In addition to running one of the UK’s most successful caravan and motorhome dealerships, Salop Leisure also owns the Love2Stay resort and adventure centre and Love Plants specialist plants centre in Shrewsbury and caravan holiday home and touring parks across Mid Wales and Shropshire.
Due to staycationing this year, caravan and motorhome sales have boomed at Salop Leisure as more first-time buyers opted to invest in holidays in the UK for the foreseeable future.
One of the biggest challenges the company faced was obtaining enough stock, as caravan manufacturers struggled to keep up with demand.
Many caravan holiday home parks across Mid Wales and the Heart of England reported a huge demand for available pitches, with many reporting a record year.
Having devoted more than 50 years of his life to the caravan and motorhome industry, Mr Bywater has experienced many economic highs and lows and is well placed to offer an opinion on future business prospects.
“I think the business opportunities in 2022 are going to be even greater for our industry,” he said. “More people will want to stay in the UK in the next year and demand for touring caravans, motorhomes and caravan holiday homes will be at record levels.
“Demand for holiday locations in the Heart of England and Mid Wales is also going to be massive, leading to a possible shortage of vacant pitches on caravan parks. There is also a chance that the supply of new caravans might not meet demand.
“We look forward to offering help and advice to anyone wishing to buy a touring caravan, motorhome or caravan holiday home in the new year. We shall we open for business on January 2.”
Salop Leisure’s chairman Tony Bywater predicts another staycation boom in 2022.
Immediate: December 15, 2021
Tywyn-based Talyllyn Railway has congratulated one of its supporters, The Right Rev Andy John, on his appointment as the new Archbishop of Wales.
Bishop Andy, as he likes to be known, has been a long-time supporter of the world’s first preserved railway which inspired Thomas the Tank Engine.
In 2009, he presented the first of what has now become an annual Easter event, the popular ‘Stations at Stations’, a journey around the traditional Christian 'Stations of the Cross' but each set up at the six main stations on the railway.
Stuart Williams, Talyllyn Railway’s general manager, said: “We are delighted that our good friend Bishop Andy has become the Archbishop of Wales. He has always supported the railway and we are pleased that he is committed to continuing this association.”
Bishop Andy has returned on numerous occasions to assist and take a leading part in many celebratory events including a blessing of the centenary of locomotive number six (Duncan), a former RAF loco. He also named the newly acquired diesel Loco No 12, St Cadfan in 2016.
Earlier this year, he opened the railway's Awdry Weekend, a celebration of the link with the Rev W G Awdry, author of the famous Thomas the Tank Engine series, Previously, he shared a driver experience with his neighbouring Bishop of Sodor and Man, the Rt Rev Robert Paterson.
Vicar of Tywyn, the Rev Dr Ruth Hansford, herself an enthusiastic supporter of the railway said: ‘“Bishop Andy has always been very committed to supporting local churches and has certainly enjoyed being part of various events on the Talyllyn Railway over the years, something we hope will continue, despite the pressures of the new job.”
New Archbishop of Wales Andy John during his visit to open the railway's Awdry Weekend.
Credit: Jonathan Mann.
New Archbishop of Wales Andy John blessing Loco No 6 Duncan on its 100th birthday.
Credit Barbara Fuller.
Corris Railway sold out all of its 2021 Santa Train services at the weekend, as seats were booked online in advance this year.
Part of the carriage shed at Maespoeth Junction was adapted to host Santa Claus who presented gifts to children and welcomed adult passengers for refreshments after their train journey along part of the Dulas Valley.
The railway’s shop and museum at Corris were open, giving visitors a chance to buy festive and other items including the 2022 calendar.
Passenger train services will resume at Easter 2022, subject to developments with coronavirus variants. In the meantime, remodelling of the track layout at Corris Station will be carried out to include a run-round loop, facilitated by a traverser.
Sleepers and track fittings have been delivered and other preparation work was carried out in November. The revised layout will include a new platform for passengers, with donations towards the cost welcomed.
Donations can either be made via www.corris.co.uk or by cheque, payable to Corris Railway, sent to The Corris Railway, Station Yard, Corris, Machynlleth, SY20 9SH. Donors are asked to state on their cheques are for work at the station.
The Santa Special steam train at Corris Railway.
Images: Jack Evans.
The world’s first preserved railway, which inspired Thomas the Tank Engine, is on the scent of a festive hit with its Christmas video starring Billy the Springer Spaniel.
The ‘The Railway Dog’ video, which was launched on Facebook on Friday night, has been created for Talyllyn Railway at Tywyn in Mid Wales to celebrate Christmas and is the result of a transatlantic effort.
