A successful micro distillery near Machynlleth was the toast of Wales at the 2021 World Gin Awards.
Dyfi Distillery, based at Corris Craft Centre, a hub for thriving independent craft producers near Machynlleth, triumphed in all three categories it entered, winning ‘Best in Country’ awards.
The multi-award winning distillery’s Dyfi Original was named Best Welsh Dry Gin, while Pollination Gin scooped Best Welsh Contemporary Gin and Navigation Gin was named the Best Welsh Matured Gin.
In the sister competition, Icons of Gin, Dyfi Distillery was shortlisted for the worldwide award of Craft Producer of the Year.
“We’re a bit bowled over,” said Danny Cameron, who co-founded the distillery with his brother Pete more than five years ago. “Given what thriving and high quality gin producers we have across Wales just now, it’s a remarkable result.”
One of the UK’s most prestigious craft gin producers, the distillery operates from within the Dyfi UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, and is, unusually for a distillery of its size, frequently open to passing visitors.
Pollination Gin, winner of the Best Welsh Contemporary Gin award.
“We are currently working towards reopening as soon as we are able and our plans naturally depend on the coronavirus situation,” said the railway’s marketing manager Oliver Edwards.
“Our volunteers and staff are giving a lot of thought to how we operate responsibly – our experience in 2020 gave us fantastic learning and great visitor feedback which reflected the preparatory efforts of our team.”
The railway will shortly be launching a new website which will feature a wide range of experiences planned on the line for 2021. Highlights of the season are expected to include the return of the 1902-built original locomotive ‘The Earl’ following a major overhaul at the Vale of Rheidol Railway, first-class rides featuring the line’s Sierra Leone Railways Independence Carriage, vintage train days and a host of further events.
Everyone at the railway is closely monitoring the lockdown situation and Government advice – trains will only begin running when it is considered safe to do so. Services will be announced on the website, www.wllr.org.uk, and the railway’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WelshpoolSteamRailway.
James comes to the Llanfair line from the National Tramway Museum at Crich, Derbyshire, where he was facilities and infrastructure manager. He was unanimously selected from more than 100 applicants for the W&LLR post.
The railway’s interview panel was impressed by his management of an overwhelmingly volunteer workforce at Crich, during which he successfully delivered several major projects, and his extensive experience gained across the heritage and tourism sector.
“Over the coming months, I am looking forward to getting to grips with the challenges of the general manager role, meeting the team and leading the organisation forward to future opportunities,” said James.
"I was impressed with the team's careful Covid-safe operations in 2020 - we'll just have to do the same in 2021 to make sure everyone is safe, comfortable and can enjoy their time at the railway.”
James started at Llanfair on February 1, beginning a handover period with Charles who will step down on March 31. After six years in post, Charles insists he won’t be disappearing – he is a qualified fireman on the challenging line and intends to make regular return visits to “shovel some coal on steam engines.”
James Brett (front) will be taking over as Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway’s general manager from Charles Spencer who is retiring.
Photo: Andrew Charman/W&LLR
The leading provider of apprenticeships in the hospitality industry in Wales is supporting a charity that provides financial relief to alleviate poverty for people who work or have worked in UK hospitality.
Cambrian Training, which has its headquarters in Welshpool and offices in Llanelli, Builth Wells, Holyhead and Colwyn Bay, has become a corporate member of Hospitality Action, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact the sector.
The company plans to hold events, when it’s safe to do so, to raise money for and to promote awareness of the charity’s work.
“We think that supporting Hospitality Action is the right thing to do in these very challenging times for the industry,” said Arwyn Watkins, OBE, Cambrian Training’s managing director and president of the Culinary Association of Wales.
“Members of our own hospitality team have first-hand experience through working with apprentices that there is a pressing need for us to do everything that we can to support colleagues in the industry.
“There are significant things, such as organising gourmet dinners and other events, that we can do across Wales to raise money for Hospitality Action when the pandemic ends.
“As the largest provider of apprenticeships in the hospitality industry in Wales, Cambrian Training wants to be a leader and we will be encouraging our apprentices to get involved.”
