Archives for February 2012

National Botanic science takes centre stage in China

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:07 UK time, Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The science and art of the National Botanic Garden of Wales are taking centre stage in China at the Wales Week celebrations.

An exhibition at Nanshan Botanic Garden in Chongqing - entitled 'Barcode Wales: Beyond the Visible' features images and artwork illustrating the project to DNA barcode the flowering plants of Wales.

Photographs taken at the Garden by Professor Andrea Liggins, the Dean of Faculty of Art and Design at Swansea Metropolitan University, are the focal point of the exhibition and are presented alongside visual representations of the plants' DNA barcodes produced as part of the National Botanic Garden of Wales' Barcode Wales project.

DNA barcode of spreading bellflower (Campanula patula)

DNA barcode of spreading bellflower (Campanula patula), an herbarium specimen of the species.

The Garden's Head of Conservation and Research, Dr Natasha de Vere, who leads the Barcode Wales project, will be in Chongqing for Wales Week, said: "Andrea began her exploration for this exhibition by starting from our science centre and photographing the plants growing wild outside our building and in the surrounding area.

"The plant species in Andrea's photographs have a personality of their own, like actors in a play. Sometimes we can tell what they are, sometimes they are more elusive. The DNA barcodes given with each photograph are a code to identify that plant species, even when we cannot identify it with our eyes."

Nanshan Botanic Garden is hosting the exhibition and has invited Prof Liggins, Dr de Vere and the Garden's Director Dr Rosie Plummer to Chongqing for the celebrations.

According to Sinba Duan, Senior Wales Officer in Chongqing, it's anticipated the exhibition will get 500,000 visitors in March and April - peak season for the Nanshan garden.

The exhibition is at the Nanshan Botanic Garden, Chongqing, from February 27 for three months.

Barcode Wales is a joint project between the National Botanic Garden of Wales and National Museum Wales.

The aim of Barcode Wales is to make Wales one of the first nations to DNA barcode all of its native flowering plants (1143 species) and to use the barcodes for biodiversity conservation and improving peoples' lives.

Natur Cymru's nature writing competition

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 09:49 UK time, Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Whatever the weather any time between now and 31 March will be good for sowing the seeds of inspiration in Natur Cymru's nature writing competition.

Up for grabs this year are over £1,000 of prizes including a place on the nature writing course at Tŷ Newydd (Lloyd George's old home) and £500 donated by WWF Cymru.

To enter - simply write 1000 words on a subject in Wales which inspires you.

Details and previous winning entries can be found at

Last year's winner was John Harold from Moelyci with a story about wild fires.

Last year's winner was John Harold from Moelyci with a story about wild fires.

Gillian Clarke, the current National Poet of Wales will be on the judging panel and, if all goes to plan, will present prizes to the winners at the new literature festival for Wales to be held at Dinefwr on 30 June.

A mild end to February

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:28 UK time, Monday, 27 February 2012

We were blessed with some lovely weather over the weekend with plenty of sunshine and spring-like temperatures. Yesterday St. Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan recorded nearly 9 hours of sunshine!

While in Hawarden, Flintshire the temperature exceeded 13 Celsius, which is more like April than February.

Swansea Bay by Catrin Walters, Neath.

Swansea Bay by Catrin Walters, Neath.

It was also a lovely day for a walk up to Llyn y Fan Fach in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Carmarthenshire. There were also some interesting clouds around over the weekend.

Lenticular clouds over Plynlimon in Mid Wales.

Gill and Peter Foulkes saw a few lenticular clouds over Plynlimon in Mid Wales.

While Morden Haiku took this photo of a "glory" at Mynydd Moel near Cader Idris.

This optical phenomenon is also known as a Brocken Spectre which I've discussed in a previous blog.

Over the next few days

There is more cloudy and mild weather to come. A few spots of rain and drizzle but not enough rain on Flat Holm Island to fill the water tanks before the visitor season starts.

The driest and brightest weather this week will be in parts of the north and east where it will be very mild with temperatures in Flintshire rising to 14 Celsius.

Meanwhile on the south and west coast it will be cooler with temperatures on Gower nearer 10 Celsius with mist and fog patches.

