Archives for July 2010

Weekend weather (30 July 2010)

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:21 UK time, Friday, 30 July 2010

After six months of below-average rainfall, this month has bucked the trend. Some places have had a good soaking with localised flooding.

Across Wales as a whole, 142.8mm of rain has fallen up until 27 July (5.6 inches) - well above the average of 78.4mm (3.09 inches). Mind you, there has been a big variation across the country with some places wetter than others.

At Capel Curig in the Snowdonia mountains, 343.6mm (13.5 inches) of rain has fallen (July average 125.8mm), while at St. Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan, 79.2mm (3.1 inches) of rain has been recorded which is only slightly above the long term average of 64.4mm for that location.

Looking ahead to the start of August, the weather pattern looks mixed with low pressure to the north of Britain and high pressure near the Azores.

Fronts will bring some rain at times, followed by drier, brighter spells, some sunshine and a few showers. However, towards the middle of the month high pressure may take control bringing more settled and warmer weather.

If you're off to the National Eisteddfod at Ebbw Vale this weekend, the weather doesn't look too bad. I wouldn't rule out a shower but most of the time it should be dry and the cloud will break at times with at least some sunshine.

Next week is best described as changeable. A little rain at times, the odd shower but some sunshine as well and in the brighter spells it will feel pleasantly warm. The sun is still strong enough to burn so remember to take a hat and some suncream just in case - factor 15 or higher is best.

I will be at the Eisteddfod next week, Monday to Friday, so if you see me on the Maes, say "Shw'mae!"

25,000 new residents for Carmarthen

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:35 UK time, Friday, 30 July 2010

Don't panic! It's not a new government housing initiative for West Wales - It's bees.

Remember the joint partnership between the BBC and the National Trust - Bee Part Of It that I blogged about back in May?

The plan was to introduce 45 new honey bee colonies to the UK with two being in Wales, which will be adopted and monitored by Radio Wales.

Beekeepers and the new hive:

beekeepers_dinefwr.jpgI'm happy to announce that the first hive for Wales is now in place at Dinefwr on the outskirts of Llandeilo where 25,000 new bees have recently taken up residence.

Over the summer, Radio Wales presenters - Jamie Owen and Louise Elliott will tell the story of the hive with help from Jo Horsley - the Beekeeper at Dinefwr.

"We're so excited to represent Wales in the 'Bee Part of It' campaign" Said Jo. 

"When the bees arrived, the delivery driver leapt out of his van and told me he had live bees on board expecting me to be shocked but was amazed when I told him they were for me!"  

"Thousands of little heads were sticking out of the box very anxious to get out and search for food and they were soon zooming off over the deer park looking for flowers in their new home."

"The bees were blessed with glorious weather and an abundant supply of forage in the form of white clover so it was a perfect time to settle them in."

Three local volunteers - Kevin Henry, Owen Williams and Michael Saywell who are all new to beekeeping, will be helping Jo to look after the hive.

Jo went on to say: "We look through the bees every nine days or so. They are an absolute pleasure to handle, so different from the Welsh Blacks I keep in my own hives who soon make it clear they would rather be left alone."

Bees in the hive:


"The large, very yellow queen is happily settled and has produced lots of eggs and young larvae. The worker bees have done a great job of building the honeycomb cells where they will raise their young."

"We've also given them a second box to encourage them to store honey. The National Bee Inspector for Wales has also paid us a visit and has confirmed that the bees are happy and healthy in their new home."

Visitors to the Newton House at Dinefwr will be able to see the hive from the garden.



New skate plazza for Cardiff

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:06 UK time, Thursday, 29 July 2010

A new skate park has recently opened down at the Cardiff Bay Barrage and it seems to be going down well with the local skateboarders.

The new Skate Plazza has been modelled on other skate parks around the world and follows the example set by Barcelona - which is often referred to as 'the skate capital of the world' due to the abundance of skate parks found there.

Watch a video clip of the new park being road tested on BBC News Online

New skate plazza for Cardiff

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:06 UK time, Thursday, 29 July 2010

A new skate park has recently opened down at the Cardiff Bay Barrage and it seems to be going down well with the local skateboarders.

The new Skate Plazza has been modelled on other skate parks around the world and follows the example set by Barcelona - which is often referred to as 'the skate capital of the world' due to the abundance of skate parks found there.

Watch a video clip of the new park being road tested on BBC News Online

New skate plazza for Cardiff

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:06 UK time, Thursday, 29 July 2010

A new skate park has recently opened down at the Cardiff Bay Barrage and it seems to be going down well with the local skateboarders.

The new Skate Plazza has been modelled on other skate parks around the world and follows the example set by Barcelona - which is often referred to as 'the skate capital of the world' due to the abundance of skate parks found there.

Watch a video clip of the new park being road tested on BBC News Online

Mid week weather update

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:53 UK time, Wednesday, 28 July 2010

behnaz_akhgar.jpgDerek is off today but BBC Wales weather presenter - Behnaz Akhgar has stepped in to provide a quick forecast for the rest of the week and into the weekend.

Tuesday: A mixture of clouds and sunshine for the rest of the day. There will be a few showers, but they will be light and scattered, with some places escaping dry.

The clump of cloud and showery rain currently affecting North Wales will break up further with better brighter spells developing for the rest of the day. Feeling fresher compared to recent days in the west to northwesterly breeze. Top temperature 21C (70F)

Tuesday night: Any showers will fade away, with most places having a dry night with patchy cloud.


A much fresher night for sleeping with all the humidity having been swept away. 12-15C overnight lows

Thursday: Another pleasant day with sunny spells for much of Wales. It will be largely dry with a gentle breeze, but no more than that.