Giuliana Vittiglio, Hospitality Action’s fundraising and marketing manager, said: “Since the pandemic struck, we’ve helped countless hospitality families put food on the table, pay their bills and care for their children.
“The outbreak of Covid-19 has seen a consistent demand for our services and we’re especially grateful to Cambrian Training Company for reaching out to lend a helping hand.”
Hospitality Action offers counselling, advice and signposting to people facing mental health challenges or dealing with illness, bereavement, debt or addiction. It also runs an outreach programme to keep loneliness at bay for hospitality retirees.
When the first national lockdown began last March, Hospitality Action helped many thousands of hospitality households in financial crisis. Just as in March, today millions of hospitality workers can’t go to work and many thousands have lost their jobs for good.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the charity has worked tirelessly to help as many people as possible by providing emergency grants to keep food on the table, to assist vulnerable industry retirees access local support and by providing mental health resources for those who have struggled during the crisis.
To learn more about the charity visit: www.hospitalityaction.org.uk
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 Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) near Machynlleth will once again be host to the BBC’s Iolo Williams as he shares the wildlife of Mid Wales with viewers across the UK in this year’s Winterwatch.
The BBC team will bring a much-needed dose of nature into our living rooms this January as they help us to celebrate the magic of the wildlife on our doorsteps.
Having broadcast Autumnwatch live from CAT last year, Iolo and team will return for two weeks, from January 19 to 29, to share the sights and sounds of a new season, with Chris Packham, Megan McCubbin and Gillian Burke broadcasting from elsewhere in the UK.
Located in the foothills of Snowdonia, in the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere Reserve, CAT is a world leading eco centre focused on researching and sharing solutions to the climate and biodiversity emergency.
Introducing the centre to millions of people across the UK during Autumnwatch, Iolo said: “Here at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Mid Wales, it’s all about forward thinking. This is a place with the future survival of our planet at its very core.”
Built on what was once a barren slate quarry, the centre has been transformed over 50 years into a rich tapestry of habitats, providing a home for a wide range of species, including rare hazel dormice, pine martens, endangered birds species and many more.
On arriving at CAT last year, Iolo said: “There is such an abundance of wildlife in Mid Wales and it’s great to see it flourishing at a site that was once an industrial slate quarry.
“But even where wildlife is thriving, we know that the effects of climate change are already having an effect on biodiversity in the UK. We need to take action now, as a nation, or some of our wildlife could be lost forever.”
Peter Tyldesley, CAT’s chief executive, said: “We can’t wait to welcome Iolo and the team back to CAT to share the wonderful Mid Wales wildlife with viewers across the UK.
“Learning to appreciate our amazing natural world is often the first step towards protecting it; programmes like Winterwatch can really help spark that essential love of nature.
“Last year’s Autumnwatch gave us a fascinating insight into a wide range of species, and we’re looking forward to seeing what the changing seasons will bring to CAT and the Dyfi Valley.”
CAT is currently closed to visitors in line with Welsh Government COVID rules, but – thanks to Winterwatch – you can enjoy a virtual visit and experience the magic of Mid Wales wildlife from your living room. Winterwatch broadcasts on BBC 2.
Winterwatch presenter Iolo Williams.
A winter view from the Centre for Alternative Technology.
Organisations with an interest in tourism and hospitality across Mid Wales must collaborate to help the region bounce back from the rigours of the Covid-19 pandemic.
That was the clear message that emerged from the virtual annual meeting of MWT Cymru, which represents more than 600 businesses in the sector in Powys, Ceredigion and the Meirionnydd region of Gwynedd.
Val Hawkins, MWT Cymru’s chief executive, told the meeting: “As we emerge from the pandemic, it is imperative that we all work closely together and speak with one voice for Mid Wales, thereby avoiding mixed messaging to visitors.
“It is going to take a huge effort by all of us working in the sector, but the late summer demonstrated just how popular our region is for ‘staycations’. With the ‘staycation’ trend expected to gather pace in 2021, I am confident our members will be ready to meet this growing demand.”
