Mcleod at Plas Newydd Tea Rooms.

Maggie Davies will be showing ceramics in her studio at Dinbren Uchaf Farm, Eglwyseg and  Llinos Lanini will exhibit her photography for one weekend in Manorhaus, Heol Y Bryn.

A spokesperson for the organisers said: "To make a start why not call in to Plas Newydd  Tea Rooms with its beautiful historic house sample the homemade cakes with a pot of tea view Janie Mcleods work and collect your Helfa Gelf booklet which has all the artists details and locations so that you can plan your visits.

"Whether you wish to buy an art work or just chat to the various artists over a cup of tea do bring family and friends and enjoy this wonderful event For further information about the event please go to"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pavilion meeting will aid consultation on county plans

A meeting in Llangollen early next month will aid consultation on Denbighshire County Council's plans to breathe new life into the local economy.

Councillors unanimously agreed earlier this Summer that the Council should consult on its draft Economic & Community Ambition Strategy, 'Developing Opportunities, Creating Confidence' .

A further consultation event takes place at the Pavilion, Llangollen on Thursday, September 5th between 6pm and 8pm.  

A focus group for the manufacturing industry will take place on Friday, September 6th at the Optic Centre, St Asaph at 8am, with a focus group for the Energy sector meeting on Monday, September 9th at 8am.

One of the Strategy's key headlines is the need to work together to make Denbighshire a place where businesses existing and new, grow and flourish; towns and communities are vibrant and prosper and all residents enjoy a good quality of life and can participate in the local economy

The Council hopes that by taking action to tackle the issues set out in the Strategy, results will be seen in less unemployment; higher household incomes; more successful and sustainable businesses; less deprivation; more people able to participate in the local economy and a higher profile for Denbighshire.

Have your say by visiting our website:  where you can access the complete consultation document and  complete a short response form..

Alternatively you can submit your views in writing to:  Mike Horrocks, Economic Ambition Strategy Consultation, Denbighshire County Council, Wynnstay Road, Ruthin, LL15 1YN.

The deadline for consultation responses to be completed and returned is 9th September 2013.

Show claims to uncover new evidence on Ripper murders

Jack the Ripper may have been nothing more than a myth created by sensational journalism at the time of the murders.  

That is one of the theories which will be put forward when a retired police officer who has made a 11-year study of the legendary murder mystery presents his show Jack the Ripper-A 21st Century Investigation at The Catrin Finch Centre in Wrexham on Friday, September 6. 

The show, presented by leading Ripper expert Trevor Marriott, is touring the UK throughout 2013 to mark the 125th anniversary of the Whitechapel murders in London in 1888. 
A reign of terror ensued when the killer who became known as the Ripper was blamed for a series of brutal and horrific murders which to this day remain unsolved.   

Since 2002 Marriott (pictured right), a retired murder squad detective,  has been conducting a cold case re-investigation of the murders.
For the past 125 years the mystery has captivated the imagination of people worldwide.
There have been over 100 books published and numerous films and television documentaries on the subject.
Marriott says many of these have over-dramatised and distorted the facts to the point where the public now accepts the fiction more readily than the facts.
He claims his own long and protracted  investigation has uncovered some “startling results” which completely dispel many of the original theories which have been readily accepted as being fact for over a century.
It was generally accepted that the murderer only killed five prostitutes between August and November 1888.
However, Marriott claims to have uncovered other murders outside of those dates both in London, the USA and Germany.
This, he says, has led to a new suspect emerging who has never been mentioned before and who had been arrested for committing a Ripper-like murder in the USA.
Marriott says his ongoing investigation disproves the accepted theory that the killer, after slaying some of the victims, removed vital organs from their bodies at the crime scenes taking them away with him.
And he says further investigative work has uncovered secret Metropolitan Police Special Branch records, never before made public, in which four new suspects are named and the contents of which now eliminate a number of the “prime suspects” who have been continuously investigated over the ensuing years.
Marriott believes that not all the Whitechapel murders were committed by the same killer and that, in fact, Jack the Ripper may have been nothing more than a myth created by sensational journalism at the time of the murders. 
Jack the Ripper- A 21st Century Investigation is a two-hour show hosted by Marriot himself in which he describes his lengthy investigation and discloses the results.  

The one-man show is packed with pictures from 1888, including original crime scene images of the victims, suspects and other original photographs from 1888 relative to the murders. 