So, February looks like ending on a mild note but I wouldn't rule out further cold snaps and frost in March.

Barafundle: The price of tourism

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 11:52 UK time, Monday, 27 February 2012

It used to be the best kept secret beach in Wales, but after visiting Barafundle at the weekend, it seems that the secret is out.

Some years ago, the Welsh Tourist Board used a picture of Barafundle with its deserted golden sands, sweeping coastline and sparkling blue sea as part of its campaign to lure visitors to Wales.

I can remember seeing a poster greeting arriving passengers at Cardiff Wales Airport showing Barafundle in all its glory.

But there was no mention of where this idyllic beach was, which somehow added to the allure.

And then if you did happen to discover its identity, it was quite an adventure trying to find the place, with a conspicuous absence of any road signs to get you there.

I also remember interviewing someone quite high up in the Wales Tourist Board or 'Bwrdd Croeso' as it was also known and them admitting (off camera) that there was an inherent dilemma in trying to promote Wales.

Barafundle beach.

Barafundle beach from the steps looking down.

You have to carefully balance the fact that places like Barafundle (and much of the Welsh countryside), are beautiful and enticing because there aren't too many visitors trampling up and down the mountains, beaches or moorlands.

Then again, you can't have it all ways and a thriving tourist economy is after all, essential to rural Wales.

But back to Barafundle, the National Trust now own much of the Castlemartin coastline, including the car park at Stackpole Quay from where the path meanders up some steep steps, across a couple of fields to the stone wall above the beach.

That's where you get your first glimpse of Barafundle and it's still a stunning spot. The children ran wild across the sand, writing their names on it with pieces of driftwood then running back up the steps to see their artwork from above.

We couldn't resist also proudly writing the score from the weekend's rugby match on the sand!

This stretch of coastline is a haven for ravens and the much rarer choughs (of which there are only around 500 breeding pairs in the whole of the UK) and it's because of the choughs that the area has SPA status (Special Protection Area).

During breeding season, painted red stones mark areas near the cliff edge where walkers mustn't tread, in case they disturb the nests.

There was a steady stream of walkers and families out for the afternoon roaming across the beach, enjoying a rare bit of sunshine.

A pile of rubbish at the bottom of Barafundle in Pembrokeshire.

A pile of rubbish at the bottom of Barafundle in Pembrokeshire.

But it was sad to see a big pile of rubbish at the bottom of the steps, the first thing people saw arriving at the beach. As we left, a man walked past with a small rucksack on his back, the rest of his family already heading back up the steps.

As he passed us, he dropped a plastic bag, bulging with rubbish including glass bottles on the sand, before greeting us with a cheerful 'afternoon' and heading home without a care in the world. I found this genuinely shocking.

What kind of person thinks this is a perfectly okay thing to do? And who exactly did he think would be by later to collect his rubbish?

Maybe I've reached a 'certain age' when I start ranting about litter louts, but it's just wrong on so many levels and definitely not something you could put on a poster promoting tourism.

An unseasonable February

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:38 UK time, Thursday, 23 February 2012

At Capel Curig in Snowdonia over 50mm (two inches) of rain fell yesterday with some flooding in the Conwy Valley between Llanrwst and Trefriw but today it is much drier and mild. The air over us has come all the way from the tropics but as it crosses the sea it cools forming low cloud, mist, fog and drizzle.

Edward Brown sent this picture to me on Twitter. You can just make out the moored ferry in Pembroke Dock.

However, as the air moves over the land it dries out, the cloud lifts and breaks leaving parts of north and east Wales fine, warm and sunny. In fact it's been like spring on the north coast.

Richard Hopkins took this snap looking towards Colwyn Bay and Rhyl.

The temperature in Hawarden in Flintshire nearly reached 17 Celsius today, 63 Fahrenheit. That's nine degrees above average and more like May than February. But we haven't broken any records. But we haven't broken any records...

The highest temperature in Wales in February was in 1990 when Velindre near Glasbury in Powys recorded 18.6 Celsius, 65 Fahrenheit on 23 February.

Mind you, it hasn't been spring-like everywhere today. In the south and west it has been cooler, especially on the coast with low cloud, mist, fog and drizzle. On Gower the temperature has only been around nine Celsius. At this time of year, the sea is still is cold, around seven or eight Celsius, so where the wind is onshore it can be chilly.