Friday: There is some uncertainty with the timing and extent of the rain moving in. All places should start fine with some sunny spells. By the end of the day, cloud and some occasional rain will reach North Wales.

The weekend: Not a bad weekend overall. A few showers towards the west but some decent sunny spells for all places.

Making butterflies count

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:30 UK time, Tuesday, 27 July 2010

No, we're not forcing them to use calculators and do our maths homework...

Our colourful little friends are in real trouble with almost half of UK butterflies under threat and 70% of common moths being in serious decline.

Environmental changes and loss of habitat - particularly farmland are thought to be the main contributing factors for their demise.

We've had dozens of stunning butterfly images submitted to our Flickr group this summer and they are a firm favourite amongst wildlife photographers and nature lovers all over Wales.

Welsh naturalist Iolo Williams has joined forces with Butterfly Conservation to raise awareness about dwindling numbers here in Wales.

Iolo recently visited Wynn Gardens at Old Colwyn and urged everyone to get involved to help build up a picture of how the insects are faring across the UK.

A pair of common blues by Dr Murray from our Flickr group:

Sir David Attenborough - the granddaddy of all things natural history has also added his considerable backing to the campaign which runs from 25 July to 1 August.

Over the last hundred years, 4 species of butterfly and over sixty moths have become extinct - gone forever and let's face it - summer would be pretty dull without them.

Visit the Butterfly Conservation website to find out how you can help.

You can download a free butterfly ID chart and log your sightings online. Choose a location and spend fifteen minutes there counting butterflies - it's that simple.

Read a BBC News Online article about the campaign

Watch a video about moths & butterflies on our website.


Natural wonders at the Eisteddfod

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:27 UK time, Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The natural wonders of Blaenau Gwent will come to life on the Eisteddfod field this weekend as local children, in the company of Welsh poet and broadcaster - Caryl Parry Jones, will present poems about the natural wonders where they live.

During early summer, pupils from Brynmawr Foundation School and Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg spent time learning about local nature and the rich habitats that exist right on their doorstep.

The children explored Beaufort Hill Ponds and Woodland Local Nature Reserve, near Cwm Clydach, with the Brecon Beacons National Park to the north and the towns of Brynmawr and Beaufort to the south.

Having learnt about local wildlife and conservation they returned to the classroom to begin their master pieces based on their own experiences.

Caryl Parry Jones said: "It's been fantastic to see them expressing such enthusiasm about their local environment - finding the right words to convey their feelings and letting their imaginations run wild!"

"It's a great way to build children's confidence and I'm sure they will enjoy reading their work aloud at the Eisteddfod to inspire others to visit the fantastic nature sites, which are a stone's throw from the Eisteddfod field."

Find out more by visiting the CCW stand at the Eisteddfod - number 225-226 and find out how you can explore and enjoy the Welsh countryside.

Learn about biodiversity in Blaenau Gwent.


A snake in the grass

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 16:02 UK time, Friday, 23 July 2010

Walkers on Gower are being warned to watch their step after a man was bitten on the ankle by an adder at a caravan park in Port Eynon recently.

Adders (Vipera berus) are the UK's only venomous snake and common through the UK. Like most snakes they are shy creatures which will do their best to avoid contact with humans.

They will only bite as a last resort or if you accidentally step on one, so it's worth wearing walking boots and thick socks when walking in overgrown areas.

Adders basking in the sun at Parc Slip. Image by 'Former ex-tog'

Their venom is fairly strong but we're not talking taipan or king brown here (no-one has died from an adder bite since the 1970s) but if bitten, you will require hospital treatment in the form of antivenom.

Their venom is designed to stun small prey such as lizards, small mammals and amphibians.

Bites will initially cause a sharp pain followed by drowsiness, nausea, tenderness, swelling of joints and bruising around the affected area although symptoms can be more severe in certain cases.

If bitten, remain calm and don't move around. Take a paracetamol to relieve the pain and get to hospital as soon as possible.

Adders will also bite cats and dogs so always keep your dog on a lead when walking in potential adder hot spots.

Unfortunately, adders like us, tend to be more active on warm, sunny days when we all decide to go walking.

They can often be found basking in the open around the edges of woodland, coastal footpaths and at the back of beaches and dunes.

Adders are a protected species and should be treated with respect. Do not handle or disturb them and they'll do you no harm.

Watch what happened when Iolo Williams went looking for adders.

Find out more about these snakes on the BBC Wildlife Finder.


Flying axes

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:19 UK time, Thursday, 22 July 2010

Well it's the last day of the Royal Welsh Show and this week has really flown by. Apart from Tuesday, which was wet, the weather has been very kind to us.

In fact Llanewedd has been very lucky as other parts of Wales have been hit by heavy downpours and floods.

Earlier on today I did my lunchtime weather report from the forestry section and bumped into John Bufton from the Welsh Axemen team.

The guys have been competing against each other over the past four days here. They prefer dry weather because when it rains their axe handles become slippery and can fly off into the crowd - ouch!

The quickest time for cutting through a log is between 20 and 30 seconds but the world record is about 14 seconds.

They also take part in pole climbing (nothing to do with Poland) when two men climb up individual 100 foot wooden poles using a strop and spiked boots.

The winner is the first man to reach the top and ring the bell. It only takes around 13 seconds and is great fun to watch.

I did think of having a go myself...but I've got a bad back...and there's always next year.