Mrs Hawkins outlined MWT Cymru’s plans for 2021 which seek to attract younger visitors, aged 27 to 40 years, from target markets, including South Wales, within two to four hours’ drive time of Mid Wales
A ‘This is Mid Wales’ campaign, which had been delayed by the pandemic, will focus on four key themes: Travel routes, Nature and wildlife, Health and wellbeing and The outdoors, including adventure and sport.
The company’s website - VisitMidWales.co.uk - has been redesigned for 2021, having attracted nearly 1.5 million users and nearly 11.2 million page views in the past year.
Destination guides and media packs have been developed to support broader marketing and social media campaigns and to focus on key themes and local areas.
Mrs Hawkins said MWT Cymru would be pressing Visit Wales to launch a targeted marketing campaign to welcome visitors back to Wales in 2021.
Following feedback from members, MWT Cymru agreed to form a marketing focus group to consider suggestions including changing the Mid Wales brand name to the Heart of Wales and to develop marketing campaigns for specific destinations within the region.
More work will also be done to identify and promote charging points across the region for the rising number of visitors driving electric vehicles.
Chairman Rowland Rees-Evans, a director of Penrhos Park, Llanrhystud, said despite the huge Covid-19 challenges, national media coverage of Mid Wales as a tourism destination had been at an all-time high and the region must capitalise on that exposure in 2021.
He hoped that tourism in Mid Wales would return to some normality by April next year as Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out. “I think we would all prefer to be trading again rather than continue to be on life support,” he added.
“The return of visitors in August and September, when we were allowed to reopen, highlighted the growing popularity of ‘staycationing’. There is a huge opportunity for us to sell Mid Wales as a great visitor destination.
“Forward bookings in most sectors are up for 2021 and, hopefully, this trend will continue. It’s very important that MWT Cymru is here to shout for Mid Wales because if we don’t, no one else will.”
He thanked Mrs Hawkins and her team, Wales Tourism Alliance’s chairman Andrew Campbell and policy advocate Adrian Greason-Walker and Mid Wales Regional Tourism Forum chairman Steve Hughson, for their work during the pandemic.
Greg Loweth, business development manager of the Metropole Hotel, Llandrindod Wells, will be joined by Charles Dark, owner of the Wynnstay Hotel, Machynlleth as a trade director for Powys. Mr Dark replaces Owen James of Crickhowell who was thanked for his service.
Rowland Rees-Evans, MWT Cymru’s chairman.
The Heritage Railway Association is a trade body representing and promoting the interests of heritage and tourist railways.
The 2021 awards acknowledge the significant impact COVID-19 has had on heritage railways by introducing new categories. There are five nominations made in each of 10 categories.
Talyllyn Railway has been nominated for the Internal Communications award for its control centre public on-line subscription service, which was introduced in February. The service was designed to give ‘armchair’ supporters greater access to the railway and tap in to the popular existing webcam page, which enjoys more than 365,000 unique visitors annually.
There are 270 active subscribers to the service, which costs £5 a year, and webcam usage has grown by 31% since the railway re-opened in August.
The control centre was commissioned by the railway’s general manager, Stuart Williams, working with Peter Richards, a volunteer who runs a software company. The portal runs alongside the railway’s internal operating management system that gives continual live updates to staff.
Mr Williams said the control centre subscription had covered its costs and added a made money for the railway in its first year. He outlined planned improvements and additions to the subscription, including more webcams, with users able to select two to watch at a time.
The Most Innovative Fundraising Idea award nomination was for the railway’s ‘Virtual Visit Appeal’, which was launched at the end of March. The theme encouraged members and potential passengers to make donations.
The appeal was supported by a ‘Weekly Walkabout’ online video every Wednesday by Mr Williams and engineering manager Chris Smith, with commercial manager Lorraine Simkiss, giving updates from behind the scenes.
