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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Vicar blesses the beer aboard real ale train

* Father Lee performs the beer blessing as real ale train travellers watch.

* The vicar says cheers to the train as it pulls out of the station.

Llangollen's new vicar gave a blessing to the beer aboard a real ale train just before it steamed out of the town’s heritage railway station yesterday (Saturday) evening.

Father Lee Taylor, who took over at St Collen’s and three other churches in the Valle Crucis Mission Area last Christmas, believes that reviving the ancient ceremony which goes back to medieval times is a good way of taking the church out into the community.

So as the steam train prepared to leave the platform Father Lee was on hand in his full regalia to say some specially chosen words over the local brews that were about to be downed by a trainload of real ale lovers.

He said: “Back in medieval times it wasn’t unusual for priests to be called upon to bless all sorts of things, such as cheese, workmen’s tools or crops planted for harvest.

“It’s a way of the church responding to various activities in the community and a fun way of celebrating something that’s very good.”

Father Lee, whose mother was landlady at a couple of pubs back in his native Lancashire, added: “The beer blessing itself goes back to 1614 and inaugurated in the time of Pope Pius V.

"There also a link with St Collen's because on the church roof is a depiction of a men with barrels.

“I performed the ritual in English and used holy water and incense in the ceremony.

“Saint Arnold of Soissons, whose feast day is on August 14, and Saint Arnulf of Metz, whose day is on July 18, are both patron saints of beer and hop-pickers, so if any pubs or hotels in Llangollen would like their beer blessed on those days then let me know."

Earlier in the day he had been on BBC Radio Wales to explain what he was going to do and a TV camera crew were at the station to record the blessing.

This wasn't be the first time that Father Lee, who later joined travellers in a couple of pints himself, had carried out his beer blessing ceremony.

Back in 2016 he hit the national headlines when he blessed the casks at his local pub when he was part of the clergy team at Croydon Minster in London.

And soon after he arrived in Llangollen a gathering of parishioners and friends watched him bless his new vicarage in Abbey Road.

Llangollen heritage railway’s business manager, the aptly-named Liz McGuinness, also raised a glass to Father Lee’s ceremony.

She said: “This is a great idea. We are so pleased that Lee took out to re-enact an age old tradition. Everyone on the train enjoyed it very much.”

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Eisteddfod inclusion project gets £5,000 boost

* St Christopher's, Wrexham in a previous inclusion project performance at the eisteddfod.

Wrexham-based Grosvenor Insurance Services has donated £5,000 to ensure a community inclusion initiative can be performed at this summer’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod. 

The festival’s Inclusion Project has been running for 10 years, helping promote unity and diversity throughout North Wales, Shropshire and Cheshire. 
A diverse mix of local disability and community groups whose members would not usually have the opportunity to perform at international events will practice together over the coming months culminating in a unique performance on the main stage at the festival in July. 
Theatretrain Regional Choir from Mold and Derwen on Tour, a performance group from Oswestry’s Derwen College that uses Makaton signs to help children who have no speech, will be returning this year. 

New groups joining them will be Wrexham One Love Choir, whose members have experienced homelessness, addiction and mental health issues, Wrexham Singing Hands from Wrexham Deaf Club and Rhyl-based mental health ukulele group, Mind Tones.

The festival recently reached out to the local business community to secure funding to ensure it can continue delivering the Inclusion Project. 
The donation from Grosvenor Insurance Services will help fund the costs of the project.
Sandra Humphreys, Wrexham branch chairman of Grosvenor Insurance Services, said: “We were blown away by the incredibly talented groups and the inspiring work involved in  Llangollen Eisteddfod’s Inclusion Project last year, as they celebrated 10 years of the initiative.
“We’re very proud to support this great cause that unites local community groups, builds people’s confidence and helps them achieve amazing things.”
Tapestry will be the project's theme for 2019, an idea inspired by a quote from Maya Angelou – “We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color”.
Eisteddfod music director Dr Edward-Rhys Harry said: “Providing equal opportunities for all to contribute to world peace and unity is what the Llangollen Eisteddfod works tirelessly to promote.
“Thanks to the generous support of Grosvenor Insurance Services with their donation towards the cost of the Inclusion Project, it has been able to continue its life-changing work and enables people from all walks of life to perform on the eisteddfod stage."