It's all up in the air

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 17:15 UK time, Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Yesterday many parts of Wales had a good soaking with some flooding. Geraint Edwards who runs a weather station at Llanarman Dyffryn Ceiriog near Llangollen recorded 46 mm of rain (nearly 2 inches) in 24 hours and so it's not surprising the river Wye at Builth Wells is the highest it's been for months.

Thankfully it's much drier and brighter at the Royal Welsh Show today with only a few showers.

Earlier on, I took advanrage of the sunshine and went for a wander around the showground and bumbed into three Welsh women called Trekking Trio/Tair yn Treco.

Here's a pic of me and the girls stood next to a shiny, red chopper:


They will be climbing Kilimanjaro on Boxing Day raising money for Air ambulance Wales and will be at the FUW stand all day Wednesday and Thursday.

On the stall you can win a fabulous hamper worth £90 as a raffle prize - they will draw the raffle on Thursday at the show.

The girls are working hard training for the climb and are also trying to raise a huge £10,000 for the Air Ambulance - so pop in to see them for a chat and a chance to win a prize!

They're sending me up in a hot air balloon tonight for the weather bulletin so I hope we don't bump into any swans up there.


Dragon's den in Newport

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:02 UK time, Wednesday, 21 July 2010

To celebrate Newport hosting the 2010 Ryder Cup more than 100 fibreglass super dragons will create a trail in and around the city until 17 October.

See if you can spot my personal favourite - the zebra dragon.


A damp start

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:49 UK time, Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Well, we've certainly had our fair share of the wet stuff over the last 24 hours, although I'm not sure we've had enough to fill all the rivers back up to the levels where they should be. Remember the November floods of 2009?

The rain has certainly brought out the slugs though and my courgettes have taken a hammering overnight and it might be time to bring in the copper tape. If you've got any good preventative measures then let me know in the comments box - thanks!

There's high pressure looming now though, so we should have a few dry, sunny days - bad news for surfers but good news for me as I'm trying to get a garage built and concrete doesn't set in the rain.

A few photos to share with you today. The first shows just how heavy the rainfall was up north. Ruth Davies sent this one in of a cul de sac in Wrexham where she lives, which now has a water feature at one end:

Mike Davies always takes a nice snap and this one features a damp jay sheltering from the rain in his back garden. Check out the vertical lines of rain in the background.

Meanwhile in Pembrokeshire, Faye Underhill watched this local buzzard for 30 minutes as it tried to dry out its sodden wings after a heavy down pour:

Whilst we're still on a watery theme -Tony Llewellyn did a double take on a recent Skomer Island visit when he saw a frog, (yes a frog) swimming out at sea on it's back. I somehow don't think this story will have a happy ending.

And finally to end on a high note - local rowers in Fishguard have helped save a confused pod of dolphins by herding them out of the harbour and into deeper water. Well done to everyone who helped! Read more on this story on BBC News Online.


Dancing diggers

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:59 UK time, Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Royal Welsh Show isn't all about pigs, sheep and cattle although there's a fair bit of that too!

There are plenty of other things here to keep you entertained, such as the JCB Dancing Diggers which I saw yesterday, strutting their stuff in the main ring.

They've been described on the RWS website as "a down to earth version of the Red Arrows, and have curtsied for the Queen; pirouetted for TV and thrilled thousands of people all over the world."

These mechanical monsters performed intricate routines to all kinds of music from pop to classical including a hit from Tom Jones.

The diggers circled around each other and weaved in and out with only inches to spare. The drivers also used their hydraulics to perform acrobatic moves and even did hand-stands!

It was amazing to watch as the machines raised their back wheels off the ground, creating an arch for other machines to drive through. The finale was accompanied by fireworks which really got the crowd going.

The JCB Dancing Diggers are a spectacular and unusual entertainment, well worth watching - even in the rain.


A tiger in the garden

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 12:04 UK time, Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Julie McKenna from Merseyside sent in some fabulous shots of a garden tiger moth she spotted whilst camping at Trearddur Bay on Anglesey recently:



Learn more about these flying sensations on the RSPB website.

A bright start to the Royal Welsh Show

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:57 UK time, Monday, 19 July 2010

After last week's heavy rain and gale force winds, the sun has been shining for the start of the Royal Welsh Show today.

I'm up here all week and with temperatures rising as high as 22 Celsius, some people are already donning their shorts, T-shirts and flip flops.

Unfortunately, it's not going to stay dry all week and North West Wales has had quite a soaking today with a warning of heavy rain in place until 6pm today:

The rain is going to spread further south and east across Wales over the next 24 hours. The rain is expected to turn lighter and more patchy tonight but pep-up again tomorrow as it spreads north across south, mid and east Wales.

However, the North West, Pembrokeshire and the west coast should be drier and brighter.

So, if you're coming to Llanelwedd, Builth Wells for the show, come prepared and bring your waterproofs and an umbrella.

Wednesday and Thursday will bring a mixture of dry weather, sunny intervals and showers. The showers hit and miss but if you catch one it could be heavy and prolonged with thunder.

At the moment, the weekend looks generally drier with signs of high pressure moving in for the start of August.


The taming of the shrew

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 12:37 UK time, Monday, 19 July 2010

Tony Llewellyn sent in an amazing photo of a shrew and caterpillar that I just had to share with you.

I've no idea how he managed to capture this shot but here it is, for you all to marvel over:

Shrews as you can see from this photo are tiny creatures, only around two to three inches long and weighing between 0.2 - 0.4 ounces. To put that into perspective - a small apple weighs around 3.7 ounces.

Shrews have a very fast metabolism and as a result need to consume a staggering 200-300% of their own body weight each day in order to survive, so dieting is not an option.

Hardly surprising then that they only live for around two years - the poor things must be completely burnt out by then.