Birthday greetings to a Welsh waterway

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 13:25 UK time, Wednesday, 22 February 2012

It may seem that I'm becoming slightly obsessed with canals at the moment, but I'd just like to take this opportunity to wish the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal a very happy birthday.

Monmouth and Brecon canal

Monmouth and Brecon canal

A whole year's worth of events marking the celebrations began on 10 February, 200 years to the day when the canal was first officially opened.

The waterway was origianally built between 1792 and 1812 to link Brecon with Newport and the Severn Estuary. It was an industrial corridor for coal and iron, when the Welsh coalfields were supplying fuel to the rest of the world.

These days, you're more likely to see pleasure boats and anglers on the water, with cyclists riding along the towpaths.

The ceremonial bell

The ceremonial bell

Church bells rang out along the route of the canal to launch the start of celebrations from the Pontymoile Basin near Pontypool and I was there to witness the official ceremonial bell being rung by Robin Herbert, great great grandson of Benjamin Hall.

He was a member of three industrial families (the Hall, Herbert and Crawshay families) who owned iron foundries and tramways in South Wales back in 1812. Benjamin Hall also achieved unexpected immortality by giving the name of 'Big Ben' to the bell inside the clock tower in the Houses of Parliament in 1857. He became Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire in 1861.

Today, the canal runs for almost its entire 35 mile route within the Brecon Beacons National Park, following the tree lined course of the River Usk. Mark Robinson an ecologist with British Waterways told me that despite its industrial heritage, the canal is now a haven for wildlife including wildflowers, kingfishers herons, dragonflies and butterflies, mallards and moorhens.

Events later this year include the launch of a new beer made locally at the Brecon Brewery. On 31 March the dark ale called Canal Porter will be delivered by horse-drawn dray and narrow boat to the various pubs along the canal's route. Buster Grant the head brewer showed me around the brewery but sadly I couldn't try the new brew because it's not quite ready yet!

You can hear more of the celebrations marking the canal's bicentennial on this week's Country Focus which is still available on the BBC Wales iPlayer.

For more information about celebrations this year along the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, visit

Weather this week

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:47 UK time, Monday, 20 February 2012

Winter returned to Wales over the weekend with Arctic winds bring a mixture of sunshine, frost and a few showers. There was a light covering of snow in places too.

Tomos Hughes sent in this picture taken at Llyn Brenig near Cerrigydrudion in Conwy...

Llyn Brenig. Photo: Tomos Hughes

Llyn Brenig. Photo: Tomos Hughes

...While Val Jones from Rhuddlan in Denbighshire took this photo of snow on Moel Famau in the Clwydian Range on Sunday.

Moel Famau. Photo: Val Jones

Moel Famau. Photo: Val Jones

However, the cold snap is on its way out and the weather is on the change. Over the next few days, it will turn more unsettled and milder so we've seen the last of the frost for a while.

Wednesday will be the wettest and windiest day of the week with strong to gale force winds. Thursday will be much drier and less windy. It will also become very mild with many enjoying spring-like temperatures rising into the mid teens.

15 Celsius, 59 Fahrenheit is likely in parts of the north and east, but windward coasts in the south and west will be cooler with a wind off the sea. The sea temperature at the moment is only 6 to 8 Celsius around the Welsh coast.

In England, parts of East Anglia and the South East are officially in drought status and the Environment Agency is warning that other areas such as the Midlands are at risk from drought as well.

In Wales, the situation is not as bad although along the border it is dry. In 2011, the annual rainfall was 1272.7mm (which is a little below the average of 1435.9mm).

December was wetter than normal with 211.6mm of rain (average is 173.3mm) Last month was drier with 127.2mm (20% below average) and so far, this month is much drier than average with only 25% of the average rainfall until 14 February.

Most reservoirs are relatively full at the moment and Wales is not facing a drought but if we have a very dry spring and summer then the situation could change. We should not be complacent, always use water wisely and not waste it.

A chilly weekend ahead

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 13:21 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012

It's been quite mild recently with westerly winds but there is a change on the way over the weekend. An active cold front will move south across Wales tomorrow bringing a spell of heavy rain and gusty winds followed by colder air from the Arctic.