The eisteddfod will run from Monday 1st-Sunday 7th July with competitions and performances running every day and evening, including Jools Holland, Rolando Villazón and Gipsy Kings.
* To discover more about the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod visit:

Friday, March 29, 2019

Announcement on Royal at Three Eagles official opening

The town mayor, Cllr Jon Haddy, cut a red ribbon to officially declare open the Three Eagles restaurant bar in Bridge Street Llangollen earlier today (Friday). Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates, standing on his left, was among the invited guests. 

During the the event Three Eagles owner Matt Jones announced that, along with a business partner, his group had acquired the Royal Hotel. He said they intend to fully renovate and upgrade the building and service, offering facilities such as a fine dining restaurant and luxury spa.

Mayor hosts annual town meeting

* The mayor, Cllr Jon Haddy, addresses the town meeting.
Llangollen Town Council has had a busy year during which it opened the new Centenary Square and embarked on a major project to properly repair the Town Hall.
That was the message from the Mayor, Cllr Jon Haddy, to members of the public who turned up to hear his annual progress report at the town hall last night (Thursday).
Cllr Haddy described the opening of the new square at the junction of Bridge Street and Castle Street during eisteddod week last July as a “grand success” and said that within an hour of the contractors moving out the new facility was already in use as a performance area for a group of visiting dancers from the eisteddfod.
He explained that the original plan for the square had included more seating along the back wall but this had been temporarily shelved when the council ran out of cash to complete it.
However, he said that with enough money now available the planned extra seating was expected to be added in the near future.
One of the outstanding uses of the square, he said, had been the poppy wall produced and erected by a dedicated band of volunteers led by Cllr Sheena Grindley to mark the centenary of the end of World War One last November.
This, said Cllr Haddy, had been a “sensation” and had brought people into the town specifically to see it.
Another milestone during the year, he explained, had been the formation by the Town Council of the Shape My Llangollen whose group of volunteers and town councillors was gathering the views of the community on what Llangollen people wanted to see in Denbighshire County Council’s next Local Development Plan.
The mayor also noted the achievement of Llangollen of officially becoming a plastic-free town and adopting a single-use plastic policy under the auspices of the council’s Cittaslow Committee.
During the year the council had assumed full ownership of the facelifted Chain Bridge after Llantysilio Community Council had relinquished its 50 per cent share of the tourist attraction on the River Dee.
The Town Council had also resumed its community grants scheme, which during the year had seen a dozen community groups each benefit from £500 cash awards.
The major project now being undertaken by the council, he said, was the restoration of the town hall to a proper state of repair.
The council took over ownership of the building from the county six years ago, paying just a £1 for it. However, a number of urgent maintenance issues were now presenting themselves.
Leaks from the roof and subsequent water ingress had recently cost many thousands of pounds to repair but further structural problems were now cropping up which needed attention, said Cllr Haddy.
That was why the council had budgeted to spend a further £35,000 on repairs over the next three years to cover repairs to the roof, the electrics and fire alarm.

To raise the necessary cash the mayor said it had been decided to raise the town council’s share of the council tax bill – known as the precept – by £15.71 for the forthcoming financial year.
“We all thought this way the best way forward,” he explained.
“We also did this to raise money to do Centenary Square. If we had borrowed the money for the town hall we’d have been playing financial chase-up.”
He added: “Here in Llangollen we do raise money, we do spend it and spend it wisely and so far the results have been quite good.”
When he threw open the floor to questions, it was pointed out by an audience member that Llangollen was set to introduce the highest council tax rise in Denbighshire at 26.6 per cent and asked why the town council couldn’t be “more honest” about how much people were having to pay in its announcements about the precept.
Cllr Haddy admitted the town was now the most expensive in the county but explained that other areas had a comparatively larger population from which to raise tax revenue.
He said: “We need the extra money to pay for the repairs to the town hall and we are not raising money for the fun of it. Once that job is complete the precept will fall back.”
He added that the town hall had been taken over from the county to preserve a major local asset which was heavily used by the local community and would therefore be a “massive loss” if it was not available.
The mayor dealt with further questions about:
* Who was responsible for cleaning Centenary Square – it is the town council.
* The empty shop which the council owns at the front of the town hall – it is due to be leased in the next few weeks
* The state of repair of Llangollen Bridge – replying a “it is a county council responsibility but as far as we know it is fit for purpose.”

llanblogger's Phil honoured for community service

* llanblogger's Phil Robinson receives his award from Mayor Jon Haddy.