A shrew can literally starve to death within a few hours if it doesn't find food, so this plump caterpillar would have provided some vital calories.
Shrews have very poor eyesight so rely on their long snout, acute sense of smell and excellent hearing to hunt down their prey.

Find out more about shrews on the BBC Wildlife Finder.


Island life on Ramsey

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:24 UK time, Monday, 19 July 2010

The latest instalment from Ramsey Island comes from the Assistant Warden RSPB, Lisa Morgan:

"Chough had another good breeding season on the island, with 17 youngsters fledging from seven nest sites. This is a respectable success rate, after a tough winter for the adults and a dry spring, the hard earth making foraging for invertebrates more difficult."

"Family parties of chough are still in evidence, the incessant begging of the juveniles, makes them easy to locate. Although the young are on the wing, they are not yet independent, reliant on their industrious parents for a ready supply of insects and for foraging lessons."

Juvenille chough with parents. Image by Lisa Morgan

"Our kestrels are also working overtime, currently feeding a packed nest of four youngsters. They have chosen a very open nest site on the face of a rocky slope, but luckily the weather has been kind and we have been afforded fantastic views from our coast path."

"The adults are tirelessly bringing in a plentiful supply of bank voles for the hungry family. The estimated breeding population of kestrel in Pembrokeshire is surprisingly low at around 30 pairs, having experienced significant declines over the last 20 years. If all four young fledge that will be a great result."

"There have been many signs of otter activity over the last week. Fresh spraints have been found on the footpaths around the south coast of the island."

"The otters appear to be coming up the cliffs at two sites - one is a vegetated valley on Ramsey's east coast called Hen-ffordd (the old road)."

"Early farmers bringing livestock from the mainland to the island would, once have used this steep slope to get their animals ashore. It appears that otters are now using it as an access point too."

"Fresh markings have also been found on rocks and tussocks of moor grass in the wet valleys and along the footpath system."

"Local boatmen have also reported sighting these animals on two separate occasions this year, swimming through the ferocious tide races of Ramsey Sound and coming in off the inter-tidal rocks on the western cliffs."

"We will continue to monitor for signs and hope to have the spraints analysed later in the year to find out more about the diet of these animals. In the meantime, our freezer is rapidly filling with bags of rather pungent otter faeces!"

"From a human perspective, June has been a fantastic month and one of our busiest ever. Over 1,000 day visitors made the voyage across Ramsey Sound for a stroll around the island."

"We ran many guided walks and boat trips and helped people to get close up views of seabirds, kestrels and peregrines. If you made the trip, it was good to see you and thanks for making our days so enjoyable."

"If you haven't been to Ramsey yet, there is no excuse. The island is open everyday until the end of October."

"With the heathland coming into flower and the grey seals returning as we move ever closer to the pupping season, I can highly recommend a visit. I am, of course, biased but a thousand people can't be wrong."

Weekend weather (17 July 2010)

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:07 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

It goes without saying we've seen a big change in the weather recently. In fact it's been more like autumn than summer with strong to severe gale force winds last night.

Here's a picture by Mike Davies of a fallen tree in Cadoxton

The wind reached storm force 10 in northwest Wales with a gust of 84 mph recorded at Aberdaron on the Lleyn Peninsula and 53 mph at Mumbles Head. Strong enough to cause damage and bring down a few trees.

Thankfully, the worst is now over. The deep low pressure system is moving away so the wind is easing with a few showers. Tomorrow will bring a mixture of sunshine and scattered showers. Most of the showers in North Wales in the morning.

Mike Davies sent us another picture of recent flooding in Cadoxton

However, it will become generally dry during the afternoon with more in the way of sunshine. Top temperatures 16 to 19 Celsius with a moderate south-westerly breeze. Tomorrow evening will be dry if you're planning a BBQ but more cloud, rain and drizzle will spread in from the Atlantic after midnight. So on Sunday, it's all change again.

Cloudy with outbreaks of rain and drizzle. Most of the rain in the north and west with hill fog. East and southeast Wales drier. Breezy with highs between 17 and 20 Celsius, 22 Celsius in Wrexham and Flintshire. The wind south to south-westerly, moderate to fresh. Next week is the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd. At the moment, the weather is looking mixed with some days better than others.

Most of Monday should be dry and warm with a southerly breeze.

On Tuesday some rain is expected for a time. Wednesday brighter with sunny spells and a few showers. Thursday dry and in the sunshine feeling pleasantly warm with temperatures rising into the low 20's Celsius. So St. Swithin's Day, 15 July, brought some very unseasonal weather but I don't think we should write the rest of the summer off.

It will turn unsettled at times but high pressure from the Azores should pay us a visit late July and in August bringing spells of fine and warmer weather. So don't put the bucket and spade away just yet!

A weekend walk for Sunday

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:30 UK time, Friday, 16 July 2010

Stuck for something to do this weekend?

On Sunday July 18, you can join the National Trust for another guided walk from one of their 9x9x9 walking events.

This particular walk will take in the spectacular scenery along the coast from Port Eynon to Rhossili with plenty of stunning views along the way.

You'll get to learn about the local wildlife you encounter as well as the historical features dotted along this part of the coast.

Head warden, Sian Musgrave led last months walk around Whiteford Burrows:
It's a linear walk of around 11.5km so take lunch and £3 with you.

Families are very welcome but it's worth remembering that some of the paths are quite steep and narrow with the odd stile to hop over along the way.

Meet at 10.30am at Port Eynon car park or meet at 10am at the National Trust shop in Rhossili for a bus to Port Eynon (£1 charge).  The walk will finish at approximately 3pm.

