BBC BLOGS - Mark Cummings' Blog

Archives for April 2010

Doctor Who materialises in Puzzlewood

Mark Cummings | 17:33 UK time, Thursday, 29 April 2010

Doctor Who scene filmed in Puzzlewood. Image copyright BBC.  Get a full size download at current double episode of Doctor Who was filmed at Puzzlewood and Clearwell Caves in the Forest of Dean.

Matt Smith who plays The Doctor, and Karen Gillan who plays assistant Amy Pond, filmed there in July 2009.

You can read all about the Puzzlewood filming, and see an on set photo, on the BBC Gloucestershire web page. You can catch both episodes on the BBC iPlayer via the Doctor Who web page.

You can see behind the scenes footage of the filming in Puzzlewood in this week's edition of "Doctor Who Confidential" which is available on the iPlayer.

They call it mellow yellow.

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Mark Cummings | 11:55 UK time, Thursday, 29 April 2010

the Minsterworth dandelionsHave you noticed any brightly coloured fields whilst touring our yellow and pleasant land?

The Breakfast Show's Kate Clark spotted this field on the A48 in Minsterworth. We wondered how a perfect crop of dandelions came to be?

Locally it is known as "Heartland hill". We are used to visions of sunny rape but not this naughty weed. Last year the field was full of barley.

The mystery hopefully will be revealed soon.

Tune into Frocester FM

Mark Cummings | 12:00 UK time, Wednesday, 28 April 2010

frocester WI in the studioThey came, they saw and they conquered. My good friends from the Frocester Women's Institute threw me out of my chair today. Bound and gagged I had to listen on as they ruled the airwaves.

Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration of events... but it was good to see them again!

From Green Shield stamps to iPhone bargains

Mark Cummings | 12:25 UK time, Tuesday, 27 April 2010

We are looking at the joy of cutting out coupons and saving lots of money. Latest statistics show nearly two and a half million people are using discount vouchers every day.

We will be exploring how new technology makes this process even easier. On Wednesday's show listen out for our bargain hunt using GPS technology to sniff out a treat.

I still think some of the simple, iconic concepts were the best. Do you remember Green Shield Stamps, Pink stamps or Esso tokens?

Angela admitted all her kitchenware was bought with cigarette coupons... Robert remembers Pink stamps and coop divi stamps... Jim used to work for Esso and is a proud owner of a glass to celebrate the 100 millionth glass given out!

If you have a great way of saving cash through vouchers or coupons let me know. Also if you have great memories of what you redeemed for your Green Shield stamps etc share it with the county! Drop me an email.

I still have a wonderful collection of top notch wine glasses fit for any occasion.

The sounds of the belles

Mark Cummings | 11:51 UK time, Monday, 26 April 2010

Kay,Kim,Wendy,Sally,TheresaThe Breakfast Show welcomes back the Forest Belles this week. They are a group of business women from the Forest of Dean who let rip on any given subject matter.

Kay, Kim, Wendy, Sally and Theresa will entertain you with the help of our very own Kate Clark. Funny and forthright they always light up the show.

The topics this week include... how their businesses are coping... the election... are teenage girls more difficult than teenage boys?

The sensitive issue of how you address a woman has really taken off. Sally hates being called " you guys". How do you feel about love, darling, babe? Let me know the terms you find irritating, patronising or downright insulting?

A dirty weekend

Mark Cummings | 11:41 UK time, Friday, 23 April 2010

Stella with added extra fragranceOver the next couple of days I'll be trying to control my dog Stella. She has found a favourite field with fresh cow pats to play in.

According to many callers to the show there is a simple way to get rid of the smell. Once the naughty pooch has been cleaned you need to whip out the tomato ketchup. When you smear this all over them the lingering whiff should go.

Enjoy your weekend... keep the brilliant photos coming in... any London Marathon shots would be great... and any other products to muffle the smell of a mucky mutt would be great.

A perfect spring evening

Mark Cummings | 11:36 UK time, Friday, 23 April 2010

The WI, Chris Baxter and Mark CummingsThe Ampney Crusis Women's Institute have helped set the mood for a blissful weekend ahead.

I had a fun night with them celebrating all things quintessentially English. They were heard on Friday's St George's day Breakfast Show declaring what, for them, makes England special.

As we enter another sun filled weekend I must thank them for kick starting proceedings with their warmth and humour. They also clasped our new mid morning presenter Chris Baxter to their collective bosom!

Friday's Guest Presenter

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Mark Cummings | 12:17 UK time, Thursday, 22 April 2010

Vivh299x299.jpgFriday always sees a "co host" joining me in the studio - this week it's Viv Hargreaves.