The show’s advance publicity material warns:  “It should be noted that some of these photographs are of a disturbing and graphic nature which some persons may find disturbing. However, adequate notice is given during the show to avoid anyone becoming upset or distressed.” 

This show will coincide with the publication of  three new books written by Trevor Marriott entitled Jack the Ripper-The Secret Police Files, The Evil Within - The World’s Worst Serial Killers and a Victorian crime mystery novel based on the Whitechapel Murders called Prey Time. 

Marriott recently featured in a television documentary for the National Geographic Channel entitled Finding Jack the Ripper, which was shown worldwide. 

+ Catrin Finch Centre box office 01978 293293.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Operatic season to start with a bang

Llangollen Operatic Society’s new season begins on Tuesday 10th September with a get together in the studio at 7.30pm.

There's an exciting programme planned for 2013/2014, starting on Tuesday 10th December with the Christmas show, A Christmas Cracker.

More details will follow in due course. 

For the main production, society members will be performing their own take on WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s The Mikado from 14th to 17th May 2014.

Whilst keeping to the original score, replete with its beautiful melodies and trademark humour, the production will have a modern day setting and the characters real attitude.

With three griping little maids and a power hungry Katisha to name but a few, it promises to be a show like no other and will appeal to everyone, from Gilbert and Sullivan stalwarts to complete newcomers.   

Auditions will be held during November and company rehearsals will commence on the first Tuesday in January. 

If you would like to get involved with the Operatic either on stage or off, please contact Membership Secretary, Helen Belton, on 07718 368434 for further details.

The society welcomes all new members with or without experience and guarantees great camaraderie and lots of laughs.

The society's junior section, the Young Uns, has announced its next production will be the ever popular Oliver by Lionel Bart and will be performed on 6th, 7th and 8th February 2014.

Once again, the show will be produced by Tessa Orton-Jones with Elen Mair Roberts as Musical Director and this year Christine Dukes is Artistic Director.

The first meeting of the new season will be a social event on Monday 2nd September from 6:00pm until 8:00pm in the studio where we a DVD of last year’s show will be screened.

Rehearsals for the new production will then start on Monday 9th September.

The Young Uns are always pleased to welcome new members between the ages of 7 and 17 and no previous experience is needed, just lots of enthusias.

If you/your child would be interested in getting involved, please contact Tessa Orton-Jones on 07882 825292. 

The society's Travelling Troupe is available for bookings. So if you would like to add a touch of the West End to your event, contact Tracey on 07875 639533 or Louisa on 07989 985644 for further information.

In a message to friends and supporters, society chairman Mike Jones says:

"In the words of Bertolt Brecht, `a theatre without audience makes no sense' and as we embark on the new season,

"I would like to take the opportunity to express heartfelt thanks to the people of Llangollen and surrounding area for their continued support of Llangollen Operatic Society. 

"Founded in 1908, we are one of the oldest surviving artistic organisations in the town, which is testament not just to the hard work of the generations of players and production teams but also to those who have supported and enjoyed our shows year after year.

"Our senior section, Young Uns and Troupe all have exciting programmes ahead of them in 2013/2014 and we look forward to bringing you more of the high quality entertainment you have come to expect. 

"For further details of upcoming events and productions, please read Llanblogger, visit us at or follow us on Facebook. If you have any comments, questions or would like to get involved , please do not hesitate to contact me."

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Crime prevention event planned for Llandegla

Llangollen residents are being invited to a crime prevention event in Flintshire today (Sunday).
The event at Coed Llandegla Forest, Llandegla LL11 3AA on August 25 is from 10am - 4pm and is being organised and supported by North Wales Police, Cheshire Constabulary, community safety partnerships  from across North Wales and the One Planet Adventure Centre in Llandegla.
Visitors will be offered crime prevention advice and information on bicycle tagging devices, property marking kits and security equipment.
Activities will be taking place throughout the day including bicycle marking and registering and events at Coed Llandegla Forest.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ken Skates visits Llan food bank

* Clwyd South AM Ken Skates, right, with (from left) Matt’s Food
Bank volunteers Jean Onslow and Sheila Evans and church pastor Brian Smith.

Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates has paid tribute to the dedicated volunteers who run a ‘vital’ project in Llangollen to help feed a community’s most vulnerable people.
Mr Skates visited Matt’s Food Bank at City Church yesterday (Friday) to see how the team provides support to those in crisis by giving out emergency supplies.