Booking is essential as numbers are limited. For further details or to book your place, contact 01792 390636 or e-mail 

Watch a clip about Worm's Head from the BBC Wales' Weatherman Walking series.


Casting light on haunting sands

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:30 UK time, Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Some of you may remember Derek Brockway visiting Worm's Head and Whiteford lighthouse in series two of Weatherman Walking back in 2008.

The name Whiteford actually derives from the Viking - 'Hvit Fjord' meaning 'white fjord' and the dune system at the back of the beach known as Whiteford Burrows is owned by the National Trust.

Located in the Burry Estuary off the coast at Whiteford Point on the north west of the Gower Peninsula, this 61 foot tall, cast-iron lighthouse tower is the only one of its kind left in Britain.

whiteford_lighthouse.jpgIt was built in 1865 by Llanelli Harbour and Burry Navigation Commissioners to indicate the location of Whiteford Point and its dangerous sandbanks to shipping.

Various maritime disasters have occurred here over the years - the worst being in January 1868, when the entire beach was littered with dead bodies and the wreckage from 16 coal ships after a short trip from nearby Llanelli went horribly wrong.

In lighthouse terms the tower is described as being 'wave-washed' which conjures up sorts of romantic imagery but in reality means it's surrounded by the sea at high tide and battered by storm surf - unlike it's softer relatives, located up on the cliff tops.

It must have been a scary two week shift for any lighthouse keeper placed there during the winter months.

Old keepers used to report it swaying and it had various 'improvements' done to it over the years to shore up the foundations and strengthen the metal work.

The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1920 when a new beacon was established at Burry Holmes but had a brief comeback when local yachtsmen petitioned for its return in the 1980s.

Money was raised and for a while the now fully automated lighthouse shone once again but not for long as one of the solar units failed and was never replaced, leaving the lighthouse to stand silent.

Nowadays this Grade II listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument still serves as a navigational aid but only during daylight hours.

It's a stunning part of the world but take care if venturing down there as the tide can change quickly so always check the tide times and remember to add one hour during British summer time.

Whiteford Sands is also renowned for its ghosts. The most famous is the 'phantom galloping' - a terrifying noise, so loud to the ears that it has long been associated with a woolly mammoth - an animal not seen since the last Ice Age but one that certainly existed in the area.

The loud thundering sound of hooves originates in the direction of Broughton beach, before making its way along the beach to Whiteford Sands where it abruptly ends.

Others believe it is the sound of ancient Celts running across the sands to meet Roman soldiers in battle. The noise has been well documented over the years so let me know in the comments box below if you've ever heard anything.

If you wish to visit the lighthouse then the nearest car park is at Cwm Ivy near Llanmadoc. From there it's around a two mile walk to the lighthouse at the north end of the beach.

Check out a panoramic view of the lighthouse.


Badger cull halted

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:40 UK time, Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Good news if you're a badger lover.

The proposed badger cull (due to take place in North Pembrokeshire) by the Welsh Assembly Government has been halted after protesters won a legal challenge to stop it.

Opinions are as ever, divided over this recent development. Find out more on BBC News Online.

Stacking up

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 12:03 UK time, Monday, 12 July 2010

The RSPB team from South Stack have been in touch with all the latest news from Anglesey.

In June the stars of the webcam - the razorbill family had their chick hatch. 'Cymro' as he's now known has been doing well and (thanks to some attentive parents) recently flew the nest.

Razorbill soaring over Ellens Tower at South Stack. Image by Ben Hall/
From now, if all goes to plan, the male will feed the chick over the next 8-10 weeks until he learns to fly, dive and feed for himself. At present, the female razorbill has been guarding the nest site in preparation for next year's visit.

You can currently watch all the razorbill action via the live webcam at South Stack cliffs.

The puffins have also been spotted with sand eels bulging from their bills, so the team are hopeful that the chicks are growing well.

All be revealed towards the end of the month when they make their first daring departure into the sea...

Puffins at South Stack by Chris Gomersall/
If you fancy watching this drama unfold with your own eyes then you can - on Saturday, 10 July at 9 pm but please book in advance on 01407 764973.

Last weekend the reserve celebrated all things 'seabird'. Jen - the People Engagement Assistant drew the short straw and dressed up in an enormous puffin outfit, much to the amusement of visitors. But a good time was had by all with plenty of themed activities and competitions taking place.

Inside the new swanky cafe at South Stack:
The new cafe at South Stack has been keeping everyone busy and since opening in May 2010, more than 5,000 visitors have passed through it's doors, so pop in if your hungry, thirsty or both.

I visited South Stack last year with Springwatch and had a great time. It's a beautiful set up, overlooking the steep sided sea cliffs and you get to see the razorbills actually swimming underwater below you as they chase sand eels for lunch.

RSPB - South Stack


The heat is on

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:53 UK time, Friday, 9 July 2010

It's very hot across most of Europe at the moment and the hot air is moving north into England, especially the south east including London and East Anglia.

Temperatures there will soar as high as 30 to 32 Celsius tomorrow, 86 to 90 Fahrenheit and the Met Office has issued a heat-health warning.

So don't forget to drink plenty of water, wear a hat and slap on the suncream.

Here in Wales it will feel cooler with more cloud and will generally feel muggy with rain forecast for Saturday.


Most of the rain will be in the west and north west with the best of the sunshine in the east and south east. Temperatures could rise as high as 24 Celsius with a south to south westerly breeze.

Sunday will bring a change though and we should see drier, brighter conditions with some sunshine. It will however feel fresher but at least the winds will be light.

