A project by the world’s first preserved railway in Mid Wales to buy three new train carriages has received a £300,000 boost from the Welsh Coastal Communities Fund.
The £450,000 project will allow Talyllyn Railway, which runs from the coastal resort of Tywyn, to take 155-year-old original carriages out of daily service to preserve as much of their historic fabric as possible.
The new carriages will offer wheelchair accessible compartments, which will allow more passengers with mobility issues to travel in comfort. Two of the carriages will also have upgraded first class accommodation.
The original carriages will still be used for special trains, including weddings and driver experiences.
General manager Stuart Williams said: “We are delighted to have received this major award from the Welsh Coastal Communities Fund at an important time when we are recovering from the effects of the pandemic.
“The railway is planning a major new development in the next few years and this award is a major first step in this process. Talyllyn Railway is unique in having its two original locomotives and all its original carriages in use. This award will enable us to retain these carriages in as near their original condition as possible for many more years.”
The new carriages will be built under contract in Wales, with the first arriving in 2022 and the others in the following two years. This project forms an initial part of a multi-million pound scheme for the railway including a new heritage facility at Wharf Station, new volunteer accommodation and a new engineering works.
The complete original Victorian train hauled by locomotive No.1 ‘Talyllyn’.
Photo by David Mitchell.
Welcome to the first in our new series of spotlight features, to highlight some of our long-standing MWT members, in celebration of MWT's 30th year.
Claire spoke to Anne Jones from Hendy Farm Holidays. Diolch, Anne.
Q. Please tell other members a bit about you and your business
A. At Hendy Farm holidays we provide 5 star self-catering and 3 star Bed & Breakfast facilities in Tywyn, Southern Snowdonia. Myself and my husband have been running the business for almost 50 years. We started the B&B first, then had a caravan club site, and now have the self-catering cottages. We must have been in MWT membership for the full 30 years the organisation has been running! I have also been a Director of MWT and was MWT Chairman for over 15 years.
Our present house, built in 1905 for my husbands grandparents, was rented out in the summer for many years up to the second World War whilst the family moved back to the old farmhouse. My mother-in-law, having come from Borthwen, her family's farm in Llwyngwril, which had a long established campsite, probably one of the first in Merioneth, continued the tourism tradition. Having helped her mother on the campsite and established a B & B on the farm, where Clem Attlee, the Labour P.M. of the post war period was a regular visitor. Her mother once memorably remarking that she couldn't see how he could run the country and his cabinet if he couldn't control his own children. We all sometimes make mistakes!
Q. How has the industry changed from your perspective over the years?
A. When I first started, people would see our sign on the road and come to stay. Now computers have taken over. Most of my bookings are repeat guests; we have children of children coming to stay, which is lovely. Also a much clearer understanding of the inter-dependency of other tourism enterprise. We benefit hugely from our proximity to the Talyllyn Railway. A number of good restaurants in the area, an excellent well stocked small garden centre and a number of interesting shops, help to enhance the tourism experience along with of course our stunning environment. Operating within one of Wales's three national Parks is an immense advantage.
Q. What have been your biggest challenges over the years?
A. Foot and Mouth and Covid, without a doubt. We didn’t open for B&B last year and probably won’t this year; we will probably do room-only.
Q. What do you enjoy most about running your business?
A. We love meeting people; our guests have become old friends over the years. Many guests have been attracted here by Talyllyn Railway. Some guests stay six times per year. We are quite fully booked from May onwards with repeat bookings. Every customer is important to us, and we have welcomed some high profile guests over the years too. Peter Hendy, the Chairman of Network Rail, came via a special train. There have been lots of memorable moments.
Q. Why do you think it's important to be a member of MWT?
I have always valued the up-to-date information and support.
Photos with Sir Peter Hendy at Hendy Halt station and by Edward Thomas cottage.
Steam trains are set to return to the Banwy Valley from May 1, as the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway runs its first public services of 2021.