The man who runs llanblogger, Phil Robinson, was among five individuals and groups who were presented with Mayor's Civic Awards for their service to the community at the start of last night's annual Llangollen town meeting.

Journalist Phil, who started the online free-to-use news blog almost seven years ago, was honoured along with David "Dai" Thomas, who was recognised for his long service as local Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal co-ordinator and the voice behind the intonation of names of the fallen at the annual Remembrance Service, and Lesley Richards of Courtyard Books who helps out with a large number of voluntary groups and organisations.

Also receiving awards were the Tidy Town Team, whose band of dedicated volunteers keep the town looking clean and well presented, and the Christmas Festival Committee whose members organise and run the annual event which brings thousands flocking to the town.   

* Dai Thomas is presented with his award.

 * Lesley Richards is honoured.

* Nick Dilley receives the award on behalf of the Tidy Town Team

* Ian Parry accepts the award on behalf the Christmas Festival Committee.

* All the award recipients line up with the mayor.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Willow weaving demonstrated at Pengwern by AONB

Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) staged a successful willow weaving morning at Pengwern Community Centre yesterday (Wednesday).

As part of the AONB's Nature for Health programme the ancient technique was demonstrated to an appreciative audience of around 20 people by expert Mandy Coates (pictured below) who then had a chance to try it out for themselves.

Police boss concerned over "lenient" paedophile sentences

* Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones. 

A police boss has written to the Attorney General expressing concern about “unduly lenient” sentences given to paedophiles after a man who hoarded 300,000 child abuse videos and pictures escaped jail.

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones says it was “particularly alarming” that only a quarter of the people sentenced for making, distributing or publishing child sex abuse images in 2017 were sent to prison.

In the letter, Mr Jones referred to the case of James Moran, from Prestatyn, who stored the vile images on his computer hard drive.
They included children aged from six months to 17 years, and were kept in hidden files with names such as "more work".
He had used specialist software to conduct internet searches for terms like "jail bait gallery".
He had made 18,186 images and 99 movies - 220 of them of the most serious type, Category A.
A further 293,800 images and films had been found but because of the sheer number of them they had not been categorised.
After pleading guilty at Mold Crown Court last November, Mr Moran was given a 14-month suspended sentence, 60 days’ rehabilitation and 200 hours of community service.
Mr Jones wrote: “This was the latest case in a series of cases whereby defendants who’ve committed offences in contravention of the Protection of Children Act 1978 are given what’s perceived by members of the public to be unduly lenient sentences. 
“Given the seriousness of such offending behaviour, I agree that such sentences do appear lenient and I have real concerns about some of the sentences given to paedophiles.
“The fact that only a quarter of the 2,528 people sentenced for making, distributing or publishing child sex abuse images in 2017 were jailed is particularly alarming.
“Such offences are an abhorrence to our society and should be treated as so. The sentencing needs to be a deterrent. People need to realise that when they commit certain offences, the penalty will fit the crime.

“I fully understand that sentencing in respect of offences in contravention of the Protection of Children Act 1978 cannot currently be reviewed for being ‘unduly lenient’ since such offences aren’t included in the list of offences which can be reviewed.

“However, since sentencing for direct sexual assault can be challenged for being unduly lenient, and downloading and sharing images of child abuse is as damaging and insidious a crime as direct sexual assault, I believe that such offences should be on the list.    

“I further understand that you are considering adding further offences, including indecent images of children offences to the list of offences which can be reviewed under the unduly lenient process. I write this letter to express my support and would urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to include these offences in any such revised list.    

“Anyone who has been found guilty has the right to appeal against the severity of their sentence. In a civilised society, that is right and there is a procedure for it.

“However, the procedure for victims to appeal against the undue leniency of a sentence is incredibly perverse. The guidance is extremely ambiguous: “Only certain types of case can be reviewed, including…murder…rape…robbery…some child sex crimes and child cruelty…some serious fraud…some serious drug crimes…some terror-related offences”.