Next week it looks like it will turn more unsettled as low pressure swings in from the Atlantic bringing rain and showers - good news for farmers, gardeners and our rivers, which have been getting very low lately.


Rockpooling in Wales

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:45 UK time, Friday, 9 July 2010

I spent many happy hours as a boy down at Freshwater East beach scouring the rockpools for signs of life during the summer holidays, and it's reassuring to know that in this digitalised age, little has changed.

The marine life is still there and the equipment - a bucket and a shrimping net on a bamboo stick are still the same - although we're advised not to use the net nowadays, as our hands are kinder on the animals apparently. Whatever you use - just be gentle.

These days there's a wealth of information available to the amateur rockpool enthusiast and it's not just for kids - why should they have all the fun?

A beadlet anemone by Gwylan:


To be on the safe side, always go pooling with someone - just in case one of you gets injured or lost and always let someone know where you're going.

Check the local tide times before you begin and remember to add one hour on for British summer time.

Try and get to the beach as the tide is on the way out. That way the rockpools will be freshly stocked and you'll have a good four hours to explore before the tide comes in again.

A rock covered in starfish from a pristine pool down Gower:

So what can you expect to find?

Anemones, sea urchins, crabs of all shapes and sizes (hermit, edible, spider, shore, peeler), fish such as blenny and goby, shrimp, starfish, mussels, limpets etc are all common place in healthy pools as well as a variety of seaweeds.

If you're really lucky you might even come across an octopus or lobster tucked away under ledges in some of the deeper pools. Try feeding some shellfish or even a piece of seaweed to an anemone and see what happens...

Download our seaside spotter guides to help you identify key species:

It's always worth checking with your local wildlife trusts too as there are often guided rock pool tours during the summer months which are free and offer a wealth of information.

See what Iolo Williams uncovered when he visited some pools on the Gower Peninsula:

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

All done

Once you're done, carefully place all of your finds back into the pools they came from, along with any rocks and seaweed you may have collected.

If you've been rockpooling lately then I'd love to hear from you.

Leave a comment below so we can compare finds.You can also send in your rockpool photos to our Flickr group.

Here are some useful links I've found that might help:

Martin Hughes-Games from BBC Springwatch goes rockpooling

The seashore - rocky shore species

The British Marine Life Study

BBC Nature's Calendar - rockpooling

Marine Conservation Society - Good Beach Guide for Wales


Hummingbird in Porthcawl

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:50 UK time, Friday, 9 July 2010

Recently I was lucky enough to come face to face with my very first hummingbird hawk-moth.

Sat outside in my garden during the summer (remember - it was back in June) I'd already spotted a peregrine and gull duelling, high up in the blue skies above, when something caught my eye, hovering over flowers on the other side of the garden - a bee perhaps?

I instantly thought of the BBC Bee Part of It campaign and I darted inside to grab my camera hoping to get a nice shot to add to our Welsh bee gallery.

But as I approached what I think are red valerian (I'm not good on plant identification!) growing out of an old stone wall, I was surprised to see what can only be described as a hummingbird?!

I've actually seen hummingbird in the flesh - on the edge of a rain forest in Ecuador, just for a fleeting second.

It was incredibly small and fast and could easily have been mistaken for a dragonfly. I literally had time to fire off two shots in sports mode; managing to capture it in one photo as a blur of wings, before it vanished.

This little moth was no different - three shots later and it was gone.

I'd only ever seen photographs of hummingbird hawk moths before and was surprised at how small they were, compared to other hawk moths which can have wingspans of up to 13 cm in some extreme cases such as the oleander hawk-moth.
The moth's body was around 2 cm long and browny/grey in colour with flashes of orange on the wings. It also had a really long black proboscis (tongue) and clearly defined eyes with rings around them.

Apparently they have some sort of memory - returning to the same flower beds each day throughout summer but I've not seen mine since, so I'd questioned that theory.

If you've seen one this year - add your sighting to the butterfly conservation survey. Mine is now registered on there too.

Watch a video of a hummingbird hawk-moth on the BBC Wildlife Finder.


Derek opens new weather station

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:29 UK time, Thursday, 8 July 2010

Last Friday I visited Gavin & Stacey land - Barry Island.

But there was no sign of Nessa or Uncle Bryn when I popped in to Barry Island Primary School. I'd been invited along, to officially open their new hi-tech weather station.

The staff, pupils and parents have worked really hard to raise over £1,000 to have the weather station installed.

Derek with pupils holding up weather symbols. Image courtesy of Barry and District News:


The weather station is connected to a computer and real time readings of temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction can be accessed free on the internet.

There are now plans to install a webcam so you can check on local conditions before heading to the beach.

Barry Island Primary School was awarded Wales' 'Eco Primary School of the Year in 2009' for it's environmental and energy saving initiatives.

The school has a wonderful outdoor garden where the children can learn, play and grow vegetables whilst enjoying the fresh air.

When I started recording the weather in Barry back in the late 1970's, all I had was a thermometer which I used to hang up in the back garden, so this weather station is a fantastic idea.

Hopefully it will encourage children to learn more about the weather and environment. And you never know, a few pupils may grow up to be meteorologists and take over from me at BBC Wales, when I hang up my seaweed and retire!

Find out more about Barry Island on BBC Local South East. 


Down at the allotment

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:15 UK time, Thursday, 8 July 2010

A work colleague of mine - Luke Surrey ran into the office this morning shouting about a giant 'bird like' moth he'd found, with a wingspan the size of a small child's head! ;)

He whipped out his latest gadget - a posh new iPhone to reveal photos of a lovely poplar hawk moth that had taken up residence in his house.

