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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Hundreds pack the town for Christmas Festival

Hundreds came flocking to enjoy Llangollen's annual Christmas Festival which is raising funds for the Wales Air Ambulance and local good causes.

The day began with the traditional big parade from the Pavilion to town and ended with the switching on of the Christmas lights and a fireworks display from the hillside below the castle.

llanblogger was on hand to record some of the day's memorable scenes.

* Sion Corn arrives outside the Town Hall to be greeted by town crier Chem and the Town Mayor, Cllr Jon Haddy.

 * A fireworks display rounded off the festival.

* All the fun of the fair in Market Street.

* A balloon man fascinates youngsters.

* The busy craft fair inside the Town Hall.

* Guitar man Chris Burton sings in Centenary Square.

* A horse rider at the head of the big parade.

* Town crier Chem and friends in the parade.

* Llangollen Silver Band sets the pace for the parade.

* The Mayor joins the parade in a classic car for Llangollen Motor Museum. 

* Santa's little helpers arrive by veteran car.

* Novelty riders in the cavalcade.

* More little helpers. 

* The Cogwarts contingent.

* The huskies trot into town.

* Sion Corn is greeted by the Mayor. 

* Llangollen Operatic's Young 'Uns sing a selection from their new show, The Wizard of Oz, in Centenary Square.

* Children from Ysgol Y Gwernant sing in the square.

* Youngsters from Ysgol Bryn Collen entertain.

* Graham Paton, managing director of Linguassist Ltd, switches on the lights with the Town Mayor, Cllr Jon Haddy (left).

 * The lights go on in Castle Street.

* Part of the colourful fireworks display.

Election "chat" in Llanarmon

* Glyn Davies.

* Simon Baynes. 
Glyn Davies, former MP for Montgomeryshire, and Simon Baynes, the Welsh Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Clwyd South, are holding an informal meeting over a drink at the Hand at Llanarmon tomorrow Sunday 1st December at 7pm to "chat about the election and local issues".

They say: "This is not a formal Conservative event but an informal get-together organised by Jonathan Greatorex of the Hand and all are most welcome. Always thought-provoking and amusing, Glyn is not to be missed. And likewise the Hand at Llanarmon itself, one of the hospitality jewels of Clwyd South"

Labour leader visits Clwyd South

* Mark Drakeford with Labour candidate Susan Elan Jones.

Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford was in town recently to show his support for Clwyd South candidate Susan Elan Jones.

The First Minister for Wales launched the Welsh Labour manifesto in Wrexham on Monday and then hit the campaign trail in Johnstown.

Mr Drakeford said: "It was great to be in North Wales to launch the Welsh Labour manifesto for the general election and to outline how, with a UK Labour Government, people in this area can benefit from a £10 Living Wage, extra maternity and paternity rights, more investment in our NHS and new jobs through Labour’s Green Industrial Revolution.

“It was also good to go door knocking with Susan afterwards and to talk with people in Johnstown about our ideas. They know how out of touch Boris Johnson and the Tories are.

“Only a vote for Susan Elan Jones and a vote for Welsh Labour in this election can help make Clwyd South the stronger, fairer and more equal place we want it to be.”

Susan Elan Jones said: "It was fantastic to have Mark Drakeford here in Clwyd South. We spent our time going door-to-door meeting residents in Johnstown - a big contrast with the Tories’ stage-managed event.

“Overwhelmingly people spoke about the need for more investment in our communities. As one young woman put it, ‘the Tories don’t understand our local area and what we need’."

"People know I'm the only candidate who can stop the Tories sneaking in here and the only one who can stop Boris Johnson's Hard Right agenda."

Another successful music hall from Collen Players

The Collen Players presented the second in a series of regular music hall shows at the Community Hall yesterday (Friday) evening.

The Christmas special entitled Deck the Halls was enjoyed by a full-house audience.

The cast, including many of those who appeared in the last show in October plus some new additions, offered a selection of traditional songs from the golden era of music hall which had the audience  singing along enthusiastically.

