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
From March 27, when the ‘stay local’ travel restrictions will also be lifted by the Welsh Government, people living within Wales will be able to enjoy a holiday break within the country. Only one household from within Wales can book to stay in accommodation.
Visitors from other UK nations will still have to abide by their restrictions, meaning that non-essential travel to Wales and overnight stays are not allowed until April 12 at the earliest.
Val Hawkins, MWT’s chief executive, said: “We welcome the Welsh Government’s announcement which will allow our members with self-contained accommodation, including caravan parks, to reopen to visitors from within Wales in time for Easter.
“Wales is the first country in the UK to relax the Covid-19 restrictions in this way and that is due to the hard work and discipline of local communities within Wales to drive down the infection rate.
“Some of our members with self-contained accommodation have been gearing up to reopen in time for Easter, but not all will be reopening, as there are still significant restrictions in place.
“Our advice to people who plan to visit Mid Wales after March 27 is to ensure that you book directly with self-contained accommodation that has Covid-secure measures in place and has ‘Good to go’ accreditation.
“The safety of local communities is the first priority for all our members. Self-contained accommodation will only be allowed to take bookings from a single household until the restrictions are further relaxed.
“Whilst there will still be significant restrictions in place, it’s a long-awaited opportunity for people living within Wales, who have been in the current lockdown for three months, to escape to the outdoors and there is nowhere better than Mid Wales to boost your health and wellbeing.
“We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Mid Wales from other parts of the UK when it’s safe to do so.”
Picture caption: Val Hawkins welcomes the Welsh Government’s announcement.
The National Eisteddfod has announced that they are postponing the Ceredigion National Eisteddfod for a year.
The decision was taken by the organisation's Management Board following a number of discussions with the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales. Ceredigion County Council supports the National Eisteddfod's decision to postpone the Ceredigion Eisteddfod for another year until 2022.
Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Welsh Language, said, “We support the Eisteddfod on their difficult decision to postpone the Eisteddfod for another year. It will be strange not to work towards and attend the Eisteddfod on the first week of August this year again. However, everyone's health and safety is the main priority. Organizing or preparing to compete and attend the Eisteddfod is a big task. With all the planning that needs to be done, it is not practically possible to carry them out this year. We look forward to welcoming everyone to Ceredigion when it is safe to do so.”
We thank the Eisteddfod and all the volunteers for their work so far. We look forward to welcoming everyone to Ceredigion in 2022.
For practical information regarding postponing this year’s Eisteddfod, go to the Eisteddfod’s website, www.eisteddfod.wales.
The chairman of an award-winning leisure company that has a sales centre in Mid Wales is predicting a fantastic year ahead for tourism in the UK after the extreme challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
Tony Bywater, from Salop Leisure, which also has sales centres in Machynlleth, Shrewsbury and Stourport-on-Severn, believes the demand for ‘staycationing’ will be greater than ever in 2021, with British people reluctant to jet off to sunnier climes.
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.
Outside the national Covid-19 lockdowns last year, caravan and motorhome sales boomed at Salop Leisure as more first-time buyers opted to invest in holidays in the UK for the foreseeable future instead of travelling abroad.
Many caravan holiday home parks across Mid Wales and the Heart of England reported a huge demand for available pitches.
Mr Bywater believes that this trend will continue in 2021 and the years to come as the Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out across the UK.
Having devoted more than 50 years of his life to the caravan and motorhome industry, he has experienced many economic highs and lows and is well placed to offer an opinion on future business prospects.
He says the UK will emerge from the pandemic as a much different place, as people re-evaluate what is and what is not important in their lives. Spending quality family time away from work will become a top priority.
“It has been an extremely difficult time for everybody, but I think 2021 is going to be very special for our industry and tourism in the UK,” he said. “People are going to want to stay in the UK, rather than travelling abroad, like they have done in the past. The pandemic will change people’s habits forever.