Poplar hawk moth alongside a £2 coin for scale. Image by Dawn Surrey:
This moth is actually one of our commonest. Having said that, I don't think I've ever seen one?

I did spot an amazing hummingbird hawk moth in my own garden a couple of weeks ago though - a tiny little thing I mistook for a bee at first.

Hawk moths are so named because of their ability to fly quickly and in some species (hummingbird hawk moth) actually hover like a hawk. There are 17 species of hawk moth found in the UK, nine of which are resident.

Poplar hawk moth by Dawn Surrey:
The poplar hawk moth is a large brown or grey moth with a wingspan of around 6-9cm and is not easily disturbed during the daytime - hence the nice photos.

The hind wings actually stick out in front of the forewings when it's resting because it has no 'frenulum' which is a small hook that normally supports and holds the wings in position.

The caterpillars are green with faint red spots and a yellow diagonal stripe along the sides. At the head is a green horn which occasionally has a red tip. They feed on tree foliage - poplar, aspen and sallow as well as other shrubs.

This particular moth has been relocated and was last seen on a water butt in Luke's allotment so it's caterpillars shouldn't go hungry ;)

Poplar hawk moth - Laothoe Populi on

If you've seen any hawk moths or other colourful species of moth in your house or garden then I'd love to hear from you.

Email your pics to and I will feature the best ones in this blog.

You can, as always submit pics to our Flickr group too.



Woodland garden reveals artistic gem

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:54 UK time, Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Every year, thousands of people visit Colby Woodland Garden in South Pembrokeshire, but very few know of the hidden gem that resides inside the gazebo there.

In the past visitors could only see the decorated interior by peering in through the glass. The gazebo however will be now be open daily to the public, allowing visitors to step inside and marvel at the work of talented American artist - Lincoln Taber.

In the 1970's Peter Chance - Chairman of Christie's auction house, who owned the house and garden, commissioned an unusual summer house - a striking octagonal building with a copper cone-shaped roof and golden gilded pinnacle.

The real treasure however, lies inside its eight walls.

In 1976 California born artist Lincoln Taber completed the gazebo project with what is now regarded as one of his most successful murals.

Lincoln Taber was equally at home in landscape, trompe l'oeil and mural painting. He met Dali in Spain, trained with Nerina Simi in Florence, and worked with Annigoni, before settling in England in 1967.

He decorated the interior of the Colby gazebo with amazingly detailed trompe l'oeil paintings.

A climbing clematis adorns the walls beneath which are glasses of wine and a bottle of champagne, reflecting the entirely functional purpose of the building as a place for hosting dinner parties.

Higher up he painted a series of fake quarter foil windows and a heron flying past.

The gazebo has doors opening onto the garden, and where a real door was not possible Taber painted a false one with a view of the path leading down the garden.

He also painted the ceiling with eight signs of the zodiac to represent the eight people involved in the project.

Besides the walled garden, you will also find 100's of hydrangea coming into flower as well as wild flower meadows which are attracting large numbers of damselflies, damosels and dragonflies.

Every Wednesday and Thursday throughout the school holidays there are all sorts of wild activities taking place - whatever the weather!

Contact Steve Whitehead for more details on 01834 811885.

Picture this

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:30 UK time, Monday, 5 July 2010

Carmarthenshire Heritage Regeneration Trust have recently been running a project entitled 'Learning From The Landscape - Understanding Through Involvement' in the Llanelli area for children from the learning support units of Coedcae Comprehensive and Maes Y Morfa Community Primary School. 

Over the past five months the project has taught 15 pupils from each school how to use digital cameras and to photograph landscapes at various locations in Llanelli.

During the field trips to Llanelli Town Centre, Parc Howard, Pembrey Airport, Machynys, Burry Port Harbour, North Dock and Kidwelly Castle the children managed to produce some fantastic photos.

This lovely shot of Kidwelly Castle was photographed by Sarah Williams:

The pupils have also learnt to download, edit and print their images before choosing 10 of their favourites to exhibit to the public from July 6-7 at the Stradey Park Hotel, Llanelli.

Project Manager Cheryl Kitt and local landscape photographer Ken Day have been on hand to offer help and advice along the way.

The Mayor and Mayoress of Llanelli will be there for the grand unveiling from 12.30pm - 5pm on July 6. The exhibit will then re-open on Wednesday July 7 from 9am - 5pm so pop along if you have some spare time.

'Big Picture' Project Manager Cheryl Kitt said: "We hope the project will continue long after we have finished. The schools will be able to keep the equipment and recreate similar experiences for the next group of children."

The project will work with ten schools over the next two years so we can look forward to more photography exhibitions soon.

If you'd like to find out more, visit the


Podium finish for Welsh surfers

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:21 UK time, Monday, 5 July 2010

It's a tough life being a sponsored professional surfer - travelling to exotic locations to compete in surf contests but someone has to do it.

The Sri Lanka 'Champion of Champions' surf contest was recently held in perfect three to four foot surf; attracting over fifty contestants from around the globe.

This year, the women's final was an all Welsh affair, closely contested between the Swansea duo - Beth Mason and Gwen Spurlock.

Women's winner - Beth Mason. Image by Jason Feast:

Beth Mason (Swansea) eventually took first place with a 0.77 lead, leaving Gwen Spurlock (Swansea) - the current leader of the women's UK Pro Tour to scoop up a very close second place. Jo Dennison (Pembroke) came in a credible third place, ahead of Raine Jackson (Australia).

Well done to all three surfers. It's an exciting time for women's surfing in Wales currently and these girls are proving that they have what it takes compete at the highest level.