The rain may turn to snow on the mountains in the north tomorrow before it clears but during the afternoon it will dry and brighten-up with some sunshine. Top temperatures tomorrow around 10 Celsius but turning colder once the rain clears.

Tomorrow night a few wintry showers are expected in Mid Wales, Powys, Ceredigion and the north. A dusting of snow is also likely in places, mainly on some hills and mountains but not amounting to much.

Some frost and a few icy patches are possible too by Sunday morning with temperatures falling close to or below freezing.

Sunday will be a cold day with a few light hail, sleet and snow showers, mainly in parts of Mid Wales and the north, otherwise it will be dry with bright skies and sunshine with temperatures reaching highs between 4 and 6 Celsius and a north westerly breeze.

So, Sunday will be the best day for a walk with clear Arctic air over Wales but wrap-up warmly as it will be chilly.

If you are wondering where to go, there are plenty of walks to choose from on the Weatherman Walking map. Just click on one of the green or red markers.

I'd make the most of the dry weather on Sunday if you can as next week will start dry with some frost on Monday morning but it will eventually turn milder and more unsettled with spells of wet and windy weather moving in from the Atlantic.

Don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter @derektheweather and if you take any photos when you're out and about, email them to me at and you never know, they may end up on the telly!


Art along the towpath

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 15:52 UK time, Thursday, 16 February 2012

Transporting goods by horse-drawn canal boats may seem like a long-forgotten sight on our waterways, but an arts project in the Wales and Shropshire borderlands is bringing the old ways back to life.

The Ellesmere Sculpture Initiative has commissioned renowned etcher Jason Hicklin who is based in Shropshire and London - to make six stainless steel sculptures which will tell the story of the Llangollen and Montgomery canals' rich history.

At the end of March the sculptures will be transported by 'Saturn' the last horse-drawn Shropshire Union Canal Fly-boat in the world, with the help of volunteers, keen to promote the importance of the area's heritage.

The first of the sculptures will stand alongside the Montgomery Canal at the village of Llanymynech which at one time, back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was a hive of industrial activity producing quicklime in various types of kiln from limestone quarried on the hills.

Lime products were used by farmers on the land as fertiliser and by industry to extract iron from iron ore. Today, the Hoffman kiln is a distinctive local landmark, a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a reminder of the area's industrial past.

Etched drawings of the canal

The sculpture pieces reflect the heritage of the sites in which they sit through the etched drawings and words on the steel.

The sculptures, acting as way markers, will also stand at Chirk, Frankton Locks and finally at Ellesmere. They were inspired by walks taken by the artist along the Shropshire Union Canal last year.

Today, the area is renowned for its natural beauty and it's easy to forget how different it would have looked in its industrial heyday.

Originally, the canal had been intended to provide a link between the three rivers - the Dee, the Mersey and the Severn.

But the canal proved too expensive and never made it past Trevor to the north and Weston Wharf to the south.

The canal did reach The Shropshire Union Canal and Chester by a different route and became a valuable asset for the local economy.

Today Thomas Telford's famous aqueduct at Pontcysyllte still draws tourists from all over the world. It's the longest and highest cast-iron aqueduct in the world and in 2009 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From March visit for more information.

Rivers Trusts to tackle invasive species

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:12 UK time, Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Today Rivers Trusts in North East Wales are holding a conference on the Management of Invasive Weeds in the River Dee catchment at Beaufort Park near Mold.

The Trusts are co-operating on a major programme to eradicate invasive weeds from three rivers catchments, the Dee, the Clwyd and the Conwy.

The project concentrates on three weeds in particular, Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed. Left untreated, these species can spread at an alarming rate, smothering native wildlife.

Spraying invasive plant species. Image by Rivers Trusts of North East Wales

Spraying invasive plant species. Image by Rivers Trusts of North East Wales

The Balsam and Knotweed for example, shade out the native wild flowers and insects that depend on them, which leaves the ground bare in winter leading to erosion of these areas.

"One of the main aims of the River Trusts is to maintain and enhance native species of plants and animals in their catchment areas," says Dr Neil Smith from the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).