“Demand for caravan holiday homes, touring caravans and motorhomes is going to be massive, putting pressure on manufacturers and parks.
“We lost a lot of trade whilst our businesses were forced to close during the lockdowns, but, when we reopened in late summer, customer demand was huge.”
Mr Bywater says it’s imperative that all four home nations work together to agree a uniform policy on future lockdowns to make it easier for people to understand the restrictions. Having different rules in each country caused confusion.
Salop Leisure is a member of MWT Cymru, an independent organisation that represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Mid Wales, which includes Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd region of Gwynedd.
This could become a common sight in 2021 as Salop Leisure chairman Tony Bywater predicts a staycation boom.
Talyllyn Railway plans to use most of the grant on its winter maintenance programme, which includes completing an overhaul on ‘Talyllyn’, locomotive No.1.
Other projects include providing electric vehicle charging points, installing heating in more carriages, Abergynolwyn playground refurbishment, a comprehensive interpretation strategy for the railway and other heritage projects and enhanced video conferencing facilities.
The grant will enable the railway to prepare for the 2021 season, when it is hoped that life will begin to return to normal and passengers will make a welcome return.
The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust, located in Talyllyn Railway’s HQ buildings at Wharf Station, has also been awarded £27,000 towards Covid-secure measures and other costs.
Ian Drummond, the railway’s fundraising officer, thanked everyone who helped with grant applications.
Locomotive Talyllyn negotiates he Dolgoch Viaduct on Talyllyn Railway.
Photo: Darren Turner.
The call comes from MWT Cymru, which represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses in Powys, Ceredigion and South Gwynedd. The company has created a new page on its Visit Mid Wales website - www.visitmidwales.co.uk/christmas - to promote gift ideas in the run up to Christmas.
Gift ideas range from animal, falconry and pottery experiences to rides on narrow gauge railways and a selection of Mid Wales craftware and food and drink products.
With some Mid Wales hotels closing temporarily due to new COVID-19 restrictions imposed in Wales, which begin at 6pm today (Friday), shoppers are being urged to go online to book a short break, holiday or visitor experience as a special gift to look forward to in 2021.
Val Hawkins, MWT Cymru’s chief executive, said: “2020 has been a really challenging year and I would appeal to local people in Mid Wales and those living outside our region to continue to support our member businesses this Christmas,” she said.
“Traditionally, December is one of the busiest months for our businesses, many of whom offer exciting experiences and craftware which make great Christmas gifts. It’s also a great time to book new year breaks and holidays in Mid Wales.”
The new restrictions imposed in Wales stop pubs, restaurants and cafes from serving alcohol and they are unable to open to customers beyond 6pm. Businesses can offer a takeaway service after 6pm and, if they have an off-licence, can sell takeaway alcohol up until 10pm. Indoor visitor attractions must also close.
The Welsh Government will review these restrictions on December 17.
Support local businesses Mid Wales.
Buy award winning gin from The Dyfi Distillery at Corris.
There’s no need to take a plane to go on holiday, says an award winning business that provides cycling breaks in Wales and along the English border.
Cyclists have a great opportunity to explore Shropshire, Herefordshire and Wales on a Wheely Wonderful Cycling holiday, the ultimate staycation.
Even if you don’t know when you want to travel, you can buy a Christmas gift voucher for a cycling holiday and look forward to the summer.
“This year, we opened for two months during the summer to provide cycling holidays and it was such a pleasure to be able to welcome customers back to enjoy the borderlands of England and Wales,” explained Kay Dartnell, owner of Wheely Wonderful Cycling.
“Everyone was on a staycation, including a couple from Ludlow who, despite the fact that they lived only five miles from our base, had a wonderful time exploring the country lanes down to the River Wye and finding lots of places they hadn’t visited before.
“The country lanes of Shropshire, Herefordshire and Wales are quiet and virtually traffic free, so they are ideal for cycling. “
Wheely Wonderful Cycling has a wide range of cycling short breaks that make ideal Christmas voucher presents.
