The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society showground at Llanelwedd is launching its new camping site for caravans and campers to use from May 28.
After being closed for more than year, the society has worked hard to maintain the showground to ensure that visitors can access the best possible experience when it reopens.
Nestled in the heart of Mid Wales, the campsite is within easy access of many footpaths and bridleways with breathtaking scenic views. With the Elan Valley to the north and the Brecon Beacons to the south, this location is perfect for those wanting to enjoy outdoor pursuits across Mid Wales.
With many eager to get back to exploring and tourism resurging post lockdown, the Llanelwedd camping site aims to play a role in offering first class facilities to those looking to stay on the world-famous showground.
From May 28, the camping site reopens with a number of options for visitors, from caravans with access to electricity, to grass pitches for those intending to camp and those who have pre-booked to those who want to turn up on the day.
The society will be launching its online booking website soon.
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.
After receiving the award from David Peate, who was Powys High Sheriff at the time, she said: “The award is an absolute surprise. I still like to do things for Wales, but my tourism work was so long ago now. I was just being Welsh and promoting the country.”
Jonathan Jones, CBE, a good friend of Pam, said she reminded him constantly, when he was WTB chief executive that he should have done so much more for Mid Wales.
He explained that Pam did not begin providing Welsh teas at British and international tourism exhibitions until she was in her 60s, after raising three sons and running a farm and pony trekking centre in Rhayader.
“The tributes to Pam on social media are huge from people all around the world who still remember her,” said Mr Jones. “She was a legend in her own teatime.
“She really was a woman with strong views who did not suffer fools gladly and her main love was Mid Wales. She consistently thought we could all do far more than we were doing to support Mid Wales.
“Pam was also a great ambassador for Wales, Britain and tourism in general, and she will be sorely missed.”
Val Hawkins, MWT Cymru’s chief executive, said: “Pam made such a big contribution to the tourism industry which was recognised with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“She was a lovely person with a sharp mind who always had Mid Wales very much in her heart. She will be missed greatly.”
Born near Rhayader in 1924, Pam moved with her parents to Cardiff where she was educated at Cardiff High School and Cardiff University. After a period teaching domestic science, she married and moved to Cowbridge where she brought up her three sons.
Her role as president of The Welsh Ski Council ensured that all her sons were excellent skiers, with one representing GB and another becoming a ski instructor.
Widowed in her early 50s, Pam bought Blaen Cwm Farm near Rhayader where she established the pony trekking business and was a founder member of the Pony Trekking Society of Wales.
Because of her public relations and cooking ability, she was recruited by both the WTB and the British BTA. When the travelling became too onerous, she opened a B&B in her mother's former home and supported her son, Clive's mountain biking business in Rhayader, attracting mountain bike groups from across the UK and Europe.
Throughout this time, Pam was a member and strong supporter of MWT Cymru and was instrumental in establishing Rhayader 2000, which brought local tourism related businesses together.
MWT Cymru is the regional destination marketing and membership organisation representing more than 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Meirionnydd district of Southern Snowdonia.
Pam Powell, MBE, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from David Peate at the inaugural Mid Wales Tourism Awards .
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.
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.
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.
“For 30 minutes, people can walk from the comfort of their armchair with their own personal tour guide,” explained Stuart Williams, Talyllyn Railway’s general manager.
“They can spend time at the exhibits and areas that they want to look at and ask questions along the way.
“The tour can be booked for a time that suits them, or they can purchase a unique gift for someone else. Customers can also mix and match your tours to suit their interests.”
One tour costs £25, two cost £17.50 each or three cost £15 each. There are individual tours for the Museum, General all areas, The Awdry Study and Locomotives.
Museum tours include one year’s Friends of the Museum Membership. Book the tours online at https://bit.ly/TRmuseumtours
Enthusiasts can also watch the railway live from the comfort of their armchair thanks to three webcams that have been set up. Those wishing to see even more of the railway can pay an annual subscription of £5 to access Talyllyn Control Centre offers an extra camera and the ability to track the live progress of the trains.
Stuart has developed his video and social media skills during lockdown to keep the public engaged with and informed about railway. A fundraising campaign last year was a great success, collecting more than £130,000 for the railway.
He recently streamed a live video of a 70th anniversary re-enactment event on the railway via Facebook. The event marked 70 years since two ex-Corris Railway locomotives – Locos 3 and 4 - arrived at Tywyn, having been purchased by Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society. The video can be watched on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/TalyllynRail.
Talyllyn Railway Museum.
One of the railway’s locomotives waiting to escape lockdown and return to action.
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