The reopening of the Mid Wales tourist attraction, which remains subject to the continuing easing of Covid restrictions by the Welsh Government, follows five months of closure, during which the Llanfair line’s popular Christmas Santa Specials and February half-term services all fell victim to the lockdown.
The line’s early-season timetable features a variety of one and two-hour return journeys, with new-for-2021 innovations including travelling first class, alongside returning favourites from previous seasons, such as the popular fish-and-chip specials.
Return trips from Llanfair Caereinion to the intermediate station of Castle Caereinion will start from May 1, operating on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, plus every day during the spring half-term holiday between May 31 and June 6.
These one-hour long round trips proved particularly popular with families when the railway ran them last season.
Trains over the full eight-mile line to Welshpool will start running from May 4, the two-hour return trips operating on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Due to current Covid restrictions, all journeys will continue to start from Llanfair Caereinion and visitors will not be able to join the train at Welshpool.
Among several innovations launching this year, every travelling child aged three or over will receive a Discovery book full of interesting facts and activities with their ticket.
Visitors will also now be able to travel in enhanced luxury – the Llanfair line’s former Sierra Leone Railway first-class carriage, with its white leather armchairs, will be rostered on every passenger service.
Tickets for this carriage, which are subject to a supplement, include a free copy of the W&LLR’s newly-released Traveller’s Guide, a glass-bottle soft drink and snacks.
Trains from May 4 will also feature a new breakfast service, departing from Llanfair at 10am or 10.30am, with the ticket price including a breakfast roll and hot drink. Tickets for this service will be limited and must be pre-booked.
Safety of both the railway’s visitors and its volunteer staff remains paramount and the Covid prevention measures that proved so successful in 2020 will continue to be applied.
Intending visitors are being asked to pre-book their tickets through the W&LLR’s new online booking service, https://wllr.digitickets.co.uk, while measures including the wearing of face coverings and social distancing will remain in place.
Over the enforced extended winter break, the railway’s almost entirely volunteer staff have been carrying out essential maintenance, working in small Covid-compliant teams. They are now looking forward to getting back to what they enjoy the most, running trains for their visitors.
“After a difficult 12 months for the railway, we are delighted to welcome visitors back to enjoy our beautiful line from May 1,” said W&LLR general manager James Brett. “Our team are working hard behind the scenes to get everything ready for a Covid-secure operation and we already have much to look forward to in 2021.
“Alongside our core service of steam-hauled heritage trains, we plan to offer a range of new experiences for travellers, combined with the return of two of our historic locomotives from major overhauls.”
Over the coming weeks, the W&LLR will be making further announcements regarding train services later in the season and plans for special events. Latest news will also be found on the newly updated website at www.wllr.org.uk and on the line’s social media feeds.
Visiting Austrian steam locomotive, ‘Zillertal’, is set to be rostered on early-season passenger services at Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway.
Photo: John Travis/W&LLR
>> More information about Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway on Visit Mid Wales
Caravan parks across Mid Wales are pulling out all the stops to welcome back England-based customers safely on Monday, April 12 as Covid 19 lockdown restrictions continue to ease.
The Welsh Government took the first step to easing restrictions on March 27 when caravan parks and other self-contained accommodation were able to open to people living within Wales.
Now people living across the Welsh border will be able to return to caravan holiday home parks and drive to touring caravan and motorhome parks across Wales, bringing a welcome boost to the tourism economy. The reopening of the parks coincides with the second week of the Easter half-term school holiday in England.
“The caravan parks in Mid Wales have never looked better as they prepare to welcome back customers from England,” said Dylan Roberts, joint managing director of award-winning caravan and motorhome dealership Salop Leisure, which has sales centres in Shrewsbury, Machynlleth and Stourport on Severn.
“After a very quiet Easter Bank Holiday weekend in Mid Wales, park managers are really looking forward to welcoming back caravan owners and visitors from England for what promises to be a bumper holiday season for anyone connected to the tourism industry.
“Everybody is delighted to be getting back to some form of normality and it’s great news for the caravan industry, including parks, dealerships, manufacturers and consumers.”