"The project is challenging, owing to the large size of the catchment. We hope the conference will help all the groups involved work well together and make steady progress in years to come."

The conference is sponsored by the Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales, Natural England and the local authorities within the catchment and is calling for a systematic approach and good training to tackle invasive species.

Richard Lucas of the Welsh Dee Trust said: "So far we have trained 28 volunteers who are accredited in the use of herbicides near water systems, but we hope this conference will enable us to share ideas of best practice and get many more involved."

Another part of the work involves the long-term mapping of the invasive weeds to provide better information for management and control.

Half term weather

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:08 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

Last week we were shivering with cold easterly winds from Russia but this week it's a different story.

High pressure over the Atlantic means north-westerly winds for the UK so it's going to be milder than recently with temperatures staying above freezing.

High pressure over the Atlantic means north-westerly winds for the UK so it's going to be milder

High pressure over the Atlantic means milder weather.

No snow is expected and there will be no need to scrape the car windscreen either.

It will often be cloudy, breezy and damp at times, with a little rain and drizzle, but I can promise some dry weather with the best of the sunshine in the south-east downwind of the hills and mountains.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and if you're planning a romantic stroll with a loved one, most of the day will be dry. Top temperatures 7 to 10 Celsius with a moderate to fresh north-westerly wind.

Next weekend will bring some rain followed by brighter, cold weather and a few wintry showers.

So all in all, not a bad week weather-wise for half term. Not completely dry but not a total washout either and relatively mild for mid February.

Beavers return to Ceredigion

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 11:19 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

The latest residents to join the Blaeneinion Conservation Project at Artist's Valley near Machynlleth are settling in well to their new Welsh surroundings.

The pair of beavers (sisters) were released into their fenced enclosure last November and are being monitored as part of a programme to evaluate possible future releases into the wild.

American beaver on a grassy shoreline -BBC Nature

An American beaver on a grassy shoreline.

The idea was met with some concern initially - the farming unions argued that beavers became extinct in this country hundreds of years ago, owing to the fact that they caused widespread destruction of wildlife habitats.

They pointed to a similar project in Scotland, where beavers managed to escape from their enclosure and were extremely difficult to recapture.

But at Blaeneinion they have a different view. They're hoping to prove that beavers are a valuable native species that are particularly adept at preserving aquatic habitats.

I've been to Blaeneinion this week to see the project for myself. I met with the project manager, Sharon Girardi who is a woman with a mission.

Blaeneinion Conservation Project at Artist Valley near Machynlleth

Blaeneinion Conservation Project at Artist's Valley near Machynlleth

She moved to Artists Valley three years ago from the centre of London, with a vision to create a community based on the principles of permaculture - living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for future generations to come, in harmony with nature.

They've already planted some eight thousand trees on the 75 acre site, with the help of a small army of 'WWOOFers' (I didn't know what these were either!).

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or WWOOF is a membership charity, teaching people about organic growing and low-impact lifestyles through hands-on experience in the UK. People work on the farms in exchange for board and lodgings.

At the moment there are two WWOOFers from France and Australia helping with the planting programme, giving Blaeniniona a distinctly international feel.

A geodesic dome provides winter vegetables, a fruit orchard has already been planted, a bunkhouse offers accommodation for visitors and four other families have also moved in as tenants.

But it's the beavers that are proving to be the main attraction. A feeding station has been built inside the enclosure with plans for two hides in future, where visitors will be able to watch the beavers.

Beavers lodges

Beavers lodges are created from severed branches and mud. The beavers cover their lodges late every autumn with fresh mud, which freezes when the frost sets in.

What I didn't realise before my visit is that beavers are nocturnal. But then as Sharon pointed out, "Why would you know that? They've been extinct for around 400 years!"

At dusk, we crept into the enclosure and spiked apples onto canes at the feeding station, hoping to lure the sisters out of their lodge.

Originally, before they moved in, great pains were taken to build the beavers a lodge, taking advice from experts and constructing what they thought would be ideal beaver bunkhouse.

But the sisters had other ideas and set about building their own lodge immediately after their release, preferring to show the humans how it's done!

As daylight faded, we took up our positions in the freezing cold, armed with an infra-red camera.