A Cider Cycle Tour in Herefordshire for two days costs £195 or celebrate a special occasion on the Stagg and Vicarage Cycle Tour, staying at two foodie destinations - The Lion Hotel, Leintwardine and The Stagg, Titley - combined with three days of great cycling around Herefordshire for £335.
For keen road cyclists, the Brecon Beacons Cycle Tour at £335 includes the cycling challenge of The Gospel Pass, near Hay on Wye.
Gift vouchers are available for any amount towards any of the company’s cycling holidays. Details available at https://www.wheelywonderfulcycling.co.uk/giftvouchers
The Cambrian Railway Partnership (CRP) has launched a one-off grant of up to £500 to support communities along the line that are facing challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The grant fund is being administered by Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO) and delivered in partnership with Ceredigion Association of Voluntary Organisations (CAVO), Mantell Gwynedd, Shropshire RCC and PAVO.
The CRP operates across the Wales and England border, covering the rail services along the Cambrian Main Line and the Cambrian Coast Line.
The grant fund totals £10,000, comprising £5,000 each from the partnership and Transport for Wales. Grants must be spent by May 31, 2021.
The grant can be used to deliver projects that are either Covid 19 related or not. It is not restricted to project costs and can be used for running costs, including staff, bills, rent or maintenance Organisations must demonstrate that these costs cannot be met by other means and that it will help them remain active and sustainable.
Any community organisation, charity, CIC or group that has a bank account and is based within 10 miles or 16km of a Cambrian Line Station can apply. Applications will be accepted from organisations that are not based within the given radius provided they can show how grant funding will support a community that is.
The deadline for applications is January 29, 2021. For more information and guidance visit: https://www.thecambrianline.co.uk/news/cambrian-railway-partnership-grant-fund-launched/
CRP’s chair Stuart Williams said: “As we enter 2021 with renewed hope that there will be a gradual easing on the effects of Covid 19, we want to engage with the community groups along our historic railway line and help them prosper and become more resilient.
“For smaller groups, access to funding can be long winded and unsuitable, so our Community Support Fund aims to provide quick and easy access to modest grants to help deliver quick wins to these organisations.”
The railway had its plans for the Santa Specials well advanced and had carefully designed what was hoped to be both a safe and fun event, but the pandemic made it just too difficult to put on.
The Llanfair line’s volunteers are usually drawn from all over Powys and the rest of the UK, and many of Santa’s fans travel from the West Midlands to see him.
The volunteers could not be sure they would be able to travel to work on the event, while visitors from England are unable to cross the border except for work and other limited reasons.
“After a very successful, socially-distanced late summer and autumn season of steam trains, we had high hopes for Santa’s visit,” said W&LLR general manager Charles Spencer.
“But, as English lockdown followed Welsh firebreak, and with the possibility of more restrictions leading up to Christmas, it was clear that the only practical option was to cancel.”
W&LLR member Robert Robinson, who was in charge of planning for the festive trains, added that all members of the Santa team had worked hard to adapt the line’s usual event to ensure everyone’s safety in these unusual circumstances.
“We are very grateful for all their efforts – they are as disappointed as the children will be,” he said.
The Llanfair line will now turn to making preparations for its 2021 operating season, which will include regular steam trains and special events to welcome both locals and visitors.
The railway has made it through this very difficult year with the generous support of its members, vital financial help from Powys County Council, the Welsh Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund and an overwhelming response to two major fund-raising appeals.
More than £150,000 was raised which compensated for some of the revenue lost in 2020 and ensured that a major overhaul of original W&LLR locomotive ‘The Earl’ could proceed to its completion.