This ambiguity makes it hugely testing for the public which I represent to comprehend what can and cannot be appealed against.

“It is fundamentally unfair that victims do not have the same rights as the perpetrators.
“I understand that it is impossible to hand out custodial sentences for every crime and indeed it would be unjust to do so.

“However, I also understand that the punishment must fit the crime and there are an increasing number of indecent images offences that are not punished accordingly.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Town's annual meeting tomorrow

Llangollen Town Council will hold its annual meeting at the Town Hall tomorrow (Thursday) evening.

Starting at 7pm, the format will be a short report from the Town Mayor, Cllr Jon Haddy, on achievements and future plans, followed by an opportunity for the public to ask questions and raise any issues of concern.

Funding available for business broadband

Welsh businesses are now eligible to apply for funding up to £5,500 of government funding towards getting Gigabit broadband installed on their premises.

The Welsh and UK governments have teamed up to help improve connectivity in some of the most rural parts of the country, while also making it cheaper for businesses to take advantage of speedier connections to better conduct business.

Although superfast broadband is available around most of Wales, this scheme would help boost connectivity in the remaining 5% of areas that currently don’t have such fast internet.
“This exclusive scheme for Welsh businesses and communities is a vital part of our modern Industrial Strategy and build a Britain that is fit for the future,” said UK Minister for Digital Margot James.

“Working with the Welsh Government, together we can make sure that everyone in Wales has the connectivity they need for the digital age.”

Overall, the Welsh and UK governments have put aside a pot of £200 million to support superfast broadband in Wales, with the mission to connect 733,000 Welsh homes and businesses that commercial broadband businesses had not included in their plans to provide faster broadband.

“This voucher scheme can provide a vital funding source for group connectivity projects, and could be of great benefit to communities currently without access,” said Deputy Minister for Economy Lee Waters.

“I’m pleased we’ve been able to work with the UK Government to provide an enhanced scheme for Wales, taking into account the particular challenges we face here with geography and the location of premises.”

From 2020, the government will roll out its Universal Service Obligation that makes superfast broadband a legal right for all homes and businesses in the UK.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

I'll listen and consider people's needs before I vote, says MP

After MPs took the Brexit initiative in Parliament, llanblogger asked Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones (pictured below) what she was likely to do next. Here is her response ...

"I think what’s happened this week in Parliament is the inevitable consequence of Theresa May losing her majority at the General Election she decided to call in 2017. She could have then reached out across Parliament to gain a real consensus that brought people together. She chose not to do that and instead came back with a poor Deal that most MPs, Leavers and Remainers, could not accept. That was all made far worse when she refused to listen to other views and just kept running down the clock to a No Deal Brexit (something my party and I personally adamantly opposed in the General Election).

In terms of what happens next, we don’t yet know what the process will be. But my big concern is in bringing people from our area closer together and getting a solution that protects our economy and gives people, including young people, a real say.

I have had a large volume of letters and emails from constituents and they contain many different views. These range from electors who want a Hard No Deal Brexit (“even if it costs me my job”, in the words of one resident) to those who believe Article 50 should be revoked. Incredibly, at the time of writing this, 3,904 Clwyd South electors have signed the  petition on the Parliament website calling for Article 50’s revocation. Usually, such petitions get a couple of hundred signatures from our area. This one is on more than 26% of the vote the Tories got here in the General Election and well over the combined total of votes cast for the smaller parties of UKIP, the Lib Dems and Plaid. It’s an incredible figure.

It’s impossible for any one MP to reflect every local opinion. That’s why I think we need to be putting the question to the public by offering a binding, confirming vote on whether they want Theresa May’s deal. This is exactly what happened in Northern Ireland with the Good Friday Agreement - get an actual deal, ask the people and implement that without taking it back to Parliament. I think it’s what we need to do now too.

But if that doesn’t succeed on the numbers in Parliament, I think we also need to be open to voting for other options including customs union and single market membership. The last thing I think we need at the moment is MPs who are unwilling to listen and work with others. Tomorrow, I’ll be listening and co-operating and trying to put the needs of our area first when I consider how to vote."