We didn't have to wait long before we heard rustling sounds in the reeds surrounding the lake. It was really exciting as we could tell they were close and could hear them swimming towards us.

At that point, the clouds parted revealing a full moon above us. In the moonlight I spotted a head in the water, with the trail across the lake as the beaver headed for the bank.

We didn't actually see them out of the water and eventually the cold got too much for us, so we headed indoors.

Then again, after being hunted to extinction, you can't blame the beavers for not being in too much of a hurry to get reacquainted with humans.

BBC News: Beavers return to Ceredigion

Wintry mix over the next 24 hours

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:16 UK time, Thursday, 9 February 2012

The gritters in Wales are gearing up for a busy time. There's no snow at the moment but some is expected by morning and we're in for a wintry mix of weather over the next 24 hours with rain, snow and some freezing rain too.

Freezing rain is where rain falls onto frozen ground, turning roads and pavements into ice rinks. It's quite rare in this country but can be lethal so take car driving.

As far as snow is concerned, the Met Office has issued a yellow warning which means be aware.

Based on the latest information, it looks like the south and east of Wales and Powys are most at risk from some snow later tonight and tomorrow.

Mind you there is a lot of uncertainty as to how exactly how much we'll get and the areas that will be worst affected. Things could change and not everywhere will have snow.

So, tonight a damp if not wet night and in the south and east, Powys and the Marches the rain will turn to snow. Lowest temperatures close to freezing or above so not as cold as recent nights but given that the ground is very cold, there is a risk of ice.

Tomorrow morning will be a real mix with rain in Pembrokeshire and on the coast. Further east and inland some snow is likely with a few cm's possible but there could be more in parts of Monmouthshire and Torfaen.

The north east may escape the worst of the snow and in the north west rain is likely with snow on the mountains. During the day, the snow will ease and parts of the north, Powys and the south east may become dry in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the west and south west will stay damp with rain. Another cold day with a south to south-easterly breeze and less cold in the west and on the coast.

Tomorrow night there'll be some rain in Pembrokeshire but elsewhere will be becoming dry. Temperatures falling close to freezing or below with some frost and icy patches.

Saturday should be dry and cold with bright, crisp sunny weather in the south and east.

Sunday generally cloudy but hopefully dry in Cardiff for the rugby and less cold with temperatures up to 7 Celsius.

In the meantime, expect some rain, snow and ice over the next 24 hours.

Don't forget you can keep up to date with the latest traffic and travel news on Radio Wales, Radio Cymru and online.

Another widespread frost and more snow

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:39 UK time, Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Last night temperatures fell as low as minus 8 Celsius near Presteigne in Powys but despite the cold it has been dry today with most of Wales enjoying some sunshine apart from the far south east and Monmouthshire.

It was also good flying weather today. Hywel Meredydd Davies took this picture from the plane on his journey south, from Anglesey to Cardiff Airport with the Brecon Beacons capped with snow and basking in sunshine.

Brecon Beacons from the air by Hywel Meredydd Davies.

Snow-capped Brecon Beacons from the air by Hywel Meredydd Davies.

Tonight will continue dry with another widespread frost despite some cloud. Mind you, there is a change on the way. A warm front will cross the Irish Sea tomorrow bringing us a mixture of rain and some snow.

Based on the latest information, parts of South Wales, Powys and the East are at risk of seeing some snow later tomorrow and on Friday.

Tomorrow will start dry and bright for a time but cloud will increase and thicken during the day with a little rain spreading from the north west. And as this falls on to frozen ground there is a risk of ice and a little snow is likely inland as well.

Another cold day tomorrow with top temperatures 2 to 4 Celsius. Up to 6 Celsius on Anglesey, the Lleyn Peninsula and the Pembrokeshire coast.

Tomorrow night and into Friday will be cloudy with outbreaks of rain. It will be misty too with hill fog becoming extensive and some snow is expected too. The Met Office has issued a yellow warning meaning, beware.

At the moment, parts of south Wales, Powys, Monmouthshire and the Marches are most at risk from having 2 to 5cm (1 to 2 inches) of snow, possibly more in a few spots, but this is not set in stone, so stay tuned to BBC Wales for updates.

