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.
Focus Newtown Enterprise Hub is to host a second virtual conference on Thursday this week to provide support to industries impacted by COVID-19.
Collaboration is a key theme for this event, as the hub team chats to businesspeople who have adapted, overcome and utilised their ecosystems to build capacity and resilience.
The ‘Building your Business’ conference, which will run on Thursday, May 13 from 12 noon to 4.30pm, will feature award-winning speakers including Scott Davies, managing director of Hilltop Honey, Kelly Davies, co-founder of The Goodwash Company and Claire Copeman, co-founder of Adventure Tours UK.
Lucie Andrews, enterprise hub engagement co-ordinator, said: “As the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter and we enter the summer months, it’s the perfect time to bring together inspirational entrepreneurs from the tourism, food and retail sectors.
“We’ve invited three business owners from across Wales, and some of the hardest hit sectors, to share their experiences and journeys with attendees, from starting a business with next to nothing, to overcoming one of their most challenging years to date.
“We really want people to come along, be part of the discussion, feel inspired and learn from their experiences.”
The aim of the conference is to support those in the tourism, food, retail and supply industries, although everyone is welcome as the topics will be applicable to a variety of businesses.
It’s ideal for existing and aspiring entrepreneurs in Mid Wales and beyond who are looking to build connections and get inspired.
Register for the conference by searching ‘Focus Newtown Enterprise Hub’ on Eventbrite.
Funded by the Welsh Government, Focus Newtown Enterprise Hub is an innovative space to incubate and accelerate new and growing businesses based at Royal Welsh Warehouse, Newtown.
Spring is one of the best times of the year to see rare wildlife and get up close to nature in the beautiful countryside of Mid Wales.
This unspoilt region in the heartland of Wales has an abundance of natural environments and some of the rarest species of birds and animals in the UK, including visiting ospreys, red kites, otters, beavers and even dolphins.
The UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere Wales - https://www.dyfibiosphere.wales/ - is one of the best places to see a diverse range of wildlife.
Otters swim in the rivers, beavers have recently been released, ospreys return every spring to breed, red kites grace the sky and dolphin pods are often spotted from the beach and on boat trips.
Nature reserves perfect for bird watching include Cors Dyfi and the Dyfi Osprey Project - https://www.dyfiospreyproject.com/ and the RSPB Ynys-hir reserve https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/ynys-hir/ which are all near Machynlleth.
For the last 50 years, RSPB Ynys-hir has been a wonderful home for wildlife and a haven for visitors who really want to get away from it all.
Located on the A487, Wales Coastal Way, in the village of Eglwys-fach, the reserve covers 850 hectares with a wide mix of habitats - mountain, lowland wet grassland, reedbed, bog, woodland and saltmarsh.
Springtime at this reserve is spectacular, with pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers singing their hearts out whilst the woodland floor transforms into a beautiful carpet of bluebells. Watch the diving display flights of lapwings and the piping calls of redshanks on the Marian Mawr pools.
Cors Dyfi Reserve and Dyfi Osprey Project is the best place to see ospreys, otters, beavers, nightjars, warblers, increasingly rare hen harriers and even water buffalo, which are introduced to graze the marshes.
Ospreys spend their winters in West Africa, but since 2011 some of them have come to Cors Dyfi each spring to mate. Over the years, the osprey partners have raised one to three chicks successfully each year. Watch them live at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtlCjc1D4Qo
In a double success story for Mid Wales, ospreys have also been nesting at Hafren Forest alongside Clywedog reservoir, near Llanidloes, since 2014. Watch them live in the nest at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyciWNPFuWM
Nearby, along the Cardigan Bay coast, dolphins and porpoises often put on a display for spectators. For the best chance of seeing them, visit Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre in New Quay and take a boat trip.
New Quay is one of only two places in Great Britain where you can see bottlenose dolphins. Dolphin Survey Boat Trips - https://www.dolphinsurveyboattrips.co.uk/ -
provide an underwater microphone which allows passengers to listen to the dolphins in their natural habitat.