Salop Leisure, which supplies caravans and luxury lodges to 250 holiday home parks across Mid Wales and the Heart of England, has reported high demand for caravans and motorhomes.
The company believes that, with more British people taking ‘staycation’ holidays this year, caravans and motorhomes are going to be in even greater demand, which is good news for businesses that rely on the tourism industry.
However, the company is advising those thinking of investing in a new or pre-owned caravan or motorhome not to delay, as stocks are likely to be in short supply due to the high demand. Available pitches on caravan holiday home parks are also being snapped up quickly.
Sales of touring caravans and motorhomes at Salop Leisure in March were 50% up on the same month last year. Although Salop Leisure’s sales centres have been closed to visitors due to the lockdown, customers have still been able to view caravans and motorhomes online, telephone to order and then arrange to collect their purchase.
“We saw huge demand for caravan holiday homes, luxury lodges, touring caravans and motorhomes last summer and this has continued into 2021, as people look forward to spending their holidays and short breaks in Mid Wales and the Heart of England,” said Mr Roberts.
“After months of staying at home, families are desperate for a change of scenery where they can escape and relax. Our industry is perfectly placed to cater for this demand.
“Uncertainty about restrictions on foreign travel and the prevalence of Covid-19 in other countries suggests to me that staycationing will be more popular than ever this year. People are apprehensive about leaving this country and facing quarantine restrictions when they return.”
Val Hawkins, chief executive of MWT Cymru, which represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses in Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd region of Gwynedd, said businesses were looking forward to welcoming back visitors from outside of Wales.
“Our businesses have been very busy making improvements in preparation to welcome back visitors safely in a Covid-secure environment,” she added.
“Visitors to Mid Wales will find lots of things to see, do and discover, including rural forest trails and coastal walks, cycling and mountain biking trails and spectacular spring gardens, and we are looking forward to the outdoor attractions and activities sector and outdoor hospitality reopening on April 26.”
Steve Lewis, manager of Gwernydd Hall Holiday Park at New Mills, near Newtown, ready to welcome back owners from England on Monday.
>> For more information about Gwernydd Hall Holiday Park, see Visit Mid Wales
Business owners, start-ups and those looking for an engaging workspace in the heart of Newtown are in luck as Focus Newtown Enterprise Hub has re-opened its doors.
Located in the quirky Pryce Jones building in Newtown town centre, the hub provides a safe place to meet, network and fill the empty social gap many home-workers are currently experiencing.
“We know that the pandemic has really made people look at their work/life balance and re-evaluate their working practices,” said hub manager, Holly Jones. “It’s helped people realise you can be just as productive at home or in a community space.
“Many of us are keen to avoid re-starting the old daily commute but are also looking for a break from home-working; flexible working is the way forward and it’s not only great for motivation and efficiency, but mind-set and wellbeing too.
“There’s a common misconception that a co-working space is for creative freelancers, but actually it has huge advantages for both corporate employees and freelancers alike.
“We’ve welcomed employees from local businesses that have been established for years, who just need a space away from the office and from the distraction of other colleagues, to work on a project or run through some ideas.
“It goes without saying that a co-working space also has great economic benefits. It offers a cost effective and flexible solution for self-employed people, or small businesses who aren’t ready to commit to renting or investing in an office space or those looking just to rent a desk for a few days a month.
“We’re confident that the future of co-working in Mid Wales will be a positive one, and we’re excited to see how it’s received by a wider audience now we are open again.”
Fully Covid compliant, this large and open plan hub has plenty of hand sanitiser stations, safely positioned workspaces and uses the NHS track and trace app. If you would like more information on the various co-working options available, or to book your space please visit https://focusenterprisehubs.wales/co-working-space
Engaging workspace at Focus Newtown Enterprise Hub.
A new, national touring exhibition, which shows how shared processes, skills and values associated with creative making contribute to thriving commons neighbourhoods, is set to be launched in Newtown when galleries are allowed to reopen.