Eisteddfod Friends hold fundraising coffee morning

The FRIENDS of Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod will begin their annual fundraising for the 2019 event with a coffee morning at Llangollen Memorial Hall today, Tuesday March 26.

All are welcome and entry is just £1 between 9.30am and midday. 

You can go along and enjoy a tea or coffee and treat yourself to something from our cake stall, try your luck on the tombola or pick up a bargain in our bric-a-brac sale.

The FRIENDS organisation is a separate charity from the Eisteddfod and has been supporting the event for almost 45 years raising over £500,000 in this time. 

Members of FRIENDS come from all over the world and play an important role is spreading the Eisteddfod’s message and appeal. 

Members also benefit from priority booking, news and updates throughout the year and have their own hospitality area on the Eisteddfod field during the week, which is a great place to meet new and old friends.

Chair of FRIENDS Barrie Potter said “We are delighted to begin our annual series of coffee mornings and all proceeds will be going towards the Eisteddfod Bursary fund. This fund offers financial assistance to international visitors coming to Llangollen such as the wonderful Mother Touch children’s group from Zimbabwe who charmed the crowds both on and off the field with their performances last year."

* For details of what’s on at this year’s Eisteddfod visit our website  or for information on how to join FRIENDS visit or call the Eisteddfod office on 01978 862000.

Three Eagles has official opening on Friday

* The frontage of the Three Eagles.

* The interior of the new business.

The Three Eagles Restaurant & Bar in Llangollen will have its official opening this Friday.

The event is set to host a number of invited guests, including Welsh Labour’s Minister for Economy and Transport Ken Skates as well as local business owners, investors and members of the press.

Attendees to the event will be given a tour of the ancient building which has been subject to a major renovation and will also be offered the opportunity to experience first-hand the culinary talents of acclaimed executive chef Adam Gaunt-Evans. 

Matt Jones is the managing director of One Hundred Knights, the hospitality group behind the Three Eagles and exclusive wedding venue, Tyn Dwr Hall. 

He will be on hand to deliver a talk on the success of the business which will be followed by a "major announcement"’ that the group says will have "a significant impact both regionally and nationally".

The Three Eagles first opened its doors to customers at the very end of last December.

“Up to now, the whole team involved with the Three Eagles have been working tirelessly to ensure that the business has been able to get up to the standard we have wanted to set from the outset” said Mr Jones. 

“We’ve seen a great response to the business locally and we are seeing evidence that guests are being attracted from across North Wales and from over the border region to come and dine here.”

“Holding the Official Opening Event on the 29th will be a really great way to properly mark the already very promising beginning to the Three Eagles story. To share this moment with some of the most respected people in the area and other local businessmen and women will be a real honour.”

Mr Jones said he is now very keen to reveal One Hundred Knights’ future plans and anticipates a high level of interest to come from the next development.

“Myself and the team are unbelievably excited about the next step we’re about to take and we really can’t wait to share the news about it with our guests”, he added. “I think the plans that we have in store are very impressive.”

The Swift way to an affordable hot hatchback

* The Suzuki Swift Sport.

* Inside the Sport model. 

Suzuki Swift Sport road test by Steve Rogers

Is it just me or is there a lack of small, affordable hot hatchbacks around?

You are looking at more than 30 grand for the big names - Golf GTI, Honda Civic Type R, Focus RS, Seat Leon Cupra.

What if I want to spend less than £20k? Let me point you in the direction of the Suzuki Swift Sport. 

Not the first name to trip off the tongue may be, but definitely the most underrated.

In its own quiet way the Swift has been delighting its owners for more than a decade, while the Sport model has been perfect for speed lovers with a small bank account.

Not that the Sport has ever been red hot. The 1.6 litre 16-valver could only muster around 134bhp, not as much as a Peugeot 205 GTi or the 'once driven never forgotten' Renault Clio Williams of the early nineties, yet you will not find anyone complaining.

Now we have a new Swift Sport ... with a smaller engine. Come again, a smaller engine? Yes, but don't worry, it is quicker, cleaner, and does more to the gallon. The turbo charged 1.4 Boosterjet has been making a name for itself in the Vitara and now its cutting a dash in the Sport.