Further inland, at Forge, near Machynlleth, visitors are allowed to get up close and personal with birds of prey at the Falconry Experience Wales - https://raptorexperiencewales.co.uk/. Fly and handle Lakota the bald eagle or Moggie the white faced owl under professional supervision.
The falconry experience also includes falcons, hawks, American buzzards, a white tailed sea eagle and a fast paced demonstration of a falcon flying to a lure.
Falconry Experience Wales also organises Raptor Days with wildlife presenter and author Iolo Williams who introduces people to the raptors at various locations in Mid Wales. The first two days this summer are sold out, but spaces are available for July 24 and August 9. More details on the website.
To enjoy the spectacle of seeing more than 100 red kites feeding, travel to the Red Kite Feeding Station at Bwlch Nant yr Arian, between Llanidloes and Aberystwyth - naturalresources.wales/bwlchnantyrarian?lang=en
Bwlch Nant yr Arian became a red kite feeding station in 1999, as part of a programme to protect the small number of red kites in the area at that time. Nowadays, the red kites fly in from a 10-mile radius to be fed by the lake daily at 3pm and the spectacle can be watched from the lakeside viewing area.
For those seeking to build a holiday or short break around wildlife watching, visit - https://www.visitmidwales.co.uk/accommodation/ - to view the range of quality accommodation available in Mid Wales.
Red kites can be watched at Bwlch Nant yr Arian feeding station.
Ospreys at the Dyfi Osprey Project.
Bottle nose Dolphins in Cardigan Bay.
Image: Steve Hartley, Dolphin Survey Boat Trips.
Wildlife presenter Iolo Williams with Lakota the bald eagle at Falconry Experience Wales.
A beaver family has been released at the Cors Dyfi Reserve.
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.
The picture has been chosen for the first year of the partnership with Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown and two other venues, Carmarthenshire Museum in Abergwili, Carmarthen and Beacon Museum in Whitehaven.
The National Gallery Masterpiece Tour 2021-‘23 offers three non-London museums, galleries or art centres the opportunity to partner with the National Gallery for three years and to display one different major work from our collection each year.
For the first time in the tour’s history, the partner venues have been selected for a three-year period. The paintings for 2022 and ‘23 will be chosen jointly by the partners and the National Gallery.
Oriel Davies Gallery will display Chardin’s ‘The House of Cards’ alongside two new
commissions - a kinetic work by the artist Charlie Cook, which will examine the concept of the ‘fragility of human endeavour’ and the idea of playful persistence as shown in the loaned painting.
A recent Glasgow School of Art graduate, Cook uses cabinet making skills to create kinetic works that playfully explore balance. This will be shown alongside ‘Building a Future’, a collaboration between Oriel Davies, local communities and illustrator Alyn Smith.
A Cardiff‐based artist, Smith has been commissioned to create a set of 15,000 cards which will be completed by contributions from local communities and built in the gallery exploring the relationship between dreaming and reality through play.
Steffan Jones‐Hughes, Oriel Davies’ director, said: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with the National Gallery and show historical work from the collection as a starting point for a contemporary dialogue with artists and our audiences, making connections between the work and Newtown’s people and places.”
National Gallery director Dr Gabriele Finaldi said: “Caught somewhere between curiosity, determination and fragility, the boy in Chardin’s painting is engrossed in his house-of-cards construction.
“The host museums have conceived some highly original and intensely participatory approaches to how this picture will be displayed in the context of their spaces and collections and I much look forward to working closely with them to reach new audiences outside London.”
Ian Jones, Head of Leisure for Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “We are excited to be a National Gallery Masterpiece Tour partner and want to involve our communities in developing the exhibition as much as possible. The Creative Curators – open to anyone interested in taking part – will have the amazing opportunity to get up close to museum collections and curate the exhibition around the centrepiece from the National Gallery.
“The partnership with the National Gallery is enabling this opportunity to try out a new way of creating exhibitions, as part of their commitment to promoting understanding, knowledge and appreciation of Old Master paintings.”
Jean-Siméon Chardin’s ‘The House of Cards’.
