Archives for October 2010

Halloween weather forecast

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:49 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

It's been a windy old day, strong to gale force winds with gusts between 55 and 65 mph on some coasts, hills and mountains but the wind will ease tonight.

The cloud will also be breaking and clearing with a few scattered heavy showers. Saturday will be a much drier and brighter day. There will be a few showers around, and if you catch one it could be heavy, but a bit hit and miss as some places will stay dry.

Top temperatures 11 to 14 Celsius and with lighter winds and some sunshine so it will feel warmer than today.

Snowdonia Marathon. Image by Colin Paxton:

Snowdonia Marathon. Image by Colin Paxton:


It should be a decent day for the Snowdonia marathon near Llanberis tomorrow after today's rain and gales.

The runners may bump into a shower but I can promise some sunshine as well. The temperature ideal around 12 Celsius with a south to south-westerly breeze.

Tomorrow evening will be generally dry with mist patches forming in the north. However, for mid Wales and the South expect rain after midnight.

On Sunday morning the rain will spread into the north. Drier weather should follow from the south with scattered showers. Temperatures about average 11 to 14 Celsius with a south-easterly breeze.

By Halloween it should be dry. The wind light by then and not too cold! If you fancy a spooky Sunday check out Gull's blog for some ideas.

Have a great weekend and enjoy the extra hour in bed on Sunday. I plan to go for a walk but I am not sure where yet!


Ghouls and ghosts

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:52 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

Halloween is thought to have its roots planted firmly in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced 'sow 'inn') - a time when Celts celebrated the end of summer and the beginning of winter.

Silhouette of a witch and a cat in a stained glass window pane

They believed that during this time, the boundaries between the living and the dead were very thin thus allowing spirits (both good and bad) to roam freely amongst the living!

Huge bonfires featured heavily during the festival and livestock were often driven between two roaring fires in order to cleanse and protect them over the forth coming year. There was also plenty of fortune telling feasting taking place.

There is plenty going in Wales for Halloween this year. Here's a quick list of events which we know about.

The National Trust have plenty of events happening all over Wales.

Chirk Castle is renowned for its ghosts and unexplained occurrences - including a lady dressed in black Victorian costume on the Grand Staircase, ghostly footsteps in the Long Gallery and plenty of reports of people being touched by invisible hands....

The 'Haunted Happening' runs from 12-4pm and kids dressed in fancy dress costume get in for free.

Powis Castle has a children's ghost trail in the gardens. Find out what goes bump in the night and get some spooky face painting done.

There's a Halloween activity trail in Bodnant Gardens so keep your eyes peeled for ghosts amongst the bushes and try to solve a Halloween word puzzle as you go.

Aberconwy House is a medieval merchant's house in Conwy and plays host to a bat hunt between 29 - 31 October. On 31 October at 3pm you'll be able hear plenty of spooky tales about Conwy and the house itself.

Plas Newydd Country House on Anglesey hosts some spooky fun on Saturday, 30 October and kids in fancy dress get in for free.

Llancaiach Fawr Manor was recently named one of the most haunted buildings in Britain and serious ghost busters can now go on a candle lit ghost tour from October through till March 2011.

If you live in Porthcawl then why not join a Halloween Ghost Talk & Walk starting at the Swan Inn at 6pm on Sunday. £2 per person.

For more haunted buildings and Halloween events in Wales check out the Visit Wales blog.

Send your best pumpkin carving pics to me here at and I'll feature the best ones in this blog next week.

Don't forget Halloween is on Sunday, 31 October and marks the end of BST so the clocks will go back an hour - meaning we'll have lighter mornings for a few more weeks.

Right, I'm off to find a mirror to chant "Candyman" five times into...(don't do it!)

Ghostly Gull

Pumpkin carvers unite

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:11 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

Remember last years amazing effort from Jack Penketh?

Lionel has subsequently gone on to bigger and better things - appearing in a recent Walkers crisp advert with Gary Lineker ;)

Send in your pumpkin carving snaps to me here at and I'll feature the best and worst... in the blog next week :)


Windy weather

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 17:20 UK time, Thursday, 28 October 2010

There's certainly no need to wear a jumper at the moment. Yesterday the temperature at Hawarden in Flintshire reached 16 Celsius, 61 Fahrenheit.

The average maximum temperature for this time of year is about 13 Celsius, 55 Fahrenheit and it's going to remain mild for the rest of this week, although abit breezy and windy for some.

The strongest winds will be in the west and north west over the next 24 hours with the southerly wind reaching gale force with gusts between 50 and 60mph, so plenty of leaves blowing around!

Autumn at Carreg Cennen Castle near Ammanford by Steven Morgan:

carreg cennen by steven morgan

The reason for the current spate of windy weather is an area of deep low pressure in the Atlantic, pushing a cold front towards Ireland.

Ahead of it there's some warm air from the Bay of Biscay flowing northwards into Britain.

It looks like we'll all see some rain tomorrow afternoon, heaviest in the west which will clear to showers tomorrow evening.

Saturday will be breezy with a mixture of sunshine and scattered showers with some dry weather too so potentially good news for the Snowdonia marathon on Saturday which will start near Dolbadarn Castle and end on Llanberis High Street.

On Sunday there is a risk of rain in the south and west but drier in the north but for most of the country it should be dry by Halloween with lighter winds.

I will update the weekend forecast on Friday, in the meantime watch out for the strong winds, especially if you live in the west.