Output is still a modest 138bhp but there has been a sizeable increase in torque - 230Nm against 160Nm for the normally aspirated 1.6. Now response is rapid with a satisfying surge from 2500rpm, much earlier than before.

Some of this extra performance is down to a new platform which has allowed the Sport to shed 70kg but the real winner is handling. Although lighter the bodyshell is stiffer so the car never gets flustered even if the accelerator is stabbed mid bend. You can imagine the Sport saying 'bring it on'.

Nimble and very capable sums it up, an easy car to drive quickly through twists and turns.

So what has Suzuki done to justify a price hike to £18k. Basically it has loaded Swift Sport with a heap of new technology that includes a suite of safety features. Lane drift warning, radar cruise control, pedestrian detection, autonomous braking if you ignore the warning sounds of a vehicle a little too close for comfort make this the safest Swift ever built.

I would like to have seen an end to the hard plastic trim but what's there feels solid rather than cheap, and Sport benefits from subtle shiny red accent panels throughout the cabin. There is another red hot theme reminder with red piping on the seats and red lighting in the instrument binnacle.

The binnacle has an information panel well suited to performance anoraks with coloured graphics for turbo boost, engine output and torque data. There is other more meaningful stuff like what the car is doing to the gallon, average speed and a smart clock, but with all this technology there is no room for a digital speedometer.

Come on Suzuki, you must have enough brain power to sort that out, it is far more useful than being able to see how the turbo charger is performing!

Overall the equipment level is good with a 7inch touchscreen for navigation, DAB radio and all the Bluetooth connections. Auto dipping headlights is a great addition and there is a rear camera which had rather poor definition possible down to an intrusion from the rear spoiler.

Is there anything not to like about Swift Sport? Not really, the ride is a little harsh but no more than to be expected from hottish hatch, and there is above average road noise but who cares when you can have so much fun from an inexpensive, well appointed speedster which is bordering on brilliant.

Fast facts

Swift Sport
1.4 litre turbo; 138bhp
0-62mph 8.1secs; 130mph
50.4mpg combined
Emissions: 135g/km
1st year road tax £205
Insurance group 35

Monday, March 25, 2019

Councillor says army should have helped tackle mountain fire

Hundreds of thousands of pounds and hundreds of acres of land could have been saved if the army had been called in to assist with a mountain fire, according to a county councillor.
Mabon ap Gwynfor, who represents the Llandrillo ward in the Dee Valley, said that the fire on Llantysilio Mountain near Llangollen last summer might have been put out sooner saving money, acres of mountain land, and freeing up firefighters to concentrate on other issues across north Wales.
The Plaid Cymru councillor (pictured) also said that more planning needed to be done to prepare for major weather-related events following evidence showing that there was no clear leadership nor lines of accountability during the first days of the fire on the mountain.
He said: “If you contrast the fire on Llantysilio Mountain with the one on Saddleworth Moor a month earlier, the army were called in by Greater Manchester Fire Authority within a few days of the Saddleworth Moor fire starting. 
"One hundred army personnel were involved as well as their equipment, including helicopters. This helped ensure that fire went out in a matter of days. The army recouped £42,000 for their part in that incident.
“By contrast the fire on Llantysilio Mountain went on for two months, firefighters from every fire station in north Wales had to be brought in to fight the fire and it cost the Fire Authority in excess of £290,000.
“I appreciate that senior officers of the Fire Authority felt that at no point did they think that they could not deal with this fire, and there’s no doubting the commitment and dedication of the firefighters, but the fact remains that the fire went on for many, many weeks, leading to huge damage being done to a vast tract of land. 
"Added to this, all of the fire stations across north Wales were involved in this fire at some point or another, meaning that these firefighters were not available in the case of any other instances. If the army had been called in then the fire might have been put out sooner, freeing up those firefighters and potentially saving some money at the same time.
“One of the key agencies involved should at least have raised the prospect of calling in the army to help tackle the fire. It’s certainly a lesson from this incident, and should be considered in the future.”
Cllr ap Gwynfor said that lessons should be learned from the fire.
“There are certainly lessons to be learned from the fire on Llantysilio mountain. The majority of my ward is made up of vast tracts of the Berwyn which could also have easily gone up in flames, and I must admit that I didn’t have much confidence that systems are in place to tackle such eventualities as I came away from the evidence gathering session in Llangollen [last Wednesday as reported in llanblogger].
“The firefighters and other agency workers worked tirelessly to tackle the fire and ensure that no life or property was threatened. But it was evident that there was no clear line of command and certainly no plans put in place in the event of such a catastrophe.
“I would hope that the key agencies will now come together and formulate a plan in preparation for such an eventuality, so that it’s clear from the word go what is expected of each agency and individual, and who takes the key decisions.”

