Archives for September 2011

Bridgend walking festival

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:00 UK time, Friday, 30 September 2011

Discover the best of Bridgend county on foot! This year's walking festival kicks off on Saturday and runs from 1 - 9 October, 2011.

The festival offers a range technical walks for the experienced plus an eclectic mix of experiences for dabblers, families and novice walkers.

Visitors can try Nordic walking, star gazing, zorbing on water, wild food foraging and many walks will be taking advantage of the rights of way network.

Find out about all of this year's 40 walks on the Bridgend Walking Festival website.

Derek Brockway will also popping along for a walk/ fun run on Sunday, 9 October at 2pm at the Bryngarw Country Park and I'm hoping to do some too and write them up for this blog.

Keep up to date with walking events on Twitter - @love2walkwales

Email the team for more information at

BBQ weather coming up

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:04 UK time, Wednesday, 28 September 2011

It may be autumn and the nights are drawing in but we haven't seen the last of the summer yet.

It's going to get much warmer over the next few days. Southerly winds from the southern Europe and the Mediterranean will be bringing blue skies and lots of sunshine to Wales with temperatures rising into the low to mid 20's Celsius.

The highest temperature ever recorded in September in Wales is 31C, 88F on 1st September 1961 at Gogerddan in Ceredigion.

Later into the month and the highest temperature is 26 Celsius, 79 Fahrenheit at Abergwyngregyn in Gwynedd on 30th September 1985 but this could be smashed this week with temperatures on the north coast predicted to reach 27 Celsius, 81 Fahrenheit at Rhyl - on a par with Barcelona in Spain!

The reason for the warm and sunny spell of weather is down to the shape of the jet stream. The jet stream in the upper atmosphere is shaped like a roller coaster at the moment and we're on the warm side of a big dipper.

In meteorology this is called an Omega Block because it resembles the shape of the Greek letter Omega and these blocks can last for some time before breaking down.

The weather we get depends on which part of the Omega block we are stuck under. At the moment we are in the middle which is warm and dry but either side of it is cooler and more unsettled.

In winter, Omega Blocks can lead to cold and snowy weather if they are in the right place which was the case last December which was the coldest on record.

At this time of year, some people often refer to warm weather as being an Indian Summer but these occur in October and November.

In Welsh, fine and warm in late September is called a 'haf bach mihangel' or a St. Michael's little summer, which I have written about before.

So, forget the soups and duvets, it's time to hit the beach and get the BBQ out over the next few days. In fact it could be the best spell of weather we've had since last April.

The sunshine will really show off the autumn colours at their best so if you take a photo please email it to

And you never know, I may be able to show them off on the telly.


Do something drastic, stop using plastic

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 16:30 UK time, Tuesday, 27 September 2011

I've been out and about in Haverfordwest today, a town which started a campaign three years ago to become 'plastic bag free'.

A local campaigning group created a cotton bag, designed by schoolchildren, complete with the slogan 'Do Something Drastic, Stop Using Plastic'.

The new re-usable bags being sold in Haverfordwest.

The new re-usable bags being sold in Haverfordwest.

There's a picture of a turtle on the bag - highlighting the fact that marine life doesn't always know the difference between a plastic bag and a jellyfish, and often becoming entangled in or swallow our castaway carriers.

This weekend, Wales will become the first country in the UK to charge customers for plastic (or single use) bags.

The minimum charge will be 5p per bag and retailers are supposed to nominate a charity for the levy revenue.

This week, the Marine Conservation Society issued a press release welcoming the new charge and reminding us all that in 2009 an estimated 350 million free plastic bags were used in Wales - that's a lot of plastic.

They've also highlighted the fact that more than 170 species of marine wildlife have mistaken litter for food, resulting in poisoning and fatal stomach blockages.

But will the charge make a difference? You could argue that 5p isn't much extra to pay on top of your average purchase but then again, it all mounts up.

Today, Coed Cadw, The Woodland Trust announced that the Lakeland store chain will be donating the money they raise from carrier bags to the charity.

So already, environmental groups and charities are looking forward to some extra cash. Surely, though, the main point is get us to change our shopping habits - it's about using less plastic to help the environment, not raising extra money isn't it?

I asked shoppers in Haverfordwest what they thought and although some had already begun using 'bags for life', quite a few people said they wouldn't be using less plastic bags, even if they have to pay for them.

As one woman said, 'I use mine to line the bins at home - I couldn't do without plastic bags'. It's amazing to think that we've only been using plastic bags for the last twenty years or so and before that, everyone took their own bag shopping.