Pembrokeshire coast - a global destination

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:29 UK time, Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Our very own Pembrokeshire coast has been in the news today as it came second in a National Geographic poll of the top 10 best 'coastal destinations' in the world.

The Pembrokeshire coast beat off stiff opposition from the likes of Chile, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Namibia, Oregon, Scotland and more - so bear that in mind next time you're out walking and it starts to pour down with rain!

Just wipe away the rain, smile and admire the beauty all around you ;)

Barafundle Beach, on the Pembrokeshire Coast by Arwyn Harris:

Barafundle Beach, on the Pembrokeshire Coast by Arwyn Harris


A quote from one of the National Geographic judging panel:

"Wales has done a terrific job of sustainable development, including its coastline. The newly linked coastal walk will be one of the most scenic hiking paths in Europe."

"Citizens work hard at making sure that their coastal environment remains authentic and unspoiled. The seafood and food grown in the adjoining fields are culinary treats."

We've got plenty of information about this stretch of the coast  - which is Britain's only truly coastal national park with an abundance of habitats and wildlife, covering 258 miles of coastline.

Within the park itself you'll also find six national nature reserves including the world famous Skomer Marine Nature Reserve - one of only a handful of marine reserves in the UK. You can see some amazing photos from this reserve in our picture gallery.

Aside from the wildlife and rugged scenery, people have also lived here for centuries, existing in harmony with the rugged cliffs and coves and you're never too far from an ancient burial mound, castle, Celtic cross or Welsh legend such as The Mabinogion.

The BBC Wales History site features some nice castles you might like to look at.

Related links:

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

The Pembrokeshire Coast on the CCW website

BBC Wales Nature: Skomer Marine Nature Reserve

National Geographic coastal destination poll

Autumn leaf crunchers

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:15 UK time, Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Take advantage of this break in the weather to stretch your legs and if you've got kids - wear them out! ;)

Nice selection of walks over on the visit wales blog today and there are plenty to choose from in our things to do - walking section.

Choose your region and try out one of the walks Derek Brockway has done during his Weatherman Walking series. *New series coming up January 2011.

Wildlife writing competition

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 13:46 UK time, Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The recent BBC One adaptation of Sherlock Holmes was a huge success but Conan Doyle also inspired the winning article in the 2010 Natur Cymru nature writing competition.

The storyline was a familiar one, about reading the signs of nature, but told in a novel and engaging way.

Accompanied by Dr Watson, Holmes studies the rocks beneath Parys Mountain, deducing their age by the presence of marine fossils before going on to identify the resident species of bat from the wings of moths on the floor, and so on...

Andrew Forgrave, Rural Affairs Editor at the Daily Post and one of the judges said:

"For sheer originality, this was the stand-out essay. The concept of the nature detective is nothing new, but Richard Birch succeeds admirably in the deceit of writing his article in the style of Conan Doyle. A novel way of bringing nature to a wider audience."

Following on from last years success, the competition is back and this year Gillian Clarke, the National Poet for Wales, will be one of the judges.

First prize is £500 cash sponsored by WWF Cymru.

Second prize is a £500 place on the nature writing course, sponsored and delivered by Tŷ Newydd, the National Writers Centre, near Cricieth.

Natur Cymru is a quarterly magazine about wildlife and the contemporary environmental agenda of Wales.

All you need to do is write 1,000 words in Welsh or English on any aspect of the wildlife and nature of Wales that inspires you.

The competition is open to anyone who subscribes to Natur Cymru apart from staff of Natur Cymru, WWF or Tŷ Newydd. The closing date is 31 March, 2011.

Full details of the competition, including past winning articles, are at


Moby Dick in Fishguard

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:57 UK time, Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The biggest ever whale sculpted from Welsh sand took form yesterday at Goodwick Parrog in Fishguard Harbour.

The first day of the half term holiday saw over 50 Sea Trust volunteers turn out to create the 25 metre long replica of Moby Dick in just under five hours. The whale building exercise was the brainchild of Sea Trust's Cliff Benson.

Cliff said: "I just wondered how big it would look and if we could get enough people together to build it. In the end loads of kids and parents turned up and we moved tons of sand."

giant sand sculpture in the form of a whale in Fishguard

"We had a whale of a time on the beach, next to our marine exhibition in the Ocean Lab."

"It's all about Fishguard and Goodwick's rich marine heritage and we are hoping to build an even bigger blue whale during the Christmas Holidays - maybe even a world record."

The great white whale was made famous in the Herman Melville novel and later the John Ford film made partly in Fishguard starring Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab, back in 1954.

Because you're gorgeous

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:01 UK time, Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Exploring Wales' wooded gorges and ravines is increasing in popularity amongst walkers, canoeists and extreme sport enthusiasts.

Now, there is a short film on the CCW YouTube Channel that highlights the natural wonders of gorges to help people learn about our celtic rainforests before they arrive.

Presented by naturalist Ray Woods, the ten-minute film reveals that gorges in Wales' ancient woodlands harbour hundreds of different kinds of mosses and liverworts, some of which are very rare throughout the world.

Having fun, sliding down the gorges. Image courtesy of CCW:
People sliding down a gorge by CCW

With up to 200 people or more, passing through the most popular ravines and gorges each day - a simple code of conduct has been developed to help conserve these special places.

According to Ray Woods: "Most of the world's population of filmy fern lives in Welsh gorges. Black-eyed Susan is another rarity - a lichen found in only a handful of gorges in west Wales."