Viv is the editor of the Forester... based in Cinderford and this year marks her first decade at the Paper.

Viv has a long career in print journalism and magazines... she began her time in London and has also been involved with the development of the Citizen. She now spends her time managing local news in the Forest of Dean and monitoring train movements over her husband's garden railway viaduct.

Gloucestershire's greatest exports

Mark Cummings | 18:19 UK time, Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Les Timms carves the Royal Coat of Arms into the Speaker's chairAll week we've been exploring the county's most impressive legacy.

Did you know money made by Dick Wittington in the fourteen hundreds is still be used today for local charities?

Willie Thorne joined us to extol the virtue of the cloth made for snooker tables. Stroud based Millikens are the producer of this quality product.

Where would we have been without fortified steel? Robert Forester Mushet from Coleford invented a type of steel which was stronger than the steel of the day.

This Thursday we celebrate H.H. Martyn and Co... a company of art craftsmen who produced the best in wood, stone and marble sculpture, furniture and cabinet making.

They were responsible for the Speaker's chair in the House of Commons, furnishing for the Titanic and palace doors eventually owned by Saddam Hussein! Tune in for some great stories from the company Gloucestershire can be truly proud of.

The photograph is of Les Timms carving a section of the Royal Coat of Arms for the Speaker's chair.

Sunset over the Severn

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Mark Cummings | 08:27 UK time, Wednesday, 21 April 2010

sunset from saulA lovely photograph in from Nigel Phillips this morning. The picture was taken looking towards Westbury from the Severn Way at Priding near Saul on Saturday evening.

Get your brain buzzing this morning

Mark Cummings | 04:10 UK time, Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A report out this morning questions the value of brain training games! We will explore why the perfect puzzle might not have the desired effect.

There are of course those who swear by a bit of mental gymnastics. Before you choke on your Sudoku have a go at this one. We will have the answer up on Thursday's blog.

Maths and Algebra Test
See if you can work out the answer to these simple sums and algebraic equations in your head - that means no calculators or writing down on paper!

a) 375 + 486
b) (52 x 8) - 47

c) (169 / 13) + (12.25 x 4)
d) 2x + 10 = 20. What is the value of x?
e) 4x - x + 12 = 48. What is the value of x?

Spelling Test
Now for the word challenge. Are these spellings correct, and if not, spell the word correctly:

a) seperately
b) concatenation
c) equillibrium
d) phlegm
e) reciever

UPDATE : So here are the answers. Our expert did it in 45 seconds - how did you do?

Maths Test
a) 861
b) 369
c) 62
d) X = 5
e) X = 12

Spelling Test
a) separately
b) concatenation
c) equilibrium
d) phlegm
e) receiver

Flying to the rescue

Mark Cummings | 14:16 UK time, Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Rich TebbThis week we have been gripped by the tenacity of Gloucestershire inventor Vivian Blick. He has spent the week trying to get back to Gloucestershire from China.

The last time I spoke to him he was about to take off from Tangiers airport for Rome. He is hoping to hire a car and drive across Europe.

Listening to that was pilot Rich Tebb from Upton St Leonards. He has offered to meet him in France and fly him back to Blighty! The full story will unfold throughout the week.

A volcanic "Top Gear" Challenge

Mark Cummings | 12:05 UK time, Monday, 19 April 2010

ashcloudWe had so many stories this morning of valiant attempts to get home. The ash cloud saga has lead to a series of amazing tales of fortitude, imagination and frustration!

Gloucestershire inventor Vivian Blick joined me this morning from China... he will feature heavily this week!

His attempt to get home involves... a flight from Hong Kong to Dubai... Dubai to North Africa... a helicopter or boat from North Africa to Europe... then trains and cars through Europe to a French ferry port... ferry to England.

Here are some of the comments that have come in over the last few days.

Joan knows someone in the Cayman Islands who is a teacher and is due at work today. She might not be able to get a flight until next Sunday. She doesn't know if she will get paid or if she'll be covered by the insurance.

Jenny in Northleach says what about those stranded in America? Her son, daughter in law and 2 grandchildren were due back last Friday. They flew from Miami to New York for a better chance of a flight home... but they are still stuck in a hotel.

Robert asks what happens at work if you can't get back home? Could your firm dismiss you?

June made it back just in time on Wednesday. If she had booked the later flight she would have missed the birth of her eldest daughter's bouncing baby boy!