At the moment, the weekend looks grey, damp and less cold but hopefully it will be dry in Cardiff for the rugby on Sunday with temperatures rising to 5 or 6 Celsius and light winds.

African holiday for Welsh osprey

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:52 UK time, Tuesday, 7 February 2012

There's a nice update here from the Dyfi Osprey Project. The first chick to leave the nest last year was called Einion and thanks to GPS tracking, we know that he's alive and well and currently holidaying in West Africa.

Einion set off in the morning from Mid Wales on 31 August and by late afternoon was already in Plymouth. The following day he was in Brittany and the next, northern Spain.

A map showing GPS locations of an osprey. Image - Dyfi Osprey Project

Thanks to satellite technology the team at the Dyfi Osprey Project have been able to track Einion - the first osprey chick to leave the nest in July 2011.

After a week he'd arrived in sunny Gibraltar and two days later was in Morocco where he stayed for over two weeks, half way between Casablanca and Marrakech.

Four weeks after leaving Wales he had reached Senegal, arriving on 29 September and is still there.

Find out more about this amazing migration story in the Dyfi Osprey blog.

There's snow escape

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:05 UK time, Monday, 6 February 2012

Wales escaped the worst of the snow on Saturday. There was some snow although not everywhere, leaving some people disappointed.

Most of the snow that did fall has now melted after a spell of rain and a rise in temperature.

Temperatures this afternoon across Wales are in the range 4 to 8 Celsius which is about right for this time of year.

However, over the next few days it is going to turn colder again with south-easterly winds from Europe bringing some sunshine and frost.

Wednesday night will probably be the coldest night of the week with temperatures inland possibly falling as low as minus 7 Celsius in central and eastern parts of Wales.

You might like to know that January 2012 was the warmest in Wales since 2008 despite a cold end to the month.

There was 18% more sunshine than usual and it was drier than normal too with around 127mm of rain (average rainfall in January is 158.6mm).

It will be interesting to see what the rest of February turns out like but the next few days are looking largely dry thanks to high pressure over Scandinavia.

Weekend weather: Snow possible

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 15:37 UK time, Friday, 3 February 2012

Derek is off today so Sue Charles has kindly picked up the weather mantle.

We've just had the coldest night of year so far especially in Powys where temperatures fell to -11 Celsius near Llanwrtyd Wells and -9 In Newbridge on Wye!

But there's a big change this weekend as a battle takes place between cold arctic air to the east and mild Atlantic air to the west.

This is called a dividing line, a battlefront between two air masses.

But today is the last of the cold, bright days with plenty of sunshine and patchy cloud developing in the west but temperatures struggling to get much above freezing.

Tonight we'll start to see some changes as it turns cold and frosty again in the east with cloud beginning to push in from the west.

It will be a very cold night again tonight with temperatures well below freezing in mid Wales.

As the cloud brings in milder air from the Atlantic a front pushes in from the west which will probably bring rain with it from Anglesey all the way down to Pembrokeshire which could turn to snow as it pushes east wards.

2-5 cm of snow is possible in the hills nearer the border but any snow should turn to rain again later in the day.

However if the cold air stays in place for longer as the front stalls, there will be a greater risk of snow. Timing is variable here, so a snow warning is in place but heavy snow is looking less likely.

The rain continues through Saturday night and there will be a risk of ice into Sunday. It should however be drier with some bright spells and less cold, with top temperatures between 5 and 8 Celsius.

By the evening it will be turning cloudier with rain in the west.

It's looking milder in Dublin for Wales 6 nations opener but turning increasingly damp through the day.

So all in all a very changeable weekend - starting cold then turning milder with a cloudy and dull day for Monday.

Check the Met Office website for details of weather warnings currently in place for Wales.

Enjoy the rugby on Sunday as Wales take on Ireland in Dublin and travel safely on the roads if you're heading down to catch the ferry.

You can catch all the action from 2.30 pm on BBC One Wales and also listen to the match on Radio Wales.

Have a great weekend.

Crafty birds

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:39 UK time, Friday, 3 February 2012

Recently I've been trying my best to attract a few more birds to BBC Wales HQ here in Llandaff. When I say birds, I mean small, interesting ones rather than the feral pigeons and herring gulls that line the rooftops here every single day of the year.