Llangollen Scouting is looking to expand

* Above and below: Llangollen youngsters go scouting for adventure.

Leader Joanne Gregory gives an insight into the success of Llangollen Scouting

Did you know that Scouting has been around for nearly 112 years and in Llangollen for over 100 of them (if we ignore the blips when we couldn't find adult leaders)?

And 112 years on, Scouting is more relevant than ever, offering a mix of modern and traditional activities which allow our youth members to develop skills for life to help them survive and succeed in this increasingly stressful adult world.

Llangollen Scout Group do it well. From six-year-old Beavers experiencing their first night away from home (and yes, learning to pack up after themselves and wash up by hand) through Cubs (becoming experienced campers) and on to Scouts where adventure and adrenaline rises before settling down into chilled out and confident in Explorers, the group offers amazing opportunities and experiences.

International trips are becoming increasingly popular, with Explorers from Llangollen being part of a group that undertook a 10-day expedition through Bosnia last year aided by our Scouting colleagues in the country - a real benefit to being a global organisation - and our Scouts thinking about packing their bags for their trip to Kandersteg, the international Scout Centre in Switzerland this summer. 

We offer Bronze, Silver and Gold level Duke of Edinburgh Award support with expeditions on offer by foot or canoe - canoe is more popular.

The issue with all of this is we've become popular. We've been running with a 12-month waiting list for Beavers and had to refuse Cub places to anyone not in Beavers. And that's not fair. So we've made the decision, we've got to expand.

All of this is offered by a team of volunteers. A slightly mad bunch, who get a buzz out of seeing what our young members get out of Scouting as well as getting the opportunity to carry on enjoying fun activities themselves. 

The leadership team has grown well over the last few months which has helped our development massively and we now have a really strong, experienced team in every section. 

But there's always room for more. So if you fancy trying something new in life, need a laugh, or just fancy being part of a successful team, please get in touch. Time commitment is totally flexible to suit you.

* For details, contact Joanne by emailing her at: 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Railway's Corwen project praised in Senedd

* The new signalbox is lowered into place at the Corwen end of the line. 

North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has raised the support needs of Llangollen Railway’s Corwen Project with the Welsh Government.

Speaking in the chamber during this week’s Business Statement, Mr Isherwood outlined the work that has been completed to date by volunteers, but said additional funding is required to complete the project.

Raising the matter when calling for a Welsh Government Statement on support for standard gauge heritage railways in Wales, he said: “I've been asked to bring to the attention of elected representatives an article in the Denbighshire Free Press earlier this month on Llangollen Railway's Corwen project. 

"This said that volunteers building the link between two Denbighshire towns say they need £10,000 to finally complete the project. They've completed 10 miles of the line between Llangollen and Corwen since trains stopped running 45 years ago, a platform has been created, but a gap remains in the embankment between the new station in Corwen and the rest of the line, and the aim is to fill that gap.

“The project for the terminal is costing about £1 million. Approximately £600,000 has been down to the work of volunteers, and they want to, hopefully, complete this before the summer season, because attracting people to join the train at Corwen is essential and the town will benefit from the additional visitors too.

“If I could call for a statement on support for our standard gauge heritage railways - because we know the Welsh Government does support our narrow gauge heritage railways - and applaud and see how we can support that massive volunteering effort, which is not only delivering heritage projects, but also offering so much to the tourism and broader economies of areas that so much need that stimulus.”

Responding, the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans AM, said: “I will make sure that the appropriate Minister writes to you regarding the standard gauge heritage railways, but I will take this opportunity to join you in congratulating the volunteers on the work that they do in order to preserve this part of our heritage and our history, and also to promote and enhance tourism.” 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Wonderland adventure for Dinas Bran pupils

* Alice, the White Rabbit, and the Queen of Hearts visited Ysgol Dinas Bran.