On Tuesday we will look at the implication for business and schools. Join us at Renishaw and Balcarras... and if you have any other ash related stories...

The sun shines on Cirencester

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Mark Cummings | 12:00 UK time, Monday, 19 April 2010

Thanks to Dave in Tetbury for his Sunrise from the Whiteway just out of Cirencester.

cirencestersunsetjpgThanks for your springtime snaps. What a wonderful weekend we've just experienced. Thanks to Patrick from Cirencester for this fantastic effort.

Are they home yet?

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Mark Cummings | 20:55 UK time, Saturday, 17 April 2010

airport passenger(Updated) A Cirencester travel agent told me on Friday he suspected many families would struggle to get back into the UK by the end of the half term break. He was right, the weekend has seen even further delays in the reopening of the skies across Europe.

It should be back to school and work for many this Monday and we'd like to get a sense of how many Gloucestershire people might still be stranded abroad. We'd be interested in talking to them wherever they are.

If you are waiting for friends or family to make it home please get in touch.

Or maybe you are worried about your own holiday that's planned to start next week. Again get in touch with my team over the weekend, I'd love to talk to you on air.

A glorious Gloucestershire weekend

Mark Cummings | 10:17 UK time, Friday, 16 April 2010

Mark's pond April 2010This weekend its walks around the Slaughters... bike rides around the south Cotswolds... and lawn and pond maintenance duties for me.

If you capture a volcanic sunset... a stunning sunny snap... or just anything beautiful that could gladden the heart you know what to do.

Simply email me at with your best photo.

Volcanic Gloucestershire sunset?

Mark Cummings | 04:10 UK time, Friday, 16 April 2010

sunset over the Forest of DeanWe'll be keeping you up to date with the travel disruption caused by the volcanic ash in the atmosphere. The ash is being tracked by a team of experts based in Gloucestershire. You can read all about them on

One positive side to the eruption is that we are promised a few days of spectacular sunsets. If you are out and about at sunset (or indeed sunrise) over the next few days take a snap and email me your best shot. You can see photos sent in last year after a volcano erupted in Russia to see what we might be experiencing this coming week.

My weatherman Ian Fergusson has lots of information about the ash (including video) on his blog. Take a look.

In the meantime here's yesterday's (thursday) sunset over the Forest of Dean as viewed from Saul Junction.

Friday's co-host is Hilary Allison

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Mark Cummings | 04:05 UK time, Friday, 16 April 2010

Hilary AllisonFriday always sees a "co host" joining me in the studio. They add a touch of fun and / or insight to the proceedings.

Today's co-host is Hilary Allison from Vivid PR in Tewkesbury. She has a vast knowledge and love of Gloucestershire.

She has been a jounalist on the Citizen... Police press officer during the Fred West investigation, and done the PR at the County Council. She is funny, frank and very well informed.

We've told her to only LISTEN to the party leaders debate on thursday evening so it'll be interesting to see what she made of it without the visual distraction!

A new service station on the M5?

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Mark Cummings | 12:43 UK time, Wednesday, 14 April 2010

What the new service station might look likeOn Thursday's show we are taking a futuristic trip along the M5. Will we have a new service station between junctions 11a and 12 or not?

In exactly two months it goes before the planning committee. The voices for and against are growing ever louder. Have a listen to the debate and let me know what you think.

You can see the plans in full on the Stroud District Council website.

Thursday Update (April 15th)

Martin in Gloucester says the services would be better at Junction12. Then it wouldn't ruin the countryside and they could improve the slip roads on to and off the motorway.

Scott from Stroud says the county set aside land at junction 11A a long time ago. He believes this would be the best place for it as it catches the A417 and M4 traffic and wouldn't ruin a green site.

Nick in Uckington says Westmorland and Gloucestershire Gateway limited should only get permission to build a services if they pay for junction 10 to be accessible both ways.

Basil in Minsterworth can't see the harm in a new services, he feels they're needed as much as a rest as for food.

Kay in Gloucester says the need for services hasn't been proved. She is against anything being built in the countryside.

A miracle child

Mark Cummings | 12:35 UK time, Wednesday, 14 April 2010

pregnant womenIt's been a fascinating week talking about fertility. If you read the blog below you'll get a real sense of what this story means to so many people in Gloucestershire

This Thursday we look at those magic moments when a baby arrives by surprise. Sometimes after years of trying by various methods... a bundle of joy arrives naturally.

I'll also be talking to our friend Mike d'Abo about the joy of parenthood. Mike was 63 when his twin daughters were born in 2007.