The show was chaired and arranged by the Vicar of Llangollen, Father Lee Taylor, while Owen Roberts once again provided musical accompaniment.

The next music hall show is scheduled for Friday February 21.

Pictures by Jeanette Robinson

* The cast at the end of the show.

* Gethin Davies warms up the audience with a sing-along.

* Father Lee wields the gavel over the proceedings.

* Bethan Mascarenhas (left) and Sue Stokes present a Hole of My Bucket.

* Comedy with a French theme from Mike Connolly.

* Shea Ferron laments a Dear Little Dickie Bird.

* Phil Robinson is Burlington Bertie.

* Esme Sallnow and Father Lee perform a duet.

* Esme goes solo with a daring number.

* A plaintive mood is set by Sue Stokes.

* All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, 
sings Bethan Mascarenhas.

* Phil Robinson winds up with White Christmas.

* The large and appreciative audience sing along.

Programme for Llan Christmas Festival today

Thousands of seasonal revellers are expected to come flocking to Llangollen for the town’s annual Christmas Festival today, Saturday November 30.

Kicking off at 1pm with the famous parade which sees Sion Corn - the Welsh Santa – being escorted into town over the historic bridge by a colourful cavalcade of entertainers and local groups, the event features children’s fairground rides, food stalls, choirs, craft stalls, circus acts and face painting.

This year, the parade begins from the Eistedfodd field and will make its way to the town centre along Abbey Road.

There will also be a chance for youngsters to visit Sion Corn in his glorious grotto and put in their early requests from what they’d like to see him bring them on Christmas morning. 

During the afternoon visitors can look forward to an eclectic mix of musical entertainment from local groups on two outdoor stages and other on-street entertainment.

The fun-packed day rounds off at 5pm with the ceremonial switching on of Llangollen’s legendary Christmas lights and a firework extravaganza. 

Festival organisers have also arranged for free parking throughout the day at local car parks.

Llangollen Christmas Festival is organised by a group of dedicated community volunteers. It costs over £4,000 to stage each year and is self-funding.

The festival aims to provide a free family-orientated event in the safety of the town centre with surplus funds being donated to Wales Air Ambulance and local community groups.

Over the last couple of years the police have estimated that the spectacular event draws over 2,000 people into town during the course of the afternoon.

For the third year the festival has teamed up with Light Up Local Food, a project aimed at promoting Llangollen-based food and drink producers.

Chairman of the festival committee Austin ‘Chem’ Cheminais, who is also the local town crier and a member of the town council, said: “With the help of the community we manage, each year, to raise just about enough to fund the event and give a little to charity.

“Last year’s festival was particularly successful thanks to the good weather and the feedback from those attending was very positive.

“The ‘market’ feel to the event provided by Light UP Local Food was particularly commented upon and helped to attract visitors from much further afield.

“Once again we’re expecting a bumper crowd to come along and help us to give a great early start to Christmas.” 

Friday, November 29, 2019

2020 holds public meeting on its parking plans

* The controversial issue of parking on Castle Street figured prominently in discussion.   

Members of the Llangollen 2020 group which is aiming to re-shape parking and traffic strategy in the town centre held a public meeting yesterday (Thursday) evening to give people a chance to comment on their latest proposals.

Just over 30 residents and members of the business community went along to the Memorial Hall in Market Street to hear how the group plans to change parking provision in the years ahead.

The meeting was hosted by Llangollen county councillor Graham Timms, who chairs 2020, along with fellow group members County Councillor Melvyn Mile and Town Councillor Tony Baker.
Cllr Timms opened by saying the aim was to have the people of the town as a whole putting new parking ideas to the county council.

“It’s an attempt to solve what has been a problem in Llangollen since at least the 1960s,” he pointed out.

“We could spend the next 60 years falling out over it but that’s not what we want to do.”

2020 recently called for feedback on its parking proposals from people across the town but he said there had been little response from those in the John Street and West Street area, which was why the meeting had been arranged.