The railway’s media creator Luke Ryan did the filming, along with volunteer friends Daniel Long and Mayoorhan Sevverlz. He then collaborated with a friend in America, Jake Darneille, who created the original sound track based on a 1950s film.
The star, however, is nine-year old Billy, whose owner is the railway’s general manager Stuart Williams. Billy saves the day when Santa’s train, laden with Christmas presents, breaks down. Watch the video on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfi7yD5Sv6c .
“The response to the Christmas video has been amazing,” said Stuart today (Monday). “It was only launched on Friday night, yet already had more than 4,000 views by this morning.
“Our media creator Luke Ryan came up with the Christmas video idea and we spent a full day filming. He then spent another 10 days editing the video and his friend in the States, Jake, wrote the music for the soundtrack free of charge.
“Billy was chosen as the star of the video because he’s quite calm and responds well to a ball. It’s a nice Christmas video for and everyone associated with the railway.”
Stuart also revealed that Luke is working on another video for Christmas Eve, which this time will be a lecture based on The Railway Series of children’s books written by the Rev Wilbert Awdry, creator of the famous steam train character Thomas the Tank Engine. The lecture was written by Awdry in 1972 and will be read once more by Tim Dunn
The Rev Awdry became an enthusiastic member and volunteer guard on the Talyllyn Railway in 1952, a year after it became the world’s first preserved heritage railway. His experiences at Talyllyn inspired him to create the fictitious Skarloey Railway which became the subject of an additional series of children’s books within his ‘Railway Series’.
Talyllyn Railway is a member of MWT Cymru, which represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Mid Wales.
Billy, the hero of The Railway Dog, Talyllyn Railway’s Christmas special video.
Billy’s on track for Christmas stardom.
New MWT Cymru board member Jonathan Jones, a former Wales Tourist Board chief executive, said: “I would like to thank Ian for the work that he has done over many years for the former Wales Tourist Board and for tourism in general in Mid Wales.”
Val Hawkins, chief executive, said: “Ian has made a massive contribution to MWT Cymru and Mid Wales tourism in general .”
Responding to the life membership award, Mr Rutherford said: “I am really pleased that I have been honoured in such a way by my peers in the tourism industry. I have been involved in the tourism in Mid Wales for nearly 50 years and have been a great supporter of the industry working together.”
He arrived in Mid Wales in 1972 to take over as general manager of Llechwedd Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog, having previously worked for a firm of accountants and consultants in London.
He then established the King Arthur’s Labyrinth underground tourism attraction in 1993. Wishing to retire, he is now in the process of selling the attraction together with Corris Craft Centre and Corris Mine Explorers.
Mr Rutherford was involved with a forerunner to MWT Cymru, the Mid Wales Tourism Council, which became Mid Wales Tourism (MWT) in 1991. He then served as MWT’s chief executive for six months during the reorganisation of the Wales Tourist Board.
He has been involved with MWT, which has rebranded as MWT Cymru, since it was established and served as a director for many years before standing down earlier this year.
Ian Rutherford, a life member of MWT Cymru.
Llechi Cymru is the 32nd UNESCO World Heritage Site in the UK and the fourth in Wales, alongside Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, the Castles & Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct.
The unveiling of the memorial in Abergynolwyn with local MP Liz Saville-Roberts, Talyllyn Railway’s general manager Stuart Williams local councillors and people from the village.
More first time visitors discovered Mid Wales as a tourist destination this year due to the staycation boom, an annual meeting was told.
MWT Cymru, which held the virtual meeting on Thursday last week, urged everyone involved in the Mid Wales tourism and hospitality industry to work together to ensure that these new customers return in 2022.
Nia Meddins, of Wigwam Holidays Hafren, Staylittle, near Llanidloes, told the meeting that 60% of her business’ customers this year were first time visitors who loved the quietness and slow pace of life in Mid Wales. Some of them were retired couples who enjoyed up to three holidays a year and were looking for short breaks.
Research by MWT Cymru, which represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia, confirmed the first time visitors trend identified by Nia.
The company’s Visit Mid Wales website - visitmidwales.co.uk - which aims to attract visitors to the region, reported an increase of 87% new users (570,000) in 2021. The highest percentage of new visitors was in the 18-34 age group.
Of the new visitors to the website, the greatest increases were in people living in Birmingham (149%), Manchester (74%) and from London (70%).
MWT Cymru’s chairman Rowland Rees-Evans said Mid Wales is now more recognised as a destination for holidays and short breaks due to the staycation boom caused by the pandemic.