“The commons means: Things we share, Places we share, Systems we share, Ideas we share and Culture we share,” said Peter Barnes, On the Commons co-founder.
This thought-provoking Craftspace exhibition will run at the Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown until June 26. In the meantime, plans are underway to provide a virtual tour of the exhibition via the Craftspace website www.craftspace.co.uk.
The exhibition highlights ‘acts of commoning’ which are shaping the way communities work together to share and steward commonly owned assets and resources.
Through 16 loans and new commissions, artists will bring attention to the issues, contribute their thought leadership and participate in a call to action. These artists provide a powerful commentary on what society stands to gain from acting to protect and reclaim our global commons.
Featuring both UK based and international artists, the exhibition reflects a commons-based shift in thinking from ‘you’re on your own’ to ‘we’re in this together.’ It will investigate how creativity, making and materials can highlight how acts of commoning are creating thriving communities.
“In a time of extreme disruption from COVID-19, this exhibition provides a mutual resource to find and process meaning out of trauma and loss, to aid recovery,” said Deirdre Figueiredo MBE, director of Craftspace.
“Lockdown has seen a surge in purchase of craft equipment and materials. People have turned to age-old craft skills and making to get by, boost their resilience and engage in acts of collective creativity.
“Increasing privatisation in cities has eroded the commons and local authorities are hard pressed to steward commonly owned spaces and assets. Now more than ever we need commons thinking to rebalance our ways of being, living, working and imagining a more collectively-made and owned future.”
Exhibition themes range from work influenced by historical land based commons, such as the Common Ground Peckham Rye Token project by Alice McLean and Justine Boussard and stained glass ‘Rewilding at the Clootie Tree’ by Pinkie Maclure to fashion commons where Amy Twigger Holroyd shares stitch hacking techniques in Re:Knit Revolution.
Collectively made textiles from the Embroidered Digital Commons, co-ordinated by Ele Carpenter, considers the internet as a shared resource, whilst Lise Bjørne Linnert and Gelawesh Waledkhani investigate ideas of mobile commons with undocumented migrants in Norway.
Sharing resources and ideas, including food production, are explored by Rachael Colley and Jacky Oliver. Linda Brothwell has created a new iteration of her project ‘Acts of Care: Bench Repair’ through repairing benches for public places with beautiful wooden inlays.
Deirdre Nelson maps local acts of commoning around the streets where she lives in Glasgow.
Shane Waltener is making scaffold structures from locally sourced willow, bramble and handmade nettle and flax twine. They are a physical and metaphorical means of thinking through shared resources, issues relating to enclosure and rights of access. He draws attention to craft skills and nature itself, as forms of commons.
“I am creating a performance installation as ‘a symbolic act of repair’, one that prompts us to rethink our connections between land and materials, making a connection between the urban and the rural, learning from nature and landscape and in doing so, rewrite narratives and imaginaries relating to all of the above,” said Shane.
Claudia Rodríguez and Ana Joaquina Ramírez collaborated, supported and supervised by Rosina Santana Castellón, to bring different communities together with a focus on the polluted Santiago river affecting cities and agriculture, in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The polluted water had caused cases of cancer in poor neighbourhoods next to it. This had caused division and suspicion in the community. Nets Project activated the whole community in protest and resulted in a monumental collective weave woven by urbanites and villagers.
The project empowered and engaged many and successfully built bridges among them to create awareness of their rights and a stronger resistance.
Also on show, three artists have worked in response to or co-created with communities in three UK place-based and socially engaged residencies in Birmingham, St Helens and Newtown.
‘We are Commoners’ will tour the UK until September next year. The exhibition will be free to visit. More details at commoners.craftspace.co.uk.
Stained glass ‘Rewilding at the Clootie Tree’ by Pinkie Maclure.
Guild of Commoning by Deirdre Nelson.
Photo Eoin Carey.
The Nets Project Procession by Claudia Rodríguez, Ana Joaquina Ramírez and Rosina Santana Castellón in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Photo: Metztli Cerda.
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