“The appeal has raised over £120,000 (plus gift aid) and is still being added to daily,” said Mr Williams. “Our social media interaction has greatly increased, with more than 45,000 people now following our Facebook feed.”
Over 20 weeks, the ‘walkabouts’ were watched by 330,000 people and the reach more than 1.1 million.
Talyllyn Railway’s general manager Stuart Williams.
Wonderwool Wales, the award-winning show that celebrates all that’s great about wool and natural fibres, is planning to return in style in 2021.
The two day event became a Covid-19 pandemic casualty when it had to be cancelled this spring. However, buoyed by support from the Wales Cultural Recovery Fund, the organisers are pressing ahead with plans to hold the 16th show on April 24 and 25 next year at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, subject to restrictions at the time.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, the show attendance will be limited to 2,000 each day - it traditionally attracts more than 6,000 visitors - and tickets must be purchased online in advance at www.wonderwoolwales.co.uk
The restrictions have also ruled out the show’s popular Woolschools and Sheepwalk, a woolly take on the catwalk, which will hopefully return in 2022.
However, there will be plenty for visitors to see and do at the show, which was judged best event in Mid Wales at the inaugural Mid Wales Tourism Awards in 2019. Wonderwool Wales was also highly commended in the Best Loved Knitting Show or Event category in this year’s British Knitting & Crochet Awards.
Two stunning and unique exhibitions – a collection of knitted and crocheted maps of seven different places around the UK and a zany, hand crafted interpretation of Alice in Wonderwool – will feature in Hall 3 at the show. Both exhibitions, which were planned for this year’s event, will be raising money for Wales Air Ambulance.
The organisers are aiming for 220 exhibitors to fill the halls with beautiful, hand dyed yarns and fibre, along with equipment and quality finished products, giving visitors an opportunity to stock up on supplies.
For those seeking creative inspiration, there will be demonstrations and have-a-go sessions hosted by some exhibitors. When the shopping is done, there will be plenty of tea and coffee stops and a tempting selection of refreshments from food vendors.
The December 31 closing date is fast approaching for exhibitors to apply for a place at the event.
Chrissie Menzies, a director of Wonderwool Wales, said whilst it had been very disappointing to cancel the 2020 event, the directors were encouraged by the many positive messages received from supporters since it was announced that the 2021 show was going ahead, subject to Covid-19 regulations in April.
“We are very grateful for grant support from the Wales Cultural Recovery Fund which has enabled us to press ahead with plans for Wonderwool Wales in April next year,” she added.
“Tickets for the show are being sold online so that we know exactly how many people are coming. Everyone will be asked to wear masks, carry hand sanitiser with them and adhere to social distancing and any other Covid-19 rules in place at the time.”
Developed to promote the market for Welsh wool and natural fibres, the show has grown in scale and popularity alongside a knitting, crochet, felting and textile craft making boom.
Find out more about the 2021 show at www.wonderwoolwales.co.uk. Like Wonderwool Wales Ltd on Facebook or follow on Twitter @wonderwoolwales
White Rabbit 1: White Rabbit needle felted by Kathy Smart that will be included in the Alice in Wonderland exhibition a Wonderwool Wales 2021
Llandysul Map. John Teale: The Llandysul map that will feature in an exhibition at Wonderwool Wales 2021. Photo: John Teale
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.”
Magnitude, Monty’s Brewery’s 8% barley wine, was also a finalist. This indulgent beer is full of sweet, malty characteristics and warming alcohol, perfect for sipping in front of the fire on a cold evening.
“To have two beers as finalists and one of them to receive ‘Highly Commended’ is a testament to the skill and hard work of our staff and brewers,” said Russ Honeyman, Monty’s Brewery’s commercial director.
“Dark Secret has been winning prizes consistently since we began brewing it in 2016. Awards like the Great British Food Awards enable us to secure sales not only in the UK but abroad too.”
To purchase Dark Secret and other beers from Monty’s Brewery, visit the company’s website https://www.montysbrewery.co.uk/products-page or telephone 01686 668933.
Dark Secret, highly commended gluten free stout from Monty’s Brewery.
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