He is hopeful that staycations and domestic tourism will continue to grow in 2022 because of continuing fears about foreign travel and the bureaucracy involved.
“New customers have found Mid Wales which is fantastic and hopefully we can get them to come back next year,” he added. “We are working with Visit Wales on campaigns to market Mid Wales even more.”
Both he and chief executive Val Hawkins called for collaboration by all those involved in tourism in Mid Wales to take full advantage of opportunities to attract more visitors by promoting consistent marketing messages.
“The #RealMidWales marketing message is resonating with first-time visitors,” said Mrs Hawkins. “The key themes are travel routes, nature, wellbeing and the outdoors. Our target audience lives within two to four hours’ travel time and we are inviting them to come and experience, unwind and explore Mid Wales.”
She revealed that the Visit Mid Wales website had 1.2 million visitors, 13 million page views and generated 135,000 business referrals in the past year. In March alone, there were one million page views compared to 400,000 in the same month last year.
Although Mid Wales businesses had benefited from the staycation boom this year, Mrs Hawkins warned it was going to take a “huge effort to bounce back strongly from the economic impact of the pandemic”.
Looking forward to 2022, MWT Cymru will be working closely with Visit Wales on marketing campaigns for Mid Wales and with Cambrian Training Company to promote apprenticeships as a solution to ongoing staff shortages in the sector.
Cambrian Training Company will hold virtual meetings with MWT Cymru members to discuss and find solutions to their staff recruitment issues.
Arwyn Watkins, OBE, managing director of the company, which is the main provider of apprenticeships to the hospitality sector on Wales, said: “We have always been committed to Mid Wales and staffing is now an issue of major importance in the region.
“Hopefully, we can provide the solution by working with tourism and hospitality businesses.”
MWT Cymru’s priorities for 2022 include a new printed Mid Wales Visitor Guide which would be ready for Easter, online promotions to extend the tourism season in Mid Wales and continuation of successful virtual meetings with members.
The company will also work closely with the Wales Tourism Alliance (WTA) to lobby the Welsh and UK Governments to reduce VAT and to reform business rates. Other issues on the lobbying agenda are the statutory registration of tourism businesses and any plan to introduce a tourism tax.
Board member Jonathan Jones stressed the importance of the WTA’s lobbying role. “In every crisis we have had, the importance of the tourism industry comes to the surface,” he said. “It’s important that the WTA keeps tourism and its employment power in front of all the parties.”
Suzy Davies, WTA chair, urged MWT Cymru and tourism businesses to provide the information and facts to help the alliance present a united message when lobbying.
Rowland Rees-Evans, MWT Cymru’s chairman.
The market town of Machynlleth hosted its inaugural, literary festival named Amdani, Fachynlleth! Literature & Travel Festival from November 26-28.
Even with Storm Arwen to contend with, attendees enjoyed this first festival, translated to Let’s Go! Machynlleth, which paid homage to Jan Morris, the internationally acclaimed Welsh historian, traveller and author.
Artist and painter Dan Llywelyn Hall unveiled a new portrait of Jan during the opening of the festival and it’s now on display in MOMA (Museum Of Modern Art, Machynlleth) until the new year, along with some of Jan’s own sketches from her notebooks.
The portrait ‘The Sole Explorer’ was completed in recent months and was started the day after the author’s passing on November 20 last year. The oil on panel measuring 122cm by 84cm was made from extensive video footage and a photographic archive of Jan’s life.
There were speakers from across the travel and writing world, from talks about Machynlleth, drinking through European countries, to adventures of walking from Ukraine to Wales. An impressive and lively goshawk even made an appearance to accompany one speaker!
The next festival is pencilled in for the first weekend in April (1st-3rd) and more details will be announced very soon via the Amdani Fachynlleth Facebook page.
Charles Dark, owner of The Wynnstay Hotel in Machynlleth who was instrumental in the festival’s creation, said: “Bringing together some of the UK’s most knowledgeable and acclaimed travel and literature experts was extremely exciting. I can’t thank each and every one enough for making the effort to be here.
“As well as the incredible tales and anecdotes shared during the official speaking engagements, the stories that were shared outside of the scheduled programme among attendees and speakers were what this festival was all about in my eyes.
“It was about bringing people together and sharing memories and inspiring others which it certainly did. Speakers made us laugh, one definitely made us cry with her storytelling, but all were engaging in their own way.
“It was lovely to see familiar faces and names, combined with some newer up and coming writers complementing each other nicely and we’re already working on the next festival in April. So, watch this space for more inspiring speakers coming to Machynlleth very soon.”