Cllr Timms went on to explain that the group was seeking to balance the interests of six different groups including residents, businesses, shoppers and visitors.

One of the most controversial aspects of the 2020 proposals was whether to ban parking along Castle Street, introducing wider pavements and loading bays to serve shops and businesses. There would be disabled parking bays in Oak Street, Bridge Street and Abbey Road.

It was Castle Street parking which caused most discussion at the meeting, some of it heated at times.
The landlord of The Bull pub, for instance, said he saw a problem bringing in beer supplies with the loading bays suggestion, claiming it would present a “serious danger to the public” if it went ahead.

Cllr Timms said the group would note this point.

Cllr Timms was then questioned closely by former town councillor Karen Edwards about exactly how many Castle Street shops and businesses had been asked for their views on the future of parking there.

Cllr Timms replied said that members of his group had “spoken to a few” about it and that Arcadis, the firm of consultants assisting 2020 with its proposals, had also spoken to some of the businesses.
Ms Edwards suggested this was not enough and said she and others had carried out their own extensive survey of Castle Street businesses and found that the majority were against banning parking.

It was suggested from the floor that 2020 goes back and speaks to all traders on Castle Street about the banning of parking and Cllr Timms replied: “We will address these concerns.”

It was at this point that the discussion became a little heated prompting Cllr Timms to make the plea: “Don’t attack us as though we are nasty people. We want the town to be a better place for everyone.”

The discussion then turned to reducing the speed of traffic on Castle, with Cllr Mile saying the Welsh Government intended to impose 20mph limits on all urban areas across the country.

“We would like this to happen on Castle Street but of it doesn’t we will tell the government that we want it done,” he added.

When it came to how residents figure in the 2020 parking proposals, one lady said that although she lives on the A5 she had to seek parking elsewhere in the town as there was none available near her home.

Cllr Mile said the answer to this was the 2020 proposal to designate all streets in a central “zone” for residents’ priority parking with people being asked to buy up to two parking passes - £50 for the first car and £100 for a second.

The parking pass would be valid for parking in all on-road parking areas and all car parks in the town at all times.

When it came to business parking Cllr Timms explained the current county council pass, which was valid all year round, would change and would not be valid in the Market Street and East Street parks on weekends and bank holidays and throughout the busy months of July and August during the school holidays.

To offset this, he said, discussions had been taking place with the headteacher of Ysgol Dinas Bran to use a section of its car park for businesses owners and workers displaced.from the two car parks.

Also under discussion was the idea of visitors to major events at Llangollen Railway being able to park on the eisteddfod land.

The 2020 party was then questioned on funding for their proposals and they replied although they believed amounts may be available from various sources, not all of the necessary cash had been secured.

Cllr Timms has said in the past he estimates the whole package would cost between £2-3 million to implement.

The 2020 proposals in brief:

Winter funding fair invitation goes out

Denbighshire Voluntary Services Council (DVSC) is holding its winter funding fair at the Naylor Leyland Centre in Ruthin on Thursday December 12.
The event, from 10am until 1pm, is aimed at social entrepreneurs, voluntary and community groups and third sector organisations in the county and is a chance to meet funders on a one-to-one basis..
You can also find out about how to use DVSC’s Funding Wales digital platform, which gives  access to a range of funding sources at the click of a mouse

A total of £18,870 is available from DVSC’s community-led grants with the funding round opening at the start of the fair. 

Key DVSC staff will be on hand to talk people through the conditions of the grants.

The funders will be announced on DVSC’s social media channels over the next couple of weeks, and these can be followed on
Twitter and Facebook for more details.

Those attending the fair will also be offered help with the right funds for their next project and can get a free organisational health check with Nia, DVSC's sector development officer.

To confirm your attendance  follow the Eventbrite link:

Alternatively, call Maisie, DVSC’s marketing and impact assistant, on 01824 702 441, or email to confirm attendance

Those unable to attend the fair but wish to be informed of future events can follow our Eventbrite page and this will automatically notify you of upcoming events.