I think it's about breaking hard habits - once you get used to taking a bag with you, it's easy to go 'cold turkey' with the plastic.

I can remember having a whole cupboard under the sink full of plastic bags - a plastic bag museum and you might think they'll come in handy, but in reality they rarely do.

One of the first retailers on the high street to charge for bags was Marks and Spencers back in 2008 and have reduced their food bag usage by 80%.

And in Ireland, where they also started charging (after some initial complaints) they've also seen the use of plastic bags go down by around 90%.

We don't have long to wait to see how we get on in Wales as the new charge comes into force from this Saturday, October 1.

Dividing land and opinion in the Beacons

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 13:17 UK time, Friday, 23 September 2011

This week, I've been out roaming the Brecon Beacons and discussing the thorny issue of fencing on common land.

A group of farmers in the area are considering taking legal action to challenge a Welsh Government's decision to pull down a long line of fencing in the mountains.

The fence was originally put in place to halt the spread of Foot and Mouth disease during the 2001outbreak, and ten years on, it's still there.

This is one of those stories where no-one is actually sitting on the fence - it's a straightforward, for or against.

Ramblers and countryside groups say it's an eyesore which should be removed while farmers with grazing rights on the Beacons say it's still an essential part of livestock management and disease control.

I met Phil Park from the National Trust which owns most of the land the fence covers at the Pont ar Daf entry point to the Beacons.

This is where most walkers begin they're climb up the highest peak in the area, Pen y Fan. Even on a dreary day, there are plenty of people out and about wearing stout boots and backpacks.

Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons.

Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons.

Phil told me that around a million people a year use the car park there to visit the Beacons and explained that the fence which runs from Cwm Cynwin to the Upper Neuadd reservoir was only ever meant to be there for five years.

This was to give farmers a chance to re-heft their sheep - in other words to retrain them where to graze on the open land but it's now served its purpose and needs to come down. The farmers disagree.

I spoke to Edwin Harris, the chairman of the Brecon Beacons graziers association. He says that because there are fewer sheep up in the mountains, the area isn't being managed as well as it used to be.

Farmers haven't got as much time or help or spend up in the hills and the fence is helping to keep control of the sheep and the environment.

It seems to me that it's all about access to the countryside - an age-old argument over the right to roam and the right to manage the land.

In North Wales you see far more stone walls snaking up the mountainsides to divide the land and they look like they've always been there, sitting comfortably amongst the landscape.

Modern fencing doesn't look quite so attractive but is the more practical solution. So where do you draw the line - literally?

Ten years after the arguments over the Beacons fence began, the Welsh Government has now taken the decision to allow it to be taken down, which you'd think would be the end of it.

But the farmers aren't giving up without a fight and say they're seeking legal advice to consider how to challenge the decision. It's not over yet.

Warm end to September

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:37 UK time, Thursday, 22 September 2011

A few people have come up to me recently and said they've heard there's snow on the way in October.

I wouldn't rule it out as anything is possible in Wales! But don't panic and stock up on food, milk and bread just yet, there's no sign of a cold snap on the horizon.

The first frosts of the autumn often occur in October but snow is quite rare but it has happened in the past. Normally on high ground but in late October 2008 we had an early taste of winter and snow settled in the London area for the first time in October since 1934.

Over the next few days the wind will blow from the south or south west so it will become a little warmer.

Tomorrow is the autumn equinox and most of the country will be dry. Over the weekend some rain and showers are expected.

On Sunday evening, strong to gale force winds are possible in the west and north west and Irish Sea.

Next week, we could be in for a St. Michael's Little Summer or Haf Bach Mihangel.

By Wednesday and Thursday, temperatures in Wales could rise as high as 20 to 24 Celsius, (68 to 75 Fahrenheit).

The warmer than average weather may last into the beginning of October but it's too early to say for sure and as for the coming winter - we'll just have to wait and see.

It takes a brave person to predict that far ahead as there are so many variables to consider so I'm sticking to the next 5 - 10 days and even then, it can be hard to get it right!

Mumbles Gower Ocean Fest is on this weekend, September 24-25 and should be an exciting event for the whole family.

It sees the return of the Welsh Longboard Classic and a new Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) tournament. Both events will be held at Langland Bay, unless conditions require a change of venue.

Also taking place on Saturday 24 September at Langland Bay at 4pm will be the Bay 6 km Paddle Enduro, when SUP boarders will battle it out in a flat water race. The Enduro will end with a fun race for all ages and levels.


Atlantic Array: Bristol Channel wind farm proposal

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:06 UK time, Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Plans for a huge offshore wind farm in the Bristol Channel are to go on show to people across south and west Wales.

Atlantic Array would be roughly 10 miles off south Wales and nearly nine miles off north Devon.

Meanwhile, the first minister has reiterated his frustration that big onshore wind farm decisions are to be taken outside Wales.

He warned that Welsh Government planning guidance had been overruled by Westminster.

Map showing the area covered by the proposed new windfarm in the Bristol Channel.

The turbines will be visible from the Gower, Pembrokeshire and north Devon coasts.

Carwyn Jones, questioned by assembly members, said it meant large onshore wind farms could be built anywhere in Wales.

A consultation on Atlantic Array has been held in Devon and the first of seven exhibitions in Wales opens in Porthcawl at the Grand Pavilion today.

It is thought the development will cover an area of sea similar in size to the Isle of Wight.

Developers claim it could provide the equivalent of more than 90% of the domestic electricity consumption needs of Wales.

All this comes at a time when local councils and the Welsh Assembly are attempting to attract more tourism and watersports enthusiasts into south Wales.

Plans are already in the pipeline for Swansea Bay to become a 'centre of watersports excellence' and feature sports such as sailing, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, surfing, rowing, windsurfing and kite-surfing.

It will be very interesting to see how the proposed wind farm, spanning a large part of the Bristol Channel will effect local surfing and wind conditions at the surfing beaches in the area.

South Wales currently serves a large population of surfers, windsurfers and kite-surfers who travel from far away, to enjoy the excellent wind and wave conditions found along this stretch of the coast with the M4 corridor making it easily accessible.

A regeneration scheme is also going ahead in Porthcawl where a new Adrenaline Coast Festival gets under way next month (October 7-9). This includes a UK Pro surfing contest featuring 100 of the best UK surfers and a £2000 prize.

Read more about the wind farm story on BBC News.

Have your say in the comments box below.

Live n Deadly Day at Margam Park

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 14:45 UK time, Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Meet Steve Backshall and the team as they bring the wild CBBC TV show to Margam Country Park on Sunday, October 7.

This is your chance to come face to face with amazing animals and have a go at fun adventure activities.

The event is free but is ticket only, so you must register for tickets.

The closing date for this process is September 25 so either register online or phone the BBC Ticket office for details on 0370 901 1227.

*0370 calls cost no more than calls to 01 and 02 geographic numbers and are included in discount packages for both fixed-line and mobile phones. Please note your call may be recorded for training purposes.

Might see some of you there.

Find out more about BBC Live n Deadly Days Out



Changing autumn

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 12:56 UK time, Monday, 19 September 2011

Yesterday, I went for a stroll from Goytre Wharf to Mynydd Garn Wen in south east Wales - a walk I did a few years ago for BBC Radio Wales Weatherman Walking.

It was good to do the walk again and show a couple of friends the way. The weather was breezy with sunshine and a few heavy showers.

Along the way we passed an ancient Holy Well, Pontypool Folly and the views from the top of Garn Wen were superb.

After walking down a medieval track, which may actually be an old Roman Road, we stopped for lunch in the Star Inn in Mamhilad opposite St. Illtud's Church.

We then walked back to Goytre Wharf along the Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal dodging the showers and enjoying the changing autumn colours.

Today the weather has changed again thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Maria. She is currently centred near Iceland bringing us rain and drizzle but we're not expecting a repeat of last Monday's severe gales.

After some rain tonight and in the south tomorrow, the next few days look drier, bar a few showers.

Wednesday will be the windiest day with near gale force winds in north west Wales.


Two new walking routes open

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:19 UK time, Monday, 19 September 2011

The Wales Coast Path nears completion, with two more walking routes being completed in Gwynedd and Chepstow.

Taith Ardudwy Way covers 16 miles in south Gwynedd using existing footpaths and is said to take three days to complete across three sections.

Meanwhile in the south, a 5.9 mile section from Chepstow, Monmouthshire snaking its way from Chepstow to the Severn Estuary has just opened.

The Wales Coast Path is due to be completed by May 2012 and will link up 850 miles of walking routes along the Welsh coastline for everyone to enjoy.

I've been lucky enough to have already walked some of the coast path whilst filming Weatherman Walking and it's a stunning addition to an already breathtaking landscape, right on our front doorstep (give or take a few miles).

Read more on this story on BBC News Online.


Unsettled weather returns

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:45 UK time, Friday, 16 September 2011

The weather this week has been very up and down. On Monday we had the remains of Hurricane Katia to deal with and then things calmed down but today the weather changed again and the weekend is looking more unsettled with low pressure in charge.

September at Dawn @ the Cardiff Bay Barrage by Mark Brinkworth.

September dawn at the Cardiff Bay Barrage. Image by Mark Brinkworth.

A little sunshine is likely at times but also some showers and some could be heavy with a risk of hail and thunder.

In north west Wales, 40 to 50mm (1.5 to 2 inches) of rain is possible on Saturday night and into Sunday with localised flooding.

The wind will also be strong and gusty at times making it feel cool.

The air will be unstable with some towering clouds (cumulonimbus) and as the air flows over the relatively warm seas, the odd waterspout is possible on the coast. If you see one and take a photo, please email it to me at

On Sunday afternoon the showers should ease with more in the way of dry weather and some sunshine but it will feel cool with a fresh to strong north-westerly wind.

In New Zealand, the weather in Hamilton for the Wales versus Samoa game on Sunday looks okay, becoming fine there with a temperature of 14 Celsius and the wind easing.

Next week, the changeable weather is set to continue with more rain expected on Monday. Tuesday should be drier and brighter but rain may spread into the south.


Chocolate farm closure

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 12:05 UK time, Friday, 16 September 2011

'Would you be able to go and record an item at Pemberton's Chocolate Farm for this week's programme?'

That was one of this week's assignments from Pauline Smith, the producer of Country Focus on Radio Wales. Obviously, I didn't need to be asked twice!

The business, based near Llanboidy in Carmarthenshire was started 20 years ago by Elizabeth Jones and her husband Alan but after Alan's death three years ago, Elizabeth felt she couldn't carry on running the farm without him.

So, the business was put on the market and at the end of this month, chocolate production will come to an end. The problem is that although they've had lots of interest, no-one has actually come forward with an offer yet.

Working in a chocolate factory would be many people's idea of heaven and the staff at Pemberton's are no exception. Apparently one of the most common questions asked by visitors is 'Are you a real life Oompa Loompas?'.

Staff were so concerned at losing their jobs that they launched an appeal on YouTube and had an amazing response. Rachel Calvert who stars in the video told me they've had more than 1,000 web hits and two viewings to the factory as a result (plus a marriage proposal!) but still no buyer.

The first thing I noticed when I went into the shop was a giant chocolate egg priced at £200 and weighing 18kg - apparently that's one and a half times the average person's annual consumption of chocolate.

The shop was packed with all sort of treats and temptations and I couldn't help wondering what would happen to it all if the farm closed and the business is disbanded.

It's also a sign of the difficulties of running a business in a remote, rural area. Elizabeth explained that you've got to 'work that bit harder to draw people to your door'.

Another problem at the moment is that people are having difficulty borrowing money from the banks, which again can't be a good thing for the rural economy.

September 30 is the deadline for Pemberton's which is fast approaching so it could bad news for chocoholics and the end of an era for chocolate making in West Wales.

I love a good food festival

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 10:23 UK time, Wednesday, 14 September 2011

I love a good food festival. Something about wandering aimlessly around a small town or village, the air filled with tempting cooking smells, colourful stalls and celebrity chefs all vying for attention.

Last weekend one of the last agricultural shows of the season at Llandyfaelog in Carmarthenshire took place, together with the Ironman festival in Tenby (which caused an elaborate detour as we tried to get to Amroth for a bracing walk on Sunday).

But as the summer shows and festivals pack up their tents and stalls, the food festivals are gearing up to tempt our tastebuds across Wales. Starting this weekend with the Abergavenny Food Festival. I was out interviewing Richard Arnold from the 'Proper Welsh' milk company at their brand new dairy in Whitland today for the radio programme.

He's taking part in a debate at Abergavenny this Saturday about the benefits of raw milk. He fondly remembers drinking milk warm from the cow as a child and how his father would regularly steal the 'top of the milk'. Remember the days when milk came in glass bottles and you could clearly see the cream sitting on the surface? I would race my brother to the doorstep of a morning to make sure I got first shout - funny how it seemed so important at the time.

Richard was explaining that commercial companies aren't allowed to sell raw (unpasteurised) milk any more but that individual farmers can sell it direct from the farm gate. You can actually order it on the internet, although as he pointed out, there's something not quite right about sending milk through the post.

He thinks it unlikely that raw milk could be sold commercially again, but he's a big fan of non-homogenised milk, which still allows the cream to rise to the top. I'm no scientist, but apparently homogenisation breaks up the fat content in the milk, to make it easier for us to digest, but according to some current research, the process also removes the so-called 'good bacteria' in the milk.

That's if I've understood the theory properly!

Richard believes it'll make for an interesting discussion - he also mentioned that a few years ago, there were only a handful of food festivals in Wales, whereas now there are around 40 or 50 of them. This month alone sees festivals in Narberth in Pembrokeshire, Brecon, Mold, Aberystwyth and at the beginning of next month the Anglesey Oyster Festival - one that I've never been to but intend to get to one day. Abergavenny kicks the season off in style - their website is crammed full of show highlights ( and quotes the Observer newspaper which claims "Abergavenny is to food as Cannes is to film". See you on the red carpet.

Katia storm photos

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:49 UK time, Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A selection of photos from the leftovers of Hurricane Katia as it battered into Wales on Monday.

Porthcawl Harbour by Allen Lloyd.

Porthcawl Harbour about to be swamped by a large wave. Image by Allen Lloyd.

Barri Elford took this amazing shot of Coney Harbour

Barri Elford took this amazing shot of Coney Harbour, Porthcawl on Monday.

Scwd yr Eira Falls, Pontneddfechan. Image by Mike Davies

Scwd yr Eira Falls, Pontneddfechan. Image by Mike Davies, Neath.

Aberystwyth at high tide by John Mason.

Aberystwyth at high tide by John Mason.

Wales Valleys Walking Festival

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:26 UK time, Tuesday, 13 September 2011

If you enjoy walking, then the South Wales Valleys are definitely for you.

The Wales Valleys Walking Festival runs from September 3-18 so you still have time to take part in some amazing walks.

There are plenty of walks to do, suitable for all ages and fitness levels but organisers recommend booking ahead to reserve your place by phoning (01443) 838632. It's worth downloading the Trekker Test on the website too, to find a walk that suits you.

The BBC Wales Weatherman Walking team have done some lovely walks in the area so I can highly recommend it.

Views over Treherbert on the Blaencwm walk.

Views over Treherbert on the Blaencwm walk for Weatherman Walking.

The Blaencwm walk we covered for the last series had some breathtaking views and was surprisingly accessible; just a short drive from Swansea and Cardiff.

Wales Valleys Walking Festival website

Hurricane season

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:13 UK time, Monday, 12 September 2011

It's certainly a wild and windy start to the week with strong to severe gale force winds buffeting Wales for the second time this month.

The strongest winds have been in the north. On the Llyn Peninsula the wind touched storm force 10 on the Beaufort Scale this morning.

The highest gust recorded was 81 mph near Capel Curig in Dyffryn Mymbyr - the weather station there is exposed at 215 metres, 705 feet above sea level so often registers high gusts.

In the south, the highest gust recorded was 62mph at Mumbles Head in Swansea which is very exposed sticking out into the sea.

Looking towards Pwll Du Head, taken from the cliffs at Pennard, Gower. Photograph by Mary Jones, Swansea.

Looking towards Pwll Du Head, taken from the cliffs at Pennard, Gower. Photograph by Mary Jones, Swansea.

The strong winds have caused some travel disruption and structural damage. Some trees have been blown down as they are still in full leaf which means they are more vulnerable.

Mind you, we've had much worst storms in the past. In January 1990 an intense Atlantic depression hit Britain causing widespread structural damage, travel disruption and 47 deaths, while the highest gust recorded at a low-level site in Wales is 124mph at Cardiff Airport on 28 October 1989.

The gales we're experiencing today are due to the remains of Hurricane Katia. She started life as a minor disturbance off the west coast of Africa on 27 August, became a tropical storm on 30 August and finally developed into a hurricane on 1 September.

Later as she moved north east into the North Atlantic she began to lose strength and was downgraded to a tropical storm on 11 September. The centre of the storm will cross northern Scotland today and then head eastwards towards Norway tonight and continue to weaken.

Sometimes, we get the "tail-end" of hurricanes in Britain blown towards us by the jet stream high in the atmosphere. If the jet stream is strong, it can invigorate the storm and shoot it across the Atlantic very fast.

By the time they reach our latitude they are weaker than when they are over the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico and are classified as an extra tropical storm. However, the storm can still pack a punch, and cause damage with heavy rain and winds up to storm or hurricane force.

In Britain, we don't get full blown hurricanes because the sea around us is too cool for them to form. Hurricanes develop over tropical seas where the surface water temperature is 26 Celsius or higher.

More hurricanes to come?

Hurricanes names are chosen from a list selected by the World Meteorological Organization. The Atlantic is assigned six lists of names, with one list used each year. Every sixth year, the first list begins again.

Each name on the list starts with a different letter, for example, the name of the very first hurricane of the season starts with the letter A, the next starts with the letter B, and so on.

The letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used because few names begin with those letters. If more than 21 storms should occur in any season, then there is a reserve list that uses the Greek alphabet.

When an unusually destructive hurricane hits, such as Hurricane Katrina, that hurricane's name is retired and never used again.

2011 Hurricane names:

  • Arlene
  • Bret
  • Cindy
  • Don
  • Emily
  • Franklin
  • Gert
  • Harvey
  • Irene
  • Jose
  • Katia
  • Lee
  • Maria
  • Nate
  • Ophelia
  • Philippe
  • Rina
  • Sean
  • Tammy
  • Vince
  • Whitney

In 1986 the "tail-end" of Hurricane Charley lashed Wales creating the wettest August Bank Holiday on record. In Ireland, particularly the Republic, it was a major disaster.

As far as the rest of today goes, it's still windy as I write and will remain so tonight although the wind ease a little. Tomorrow will be windy but not as strong as today. On Wednesday the wind will ease further. Thursday looks the best day of the week. Dry with light winds and some sunshine thanks to a ridge of high pressure.


Windy weekend weather

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:13 UK time, Friday, 9 September 2011

Normally the weather improves in September when the children go back to school but not this year! It has been a disappointing week weatherwise and the weekend is not looking great either. Low pressure in the Atlantic will bring more unsettled weather to Wales. Some rain, blustery showers, and strong to gale force winds. But I can promise a few patches of blue sky and some sunshine as well.

Stormy seas at Porthcawl taken earlier this week

Stormy seas at Porthcawl taken earlier this week by Allen Lloyd

The BBC Proms in the Park is taking place on Saturday evening in Caerphilly. If you're going along, it will be breezy with the risk of a few showers. So take a coat, umbrella and a blanket just in case!

The Rugby World Cup kicked off today in New Zealand. Wales play South Africa on Sunday and the weather there is not much better than ours. Damp and breezy conditions are expected in Wellington on Sunday with highs around 13 or 14 Celsius.

Back home, on Sunday night and Monday we've got the remains of Hurricane Katia to deal with. She will move northeast in from the Atlantic towards the UK.

There is still a fair amount of uncertainty on the exact track she will take, but the Met Office has issued a yellow alert for strong to severe gale force winds. Gusts of 60 to 70mph are possible. Perhaps as high as 80mph on a few exposed coasts and hills. Strong enough to bring down a few trees and cause some disruption. So we may need to batten down the hatches on Sunday night and Monday. There is also a risk of coastal flooding in the south and west due to the combination of strong onshore winds and high tides.

It would be worth keeping a close eye on the forecast over the weekend.



Spiders' autumn invasion

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 13:43 UK time, Friday, 9 September 2011

Forget Big Brother and welcome a whole host of housemates into your home - spider season is officially here. And as the Guardian newspaper proudly announced earlier this week 'owing to a dismal summer, the 2011 domestic spider season promises to be the best yet' Great news!

Actually, I'm not in the least bit arachnophobic - never understood the problem with them, especially after watching Charlotte's Web with the children - but obviously there will be plenty of people quaking in fear at the thought of an invasion of eight-legged invertebrates climbing into all their nooks and crannies.

I went to brush my teeth the other night and was greeted by the sight of two enormous spiders in the bath; properly huge, complete with hairy legs and winsome smiles. There's a great website to help identify British spiders at and having looked at the photos, I think what I saw were Cardinal spiders - named after Cardinal Wolsey who was allegedly terrified of them. Also, contrary to popular belief, spiders don't climb up the plughole, they end up in the bath after falling from above and then can't escape because of the enamel surface.

The reason there are so many spiders around is because a) September is the start of their mating season, (so they're actually looking for love) and b) experts are saying that a warm spring and dreary summer has meant greater numbers this year. There are 640 species of spider in the UK and according to the Natural History Museum, 12 British breeds are capable of biting humans, although only one - the False Widow Spider - can actually do any harm to us. The museum also sensibly points out that no-one has ever died of a spider bite in the UK.

So what's the point of spiders, arachnophobes may ask. Well, they're actually very important to the ecosystem and when they come into our homes looking for shelter this month, will helpfully eat lots of other creepy crawlies during their stay. And as for how to dispose of them - there's a multitude of advice and opinions on this subject - I went for the 'grab in a piece of kitchen roll and fling out of the window' approach with my spiders in the bath, but it seems that a covered glass is the method of choice for showing spiders the door.