The project was named in honour of the late Matt Price, the former manager of St Collen’s Community Hall in Llangollen, and offers people items of food when they are struggling to feed themselves or their families. It serves the Dee Valley from Corwen to Cefn Mawr.

Mr Skates said: “I understand it was a dream of Matt’s to create a food bank in our community – it was a vision that was shared and Matt’s Food Bank was officially opened in October 2012.

“It is a vital project designed to help some of the most deprived people in our area, and the work this team of dedicated volunteers do is amazing.

It shouldn’t be the case that in 21st century Britain we need projects like this to help feed people and families struggling to make ends meet. Sadly, however, food poverty is on the rise and schemes like this are having to step in more and more.

“While there are people in our communities who cannot afford to eat properly, projects like Matt’s Food Bank are a godsend. I cannot speak highly enough of the church volunteers who give up their time to help those in need.”
People struggling to make ends meet are given food vouchers by doctors, district nurses, schools, the Citizens Advice Bureau and other welfare agencies which can be redeemed at the church on Mondays and Fridays.

There are also drop-off points at the Llangollen Co-op and St Collen’s Church where members of the public can donate tins, packets and other non-perishable food.

The group also runs Matt’s Community Bite, which offers people in the local community a home-cooked meal and company every Monday and Friday from noon-2pm.

Church pastor Brian Smith said: “The aim is for people to have access to a friendly and safe environment where they have the opportunity to establish friendships and enjoy company whilst enjoyed tasty, home-cooked food. The food is free of charge and people are more than welcome to come along.”

The food bank is keen to get local businesses on board as sponsors, and also wants to establish more drop-out points in the area where food can be donated. If you can help, call Brian on 07957 728473.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dion has starring role in Llan food festival

* Graham and Dion.
One of world's most talented young chefs will have a starring role at a top food festival, it's been revealed.
Rising star Dion Jones, 25, will be hitting the culinary high notes at  Hamper Llangollen that's being held in the town on Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20.
Last year Dion, from Valley, Anglesey, and now living in Wrexham, became the first Briton beat rivals from around the globe to win the world’s oldest culinary competition, the International Escoffier Challenge in the South of France.
At Hamper Llangollen, now recognised as one of the UK's top 10 food festivals, Dion will be cooking up a Welsh feast with TV chef Graham Tinsley and Harri Williams.
* Harri.
The three chefs, who all compete for Wales in the Welsh National Culinary Team, will take over the main Pavilion kitchen throughout the Sunday for six demonstrations.
Dion hit the headlines again after he emerged in second place in one of the UK’s toughest-ever cooking competitions – the Roux Scholarship - judged by a host of celebrity chefs.
The competition reduced to 18 semi-finalists and just six finalists in 10 one hour-long episodes screened on the Watch TV channel.
Young chefs had to compete under pressure for the Godfathers of modern cuisine, the Roux family – brothers Michel and Albert and their equally legendary sons Alain and Michel Jnr.
As if that was not testing enough, the judging panel contained a stellar list of celebrity chef names, including Rick Stein, Angela Hartnett, James Martin, Raymond Blanc and Andrew Fairlie – the first ever winner of the Roux Scholarship.
“I came second overall in the competition which ran for 10 episodes,” said Dion. “I won various cash prizes and knives but it was the taking part which was the important thing.
“I was told it was ‘very close’ between myself and the guy who won, Paul O’Neal. Taking part in this has to rank alongside the International Escoffier win.
“The series was filmed in the Roux’ famous Le Gavroche and Waterside Inn restaurants and in Switzerland.”
After working at Grosvenor Pulford Hotel and Spa and De Vere Carden Park, Dion now works for Simon Rimmer at his Earle restaurant in Hale, commuting from his home in Tanyfron near Wrexham.
Dion says his mother Ann “pushed” him towards cookery and persuaded him to go to Coleg Menai. After that he never looked back. He too was a captain for the Welsh Junior National Culinary team and now competes in the senior team under team manager – and former boss Graham Tinsley.
This year's festival is being supported by the rural development agency, Cadwyn Clwyd.
Cadwyn Clwyd’s contribution came via the Rural Development Fund for Wales 2007-2013, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government
Welsh speaker Harri Williams, from Conwy, a chef at the award-winning Ellenborough Park Country House Hotel in Cheltenham, has just returned from Hong Kong.
“I was there for a week promoting Welsh produce for the Welsh Government,” said Harri, 21.
“We were taking part in a big show the idea of which was to find distributors for Welsh products and I was cooking Welsh produce for people to taste. It was a brilliant trip.”
Harri is captain of the Welsh Junior National Culinary, and led them to a silver medal at the Culinary Olympics last October in Germany.
He’s also been to No 10 Downing Street with his former boss Graham to cook for Prime Minster David Cameron at a star-studded get together on St David’s Day for a host of Welsh celebrities and sports stars.
His interest in cooking comes from his mum, Rhian Williams, co-founder and owner of the hugely successful Llanrwst-based bakery Siwgwr a Sbeis – a regular at the Llangollen Festival.
“I started working for Graham Tinsley when I was 15, first at the Castle Hotel in Conwy and then I moved with him to De Vere Carden Park Hotel and Spa in Cheshire,” said Harri, a De Vere Junior Chef of the Year. He started working at Cheltenham at the beginning of March but travels home to North Wales regularly.
Graham, executive chef at De Vere Carden Park and director of the Castle Hotel at Conwy, has taken the Welsh culinary team as high as seventh in the world rankings.
He said: “I must have been to Llangollen now about eight or nine times. It’s still a really good festival, and one of the friendly ones. I go to a lot of festivals which are ‘man-made’where tents and marquees are brought in. But at Llangollen you have the Pavilion and the great surroundings; it’s such an eye-catching place.”
Adopted Welshman Graham has enjoyed a distinguished career which has taken him to some of top hotels in the UK and Europe including working for Anton Mosimann at the prestigious Dorchester Hotel in London.
In 1991, Graham was head hunted to help develop and open the first four star hotel in North Wales - St David's Park Hotel in Ewloe. The hotel was such an overwhelming success that, in 1997, he was appointed to the team that developed and opened the renowned Carden Park Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort in Cheshire.
He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 80th birthday celebrations in 2006 for his services to the food industry.
He has cooked for the Queen and members of the Royal family on numerous occasions, as well as the Emperor of Japan and European Heads of State at Cardiff Castle. Prince Charles, as patron of the Welsh National Culinary Team, has requested that they cook for him and his guests at every formal occasion in Wales and Graham was invited to attend his wedding celebration at Windsor Castle.
Robert Price, Cadwyn Clwyd's agri-food project officer, said: "We are so lucky that North Wales is a hotbed of culinary talent and I am sure that Graham, Dion and Harri will put on a great show at this year's festival.
"In addition to many favourites, we have lots of new food producers wanting to come this year.
"The location of the Pavilion is absolutely  spectacular - I can't imagine that any other food festival in the UK has a more beautiful setting.
"It's also brilliant news for the local economy. If you buy from a local producer, all that money is recycled through the local economy and that sustains employment in our rural areas."
For more information about Hamper Llangollen 2013 go to:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Best GCSE results ever for Ysgol Dinas Bran

Year 11 students at Ysgol Dinas Bran have worked hard with staff to achieve the best overall GCSE  results ever, says the school.

Every student achieved at least 5 GCSE grades A* to C, and 100% of them notched up higher grades.

Notable individual achievements are: Steven Hughes, 5A*, 4As and 1B; Ffion Mitchell, 5A*s, 4As and 1B, Joanna Stallard, 5A*s, 4As and 1B; Bethan Phillips, 4A*s, 4As, 2Bs and 1C, Amar Azad, 3A*s, 6As and 1B; Morgan Hanley 3A*s, 4As, 2Bs and 1C; Maddy Brown, 2A*s, 6As and 1B; Owen Roberts, 2A*s, 5As, 4Bs and 1C; Anirudh Menon, 1A*, 6As, 1B and 3Cs; Alex Sergiou, 1A*, 6As, 1B and 2Cs;  Michael Jones, 1A*, 5As and 6Bs.

A school spokesperson said: "Congratulations to all ou students. We look forward to welcoming all students back to our flourishing Sixth Form. 

"Sign up day is on Friday 23rd, see you then!"

Hairy Bikers roar in to film at railway

* The Hairy Bikers, pictured left in green overalls, film at Llangollen Railway.

The forthcoming third episode of the popular Hairy Bikers series exploring heritage restoration projects is due to feature the duo's visit to Llangollen Railway.

Si King and Dave Myers came to Llangollen in the spring to help with a new locomotive project which aims to rebuild an example of an extinct Great Western express freight engine known as the ‘Night Owl’.