A4 helps keep Audi ahead of game

* The stylish lines of the Audi A4.

* ... and the sophisticated cabin.

Audi A4 road test by Steve Rogers

Two weeks, two fine cars. Very fine cars. In the end it came down to Mr Practical against Miss Beautiful.

Last week I was lauding the gorgeous Jaguar XE, a relative newcomer to the premium saloon set, and here we have the Audi A4, the elder statesman which has been ruling the roost with BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Not that Audi has sat back and watched the A4s roll out of the showrooms. That is not the Audi way, it has to be ahead of the game and that has been the case with A4s I have been driving over the last 25 years.

So what of the new A4? Visually it doesn't look that different, a new grille to bring it into line with the rest of the family and a new rear light design were all I could spot. Inside has always been a joy because the quality is so good.

I've always said no-one trims a car like Audi and I am sticking with that. You get top notch materials from floor to ceiling, no corners are cut even in the basement where some manufacturers are guilty of throwing in the cheaper stuff.

Yet I didn't get the same visual impact from behind the wheel as the XE. My wife said it was unremarkable compared to the Jag and I could see where she was coming from. The layout is crisp and clear and easy to use but does not flow as well.

The big change is a new stand alone 10 inch touchscreen that sits atop the dashboard. It's called a multi media centre which is radio, navigation, telephone etc and has both sharp graphics and mega quick response.

All well and good.... except Audi has ditched the rotary controller from the centre console which made selections so much easier for the driver rather than reaching for the touchscreen. Voice control will help but it takes time getting the hang of it. I managed to change the radio station after four goes asking for Radio 2 (must be my Welsh accent) but failed with a telephone and navigation request.

There is also a 12.3in digital display filling the binnacle ahead of the driver so you don't need to take eyes off the road for navigation instruction, but I would have liked a head up display which is on the extras list.

One area where the A4 beats the XE is cabin space. Early A4s were tight for rear legroom but improved when the engine layout was turned, and while not exceptional there is room for six footers so no complaints anymore.

The boot is a bit bigger and the wider opening makes loading easier and the seat back splits 60/40 for more carrying space making A4 a practical family car.

Refinement is the buzz word when driving. This a finely honed machine with wind and road noise virtually eliminated, even the diesel engine is well muffled. Ride comfort has improved down the years and is better than ever for cushioning occupants against pits and potholes but be careful on model choice.

Sportline does what it says on the tin and gives a sporty ride but it compromises ride comfort. Bumps and thuds come through on poor surfaces, particularly with 19in rims.

Audi has been famous for four wheel drive since the incredible quattro burst on to the rally scene in the eighties and the debate over which is the best, rear wheel drive or quattro, has been raging ever since.

The A4 does not glide through bends with the poise of the rear wheel drive Jaguar XE but it has its own attributes. You feel as safe as houses in the Audi. The overall grip is a step up and phenomenal on wet surfaces, much better than the Jag which can be tail end happy.

There is no drama dabbing the accelerator mid bend and of course with all wheel drive it is quick off the mark leaving the wheel spinners in its wake.

The 186bhp turbo diesel carries the car effortlessly through a fast changing seven speed auto box and is strong in the charge. Even with quattro drive the car is capable of 50mpg, in fact it never fell below 44mpg all week.

The bottom line is any of the big six premium saloons, and it is no longer Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, Volvo, Jaguar and Alfa Romeo are all up there, and all will give a wonderful experience. Everyone has a favourite and at the moment mine is the Jaguar XE.

Key facts
A4 TDI quattro S Line
£39,875 (£44,775 with extras)
2-litre; 186bhp
0-62mph 7.4secs; 146mph
45.6mpg combined
139g/km. 1st year tax £530
Boot 460 litres
Insurance group 24

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Designers sought for major Llan heritage project

Welsh rural development agency Cadwyn Clwyd is seeking a design team for a public realm and heritage project in Llangollen, according to an article in Architects' Journal. 