So next time you see a spider looking for a quiet corner to call his or her own in your home - maybe it's not such a bad idea to consider taking on a temporary lodger.

Manx shearwater appeal after storm

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:18 UK time, Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Members of the public are being asked to contact the RSPCA with information about Manx shearwaters blown off-course during a storm yesterday.

Hundreds of young birds have already been rescued after being blown inland on their migratory flights.

Skomer warden for the Wildlife Trust, Chris Taylor, said: "They are hardy little birds, really well designed for long distance flying.

"The young ones are probably the majority of birds that ended up on Newgale beach. Sadly this big storm, the biggest winds we've had on the island since March time, has hit them. It's really bad timing really.

"What I suspect is a big raft of birds, maybe resting at night, has been on the sea and then they've been caught up in the storm. These sea birds need to be out at sea with the fish... they've got a massive journey to make before more storms come in so hopefully the RSPCA will release them as soon as possible."

BBC Wales News full story.

Autumn arrives with a vengeance

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:20 UK time, Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Autumn arrived with a vengeance in Wales last night with heavy rain and strong to severe gale force winds buffeting the country.

The highest wind gusts recorded were 69mph at Mumbles Head in Swansea and also at Capel Curig in Snowdonia. The wind was strong enough to damage or even bring down a few trees, including an oak tree at Ysgol Bro Cinmeirch in Denbighshire.

A damaged oak tree at Ysgol Bro Cinmeirch. Photo courtesy of Denbighshire Council

The damaged oak tree at Ysgol Bro Cinmeirch. Photo courtesy of Denbighshire Council

While at Capel Curig in Conwy 118mm of rain (over four inches) has fallen in the last 72 hours. The September average is 226mm.

Some rivers are currently swollen and the River Conwy bursts its banks in Llanrwst.

The river Conwy at Llanrwst. Photo: Rob Davies


The river Conwy at Llanrwst. Photo: Rob Davies

The River Conwy, Llanrwst. Photos: Rob Davies

A waterlogged rugby pitch at Dolgellau. Photo: Gwyneth McBurney

A waterlogged rugby pitch at Dolgellau. Photo: Gwyneth McBurney

I think we have seen the worst of the heavy rain and gales for the time being but the next 24 hours will continue to be windy with occasional blustery showers. More rain is expected in north Wales tomorrow afternoon/evening becoming heavy overnight, especially on the Snowdonia mountains.

On Thursday rain will turn lighter during the day and the wind should ease as well. So not great weather this week, but longer term there is a hint of more settled weather and high pressure around the middle of the September so don't put the BBQ away just yet!


Autumn arrives early

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:39 UK time, Monday, 5 September 2011

Sometimes September can bring us some lovely weather but not this week! We're in for a roller coaster ride, with a strong jet stream bringing spells of wet and windy weather in from the Atlantic.

Tonight we'll all see some rain. The rain will be heaviest on the Cambrian Mountains and in Snowdonia. 50 to 75 mm is possible - two to three inches. The rain will be accompanied by a strong to gale force south-westerly wind. The strongest winds will occur during the early hours of Tuesday with gusts 45 to 55 mph on exposed coasts and hills. Strong enough to bring down a few branches given the trees are still in full leaf.

Tomorrow morning the rain will clear to brighter skies and blustery showers. The strong winds will ease but it will remain windy.

The rest of the week will be very changeable. Sunny intervals and blustery showers on Wednesday. On Thursday, more rain and drizzle is expected with plenty of low cloud, mist and hill fog. Friday should be drier but windy and milder with top temperatures 17 to 21 celsius.

Yesterday morning Liz Prince spotted a few waterspouts over Cardigan Bay at Dyffryn Ardudwy in Gwynedd. These are fairly common during the autumn when cool, unstable air passes over the relatively warm sea.

Waterspouts over Cardigan Bay. Photo: Liz Prince

Waterspouts over Cardigan Bay. Photo: Liz Prince

Last year a waterspout was spotted of the Anglesey coast in November by the RAF.

If you see anything unusual in the sky let me know or send in a photo if you can. My email is and don't forget you can follow me on my twitter page as well @derektheweather.

Watch out for the heavy rain and strong winds tonight!

Swimming with dolphins

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 15:48 UK time, Friday, 2 September 2011

I'm a big fan of outdoor swimming and as soon as September arrives, it's time to head for the coast for a bit of sea swimming.

In theory, the sea has been warming up all summer and this is the best time for a dip before autumn takes hold.

Forget indoor public pools - the smell of chlorine, the thought of verrucas and the danger of bumping into people you know (smalltalk is never easy in your bathers!).