Pupils in Denbighshire, including those from Ysgol Dinas Bran, have had the chance to take a tumble down the rabbit hole and get an exciting glimpse of Wonderland.

As part of World Book Day celebrations, Denbighshire Curriculum Enrichment teamed up with Magic Light Productions to visit 15 schools across the county.

Alice, the White Rabbit, and the Queen of Hearts herself visited schools, delivering her right royal batch of shortbread biscuits for the “Who Stole the Tarts?” schools’ biscuit decorating competition. 

The special heart-shaped biscuits are being provided courtesy of a unique sponsorship arrangement with The Pudding Compartment, Flint.

These themed and atmospheric school visits, celebrating Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, involved characters from the classic book in full costume. 

Denbighshire Curriculum Enrichment is a project run by Denbighshire County Council to enhance pupils’ learning.

Friday, March 22, 2019

New Dot cinema launches its spring programme

New Dot cinema's spring programme will be announced at tonight (Friday's) showing of the film Cold War. 

The cinema's big gala screening will be Bohemian Rhapsody on Friday, May 24 which volunteers reckon should be a brilliant way to start the bank holiday weekend. 

The new programme also includes Oscar-winning The Favourite, Stan and Ollie, the exhilarating Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo, in which brave man pits himself against big mountain without a rope, and the Japanese film, Shoplifters, about a dysfunctional but loving family of shoplifters who rescue a small girl and unleash all sorts of chaos as a result. 

The first film in the season, the British wartime classic A Matter of Life and Death, is being screened the night before Llangollen Railway's 1940s Home Front weekend, to help get everyone in the mood. 

More details, trailers and tickets are available on the website

Posters giving details of the programme are due to be distributed around town from early next week.

* Gales Wine Bar are now offering a 10% discount to early bird diners who are going to a New Dot screening, or other events in Llangollen. 

The promotion starts tonight Friday with the screening of Cold War. 

Gales will be open from 5pm  and diners just have to show their ticket (online or paper versions) to get the discount. More details on Gales' Facebook page.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Eisteddfod gets £75,000 Welsh Government boost

* Ken Skates AM with Clwyd South MP Susan Elan Jones at last year's eisteddfod.

Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod has received a £75,000 funding boost from the Welsh Government.

A letter to local Assembly Member Ken Skates from Eluned Morgan, Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language, outlining the cash support says: “I am pleased to confirm that the Welsh Government will be providing a three-year funding package 2019-21 amounting to £75,000 to support the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod’s audience development project. 

"The overall aim of the project is to increase visitor numbers from the current 35,000 (2018 event) to 45,000 in three to five years.”

The Minister said the funding will "support the expansion of the festival, enabling it to widen the scope and reach of the event to a global audience and support the promotion of the festival through enhanced marketing activity".

Around 35,000 visitors descended on Llangollen last summer and the festival is estimated to generate around £1.5m for the region’s economy each year.

Mr Skates said he was ‘thrilled’ that the Welsh Government is supporting the world-famous event to help it increase visitor numbers by 30% in the next few years.

He said: “Llangollen Eisteddfod brings tens of thousands of visitors to Clwyd South and provides a huge shot in the arm for the regional economy each summer, with people staying in local hotels and B&Bs, drinking in local pubs and eating out in our fantastic array of restaurants and cafés.

“It’s a huge event which promotes our wonderful part of the world on a global stage.

“This year’s festival is also expected to be one of the first major international events staged in Wales after Brexit, so I think its messages of hope and peace is even more important than usual. I’m thrilled and proud that the Welsh Labour Government is supporting it.”

Eisteddfod chairman Dr Rhys Davies said: “I would like to thank the Welsh Government for its support in these uncertain times and its recognition that the Eisteddfod is the premier international cultural festival in Wales, where we have the opportunity to promote Wales on the international stage which will be so important in the future.

“The investment will enable us to promote Llangollen further and attract new audiences and competitors and thus a greater number of visitors to Wales and help sustain the viability of the International Eisteddfod.”

Mr Skates said the Welsh Government is currently in the process of planning its corporate presence at this year’s event, which runs from July 1-7.

* For more information on the festival visit