The team will receive £12,870 to complete a feasibility study and concept design for a new public realm intended to bring attention to four major pieces of historic infrastructure which pass through the town: the Llangollen Canal, the Ruabon to Barmouth railway, the River Dee and Llangollen Bridge, and Thomas Telford’s London to Holyhead Road.
The Four Great Highways project aims to boost access to the landmarks, which lack high-quality pedestrian connections, and provide new interpretation facilities. The study will focus on placemaking, visitor flow, material treatments and possible locations for heritage interpretation.
In its brief, the agency says the project ‘aims to improve knowledge of, access to and engagement with [Llangollen’s] four great highways and industrial landmarks, all within 300m of Llangollen Bridge, a Grade I-listed monument and one of the Seven Wonders of Wales.’
The Architects' Journal story says: "Llangollen is a small town of around 3,600 on the banks of the River Dee. Its Grade I-listed bridge, constructed in the 16th century and later upgraded, overlooks the Ruabon to Barmouth railway which now only operates heritage steam services.
"The town is a major tourism destination and is around 5km west of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which was designed by Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
"The Llangollen Canal, which connects the town to the aqueduct, is 100m north of Llangollen Bridge, and also nearby is the historic London to Holyhead A5 Road which Telford described as his ‘greatest achievement’."
Cadwyn Clwyd is a rural development agency focusing on promoting economic activity in Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham in north Wales.
Applicants must hold £10 million of employers’ liability coverage, £2 million of public liability coverage and £250,000 of professional indemnity coverage.
Bids will be evaluated 40 per cent on methodology, 40 per cent on previous experience and 20 per cent on price. The deadline for applications is 2pm on 12 December.

How to apply
Contact details
Donna Hughes
Cadwyn Clwyd
Llys Owain
Bridge Street
LL21 0AH
Tel: +44 1490340500

Service for hospice to be held in St Collen's

The annual Llangollen Light up a Life Service in aid of Nightingale House Hospice will be held in St Collen's Church on Friday, December 6.
The service is organised by the Llangollen Community Support Group who work tirelessly throughout the year organising events to raise vital funds for the hospice. 
School choirs from Ysgol Bryn Collen and Ysgol Y Gwernant, Llangollen will also be taking part.
Nightingale House provides specialist palliative care services, completely free-of-charge, to patients and their families across a wide area stretching from Wrexham, Flintshire and East Denbighshire to Barmouth and the border towns including Oswestry and Whitchurch – that’s a population that covers around 391,976 people.
The service starts at 6.30pm prompt.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Campaign aims to give traders Christmas boost

* Carolyn Brindle, Denbighshire Council's Lead officer for Business Support, with Mike Horrocks, Economic and Business Development Manager.

A campaign has been launched to urge people in Llangollen to shop local this Christmas to give the town's high street traders a £2.5 million boost in the run up to the festive season.

On average in the UK each household spends £500 on presents, decorations and food and Denbighshire County Council wants local shops to get their share of the Yuletide action.

They are hoping to encourage at least a third of the county's 30,000 households, which would mean over 700 in the Llangollen area, to spend half their Christmas cash with their local retailers instead of buying online or go to the expense of travelling to the bigger shopping centres.

By spending locally Llangollen residents ensure their money will boost the local economy - experts say every £1 spent locally is likely to be re-spent 2.3 times which would mean over £400,000 stays in the town.

The Council is encouraging people to shop locally through the #LoveLiveLocal campaign.

Emlyn Jones, Denbighshire's head of Planning and Public Protection Services, who oversees the county's Economic and Business Development Team, said: "We have a wonderful selection of independent shops and businesses at the heart of our high streets and we want to encourage more local people to choose to spend their money locally and contribute to the local economy.

"Local shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs are at the heart of our towns and play a vital role creating new jobs and improving prosperity and that's why we are encouraging people to shop local this Christmas.