Think wide open spaces, the sun sparkling on the water and an invigorating dip anywhere along our stunning Welsh coastline.

Yesterday, after two days filming up in North Wales, I headed home on a beautiful end-of-summer evening feeling a bit travel-worn and tired.

But then a friend suggested a dip in the sea to shake off the journey and before I knew it, we were heading for Llangrannog in Ceredigion.

The sea was calm and inviting - until we got in and realised just how cold it was! But then, after forcing ourselves to go underwater, we were fine. All the cares of the day, gone in an instant.

I'm sure that hardened sea-swimmers would disapprove, but I always wear a wetsuit and am not quite ready to part with it.

There's an entire 'wild swimming' movement, including a couple of websites dedicated to the activity or where you can find out about local events and see a map of the best places in Wales to swim outdoors.

My favourite places include Tenby's North Beach, Barafundle Bay and Traeth Llyfn - all in Pembrokeshire.

Rivers are also a great option, as long as you know where to go, what the hazards are and which bits have public access.

We can't all be like David Walliams who's just announced his plan to swim up the entire length of the Thames (not for the faint-hearted) but earlier this week, a list was published of the most improved rivers in the UK and the Taff and the Dee were in the top ten, so there's no excuse.

Back in Llangrannog and as the sun was lowering in the sky, we saw a big splash further out to sea and realised we'd been joined by a dolphin, throwing itself out of the water and showing off, much to the delight of everyone watching on the beach.

Which just goes to prove, you don't need to go anywhere exotic to swim with dolphins - Ceredigion will do nicely.

Blast from the past

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:48 UK time, Friday, 2 September 2011

Archaeology seems to be having something of a resurgence of late, at least in the eyes of the media anyway - with televised digs popping up on every TV channel including the BBC.

Dr Alice Roberts (of BBC Coast fame) will be presenting Digging For Britain on BBC Two at 9pm on Fridays from 9 September. In the new series she'll be following a year of British archaeology, joining up the results of digs and investigations the length of the country

Here's an exciting news story about a new dig on an old Neolithic tomb, which could prove (once and for all) a conclusive link between the blue stone quarrying site in Wales and Stonehenge.

It is widely believed that the blue stones found at Stonehenge came from the quarrying site at Carn Menyn in the Preselli Hills although some archaeologists believe that glacial movement could have left  some blue stones on Salisbury Plain, closer to the site.

This week we've also seen what could turn out to be the oldest cave art in Britain, being found in a cave on Gower. Find out more in this video clip from BBC News online. Experts say the faint scratchings of a speared reindeer are more than 12,000 years old!

I studied archaeology many moons ago, so the subject has always fascinated me. I love the fact that something as significant and rare as this can still be found 'by chance' in this day and age when technology rules .

What happened to summer 2011?

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:16 UK time, Thursday, 1 September 2011

This is my first blog in a while as I've been away on my travels recently, walking in Ireland and Switzerland.

Last week I was back in Wales filming another two walks for a new series of Weatherman Walking.

The first in Laugharne in Carmarthenshire following in the footsteps of the poet Dylan Thomas, the other in Cwmystwyth in Ceredigion for a walk through the Hafod Estate with its expansive forests, gorges and waterfalls.

We were lucky with the weather but last Friday the heavens opened and we got thoroughly soaked at Devil's Bridge near Aberystwyth.

I also made the mistake of putting my mobile phone in the top pocket of my rucksack, so it's now drying out in the airing cupboard at home.

Anyway, today is the first day of Autumn from a meteorological point of view and the sun is shining across the country but looking back at summer 2011, it's fair to say it was very mixed - some would say disappointing.

We haven't got all the figures in yet but according to the Met Office, it's the coolest summer across the UK for eighteen years.

In Wales, June was the coolest since 1999. However, this may come as a surprise, but despite a duller than average August, sunshine was slightly above normal. 538.8 hours compared to the national average of 525.1 hours for the 3 summer months.

Rainfall was on target too thanks to a drier than average August. During the 3 summer months we would normally expect 270mm of rain, about 11 inches, and this year we've had 268.4mm.

This is an average figure of measurements taken from around the whole country, and some places will have had more rain than others.

So, after the sunniest on April on record, this summer was not nothing special but despite some poor weather at times, it was the sunniest and the driest summer in Wales since 2006.

Climate statistics for Wales dating back to 1910 are available here:

Autumn is getting off to a fine and warm start this year but make the most of it as it's not going to last.

Keep your fingers crossed for an Indian Summer in October :)

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