Ding, Ding all change

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Mark Cummings | 13:33 UK time, Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Ballot boxOn Wednesday's Breakfast Show we are looking at the boundary changes that have taken place in Gloucestershire. Many people will be voting in a different constituency on May 6th to the one they voted in at the last General Election.

Longlevens residents won't be voting in the key marginal of Gloucester. This time their vote will be cast elsewhere... in the "safe" seat of Tewkesbury.

For people living in Minchinhampton it's a similar situation. Instead of the "tight" Stroud constituency, their vote will affect the outcome of the Cotswold area.

The Boundary Commission decided on the changes and a map can be seen on its website. There are also details of which council wards go into what Parliamentary constituency.

Update on Wednesday morning

Your comments came in throughout the show on boundary changes.

ROS in Maismore says she pays her community charge to Tewkesbury but her MP is in the Forest of Dean which she doesn't relate to.

Robert in Cheltenham asked why they keep changing boundaries at the local or national level. He says the next thing might see him living in Wales!

Pamela in Longlevens feels being in the Tewkesbury constituency is ridiculous as her other services like recycling and refuse collections come from Gloucester. She's received no election leaflets and feels forgotten.

Marinane on Escourt Road has a GL1 postcode but is now in the Tewkesbury constituency.

Your thoughts are welcome on this subject at any time via e-mail - or call in with your thoughts in the morning on 01452 307575.

IVF... Should we have three free courses?

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Mark Cummings | 09:39 UK time, Tuesday, 13 April 2010

There were claims on the show today that couples are being let down when it comes to IVF treatment. In Gloucestershire couples are only offered one course on the NHS.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence says couples should be offered three courses of IVF for free. We are featuring a couple who had to pay for two extra courses. Luckily for them they are now expecting their first child.

We had a mixed response to this issue. Many were sympathetic to those who struggle to conceive.

However, Peter in Dursley said money should be spent on making people well and not on making babies... we shouldn't waste money in an already over populated world. Ted from Hucclecote questioned if thousands of pounds should be spent on IVF when people need cancer treatment.

NHS Gloucestershire couldn't put anyone up for interview but did say it's currently reviewing its existing policy.

Have you been through the process of IVF? Is it a postcode lottery? Should we have three courses of treatment for free as in some other parts of the country?

Email me your thoughts and we'll feature your responses on the show.

Update Tuesday morning (13th April).

We've had some fascinating and thoughtful emails to the blog.

"F" wrote "Those of us who decide to get on the IVF rollercoaster do not expect miracles. Just to be given the same chance at success as those living in other areas of the country". Her treatment was successful but unfortunately she miscarried.

"S" was touched by the above comment and felt great sympathy. "I was probably feeling fairly ambivalent about this subject. This has made me look at the subject from a different perspective. Those of us that have been lucky enough to conceive naturally should make sure we do not become smug and self centred. A very thought provoking subject, thank you."

"J" is currently going through IVF which has been pretty harrowing. She will now have to pay £5,000 for a second cycle. "What people do not seem to understand is that being infertile is a disease and should be treated that way".

" What annoys me is up until now I have never had an operation on the NHS... never smoked... never done drugs... I exercise and eat healthily... why should I not get the right to have free treatments? "

Update Wednesday morning (14th April)

"E" wrote. " We have funded three cycles ourselves at £5k a time. If only people knew the heartache a couple go through. I feel so bitter when people say IVF should not be funded... in its own right everyone deserves a chance of becoming a parent"

"D" wrote. " Your programme this week has not only underlined the joy of parenthood, but also the need to support those who for whatever reason cannot have children. Well done!"

Woodpecker 1 Owl 0

Mark Cummings | 07:18 UK time, Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Breakfast show's Kate Clark has succeeded where I've failed.

I have spent three weeks trying to record my daytime owl. In the last two weeks she has filmed wild boar and talked to woodpeckers.

She got "woody" to talk with  a cunning method. By tapping two stones together she recreated his call.

Who knows what she will turn up with next week? Meanwhile I'm considering an early retirement to my fledgling wildlife broadcasting career.

Volvo driving punks

Mark Cummings | 11:32 UK time, Friday, 9 April 2010

mclaren.jpgWe had an interesting response to the death of punk pioneer Malcolm Mclaren. For some of those who adopted a skin head in the 70's life is more conservative now.

Andy Kanonick was the most high profile punk in the county. He was lead singer in the band Demob . When he joined me this morning the spirit of anarchy was still pulsing through his veins.

He has however slowed down a bit since those heady days. He's now a grandfather... dad of 7 children... but assured me he doesn't drive a safe, sensible, middle class car!