"It will be good for shoppers too because if they buy more locally this Christmas it will mean less travel, be a far more relaxing experience and they will be able find something a bit different to put under the tree for their loved ones.

"If half the £500 average Christmas spend of just a third of our households was spent with local traders, it would mean a £2.5 million boost to the county economy and crucially to our retailers.

"The other thing I would stress is that shopping locally isn't just for Christmas. If every adult in Denbighshire spent just £5 extra a week locally instead of online or at a chain store during the rest of the year, that would add up to over £300,000 more a week for the county's shopkeepers. At a time when margins are tight, that could make all the difference.

"It's about promoting the diverse and vibrant shopping experiences we have in Denbighshire and whether you're buying a turkey from your butcher or a pair of socks from a high street store you'll almost certainly get better quality than you will from the big chains and you'll be doing your bit for your town or village.

"Our businesses offer great value for money, a wide range of products and fantastic customer service and we want to play our part in showcasing what makes our towns special."

Meanwhile, retail guru Helen Hodgkinson, from Dyserth, who has worked closely with local businesses, has advice on how to make the most of Christmas which is the most important period of the year for sales.

Denbighshire County Council's #LoveLiveLocal campaign encourages people to use their local shops and services and for businesses to promote themselves and for everyone to use social media platforms Twitter and Facebook to share their positive experiences of Denbighshire as a fantastic place to shop.

Going online is key, according to Helen, a former fashion retailer and college lecturer, who said: "You have to talk about your offer and really promote it on social media and on your website - a lot of people don't shop local because they don't know what's available.

"You need to really push what you're offering and the benefits of shopping locally such as saving travelling time and the fact that the offer is very often niche, different and unique and you need to shout that from the rooftops.

"The towns have late night shopping so make the most of it, let people know when it is and what you're doing - it's an idea to invite other people like crafters and artists to exhibit in your store.

"For example Snow in Summer in Denbigh has done that very well so it's important to work with other people in your high street and telling the world why they should shop in your town.

"Shopkeepers need to get involved in events, Christmas fairs and markets - The Little Cheesemonger in Rhuddlan is doing that and that can drive people to your high street and your store."

As part of the Christmas #LoveLiveLocal campaign, Denbighshire County Council will be posting a video to highlight what the county has to offer and the campaign will encourage people to support local independent businesses by using the hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to share good experiences they've had as well as promote products and services locally they have 'loved'.

* For more information go to:
 and businesses and customers can get
involved by including
h> #LoveLiveLocal in their tweets on Twitter and
<> joining the
#LoveLiveLocal group on Facebook.

2020 to hold public meeting on parking

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Volunteers rebuild historic stone wall at Plas Newydd

* The volunteer dray stone wallers in the Dell at Plas Newydd.

A team of volunteers have been busy learning new traditional skills and putting them to use at Plas Newydd.

The Dell is the Ladies of Llangollen’s naturalistic garden and some of the 200-year-old revetment walls there are crumbling and falling into disrepair.

The Our Picturesque Landscape, which is National Lottery Heritage funded, is leading on a five-year restoration of the Dell which has started this autumn with repairing many of the crumbling stone walls holding up the banks leading into the Dell. 

Led by experienced Richard Jones of RJ Countryside Skills the volunteers have learned the skills involved in removing a crumbling wall and how to rebuild it to last another two centuries. 

As part of the work a time capsule has been buried in the wall for someone to find long into the future, detailing who repaired the wall and why.

This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Other projects within the restoration programme are the creation of stepping stones across Afon Cyflymen which flows through the Dell, repairing the steps leading up to the summer house, creating a bog garden, extra seating and replacing the existing handrail with something more in keeping with the garden as it would have been two hundred years ago.

Volunteers Paula Wilding and Dave Smith said: This has provided an interesting feature leading visitors down from the historic formal heritage garden into the ladies' naturalistic planting within the Dell.”

* If you would like to get involved by volunteering with the restoration, please get in touch with the team on 01824 706163 or contact: