The performance of Talyllyn Railway since passenger trains resumed in May has been hailed by general manager Stuart Williams.
With two months of the financial year remaining, the Tywyn-based heritage railway has carried 36,472 passengers so far in 2021 compared to 49,344 in 2019, which was a record breaking year.
This reduction is perfectly understandable bearing in mind that passenger numbers have been restricted due to Covid safety measures and there were no trains between February and the end of April due to the pandemic.
The railway’s revenue, including tickets, shop and cafes, is 3.7% behind the 2019 full year figures.
Mr Williams said: “The COVID restrictions, which were in force at the start of this year, meant that we could not open until May, so we missed the early part of the season and Easter, which traditionally would have seen us take around 15% of our annual income.
“All things considered, I think everyone connected with the railway can be very proud of its performance this year.”
The world’s first preserved railway, The Talyllyn adapted to the pandemic challenges by implementing changes which allowed customers to enjoy a steam train ride in their own personal compartment, maintaining a physical barrier between them and other groups of passengers.
When the restrictions eased in August, mixed seating areas were re-introduced but the ability to book a private area was maintained.
“We have been inundated with positive comments about the way we managed the services to be COVID safe,” added Stuart. “It’s a testament to our staff and volunteers who have had to be very flexible with our planning.
“In previous years, the railway would shut after the October half term until the Santa Specials in December, but this year it has decided to run every weekend until the end of the year, as well as daily between Boxing Day and January 5.”
The railway is running “Santa Special” trains on December 22, 23 and 24. Further details can be found on our website https://www.talyllyn.co.uk/
Talyllyn Railway is a member of MWT Cymru, which represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia.
Talyllyn Railway’s general manager Stuart Williams.
A Talyllyn Railway “Santa Special.”
The reopening of Talyllyn Railway in its 70th anniversary year has begun.
King’s Café at Wharf Station is open with heated outdoor seating under the main station canopy, as well as further covered space under a pair of marquees.
The shop and café in Tywyn and tearooms at Abergynolwyn are now open daily from 9am and 10am respectively
Daily passenger services have also restarted, with certain Covid restrictions in place to ensure the comfort and safety of the staff and passengers
Details of the timetable may be found on the railway’s website. All bookings must be made in advance through the website, which has full details of special Covid arrangements in place.
Under canopy dining tables for Kings Café on the platform at Wharf Station.
Marquees situated opposite the main station building at Wharf for patrons wishing to purchase take-away refreshments from Kings Café.
Press release from Ceredigion County Council:
With outdoor hospitality businesses now allowed to reopen in Wales, businesses in Ceredigion are encouraged to ensure that they are fully aware of the latest guidance.
From Saturday, 24 April 2021, six people can meet outdoors in Wales, and outdoor hospitality, including cafes, pubs and restaurants can reopen from Monday 26 April 2021 – alongside outdoor attractions, organised outdoor activities and wedding receptions for up to 30 people.
Welsh Government has also announced that Wales is on track for indoor hospitality reopening from Monday 17 May 2021, subject to confirmation.
In order to open outdoor hospitality more comfortably and safely, some venues may want to erect outdoor structures/shelters to provide some protection from the changeable Welsh weather.
To be considered ‘outdoors’, shelters, marquees and other structures cannot be ‘enclosed’ or ‘substantially enclosed’ to comply with the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No.5) (Wales) Regulations 2020. If the structure has a roof, at least 50% of the area of their ‘walls’ or sides must be open at all times when in use.
This does not include any windows or doors within the structure. This ‘50% rule’ has been taken from smoke free premises legislation, so if you cannot smoke in a structure or building, it will also not be able to be used for outdoor hospitality when the sector reopens. Examples of suitable and unsuitable outdoor shelters can be seen in the attachment.
It is also important to site structures as far away from any permanent structures, e.g. walls or hedges as these may then accidentally form part of the perimeter of the structure as they act to enclose these sides.
As a guide, a structure should be at least 1.5 metres away from any materials or other structure that would act to enclose these sides. It is important to remember that not only must any outdoor shelter comply with the legislation on smoking, but also with laws relating to Planning, Building Control and the conditions for licensed premises e.g. the positioning of the structure means that your CCTV is not effective.
It is also advisable that businesses contact the Fire Officer to discuss any impact the structure/shelter may have on fire escape routes etc. For further information on this and how to calculate whether your structure can be used as an outdoor structure, please visit Welsh Government page regarding smoke-free law: https://gov.wales/smoke-free-law-guidance-changes-march-2021
UK Hospitality Cymru has also released the following mitigating guidance for re-opening outdoors in Wales for the hospitality (pubs, bars, cafés, restaurants and licensed venues) sector: www.ukhospitality.org.uk/page/WalesGuidance
This guidance has been produced in consultation with industry stakeholders and applies to hospitality businesses in Wales. Information relating to current alert levels and any transitional arrangements that may be in place can be found on the Welsh Government website: www.gov.wales/coronavirus. These may change at short notice so it is advised that the page is checked regularly.
Image: Examples of suitable and unsuitable outdoor shelters. Credit picture to Shared Regulatory Service, https://twitter.com/SRS_Wales/status/1384483236462563334
Online Link: https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/news/advice-for-businesses-reopening-outdoor-hospitality-venues/
Tourism leaders in Mid Wales have welcomed today’s Welsh Government’s decision to reopen indoor hospitality and the wider tourism sector on May 17.
First Minister Mark Drakeford announced the plans to lift lockdown restrictions on hospitality and tourism following a call from the Covid-19 Tourism Taskforce, set up by Welsh Government, to bring forward the reopening dates in line with England and Scotland. The taskforce represents the hospitality and tourism industry in Wales.
Today’s announcement means that people will be able to have a drink or meal inside a pub or restaurant in Wales for the first time in more than five months from May 17.
All tourist accommodation, indoor entertainment and attractions in Wales will also reopen on that date in time for the Spring Bank Holiday. Outdoor hospitality and tourism reopen on April 26.
Rowland Rees-Evans, chairman of MWT Cymru, which represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd region of Gwynedd, warmly welcomed the announcement.
Earlier this week, he backed the taskforce’s letter to the First Minister and warned that the tourism and hospitality sector in Wales would lose out if the reopening dates were not in alignment with England.
“It’s very pleasing that the First Minister has listened to the hospitality and tourism industry and that we now have a roadmap so that we know exactly where we are. We now have the summer to look forward to and it shows that the vaccination programme is working.
“We all must continue to work together to ensure that we keep everyone safe.”
Taskforce member Steve Hughson, Mid Wales Regional Tourism Forum chair and chief executive of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS) at Llanelwedd, also welcomed the announcement.
“Taking account of all the data, which is moving quickly, the Taskforce felt the time was right to move to indoor hospitality as soon as we could after an assessment of the impact of reopening outdoor hospitality,” he said.
“We are delighted the First Minister has take scientific advice, looked at the data and moved quicker than the original time frame.”
Speaking on behalf of the RWAS, he added: “As a member of the Event Wales Industry Advisory Group, we continue to work very closely with the Welsh Government with regards to the events sector.
“We continue to push for test events and the safe reopening of the events sector which has been the worst affected during the pandemic as we have been unable to open in any form since March last year.”
Fellow taskforce member, Wales Tourism Alliance (WTA) chairman Andrew Campbell said he felt a deep sense of relief with the announcement.
“I would like to thank the First Minister and the Welsh Government for listening to our representations,” he added. “The announcement is very welcome and is just what is needed. I am delighted for tourism and hospitality businesses in Wales.
“Visitors to Wales will now have a number of options of where to go and it will certainly make destination management easier.”
Other taskforce members based in Mid Wales include Adrian Greason-Walker, WTA’s policy advisor who lives at Nantmel, near Rhayader and Anthony Rosser, Hospitality Cymru’s chair who is general manager and operations director of Lake Vyrnwy Hotel.
Rowland Rees-Evans, MWT Cymru’s chairman.
Steve Hughson, Mid Wales Regional Tourism Forum chair.