© The National Gallery
Q. Please tell other members a bit about you and your business
A. John Lloyd of Aberllefenni Slate Mine and I formed Corris Caverns Limited with a view to developing the Braichgoch Slate Mine in Corris into a visitor attraction. We were well aware of the appeal of exploring underground slate workings but we were equally conscious that the story of slate mining was well told elsewhere. Eventually we decided to draw on the wealth of Welsh myths and legends as a theme using the underground workings as a dramatic backdrop.
We were able to capture the water running through the tunnel to create an underground river and we commissioned a specially designed boat from the boatyard in Ynyslas to carry visitors along the river, through the magic waterfall and into a time of myth and legend. So King Arthur’s Labyrinth was born and it welcomed its first visitors in the summer of 1993.
The Labyrinth is located adjacent to Corris Craft Centre which had been developed by the then Development Board for Rural Wales (DBRW) and we were able to rent one of the studios as the reception for our new venture. A couple of years later DBRW put the Craft Centre on the market and, thanks to a friendly bank manager, we were able to buy it. The Craft Centre now accommodates eight independent craft producers, the Dyfi Distillery, a café and a Welsh food shop, and the receptions for both the Labyrinth and Corris Mine Explorers.
Q. How has the industry changed from your perspective over the years?
A. I have been involved with tourism in Wales for almost 50 years and, as you might imagine there have been enormous changes over that time. In the 1970s there was real and justified concern about the quality of the tourism product on offer but over the years that has completely changed. Efforts by the industry and ever higher expectations by customers have ensured that Wales now has a first class tourism offering.
Competition has increased, not only from alternative destinations in the UK and abroad but also within Wales. Every year there are more visitor attractions vying for visitors’ attention, time and money. Every year, more traditional farm buildings become self-catering accommodation. Every year, more activities are offered. On balance this is a good thing but succeeding in business becomes more challenging year by year.
Tourism in Wales is now less seasonal and short breaks make up a greater part of the business but many jobs are still seasonal and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
Q. What have been your biggest challenges over the years?
A. Covid has been one of the biggest challenges and there is no need for me to go into detail as we have all had a tough time over the last year. However, I would like to add that without the financial help from the Government our business would not have survived this far and with it the forty or so jobs supported by all the activities at the Craft Centre.
The operation of a business using former mine workings as a visitor attraction is a constant challenge. The safety of our visitors and employees has to be the top priority and this requires constant vigilance, inspection and maintenance.
The immense underground caverns and tunnels of the Labyrinth are cool, dark and damp. This creates a difficult atmosphere in which to operate electrical equipment and the increasingly complex digital sound and light controls which lie behind our underground presentations. Everything has to be carefully protected to avoid the disruption which can so easily be caused by the ‘gremlins’ lurking in the shadows.
One of our biggest challenges was to build additional craft studios at the Craft Centre in the early 2000s. In order to do this we had to obtain funding from Europe through WEFO and from Cyngor Gwynedd through the Local Regeneration Fund. This was not straight-forward for anybody but it was made more difficult by our being a commercial organisation. However, after several years of effort and with the active support of the European Funding department in Cyngor Gwynedd we were able to build an additional four studios at the Craft Centre which have been fully occupied ever since.
Q. What do you enjoy most about running your business?
A. Working with an enthusiastic and competent team to provide a destination which people enjoy visiting.
Q. Why do you think it's important to be a member of MWT?
A. MWT are an invaluable support and source of advice about everything to do with tourism in Mid Wales. If they don’t know the answer, they know someone who does.
Their websites and social media work are an essential element in the overall marketing of Mid Wales and we make full use of Guestlink to provide an on-line booking platform for the Labyrinth at a low cost.
One of the benefits in normal times is the opportunities that MWT offer for networking with other people in the business and, during the pandemic, it has been a channel for government advice and other help to deal with the abnormal circumstances we find ourselves in.
A key aspect of MWT work is the representational role they perform, passing on to government and others the views of the industry and the problems that it faces, the help that is needed and potential solutions to problems. This activity has never been more important than over the last year when the whole tourism industry has been fighting for survival.
MWT, working with their colleagues in the Wales Tourism Alliance, provides a strong voice for tourism in a way that is impossible for individual businesses.
Thank you, Ian.
Click here to visit King Arthur's Labyrinth' website
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 .
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.
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