The project is being promoted by the Great Western Society at Didcot Railway Centre, Oxfordshire and the assembly work is being undertaken by Llangollen Railway’s engineering department. 

The project benefits from the fact that Great Western engines had many features in common and, by dismantling three derelict, ex-scrapyard locomotives which are surplus to requirements many of the parts needed for the rebuild have become available for incorporation into new framework.

The dismantling of the engines took place at Llangollen and during their visit the bikers assisted with the acquisition of parts from Great Western No.2861, a former heavy freight locomotive.

However, the major items missing from the list of components were two main driving wheels.

At 5ft 8 inches in diameter these had to be specially cast and the programme will feature the two presenters visiting the foundry where the wheels were specially made for delivery and, later, their assembly at Llangollen.

Project Engineering Manager, Paul Carpenter, said. “The programme will show what tremendous skills and abilities are available within the engineering team at Llangollen Railway. 

"The two presenters fully involved themselves with the work process during their visit which made a big impression on everyone involved. Their down to earth commentary on the tasks undertaken will make the processes comprehensible to viewers, as well as providing some light hearted entertainment.

“The successful completion of this project will produce a Great Western type of express freight locomotive which had otherwise been lost to preservation and it has been given No.4709 as the follow-on number in the Great Western series.”

George Jones, for Llangollen Railway, said: “The Night Owls, as they were nicknamed, were a batch of just nine large locomotives which mainly operated fast freights to London during the night.

"Locally the type is well remembered by rail fans for their appearance through Wrexham in the late
evening on the freight trains from Birkenhead conveying livestock to the markets at Smithfield in London, until that traffic ceased during the early 1960s.

“The trailer for next week’s episode showed the two presenters riding on the footplate of locomotive No.3802 at Llangollen and enjoying a hearty breakfast cooked in the traditional way - on the shovel heated in the engine’s firebox.”

The programme goes out on Sunday, 25 August 2013 at 9.00pm on BBC2.

Further details about the forthcoming episode will be found on the BBC2 website.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New stage group casts its first production

A new local amateur stage group has chosen the cast for its first production.

Llangollen Musical Theatre Group has been formed to complement existing organisations by staging contemporary musical theatre productions at the Llangollen Pavilion.
A Meet and Greet event, held on Tuesday, August 6, was extremely well attended.
Almost 40 people registered their interest in getting involved with the November 2013 production of the jukebox musical Return to the Forbidden Planet.
Auditions for the show, which is set on a spaceship and combines the story of Shakespeare's The Tempest with a soundtrack of 60s and 70s hits, were held the following week.
The show's director, Paul Brown, said: "The auditions highlighted what a wealth of talent there is in Llangollen and the surrounding area.
“Myself and our musical director, Nigel James, faced some agonising decisions. We're delighted with the cast we've assembled for what looks set to be a fantastic production.
"This is a truly rock and roll show, so it seems fitting that several of our cast are singers and musicians in bands that gig locally.
“Captain Tempest will be played by Geth Foulkes, who has performed at the Eisteddfod with his band The Sublimes.
“Bill Hughes, of rock covers band Rain, has previously starred in shows for Llangollen Operatic Society and Tip Top Productions and will be playing Doctor Prospero.
“Jo Potts will be a familiar face to Llangollen audiences, having starred in the Pantomime Group's productions for the past few years as well as playing bass with popular band The Truth. She'll be playing Doctor Prospero's daughter Miranda.
"We're also delighted to have some young up and coming talent on the stage. Lucas Howson has just sat his GCSE exams at Ysgol Rhiwabon, where he starred as Seymour in the school's production of Little Shop Of Horrors. He's studying theatre at Yale College from September, and I know he's going to be fantastic in the role of Bosun.
"Stuart Dillon, known to many as a member of local band The Docktors, will actually be reprising a role he last played 12 years ago. Stuart wowed audiences with his performance as Cookie when Ysgol Dinas Bran staged this show, and he can't wait to don his chef's whites once again! You can expect an incredible guitar solo during the song She's Not There."
The other members of the cast are Justine Bradey (Science Officer), NIco Decourt (Ariel the Robot), Tracey Rawlinson (Navigation Officer) and Jillian Handley and Leonie Anne Kirby (Damage Control Crew).
Return to the Forbidden Planet will be staged at the Llangollen Pavilion on Thursday 28th - Saturday 30th November.
Llangollen Musical Theatre Group will be staging a number of fundraising events throughout September and October, with the first being a walking treasure hunt around Llangollen.
+ More information is available on the group's Facebook page,, or by emailing

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Llangollen visited by locomotive film star

* The replica of the locomotive Planet is
visiting Llangollen Railway for a filming session. 
Llangollen railway has been turning back the clock to the early days of steam.
The  locomotive Planet and two vintage passenger coaches has arrived at Llangollen for a filming session.
The replica Planet normally resides at the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry.
It is a modern version of a locomotive design used on the original Liverpool & Manchester Railway, opened 1830, and was built in 1992. 
Quite apart from other details of its small design and appearance the tall chimney gives it away as a very early steam locomotive.
The engine, tender and two vintage coaches are at Llangollen for a brief filming session on the railway which will be used in a feature about the English artist Turner.
George Jones, press officer at Llangollen Railway, said: "It is wonderful to be able to host a visit by Planet which is a remarkable recreation of an early locomotive.
"It follows earlier appearances, in 2002, of the other L&MR replicas - Rocket, San Pareil and Novelty - which came to take part in a recreation of the Rainhill Trials of 1829 based around the station area at Carrog."
See picture below of loco as delivered to Llangollen Railway yard.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Speeding campaign starts today

Motorists who risk live by speeding will be targeted by North Wales Police as part of a week-long campaign.
The crackdown on speeding motorists is set to take place throughout Europe this week as part of the European-wide initiative to crack down on speeding motorists - starting today, Monday, August 19th until Sunday August 25th.
The TISPOL (European Traffic Police Network) campaign will see all police forces across Europe tackling speeding by conducting random speed checks.
North Wales Police Roads Policing Officers along with Go Safe will be combining their efforts to deter and detect motorists who choose to ignore the speed limits. Drivers who are caught speeding will be issued with anything from a Fixed Penalty Ticket to a summons to attend court.
The warning is issued on the day the announcement has been made that the cost of a fixed penalty notice for speeding has increased from £60 to £100.

Roads Policing Temporary Sergeant Mark Jones said: “Speeding is an issue that concerns many residents and one that we take extremely seriously.
“North Wales Police has a robust strategy around enforcing the ‘Fatal 5’ offences which are speeding, failing to wear a seat belt, drink and drug driving, dangerous and careless driving including unnecessary risk taking and using a mobile phone while driving.

“We are committed to assisting in reducing casualties on the road through the use of targeted enforcement operations around high risk groups of people and locations while enforcing the ‘Fatal 5’ offences.

“The risk of being seriously injured or killed rises dramatically if a decision is taken to commit a ‘Fatal 5’ offence and I want people to be aware of the devastating affect it can have and make a conscious decision not to take any chances.”
He added: “There is no doubt that this campaign will have a positive impact on road safety in North Wales and those who choose to ignore the speed limits can expect to be prosecuted for their actions.”
Further information regarding the increase in fines is available via the Department for Transport website

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Couple to le-launch historic biscuit at Llan festival

* James and Natasha Shepherd have revived the Aberffraw Biscuit.

A sweet-toothed couple have revived the oldest biscuit in Britain that dates back to the 13th century.

James Shepherd and his wife, Natasha, have set up a company to make the historic Aberffraw Biscuit which was first baked in the Anglesey village of the same name 800 years ago.

The tasty scallop-shaped biscuit will be launched at the new products section of Hamper Llangollen, the 16th Llangollen food and drink festival on October 19-20, which is now officially one of the UK’s top 10 food festivals.

The couple have taken the basic ancient shortbread recipe and use only premium Welsh ingredients to produce a very moreish biscuit in a variety of flavours.

James, originally from Llandudno, and Natasha, a Welsh-speaker from Trefriw, met at Leicester University, married 10 years ago and have two children Rowan, seven, and Jasmine, five, both pupils at Ysgol Bro Aled in Llansannan.

While Natasha continues to work part-time for a governmental agency, James – whose background is in journalism – is developing Aberffraw Biscuit Company and is co-founder of Yoller, a web design and digital marketing agency.

“We were watching the Great British Bake Off last October and they had a feature about the Aberffraw biscuit.

“We started chatting about it and realised that despite the fact we were both from North Wales and lived here all our lives, we had never even heard of it, never mind the fact it was supposed to be Britain’s oldest biscuit,” said James.

“The first thing I did was to buy the domain names for the website and then did some research to build an informational website and start developing a business plan.”

An enthusiastic home cook and amateur baker, James makes the biscuits and even designs the packaging.