Plans for the phased re-opening of the world’s first preserved railway, which celebrates its 70th birthday this year, have been announced following the Welsh Government’s careful relaxation of Covid-19 regulations.
Talyllyn Railway, based at Tywyn on the Mid Wales coast, plans to re-start its daily public train service on Saturday, May 1.
Talyllyn Shop at Wharf Station, which is already open from 10am until 1pm, will resume usual opening hours from 9am until 3pm from Monday, April 26. Hot drinks and cake are available to take away from the shop. The railway’s online shop offers free UK deliveries for orders over £25.
King’s Café at Wharf Station will also open from April 26 with heated undercover outdoor seating and a special menu. The café will then be open from 9am until 3pm daily.
With a resumption of the public train service on May 1, King’s Café will open from 9am until the return of the last train, and the Tea Rooms at Abergynolwyn Station will be open from 10am until 3pm.
Details of the timetable and special Covid safeguarding arrangements are available on the railway’s website - www.talyllyn.co.uk. All bookings must be made in advance through the website.
To ensure social distancing in combatting Covid 19, intending travellers will be booking a compartment exclusive to their group.
The narrow gauge railway opened for goods traffic in 1865 and, shortly after, for passenger services, which have operated every year since between Tywyn and Nant Gwernol, just over seven miles inland.
Operation of the line was taken over by Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society in 1951 when it became the world’s first preserved railway. Primarily run by volunteers, with a small paid staff, the railway is now a major tourist attraction in Mid Wales, contributing significantly to the area’s economy.
Talyllyn Railway preparing to reopen.
Photo: Darren Turner.
After months of staying at home to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, millions of people across the UK are longing to escape to the countryside for a holiday or short break.
There’s no better place to relax and immerse oneself in beautiful countryside and spectacular scenery than Mid Wales, the rural heartland of Wales which offers something for everyone.
From the rivers, lakes and mountains of Powys and the Brecon Beacons National Park to the stunning Cardigan Bay coastline, the Cambrian Mountains and the foothills of Snowdonia, the region is packed with places and things to see and do.
National Resources Wales’ woodland trails and National Nature Reserves (NRW) in Mid Wales have remained open over the most recent lockdown period, with social distancing measures in place.
With more people expected to explore beyond their local surroundings, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is urging visitors to adhere to the Countryside Code and follow six steps to ensure their return to the great Welsh outdoors is a safe and enjoyable experience for themselves and communities. The message is: respect, protect and enjoy the natural environment of Wales.
Before they visit, visitors are asked to:
While at their destination, they are asked to:
For those seeking a family day out, there is Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre, near Aberystwyth, which has red kite feeding every day, easy walking trails, including one suitable for pushchairs, a new off-road cycle trail and a takeaway service from the café.
Tan y Coed woodland in Dyfi Forest, near Machynlleth offers an easy to find picnic site with two short woodland walks with an animal discovery trail with animal models hidden in the trees.
For those seeking an activity day out, Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre is a great place for running and mountain biking trails, while the Hafren Forest, near Llanidloes has an eight mile walk to the source of the River Severn.
Further north near Dolgellau is Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre, a famous mountain bike centre with trails for all abilities as well as walks, picnic sites and a takeaway service from the café.
Visitors who use wheelchairs can enjoy two very different trails in Mid Wales. Cors Caron National Nature Reserve, near Tregaron has a wheelchair accessible boardwalk over a vast raised bog and Hafren Forest’s waterfall walks include a wheelchair accessible boardwalk to a viewing area over cascades.
For waterfall walks, head to Hafren Forest which offers walks of varying lengths, one of which is accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, while Hafod Estate, near Aberystwyth has a historic landscape with a range of walks taking in dramatic waterfalls and views.
For those wishing to explore off the beaten track, Mid Wales has a selection of woodlands to choose from. The Foel Friog picnic site in Dyfi Forest, near Machynlleth, is the starting point for a short but steep walk with superb views over the Dyfi valley and estuary. Pont Llogel in Dyfnant Forest has an easy riverside stroll through woodland and is tucked away in a hamlet not far from Lake Vyrnwy, The Arch, near Aberystwyth provides walks through huge beech trees with views over hills and Radnor Forest (Fishpools car park), near Knighton has a woodland walk with valley views.
When it comes to bluebells, the woodland walk at Gogerddan Wood, near Aberystwyth is a must do during spring. Nature lovers could also head for Dyfi National Nature Reserve, near Aberystwyth to enjoy displays of spring flowers in the dunes and perhaps spot one of the reptiles that live here, including the common lizard, sand lizard, adder and grass snake.
For more information on each site, go to: https://naturalresourceswales.gov.uk/days-out/places-to-visit/mid-wales/ or check out https://www.visitmidwales.co.uk/ for a full range of things to see and so and places to stay in Mid Wales.
Read the Countryside Code at https://naturalresources.wales/days-out/the-countryside-codes/the-countryside-code/?lang=en
Bluebells beside the woodland walk at Gogerddan Wood, near Aberystwyth.
Foel Friog in Dyfi Forest, near Machynlleth.
Waterfalls on the Hafod Estate, near Aberystwyth.
Bwlch Nant yr Arian near Aberystwyth.
One of the waterfall walks in the Hafren Forest, near Llanidloes.
Between June and November last year, when the park could open, they sold 18 caravans and are confident that the remaining available pitches will be filled this year.
The couple previously ran a busy holiday park in Somerset for seven years before moving to Cumbria to renovate a cottage and launch a landscaping business for three years.
Keen to return to holiday park management, they jumped at the opportunity to take over at Seven Oaks Holiday Park. It was love at first sight and the couple sold their cottage and moved down to the Welsh border.
“Seven Oaks ticked all the boxes for us because we were looking for a park with owners, no rentals or nightclub and somewhere we could put our stamp on,” said Russell. “At the previous park we managed, I spent most of my time sat in an office when I wanted to be outdoors working.
“The park here is beautiful and in a great location. We have done most of the projects we wanted to get done ready for reopening.
The park has 137 double and single lodges and caravans holiday homes, two coarse fishing lakes for the exclusive use of owners, fishing on a stretch of the River Severn, crown green bowling green complete with pavilion, pitch and putt golf, fitness suite, riverside walks and two enclosed dog walking areas.
Most caravan holiday homes and lodges on the 40-acre park have views of the River Severn and are bordered by mature trees, banks of shrubs and immaculately kept grass down to the riverside.
In their leisure time, Russell and Nikkole are keen walkers and their ambition is to complete the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrim route from St. Jean Pied-du-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Russell Midgley and Nikkole Pedder.
Now the Covid-19 Tourism Taskforce, set up by Welsh Government and representing the hospitality and tourism industry in Wales, has written to First Minister Mark Drakeford asking him to forward the reopening dates in line with England and Scotland, or even sooner. This would see indoor hospitality and indoor attractions reopen on May 17.
MWT Cymru, which represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd region of Gwynedd, has backed the letter and commended the work of the taskforce throughout the pandemic.
Rowland Rees-Evans, MWT Cymru’s chairman, is calling for the taskforce to continue its work during the Covid-19 recovery period and beyond and for the next Welsh Government to create a Cabinet Minister for Tourism.
“We welcome the taskforce’s letter to the First Minister because it comes from the whole hospitality and tourism industry,” he said. “The Welsh Government has said all along that the reopening dates are guided by the Covid-19 infection rate data because it doesn’t want the NHS to be overwhelmed.
“We are now at the stage where the data has overtaken the dates, so why can’t we reopen faster. If we don’t reopen the industry in line with England, Wales is going to lose out again and people are going to book holidays and short breaks in other parts of the UK.
“We feel that the Welsh Parliament-Senedd Cymru election should have been delayed because purdah is standing in the way of important decisions during an absolutely crucial time for the industry.
“We would like to thank the Covid-19 Tourism Taskforce for its excellent work during the pandemic and we think it’s essential that it carries on representing the hospitality and tourism industry during the recovery and beyond. We also believe there is a definite need for a Cabinet Minister for Tourism in the next Welsh Government.”
Taskforce member, Wales Tourism Alliance chairman Andrew Campbell said: “We are calling for flexibility in bringing forward the reopening of indoor hospitality and attractions, following the excellent work done by the Welsh Government in controlling the Covid-19 infection rate in Wales.
“We must get the sector open because businesses need to start trading as their cash reserves are low. It’s essential that the sector continues to have the ability to feed in concerns and issues to the Welsh Government as and when they arise.”
Representing Mid Wales on the taskforce is Steve Hughson, Mid Wales Regional Tourism Forum chair and chief executive of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society at Llanelwedd.
Other taskforce members based in Mid Wales include Adrian Greason-Walker, Wales Tourism Alliance’s Wales policy advisor who lives at Nantmel, near Rhayader and Anthony Rosser, Hospitality Cymru’s chair who is general manager and operations director of Lake Vyrnwy Hotel.
The taskforce’s letter praises the First Minister and Welsh Government for saving lives in Wales and protecting health services from being overwhelmed. However, it says the time has come to reopen the hospitality and tourism sector.
“We appeal with urgency for an early reopening and the positive opportunity to help you begin the economic rebuild that our great industry can help the new government to deliver in the coming months,” it states.
“As a taskforce, we very much look forward to working together with that government to bring forward business stability, staff wellbeing, community replenishment and a Croeso Cynnes to our customers and visitors.”
Rowland Rees-Evans, MWT Cymru’s chairman.
Owners Kerena and Stephen Pugh, who normally report a high annual occupancy rate for their five-star holiday accommodation, have not been surprised by the demand.
Some bookings have been rolled over from 2020 when pandemic restrictions prevented guests from visiting. However, Kerena says enquiries continue to flood in from people who are finding it difficult to find available accommodation.
Wherever possible, she is directing callers to other quality accommodation businesses in the Rhayader area. Lon Lodges is a member of the Rhayader 2000 tourism group which is currently going through a process to rebrand the town and surrounding area, including the spectacular Elan Valley, as The Outdoors Capital of Wales.
“It’s really busy and I have few availability gaps for the lodges until December,” said Kerena. “It hasn’t come as a surprise to be honest, but the lodges have been booked up much earlier this year.
“We are getting guests booking who do not normally holiday in this country, but the pandemic is preventing them from going abroad. People are so grateful to get away and it doesn’t seem to matter how far they have to travel.
“Since Monday, when people living in England were allowed to resume visiting Wales, Rhayader has been much busier. People love the outdoors here with walking, cycling, fishing, wildlife and golf very popular.”
Director Dylan Evans says he is expecting to see the touring park full throughout the holiday season. “It’s definitely busier with bookings this year and the calls keep coming,” he said.
“We are grateful to have a second bite of tourism industry this year because people who normally go abroad on holiday are now staycationing. After a horrendous 2020, when we were shut for the majority of the year, we are looking forward to bouncing back.
“It is going to be a great summer and I just hope we have good weather like last year. We have been getting busier every day this week and we are expecting to be full at the weekend.
“The only disappointment is that our award-winning facilities cannot open. Subject to Covid cases remaining low, we will be able to serve food and alcohol outdoors on April 26 and indoors from May 17, when our shower and toilet facilities will also reopen.”
“We were only open for 11 weeks last year due to the lockdowns but were fully booked throughout and we are delighted that there had been a lot of repeat bookings.
“We have chosen high end lodges because people want to come to somewhere unique and quite luxurious. Our guests really enjoy the views, tranquillity and the opportunity to experience country living.
“We have met some lovely people and it’s great to be able to bring them to an area where there are so many places to visit and see.”
All three businesses are members of MWT Cymru, which represents more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd region of Gwynedd.
One of the lodges at Lon Lodges, Nantmel, near Rhayader.
Carol and David Parry outside one of their lodges at Plas Robin Rural Retreats in Llandyssil, near Montgomery.
An aerial shot of Islawrffordd Luxury Holiday Park at Talybont, near Barmouth.
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
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