Rodents meet royalty

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:25 UK time, Monday, 5 July 2010

The red squirrels at Plas Newydd, Anglesey received a royal visit last week when Prince Charles popped in.

The prince was there to see for himself just how successful the re-introduction project had been in the the woodland surrounding the historic house.

Prince Charles during his visit - image courtesy of the National Trust:

Six squirrels were brought to Plas Newydd (a former stronghold for the species) in October 2008 and held in woodland enclosures for a few weeks, before being released into the woods over the winter.

A red squirrel - image courtesy of the National Trust:

They bred successfully and the squirrels can now be found throughout the estate. Some have even crossed the Menai Straits to recolonise Gwynedd.

The mixed deciduous woodland has a high canopy and great arching boughs - perfect habitat for red squirrels.

Plas Newydd is open daily except Thursday and Friday from 11am - 5.30pm.


Summer of '76

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:48 UK time, Friday, 2 July 2010

The last six months in Wales have been the driest since 1976 so last night's rain was very welcome for farmers and gardeners alike.

Capel Curig in Snowdonia was one of the wettest places with 26mm of rain - just over an inch.

As for the weekend, Saturday looks the best day...

Some sunshine with most of the country dry but I wouldn't out a shower in places. It will feel pleasantly warm though with top temperatures around 19 to 22 Celsius with a west to south-westerly breeze.

Sunday isn't looking so good as rain will spread from the north west during the day and a south-westerly wind will strengthen with gales for a time in the Irish Sea.

It should however turn drier and brighter by Sunday evening. Highest temperatures 17 to 21 Celsius but it will feel cooler in the wind.

Long spells of dry weather in Spring and early summer, like we've had this year, are not unusual.

Sometimes, they can continue through the rest of the summer like they did in 1976 but this is more the exception than the rule.

More often than not the weather pattern changes in early July and it often continues in the same vein through the rest of the summer.

My gut feeling this year is that the rest of July and August will be mixed. The reason for this is the jet stream.

It has been fairly weak recently but is now strengthening and this will steer low pressure systems towards Britain bringing spells of rain and stronger winds from the Atlantic

So, I think we may have seen the best of the summer weather for the time being.

It's looking more changeable next week but it's not all doom and gloom as there will be some fine days as well.

We just have to make the most of them when they come along!


Wakestock weekend

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 08:30 UK time, Friday, 2 July 2010

It's that time of year again when thousands of people descend on the sleepy seaside town of Abersoch on the Lleyn Peninsula for three days of music, partying and wakeboard action from the world's best riders.

In the same way that snowboarding revolutionised the skiing industry, wakeboarding has done the same for water skiing.

The ski's have been replaced by boards - which are a cross between surfboards and snowboards.

The concept is simple - wakeboarders, towed at high speed behind speedboats attempt to surf the 'wake wave' created by the boat.

Gathering speed from wide, sweeping turns - the riders launch off the waves and into the air busting out flips, tricks and turns (180, 360, 720 degrees) before flying back down to earth or in this case - water.

The foot stance is similar to that of a snowboarder and riders also wear boots and bindings, to stay attached to the board.

Over the last ten years, rails have also been introduced. These are large wooden structures set into the water which the riders incorporate into their runs.

They travel up and over them at high speed, often using sections as ramps to launch into the air from. They are then scored on the number and type of tricks performed as well as how they used the course obstacles.

Watch a video clip from Wakestock 2009 when BBC Sport Wales visited the event:

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

Wakeboarding has attracted board sport enthusiasts from all over the world for one simple reason - you don't have to rely on the elements.

No snow, wind or surf is required. All you need is water, so it can be done on rivers, reservoirs, lakes, oceans and in Wakestock's case - Pwllheli Marina.

The action gets under way each day around 11am with events running on and off throughout the day. On Friday night at 5pm there is a 'big air' contest on the beach at Abersoch so definitely one to take your camera to.

Friday is practice day, Thursday is amateur's day and Saturday is the main Pro Contest when the world's best men and women will show off their tricks - culminating in the finals on Sunday.

On Friday night, the wakeboarding moves into the music festival site - courtesy of a giant, purpose built pool holding 180,000 gallons of water complete with street style rails & ramps.

Besides the wakeboarding, there is also a pretty good music festival thrown in with bands such as Ting Tings, Maximo Park, N-Dubz, Feeder and more playing to the 20,000 strong crowd.

Find out more about the bands and music on offer this year on BBC Wales Music.

For more information about the Wakestock Festival visit their website at

If you get the chance, go and explore the local coastline. The beach at Porth Ceriad is stunning and great place to swim and clear the head.


Osprey chick ringers

Post categories:

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:27 UK time, Thursday, 1 July 2010

We recently announced the exciting news that the third Glaslyn chick had hatched. How time flies? (excuse the pun)

I'm pleased to report that all three chicks are all doing well and were recently ringed.

Qualified ringers from the BTO climbed the 80 foot tree to the nest site and carefully lowered each chick to the ground using ropes and a bag.

Chicks lowered to the ground for ringing in June 2010:

A separate team on the ground quickly ringed the birds before returning them to the nest within the hour.

The operation was quick and painless which is important as the team did not want the chicks or parents getting stressed.

Two of the rings were white with the numbers 92, 93. The other was black with the number 94 so keep an eye out for those in the future.

It's thought that 92 and 93 are both female as they weigh more and have larger wings and that 94 is a male.

Ringing has helped the RSPB to monitor the osprey's progress over the years and we know that at least one Glaslyn chick is now successfully breeding in South West Scotland.

Keep up to date with the RSPB osprey diary.


More from this blog...

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.