Each speaker was recorded on film and those will be streamed once editing has been completed.
Artist and painter Dan Llywelyn Hall who unveiled ‘The Sole Explorer’, a new portrait of the late Jan Morris, pictured with her son Twm Morys.
The Sole Explorer’, a new portrait of the late Jan Morris, by artist Dan Llywelyn Hall.
Daniel Butler with his goshawk on stage.
Ellen Wakelam, co-founder and owner of award-winning Mid Wales distillery, In the Welsh Wind, was a winner at the prestigious Natwest Everywoman Awards 2021 which recognise inspirational women in business across the UK.
Ellen, who founded the distillery with her partner Alex Jungmayr, in January 2018, won the ‘Demeter’ category which recognises the most inspirational woman running a business trading from three to five years.
Growing up in Tresaith, she went to school in Cardigan before studying geography at Liverpool John Moores University and postgraduate teaching at Aberystwyth University.
Ellen went on to work as a geography teacher, but had to leave Ceredigion for the Midlands to find work. Disillusioned with teaching, she returned to Ceredigion and found the focus and energy to set up a business with her partner after a three month walk around Wales.
After several years running a food business linked to the tourism industry, Ellen was travelling in Scotland with Alex where they were so inspired by small craft distilleries that they set up their own gin distillery.
Now, nearly four years old, In the Welsh Wind Distillery is an award-winning business in its own right. It produces several award-winning gins both under the In the Welsh Wind brand and also for other brands and businesses.
The distillery moved into and renovated the Gogerddan Arms pub in 2019, but business plans had to be put on hold during the first few months of the pandemic to produce hand sanitiser for the community. Spirits production is now firmly back on the agenda.
It is one of only five distilleries in Wales making whisky. Uniquely in Wales, In the Welsh Wind has pioneered a process which ensures that, from grain to glass, every step takes place within 10 miles of the distillery.
The distillery is also committed to providing training and employment for young people in the area, running a work experience scheme and offering opportunities through apprenticeships, Jobs Growth Wales and the Kickstart programme.
“To win this prestigious Natwest Everywoman Award is a huge honour, both for me and the distillery,” said Ellen. “I love being a woman leading a strong team, which is itself predominantly female, in an industry that is traditionally seen as very ‘male. But the distillery industry is changing and I’m proud that the team at In the Welsh Wind will be a part of that.
“I was incredibly inspired by all the stories I heard during the awards ceremony and everyone was a deserving finalist. Hats off to the judges who clearly had a very difficult job deciding between us all.”
Established in 1999, the Natwest Everywoman Awards has built a community of female business owners and exemplary role models with the aim of sharing knowledge and ideas, connecting them with advisors, peers and potential investors.
In 2021, the awards celebrate inspirational female founders whose creativity and resilience will help Britain weather the current economic storm.
Ellen Wakelam, excited to have been announced the winner of the Demeter award at the Natwest Everywoman Awards 2021.
People who are curious to hear previously undocumented tales from Aberystwyth’s past can now visit Ceredigion Museum’s website to access the free ‘It Happened in Aber’ guided history walk.
The audio tour consists of a map and a series of stories relating to five Aberystwyth locations, and it begins and ends at the museum.
The tour is perfect for passing the time over the festive period. It will be of interest both to residents of Aberystwyth and to visitors who wish to learn more about the town’s colourful history and the characters, events and stories that have shaped it.
Carrie Canham, Ceredigion Museum curator, said: “This year has highlighted the importance of being able to engage in a digital world and this project rises to the new needs of our audiences.
“Heritage is about so much more than dates and famous people and places. We wanted to capture stories that you would normally hear in a pub, at a school reunion or over coffee, stories that connect us to our hometown.”
To produce the tour, the museum worked with the local community, historians and a digital storytelling expert to capture the untold stories of Aberystwyth and connect the wider community on digital platforms.
Councillor Catherine Hughes, Ceredigion Cabinet Member responsible for culture, said: “I would encourage anyone interested in learning more about the stories that shaped Aberystwyth as the town is today to visit Ceredigion Museum’s website to access this brilliant tour.
“Many thanks to all staff and local groups who have worked together to bring light to these wonderful stories which form an integral part of our history.”
The project was possible thanks to a successful bid for the ‘15-minute heritage’ fund, a partnership between The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service.
Access the free ‘It Happened in Aber’ tour on Ceredigion Museum’s website: https://ceredigionmuseum.wales/
It happened in Aber poster.
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