The railway will be spending the winter months ensuring it’s ready to run its 120-year old trains in 2021. With extensive Covid-safety precautions in place for its staff, over the winter there will be new volunteering opportunities. Anyone interested in joining in can contact Robert Robinson, the W&LLR volunteer liaison officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org
One Christmas activity that is setting records at the railway, despite the Santa cancellation, is the mail-order sale of its Christmas cards. Three variations, all featuring the work of noted rail artist Jonathan Clay, are available through the Llanfair line’s website at www.wllr.org.uk, and are selling fast.
Photo: Andrew Charman, W&LLR
Christmas card sales from www.wllr.org.uk are proving very popular this year.
Rowland Rees-Evans, who heads MWT Cymru, appealed for a united, balanced approach during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to support tourism and hospitality businesses and communities across Mid Wales.
His appeal follows negative social media comments in response to media interviews with international travel journalist Simon Calder and celebrities Stacey Solomon and Joe Swash last week.
Appearing on ITV’s This Morning show, Mr Calder said Mid Wales is a great place to visit, referring to Machynlleth, the Centre for Alternative Technology and Barmouth. Solomon and Swash revealed that they had enjoyed a visit to the Elan Valley near Rhayader.
“It’s a great shame that high profile travel journalist Simon Calder is castigated for suggesting that Mid Wales is a good place to go on holiday,” said Mr Rees-Evans, a director of the family-owned Penrhos holiday, golf and leisure park at Llanrhystud, near Aberystwyth. “Mid Wales is open for business and is a great place to visit on holiday or to take a short break.
“It is very disappointing that such a positive story for tourism in Mid Wales, which gave a much-needed boost to our region in these difficult times, resulted in negative comments on social media channels.
“Whilst it is understandable that a small minority may wish to project their fear and anger online, some of these people do not even live or work in Mid Wales. The resulting negative media coverage has the potential to impact our reputation as a warm and welcoming destination and could even affect the speed of our recovery following this crisis.
“We all need to be aware of the unintended consequences of online comments which could be putting our independent businesses in imminent risk of closure, negatively impacting jobs and livelihoods.”
Mid Wales - Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd - covers more than 42% of Wales and is not currently subject to any lockdown restrictions. The region relies heavily on tourism, which supports thousands of jobs directly and in the supply chain.
“The region has one of the lowest Covid -19 rates in the UK, which is a reflection on who we are in Mid Wales, the way our visitors, communities and businesses have all pulled together to protect our fragile economy whilst keeping everyone safe,” stressed Mr Rees-Evans.
“Our businesses have invested in all the necessary Covid-secure measures and have worked so hard to safeguard their employees, visitors and local communities since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.
“Mid Wales business owners are doing their very best to keep themselves and their families afloat through very difficult times. They are protecting jobs and livelihoods whilst keeping families and local communities safe.
“With a long winter ahead of us, and virus infection cases rising in all parts of the UK, it is more important than ever that we all pull together to help each other through this difficult time.
“Our fantastic visitors love coming to our rural region to stay, relax and experience the great outdoors. They take in our peaceful countryside, visit local shops, independent restaurants, attractions and frequently comment about our warm and welcoming communities.
“This is the Mid Wales we all know and love, and it’s important that visitors who are planning future visits see this reflected in balanced media coverage and online commentary.”
He stressed the difficult task facing MWT Cymru in navigating the delicate balance between promoting the region, encouraging people to visit safely, supporting member businesses and reassuring communities that all possible measures have been implemented to minimise any potential risk.
“As a tourism membership organisation, we have never felt closer to our 600 plus tourism and hospitality member businesses and have worked incredibly closely with the Welsh Government and officials,” he added.
“Everyone has worked tirelessly over the last few months to enable our sector to re-open safely following months of closure. Since re-opening in July, our members have reported that visitors to Mid Wales have been respectful and understanding of the situation, they have followed the rules and been vigilant.”
Rowland Rees-Evans, MWT Cymru’s chairman.
An example of the beautiful autumn landscape awaiting visitors to Mid Wales.
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