"These gorges are not just obstacle courses to rush through - they are incredible beautiful environments where people can enjoy and wonder at rare plant life."

Top tips for looking after gorges:

  • Avoid stepping or standing on moss covered rocks and boulders
  • Stick to established routes, please don't make new ones
  • Walk single-file to avoid erosion
  • Groups should assemble on bare rock or on shingle areas

Carn Pica

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:11 UK time, Monday, 25 October 2010

Yesterday instead of having a lie-in, I decided to be healthy and take full advantage of the fine weather. I went for a walk in the Caerfanell Valley in the Brecon Beacons.
Carn Pica by Derek Brockway

It was a bit cold and windy at Carn Pica - a giant cairn, but I could see for miles with stunning views of Llangorse Lake, the Talybont Reservoir and the Black Mountains in the distance.

The autumn colours are coming along a treat now too helped along by the sunshine and recent frosts. In fact last night was the coldest October night on record at both Tirabad near Llanwrtyd in Powys and also at Trawscoed in Ceredigion.

At Tirabad, the temperature fell to - 6.6 Celsius (20.1 F) and - 4.7 Celsius (23.5 F) at Trawscoed.

Mind you, this morning's frost is the last we're going to see for a while.

There is a big change on the way with milder, wetter and windier weather moving in from the Atlantic tonight and tomorrow.

The rest of the week looks very changeable and windy at times. Temperatures will stay above freezing overnight, keeping the frost at bay.

So make the most of the sunshine today and enjoy the autumn colours if you can as tomorrow the leaves will be falling and blowing around with a fresh to strong south-westerly wind.


October photo selection

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 12:13 UK time, Monday, 25 October 2010

I've been away on holiday, surfing in Donegal, Ireland but the Flickr group has continued to flourish in my absence.

Here are a few pics which have caught my eye since I've been back.

For those of you visiting the coast - it's pupping season for grey seals at the moment so tread carefully and you might come across some mums & pups in quiet coves around the coast.

Ade Owens snapped this little gem off Wooltacke Point near Marloes in Pembrokeshire:

A grey seal and pup by Ade Owens


Keith Evans from Llangollen spotted this swan out for stroll on the pavement, racing the locals to the bingo hall:

A swan walking past a group of pensioners on the pavement.


There's a very good reason why people come from all over the world to go hikiing in North Wales and Christian Roberts has shared one of them with us.

Llyn Anafon is a mountain lake approximately 510m above sea level in the Carneddau mountains in North Wales:

Llyn Anafon by Christian Roberts


It's a great time to see wading birds currently, especially after the big tides we've been experiencing over the last few days. Did you see the size of the moon on Saturday night?!

The next shot is unusual in that it shows a sparrowhawk attempting to take on much bigger prey than normal - in this case a greenshank. Forget sparrows, this bird of prey was super sizing his meal!

Moses Davies captured this incredible scene which somehow saw the greenshank escape unscathed:

Sparrowhawk chasing a greenshank by Moses Davies


I've witnessed peregrine falcons dive bombing flocks of wading birds before but I've never come across a sparrowhawk attempting it?

Great pics everyone. Keep them coming!


Mediterranean visitor

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:41 UK time, Monday, 25 October 2010

A pipefish that's usually spotted in the warm seas of the Mediterranean has been found off the Welsh coast.

This pipefish photographed by marine scientist Paul Kay, is thought to be a Shore or Black-striped Pipefish (Syngnathus abaster):

A pipefish, photographed by marine scientist Paul Kay.



Previously, it had only been found as far north as Southern Biscay in the Atlantic, with the odd one seen more northerly off the coast of France, but never before in Welsh waters.

Dr Mandy McMath, Senior Marine Ecologist for the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) said, “Some species, if recorded routinely, could reveal important information on climate change and seasonal migrations. The sighting of more southerly species in Welsh waters indicates a possible rise in sea temperatures.”

Paul Kay, co-author of 'Marine Fishes of Wales' would love any fishermen, rockpoolers, divers and people interested in identifying fish to report any unusual sightings to

"There are gaps in our information about endangered species so all information will help us build up a better picture of fish species in Welsh waters.”

Related links:



October half term

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:00 UK time, Monday, 25 October 2010

Celebrate autumn with the National trust this October half term at Dinefwr Park and Castle, Llandeilo.

There's plenty going on for all ages so take your pick:

  • Monday 25th - Conkers & crowns - take part in the conker championship and make a princes crown or princesses tiara from all the fabulous autumn leaves.
  • Tuesday 26th - The brilliant play team from Carmarthenshire County Council will be helping visitors big and small to have fun in the autumn weather and work on a crafty creation together.
  • Wednesday 27th - Autumn art - Help create beautiful art using whatever you can find around you.
  • Thursday 28th - Fun with fungus - An exciting afternoon discovering all things fungi.
  • Friday 29th - Autumnal craft activities for all the family

While you are at Dinefwr there are lots of other things to discover from life Edwardian style in Newton House to the ruins of Dinefwr castle, once home to the Welsh princes and a rare herd of white park cattle.

Dinefwr is open daily from 11am to 5pm and family discovery activities are available between 12 - 4pm.

Normal admission charges apply (National Trust Members free) and there is no extra charge for activities.

For more information please call on 01558 823902/824512 or e-mail

Three-armed rainbow

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:52 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010

Katie Lench from Gwynedd sent in this beautiful photo of a rainbow.

Rainbows. Photo: Katie Lench

Rainbows. Photo: Katie Lench

She saw this double rainbow on the A55 at Llanfairfechan yesterday. It's strange, though, because it has a third 'arm' pointing upwards. Katie has never seen a rainbow like this before and wants to know how it is formed.

To see a rainbow we need sunshine and falling rain. The main or primary rainbow is bright but outside it you can see a fainter secondary bow. The secondary bow is wider and its colours are reversed so that the reds of the two bows always face one another.

The third bow or 'arm' in the middle of the picture is called a 'reflection rainbow' and is produced by by sunlight beaming upwards after reflection from calm water - in this case from the sea.

You can read more about reflection rainbows here and here on Wikipedia.

Another rainbow taken by Jeff Hayward at Graig Coch Dam in the Elan Valley

Another rainbow taken by Jeff Haward at Graig Coch Dam in the Elan Valley

You never know, you may see a rainbow over the weekend because a mixture of sunshine and showers are forecast. If you find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, remember me and send me a few coins!

First ever Welsh sighting for rare fish

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:52 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010

A fish species, never seen before in Welsh waters, has been spotted and photographed by marine scientist Paul Kay:

Pipe fish. Photo: Paul Kay

Pipe fish. Photo: Paul Kay

It is thought to be shore or black-striped pipefish (Syngnathus abaster) which has previously only been seen as far north as the Southern Biscay in the Atlantic.

Dr Mandy McMath, Senior Marine Ecologist for the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) said: "Some species, if recorded routinely, could reveal important information on climate change and seasonal migrations. The sighting of more southerly species in Welsh waters indicates a possible rise in sea temperatures."

Paul Kay, co-author of the Marine Fishes of Wales said: "It would be great if rock poolers, divers, anglers, fishermen or just anyone interested in identifying fish would go to to report any unusual sightings. There are gaps in our information about endangered species so all information will help us build up a better picture of fish species in Welsh waters."

Have a whale of a time this half term

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:00 UK time, Friday, 22 October 2010

Stuck for something to do with the kids next week for half term? You could take a trip to Goodwick Parrog beach in Pembrokeshire from Monday and assist in the possible creation of a brand new world record.

Sea Trust Organisation will be attempting to create a huge sand whale on the beach all next week. Cliff from STO Wales said: "I decided we should build a sand sculpture of a whale on Goodwick Parrog beach during the half term holidays to keep the kids amused.

"I emailed people including the press saying we were planning to do so and today was interviewed by my mate Jim Hughes for Pembrokeshire Radio's On the Waterfront programme. During the interview Jim asked what the world record was and if we would beat it. I said I did not know but we would try!

"So far as I can tell from Google there is no record. We will meet at the Ocean Lab, Fishguard Harbour at 11am on Monday Morning and start the sculpture. We will just keep on going as long as we can throughout the week and hopefully make something colossal . Come and help! Bring buckets and spades and enthusiasm; let's make one beached whale a symbol of hope and conmmunity spirit!"

Looking for more inspiration for the coming week of holidays? Check out our Place to go section for some suggestions.

Forecast for the rest of this week

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:58 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

Last night was the coldest night of the autumn so far for some of us with a slight frost.

Temperatures in mid Wales and the south fell close to freezing or just below. Pembrey in Carmarthenshire one of the coldest spots with a low of -2 Celsius, 28 Fahrenheit. Mind you, that's the last frost we're going to see for a few days.

The cold Arctic air is moving away, the wind has turned into the west and that is bringing milder air in from the Atlantic. Temperatures in Hawarden, Flintshire rose to 13 Celsius, 55 Fahrenheit this afternoon and tonight temperatures will stay above freezing. Cloud permitting, look out for the planet Jupiter which is bright to the right of the moon in the constellation Aquarius.

This week's weather chart

Tomorrow night a deep low pressure will cross Scotland bringing a spell of heavy rain and gusty winds. The rain will clear during the early hours of Saturday with a mixture of sunshine and blustery showers over the weekend. It will also feel chilly and breezy with a fresh to strong westerly wind turning north to north-westerly on Sunday.

The autumn colours are looking great right now. Adrian Mizon from Maindee in Newport sent in these pictures taken in the woods near Blaenavon.

Woodland by Adrian Mizon

Woodland by Adrian Mizon

Woodland by Adrian Mizon

Woodland by Adrian Mizon

While Keith Burton took this photo of fungus growing next to a tree just outside his house.

Fungus by Keith Burton

Fungus by Keith Burton

Thanks for all your photos. If you take a nice pic please send it to

Appeal for Carmarthenshire churchyard fungi

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:43 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

The National Botanic Garden of Wales (NBGoW) is asking for help in assessing Carmarthenshire's fungus populations in churchyards.

Waxcap fungi

Waxcap fungi

Unlike open country and farmland, churchyards don't tend to be intensively managed and are unaffected by agricultural chemicals. Hence, species of fungus such as waxcaps, fair clubs, spindles and earth tongues can thrive in this particular habitat.

Bruce Langridge of NBGoW said: "There are more than 400 churchyards in Carmarthenshire but only a few of these are rich in these colourful fungi.

"Waxcaps, fairy clubs, spindles and earth tongues only really come out in the autumn and we haven't got time to visit every churchyard. So we desperately need the help of church wardens, vicars, ministers, deacons, people who mow the cemeteries or even dog walkers who pass through... to let me know if they think they've seen these things."

Either Langridge or another local expert will attend sites to identify the fungi, log them and offer advice on their continued conservation.

Bruce Langridge can be contacted on or 01558 667162.

Natur Cymru launches £1,000 writing challenge

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:30 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

Natur Cymru has launched this year's £1,000 writing challenge.

The challenge is to write 1000 words on a subject of topical environmental or wildlife interest in Wales which inspires you. The winner will receive £500 donated by WWF Cymru, which is sponsoring the competition for the third year. A runner-up will receive a place worth £500 on the nature writing course at Tŷ Newydd, the National Writers' Centre.

Anne Meikle, head of WWF Cymru, said: "WWF Cymru is delighted to have sponsored this year's Natur Cymru writing competition. It has given budding writers the opportunity to explore and promote such exciting and important topics as wildlife and the environment. We hope reading such talented work will enthuse others into discovering the wonders of nature and some of the threats which they face."

"Natur Cymru is the quarterly magazine the flies the flag for the wildlife and nature of Wales. The purpose of the competition is to stimulate debate and encourage contributions from anyone with a passion for our natural world in Wales," said Natur Cymru's Huw Jenkins.

The judging panel will be looking for the originality of content, use of plain language in either English or Welsh, and the piece's engagement of the reader.

The competition is open to anyone who subscribes to Natur Cymru apart from employees of the magazine, WWF or Ty Newydd. Articles, along with illustrations (if any), are to be submitted by email to by 31 March, 2011. The winning articles will be selected by a panel of judges including Gillian Clarke, the National Poet of Wales, and published in the Summer 2011 edition of Natur Cymru.

Dog days

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Roy Noble Roy Noble | 13:33 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Dylan didn't come with any certificates, so we can't lay claim to a pedigree lineage. Noble Junior bought him, online, from a place in Lincolnshire. I suspect it was a puppy farm and although he was dubbed a Border Collie, I have to say his mother must have had the odd Friday night liaison with a good-looking and smooth barking greyhound.

Dylan does all the things a Collie is supposed to do, he likes us all to be neatly in the same room of an evening,nicely penned in, but he has long legs all right and is pretty fast when he hits the over-drive button. I did think he was a Lurcher, but a knowing doggie person has suggested that he's a throw back to an older Collie breed, so now we boast about that.

Anyway, I don't care if he is a mongrel really. I have a lot of time for mongrels. They're loyal and clean around the house. Actually, most of the south Walians are mongrels when you think about it: they came from all over to the iron and the coal during the Industrial Revolution.

Roy Noble with Dylan

Roy Noble with Dylan

Dylan, to his credit, has changed my personal habits. This dedicated couch potato is taken for walkies every morning now and we are regulars 'up the Cwm'. The Cwm is a a dead end valley, or corrie, crowded and pock-marked by coal mines and diggings in the days of industry. Now it is an attractive Country Park sweeping down from the harsh rocky ridge where the peregrine falcons nest, through woodland and walkways,to the lake that takes you towards the village of Cwmdare.

I am now a doggie groupie. I know all the dogs , and their owners, who lay claim to their patch every morning. We all follow a set pattern - well, until a fortnight ago. Something strange happened.

Dylan, as usual, bounded from the car, heading for his favourite bush to do... well, you know, what dogs do. However, he hesitated, cowered back towards the car and wasn't keen to hit his usual trail. I thought he was just going through a funny phase, until, over a period of days we came across several owners whose dogs had reacted in the same way. This lasted for over a week.

So, what scent had the canines picked up? Was it a wild animal, or was it something else, deeper, older and not discernible to the human instinct? After all, up in the furthest curve of the Cwm there is an ancient grove of alder trees, near the pathway stone that has on it a roughly hewn Celtic drawing.

If you enter the grove of trees, minding the mud as you go, you'll find it serene, quiet and contemplative, even in the gentle breezes that caress the branches. It was there, it is said you see, that the ancient Druids met. Maybe, just maybe, a gust had brought the old days back, fleetingly... and Dylan and the pack had picked the ancient scents. Who knows?


Roy Noble is bringing his famous storytelling skills to a computer near you as part of the BBC First Click campaign - aimed at encouraging people to take their first steps to getting online. If you know somebody who needs help to get online, call the free BBC First Click advice line on 08000 150950.

Photographic mystery: can you help?

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:25 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Ian and Sandra have contacted Derek Brockway this week with a very peculiar photograph.

Strange patterns on Skrinkle Bay. Photo: Ian Collier

They say, "Can you or anyone explain the pictures we saw on this sandy beach at Skrinkle Bay on the Haven Coastal Path, near Tenby?

"We saw it on holiday on 7 October 2010 and although we've asked many people, including Tenby Tourist Information, no one knows who did it or how it got there. We think its a wonderful piece of art. Do you agree?"

Can you help the Colliers and solve the mystery? If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Jack Frost

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:44 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

It's time to dig out the warm coat! It's feeling chilly today and it's going to turn even colder in the next 24 hours.

Low pressure over Scandinavia is pushing a cold front southwards across Britain today bringing some showers and a drop in temperature with cold winds from the Arctic. A little snow is likely on the mountain tops in Snowdonia.

Rheola Lake by Mike Davies

The first frosts of autumn, at Rheola Lake in the Vale of Neath. Photo: Mike Davies

Tonight, temperatures will dip close to freezing or just below with a widespread ground frost and in some rural spots, such as St. Harmon in Powys, a slight air frost is likely.

Tomorrow parts of the north and west can expect a few showers feeding in from the Irish Sea otherwise it will be fine and crisp with plenty of sunshine.

Tomorrow will be the coldest day of the week but the cold snap will be short-lived. The wind will turn into the west or south-west on Thursday and Friday and it will turn milder with low pressure bringing rain and stronger winds by the weekend.

New Snowdonia path planned

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:25 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A new path on Snowdonia is to be developed, allowing walkers a safer passage between Pen y Gwryd and Pen y Pass.

The work is being funded by Snowdonia Green Key, an initiative run by the Snowdonia National Park Authority, reports the Daily Post.

Emyr Williams, director of land management at the national park, told the newspaper: "The new footpath development from Pen Y Gwryd to Pen Y Pass will now enable walkers to walk safely between the two points.

"This will avoid the need to walk on the busy and dangerous section of the A4086 which has always been of major concern to the National Park and the highways agencies for a number of years."

Work on the path will begin later this month and will be completed in spring 2011.

Otters back across Wales

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:14 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Environment Agency Wales (EAW) yesterday announced that the otter, after nearing extinction in the 1970s, is now back with healthy pockets of population in all river catchments of Wales.


An otter, yesterday

Now 90% of sites surveyed across Wales have otter populations, while in 1978 just 20% bore proof of the aquatic mammal. The otter has also established itself on Anglesey for the first time in 30 years.

Speaking to the Western Mail, EAW's biodiversity officer Rob Strachan said: "Otters were heading for extinction in the late 1970s but they have continued to make a steady recovery and can now be considered to be widespread throughout the rivers and the coast of Wales.

"They are now on Anglesey where they haven't been seen for 30 years, and they are moving right into the heart of Cardiff's River Taff and into Cardiff Bay, Newport and the South Wales Valleys.

"With improved water quality, growing fish stocks, the removal of pesticides in sheep dip and persistent chemicals on crops that can take 30 years to biodegrade, our latest survey shows that nearly 90% of [surveyed] sites now have otters."

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Hain says Barrage decision a 'disaster'

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:13 UK time, Monday, 18 October 2010

Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain has reacted angrily to the news that the coalition government is planning to ditch plans for a £30 billion barrage across the Severn estuary.

Written by James McLaren

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is expected to kick the scheme for renewable energy into the long grass as it not finanically viable.

Mr Hain is taking a wide view of the issue, pointing to the fact that a barrage would have produced to up 5% of the UK's energy, going some way towards achieving the planned 80% reduction in CO2 by 2050, but some take a more local view, pointing to the potential harm to the ecosystem of the estuary, which has the second largest tidal range in the world.

They believe that the delicate balance of the estuary would be compromised by the barrage. Up to 65,000 birds use the estuary for winter feeding grounds.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), have welcomed the news. Martin Harper, head of sustainable development at the RSPB, said: "Climate change threatens an environmental catastrophe for humans and wildlife. Harnessing the huge tidal power of the Severn has to be right, but it cannot be right to trash the natural environment in the process.

"A barrage like the one proposed between Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare would not only destroy huge areas of estuary marsh and mudflats used by 69,000 birds each winter and block the migration routes of countless fish, but, as confirmed by this report, it would dramatically increase risk of flooding to residential properties.

"The government study needed to demonstrate that a big barrage could form a cost effective part of a radical plan to tackle climate change. It is clear today that a barrage does not make economic sense.

"It's a great shame that we have been fixated on outdated environmentally destructive technology. We have consistently called for investment in more innovative and potentially less destructive schemes on the Severn which take environmental considerations into account in their design.

"The government has signalled it will be prepared to review this decision if the strategic context changes. We now want the government to announce that only truly sustainable solutions which respect the estuary, its people and its wildlife will be considered in the future.

"Such an announcement would provide a clear signal to the engineering community and provide some much-needed incentives for the development of these technologies for use not just in the Severn but also in estuaries around the UK and elsewhere.

"It would also mean that if the situation changes and this or a future government decides to reopen the debate about how to harness tidal power from the Severn, then it will not have to rely on outdated, environmentally destructive technologies.

"The UK could and should be a world leader in sustainable tidal power if the investment and the will could be found."

Peter Hain points to the wider considerations of scrapping the scheme: "This is a decision that is equally disastrous for the Welsh economy and our environment.

"Not only is Chris Huhne turning his back on the proposed barrage scheme that would have created hundreds of good quality green jobs for Welsh people, it appears that he decided to abandon in its entirety the idea of using the Severn Estuary as a generator of electricity.

He said the UK government had "decided to shift their attention, but minimal funding" to technologies which "may not deliver a single kilowatt of clean energy in the foreseeable future".

What do you think? Is this news a good or bad thing for the Welsh environment? If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

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Weekend weather

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:17 UK time, Friday, 15 October 2010

The weather's been quiet and settled in our part of the world this week with a mixture of sunshine, cloud and very little rain.

You may catch a light shower today but the weekend looks promising as a ridge of high pressure will bring us plenty of dry weather and some sunshine.

It will however be turning cold at night and a widespread ground frost is expected on Saturday night.

Thanks to everyone for sending in photos for me to feature on my TV weather bulletins this week.

Here's a nice one of a flock of canada geese on their way up the River Neath by Mike Davies who spotted around 150 geese in total:

Canada geese on the River Neath by Mike Davies


Gardeners - if you have any plants in the garden; it's advisable to cover them up or bring them indoors and if you're travelling on Sunday morning - watch out for a few mist and fog patches on the roads.

If you're taking part in the Cardiff half marathon on Sunday, the weather will be fine with a cold start.

Temperatures will start off around 3 Celsius with a risk of mist but it will brighten up during the day with sunshine lifting temperatures to around 13 Celsius with a light breeze.

Don't forget the BBC Wales Roadshow at the leisure centre in Merthyr Tydfil on Sunday. Lots of fun is forecast and it's all free! I will be there giving tips on presenting the weather so pop along and say hello.

Next week will bring a change as low pressure over Iceland move towards Scandinavia, pushing cold air in the Arctic southwards across Britain.

North to north-westerly winds will bring some showers and these will turn wintry on the mountains with the first snow of the season arriving in Snowdonia.


Feeling a bit ropey

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:46 UK time, Friday, 15 October 2010

Good news for the reds on Anglesey as specially designed rope bridges are being proposed to help prevent the squirrels from becoming road kill.

A red squirrel by Alan Burfitt:
red squirrel by alan burfitt

The technique has already been used successfully elsewhere and it's hoped that this will allow the squirrels to move safely between trees without the need to traverse busy roads. A number of deaths have already occurred over the last 18 months.

More on this story on BBC Local NW.

Related links:
Friends of the Anglesey Red Squirrels
The Red Squirrel Survival Trust

Winter cold snap?

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:40 UK time, Wednesday, 13 October 2010

As you may have already read; Gull and I have been out and about filming recently for a new series of Weatherman Walking and overall we've been very lucky with the weather, enjoying some warm sunshine.

Last Friday the temperature at RAF Valley on Anglesey reached a balmy 23 Celsius 73 Fahrenheit, making it the warmest day there since October 18, 1997. The October average maximum temperature is about 14 or 15 Celsius.

Since then it has turned cooler. In fact last night with clear skies there was a slight frost in Capel Curig in Snowdonia with a low of -1 Celsius, 30 Fahrenheit.

You may remember last winter being very cold - the coldest in Wales for over 30 years and we could, although by no means definite, be in for a repeat performance this winter with temperatures lower than normal.

The winter forecast from the American weather computer using data from late September shows the UK swathed in blue in the Dec-Jan-Feb 2010/11 image.

This indicates below average temperatures with even colder conditions across mainland Europe, Scandinavia and Russia.

This would suggest blocking areas of high pressure forming to the north and east of Britain which would deflect the Atlantic jet stream further south with cold winds from either the Arctic, Scandinavia or Siberia.

Of course, there is no guarantee with any forecast, especially the long range variety.

The American forecast models regularly change and we could even end up in a battle ground between mild and moist air from the Atlantic bumping up against colder and drier continental air.

This would lead to brief cold snaps alternating with spells of mild, wet and windy conditions.

The American model was however successful at predicting the cold winter we experienced last year but will it be right this time round?

Only time will tell, but it might be worth stocking-up on some extra wood for the fire and topping-up the car anti-freeze - just in case!


Fine weather walks

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:35 UK time, Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Last week I managed to escape the confines of the office and accompany Derek Brockway and the team as they completed the last of the walks for a new Weatherman Walking TV series beginning in January 2011.

The weather was spectacular with blue skies and sun every day and apart from the odd blustery day (thanks to those easterly winds) - stayed remarkably warm too.

On Monday, with our trusty guide Kerry in tow - we wandered through the very heart of the Rhondda - starting in Blaencwm woodlands and hiking up to top of Pen Pych before trekking down past waterfalls and lakes and winding up on the Rhigos Pass which took us back to civilisation.

Derek next to one of the waterfalls on the walk:

Derek next to a waterfall in the Rhondda

On the trek we took in some of the areas old industrial landscape as well as some stunning views across the Welsh Valleys. On a clear day you can see for miles and it was great to learn all about the local history; including the old railway tracks and tunnels which now lie dormant - buried deep within the mountains.

We were all amazed at what was on our doorstep - just 40 minutes drive from the centre of Cardiff!

Along the way we encountered all sorts of ramblers - including one canine fan who insisted on shaking paws with Derek:

Derek shakes hands with a dog in the Rhondda


Then on Thursday and Friday we headed up to Mid Wales for an altogether different walk.

This one took us to Abergynolwyn on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park. After a quick bit of filming on an old steam train used for slate transportation back in the day, we were off.

We met up with our guide and local librarian/ farmer - Lisa and proceeded to take in stunning waterfalls and luscious green valleys as well as the odd mountain or two as Cader Idris loomed in the distance.

Derek letting off some steam:

Derek on a steam train at Abergynolwyn


From the village we made our way up to an imposing 12th century castle - Castell Y Bere, slap bang in the middle of a wide valley, surrounded by hills and mountains - not the sort of place you'd attack easily.

Next stop was Mary Jone's Chapel where we learned all about the little girl who decided to walk to Bala (approx 25 miles away) in bare feet to get her bible.

This of course was pre 'Weatherman Walking' - otherwise she'd have been watching repeats on the BBC iPlayer instead ;)

After wandering around the chapel it was onwards and upwards through an oak forest, which skirted yet another amazing waterfall and up into wide green valley with views over the Bala fault line before descending back down into Abergynolwyn.

Derek and Lisa take a breather and look over the mountains towards the Bala fault line:


The crew are a hardy bunch and it was a real eye opener to see how much kit everyone has to lug around over all kinds of terrain - up steep hills, across streams, through marshland and gorse and those cameras and tripods aren't light!

Needless to say we all felt absolutely shattered on the Saturday.

I took plenty of photographs for the website galleries and had some new GPS kit with me (which I just about managed to get my head around) so the online walks will be a lot more detailed for the next series.

The new walks, photos and maps will be available on the website in early January 2011 so keep an eye out for those.

That's it for the time being - the walking boots are now drying out!


Volunteers needed for Anglesey clean-up

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:14 UK time, Thursday, 7 October 2010

The National Trust is looking for volunteers to help with a clean-up and maintenance project on the Anglesey coastline this autumn.

The volunteering days are each Friday up to and including 10 December, and the work will include work on footpaths and boundary maintenance.

"We have arranged a series of volunteering days which will allow people to come and help while also hearing about the work the team carries out on behalf of the National Trust," Bryn Jones the National Trust warden for Anglesey told the North Wales Daily Post.

Volunteers are requested to meet at 9am at Hen Blas Cemlyn near Cemaes Bay, and to wear appropriate stout footwear. More information is available by calling 01407 711178.

Rhys to the Rescue - Kenya

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:47 UK time, Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Wednesday, 6 October at 7.30pm on BBC One Wales

Dr Rhys Jones faces a completely new set of challenges as he goes into the back gardens of Kenya.

Here, the snakes he’s hunting have already killed - so how will he cope when he’s confronted by some of the deadliest snakes in Africa?

Rhys’s Kenyan trip is one he’s undertaken for many years as part of his work with the School of Biosciences at Cardiff University.

As well as giving his students a grounding in the biodiversity of the area, he is also helping to put Wales on the map as one of the potential saviours of the Northern White Rhino - of which only eight remain on the planet.

Rhys’s work as a parasitologist and geneticist feeds into a programme designed to save the species, which has been poached and hunted to the point of extinction.

Aside from poaching, man's pollution of the world's oceans is having a disastrous effect on sea turtle populations.

Rhys helps some of the 1000's of turtles which have eaten discarded plastic bags by accident.

A mixture of laxatives and cod liver oil may not be to everyone’s taste, but it could save a turtle’s life - if Rhys can get to them in time...


Indian summer

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:41 UK time, Wednesday, 6 October 2010

As you'll know from watching the Ryder Cup; October got off to a wet start...

John Goodger, who runs a weather station in Velindre near Glasbury in Powys, has already recorded 73mm of rain, nearly 3 inches, which is almost 80% of the monthly average rainfall for that location.

Thankfully, I think we've seen the worst of the heavy rain for a while. In fact there's a dry and warmer spell of weather on the way later this week.

South-easterly winds are heading our way from the Med and will bring warmer air northwards into Wales on Friday, so we could be in for an Indian Summer.

The term "Indian Summer" actually dates back to the 18th century in the United States. It can be defined as "any spell of warm, quiet, hazy weather that may occur in October or even early November."

It's characteristic for these conditions to last from a few days to well over a week.

There is some dispute as to the origins of the phrase Indian Summer. One explanation is that cargo ships leaving the UK and crossing the Indian Ocean would wait to set sail until after the end of the monsoon in October during the calmer, drier period - described as an Indian Summer.

Another theory is that the expression comes from North America in the 18th Century where the Native Indians would take advantage of warm weather in October to harvest their crops and go hunting.

The warmer weather arriving later this week will be accompanied by a noticeable breeze which will be brisk and gusty at times, especially on exposed coasts and hills, so the leaves will be blowing around a bit.

It looks like the fine weather will continue well into next week with high pressure close by but make most of the warm weather because the long range forecast for the coming winter is cold - more on that next week.

In the meantime, if you're out with your camera please send in your sunny October pics. The sunshine will show off the Autumn colours nicely.

Here's one from Stuart Miller from Aberdulais of a lake in Gnoll Country Park:
Gnoll country Park by stuart miller

You never know I might be able to show your photos on my Wales Today weather slot.

Gull and I are off walking tomorrow in Gwynedd for my new series of Weatherman Walking so keep an eye out for some updates and pics on Monday.


Clwydian AONB to be doubled in size

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:40 UK time, Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Proposals are in place to extend the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to roughly twice its current size, as the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) look to protect parts of the area at risk.

In partnership with the Wrexham and Denbighshire local authorities, CCW plans to extend the Clwydian Range AONB further south into the Dee Valley and Vale of Llangollen.

Speaking to the Western Mail, Paul Mitchell of CCW said: "The current AONB is 158 square kilometres and we want this to double in size to 388 square kilometres".

"We want to reduce the impact on the landscape from visitors who travel to see the amazing views over the Dee Valley up to Eglwyseg Mountain scarps, from areas such as the Horseshoe Pass.

"There are also impacts from heavy traffic and from those walkers on foot, who are causing a degree of erosion on the hillsides."

The proposed extension would help some rare species such as black grouse, and CCW is confident of wide support for the scheme during its 12-week consultation process, but there is some scepticism from the farming community.

"All designations can potentially cause problems because it means that farmers and landowners can do one thing on one side of the map but not on the other," said Julian Salmon, Wales director of the Country Land and Business Association.

"Effective and profitable land management is how these areas of Wales came to be in the first place and anything that threatens to interrupt that is always undesirable.

"If a designation adds another level of bureaucracy, I can't help but react negatively to it."

To view the consultation paper, visit the CCW website at

Your usual blogger Gull is away today; I am James McLaren, occasional Nature site stand-in and music blogger.

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