Along the way he has received plenty of expert help. “I was introduced to the founder of Patchwork Pate, Margaret Carter from Ruthin, who does brilliant work mentoring young entrepreneurs.

“Then I was introduced to Roberet Price at the rural development agency Cadwyn Clwyd and he put me in touch Coleg Menai’s food technology centre at Llangefni and now I’m looking at rural business support grants.”

“From the start we wanted everything to be as authentic as possible, from the unique stamp for the scallop shape of the biscuit to the ingredients which include Calon Wen organic butter and Bacheldre Mill stoneground organic unbleached flour.

“The biscuit has a great marketing story. When you think about it all the gift shops and tourist shops in North Wales all seem to sell Scottish shortbread and I would just like to get them out and the Aberffraw in.

The Aberffraw biscuit (or sometimes Aberffraw cake) and is said to originate from 13th Century Anglesey.

Legend has it that a Welsh king was holding court in Aberffraw and his wife was walking on the beach there and, spotting a pretty scallop shell, asked for a cake to be baked in the same form.

A far more realistic source for the biscuit was the famous pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

This pilgrimage to the church of St James in Galicia, north western Spain, began in about the 8th Century with pilgrims wearing badges on their hat in the shape of a scallop shell.

It’s for this reason Aberffraw biscuits are sometimes also called James cakes. Under the patronage of King Gruffudd ap Cynan (1075-1137) or his son and successor Owain Gwynedd (1137-70), a stone church was built at Aberffraw with Romanesque features similar to 12th Century churches on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

This building is the final link to the scallop shell of St James pilgrims and the small Welsh village of Aberffraw.

The Aberffraw biscuit also appeared in the famous Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery in 1892.

“Aberffraw Biscuit Co is all about resurrecting a piece of great history… the oldest biscuit recipe in Britain. We want to rekindle this gem of Welsh heritage and bring it to wider attention for people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities to enjoy,” said James.

The flavours produced are chocolate, lemon, orange, traditional and vanilla.

James worked for the Rhyl and Prestatyn Visitor, North Wales Weekly News, and the Flintshire Chronicle where he was news editor and finally at the group’s Chester headquarters as its digital editor.

He left journalism in 2011 to work for kitchenware group Meyer at Bromborough where he headed up their e.commerce division. He is still retained by the group in that capacity on a freelance contract.

Cadwyn Clwyd’s contribution to Hamper Llangollen comes via the Rural Development Fund for Wales 2007-2013, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government.

Robert Price said: “One of the main aims of the festival is to provide a show window for our wonderful array of food producers.

“This year we have decided to have a special section devoted to new products like the Aberffraw Biscuit so that we can showcase what they have to offer.

“We were thrilled to be named as one of the top 10 festivals in the UK and this year’s event is looking as if it is going to be one of the best ever.

“The location of the Pavilion is absolutely  spectacular – I can’t imagine that any other food festival in the UK has a more beautiful setting.”

Check out Aberffraw biscuits at and Hamper Llangollen at

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Meeting will discuss town's new health centre plans

Health board officials have explained the reason behind a meeting of an organisation called the Stakeholder Reference Group at Llangollen Pavilion next month.

Llanblogger has had sight of an invitation to the meeting on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 11.
However, it wasn’t clear from the invitation who exactly belongs to the group, what the exact purpose of the meeting is and who is entitled to attend.
We sought and explanation from the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which issued the invitation, and a spokesperson said: “The Stakeholder Reference Group is a group of local stakeholders for the South Denbighshire and South Wrexham localities who have met a number of times over the past two years in workshop style meetings to consider and review the proposals for changes to healthcare services in the Llangollen area. 
“The invited group has included local elected members, representatives from Denbighshire and Wrexham Social Services, the Llangollen Hospital Association of Friends, the Llangollen GP practice, the CHC, the DVSC and AVOW, acting on behalf of the third sector, and the leads within the health boards for primary care services amongst others. 
“One of the proposals was the development of a Primary Care Resource Centre – or more simply a Health Centre - within Llangollen.
“It is intended that the Stakeholder Reference Group event on the 11th of September at The Pavilion will provide an opportunity for the current plans for the Health Centre to be presented back to the group and for an update from the Health Board to be given on some of the issues raised at a public presentation of the plans which was held on the 11th June in the Town Hall.”
The spokesperson is still checking whether llanblogger will be able to be there to cover the meeting.