Daisy from Cinderford loved the Undertones and thinks "Teenage kicks" is the most iconic track ever... Mark thought punk was a reflection of the negative views about politics held by young people at the time... Candia reminded us of another Gloucestershire band... anyone remember The Screaming Dead?

Feel Good Friday

Mark Cummings | 12:09 UK time, Thursday, 8 April 2010

lake_566.jpgThe weather looks set fair for the next few days. On Friday's show we will be encouraging you to get out and make the most of it. Enjoy the warm glow of spring with us.

I'll be huffing and puffing around the Cotswold Water Park on my bike. Keep sending me your glorious photographs.

Feeling the pinch at the pumps?

Mark Cummings | 15:44 UK time, Wednesday, 7 April 2010


On Thursday's Breakfast Show we are looking at the ever increasing petrol prices. You can find out why we're having to dig so deep to keep our cars running.

I'd like to know how you are coping with the near record high. We will be gauging reaction in the Forest of Dean and we'll hear from a bus driver who says he can't even afford to drive to work because of the prices.

Petrol update Thursday morning

Martin says crude oil up or down, we always pay too much... Brian in Dursley used to run a petrol station... he made only a small amount from the fuel.... Dave in Bishops Cleeve says he is paying £5.40 an gallon...When Pete in Churcham passed his test you could get five gallons for a pound!

Here we go

Mark Cummings | 12:01 UK time, Tuesday, 6 April 2010

_47591672_elecbrownnew203152_pa_146x110.jpgThe starting gun has been fired. Gloucestershire will be a key battle ground at the coming election with three marginal seats. On the Breakfast show we will give you a grandstand view as the political drama unfolds.

The big beasts have already started to descend into the county... join us each morning for the key local issues... "box office" high profile types... and the fun and the friction of the fight.

Wild boar exclusive

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Mark Cummings | 11:14 UK time, Tuesday, 6 April 2010

I've spent two weeks in my garden failing miserably to record the hoot of my daytime owl and then this happens... the Breakfast Show's Kate Clark stumbles upon an amazing wildlife moment.

Driving through the Forest of Dean on Sunday she captured this footage. I thought wild boar were nervous creatures. Take a look at this behaviour.

Happy Holidays

Mark Cummings | 11:10 UK time, Tuesday, 6 April 2010

kite_226.jpgThis week's weather looks perfect if you fancy exploring our county. Half term holidays provide us with a great excuse to explore Gloucestershire.

We've walked the dog along the river Severn at Saul... taken a stroll along Frampton green... and flown a kite on a blustery Minchinhampton Common.

If you are out exploring this week, please take a snap and we'll get it up on the blog.

Have a great break

Mark Cummings | 12:08 UK time, Thursday, 1 April 2010

mark goes undercover Thanks for finding our new blog and all the kind comments. I hope you have a happy and restful Easter whatever you are up to.

I'll be back in my garden for the duration of the holiday. My aim is to record the hoot of my elusive daytime owl ready for Tuesday's show.

If you happen to take any stunning photographs of the county over Easter I would love to see them. Feel free to email them in and we can share them with everyone else on Tuesday.

Thank you and good night

Mark Cummings | 12:03 UK time, Thursday, 1 April 2010

waterski_300.jpgWhat a week of name dropping, bizarre stories and wonderful nostalgia. A world breaking water skier has been our guide this week. Action man Chas Phipps even had the time to take off his wet suit and change the face of entertainment for ever in our county.

Thanks for all your wonderful stories that have delighted Gloucestershire all week. See below for the best bits.

Highlights of the week.

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Mark Cummings | 11:57 UK time, Thursday, 1 April 2010

postcard2.jpgHere's a selection of the magic moments of the week with nightclub owner Chas Phipps.

The stories about Bob Monkhouse and his love of Witcombe Lodge... see a postcard he sent to Chas...

Steve told us about his encounter with Jimmy Hendrix at the Blue Moon club in Cheltenham... he called out to Steve "Hey man where's the chip shop around here? "

I'm not sure what it is about stars and chips shops... taxi driver Pam told us about Eartha Kitt demanding to go to a chippy in Hucclecote.

We had various tales about Tiffanies at the old Gloucester Leisure centre... if you announced your engagement you got a free bottle of bubbly... guess how many confessions we had of multiple engagements!

My favourite has to be the tale of Rodney Davies's trousers... He was a famous rocker in Gloucester and his tight trousers caused many complaints to the City council... they called an emergency meeting and banned him from appearing at the Guildhall!

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