It's not to say that we live in a wildlife wilderness though. We have plenty of grey squirrels - no black ones yet! And there's a resident sparrowhawk nearby that takes out the odd pigeon from time to time.

We also have a green woodpecker in the top Ty Oldfield car park that regularly waddles around a small, grassy area in search of worms and a fairly tame raven that croaks occasionally.

I heard some tawny owls calling at night a few weeks ago in the woods beyond the car park and they're quite active at this time of year - defending their territories in preparation for an early breeding season.

Long-tailed tits. Image by Eiona Roberts.

The complete opposite of my empty bird feeder at work. This one is feeding a family of long-tailed tits. Image by Eiona Roberts.

But that's about it - there's not a tit or finch in sight.

I've put a basic feeder up on a tree opposite our office and it's now been there for a week. The only visitors - two large magpies that take it in turns, hanging off it like bad gymnasts, but at least it's getting used.

I'm now toying with the idea of making a small wooden bird table to fix to one of the fence posts, in the hope of alerting passing birds to their new feeding station. I found a nice simple plan to follow on the RSPB website with illustrations, if you fancy making one for your garden.

With so many birds beginning to search out nesting sites, it's not a bad idea to think about nest boxes too, as we could be in for an early season this year. And even if they don't nest, they will still come in handy as roosting boxes, if the weather remains cold.

A blue tit bringing food back to a nest box. Image by Arwyn Harris.

A blue tit bringing food back to a nest box. Image by Arwyn Harris.

According to RSPB, 'Over 60 species are known to have used nestboxes and regular residents include blue, great and coal tits, nuthatches, house and tree sparrows, starlings, spotted and pied flycatchers, robins, house martins, kestrels and tawny owls. '

'Much depends on the type of the box, where it is located, and on its surroundings.'

They are also fairly simple to make providing you can cut in a straight line and use a ruler or tape measure!

There's an easy to follow plan on how to build one on the RSPB website or on BBC Breathing Places if you've got some free time on your hands.

It will also save you a fair bit of money too as they can be quite expensive to buy, ranging from £7 up to £45 plus, depending on what they're made from, which species of bird they're designed for and the technology contained inside.

Here are 20 of the best bird boxes from 2009 (so a little out of date) but it gives you a good idea of what is available and the wide selection of designs that you can now purchase - from designer ceramic 'tit balls' to high tech boxes with built in webcams so you can recreate Springwatch from the comfort of your lounge.

World Wetlands Day

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:17 UK time, Thursday, 2 February 2012

Today, millions of people around the world will be taking part in activities to mark World Wetlands Day

Since 1997 World Wetlands Day has been used to raise public awareness to the values and benefits of wetland habitats.

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance called the Ramsar Convention was established in 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea and is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem.

This year's theme is Wetlands and Tourism which has benefits both locally and nationally for people and widlife. At least 35% of Ramsar sites around the world now have a toursim activity associated with them.

It is difficult to place a monetary value on a unique type of habitat but in Britain it has been estimated to be worth somewhere in the region of £6.5 billion.

This figure can be broken down into a number of different resources - from flood prevention and storm defences to water purification and storage, not to mention the abundance of wildlife species found in wetland areas and the vital role wetland habitat plays in reducing carbon emissions.

According to Ramsar, wetlands are among the ecosystems most vulnerable to climate change and some including coral reefs, mangroves, and those found in tropical forests, sub-arctic forests, prairies and arctic/alpine zones are especially at risk.

Wetland areas such as peatlands, salt marshes and mangroves play a crucial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as they act as natural carbon 'sinks' locking in significant amounts of carbon while drainage and peat extraction releases it into the atmosphere.

A recent study found that ‘damage to peatlands has been responsible for annual emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) equivalent to 10% of emissions from worldwide use of fossil fuels.

It's worth noting however that different wetlands store and release carbon in different ways and at varying levels.

Newport wetlands centre

Newport wetlands centre

Wales has its fair share of internationally important wetland habitats which have fully embraced the concept of wildlife tourism in partnership with other wildlife organisations such as the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) and RSPB and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Tourist traps

Nowadays you don't even need to get your feet wet to visit a wetland reserve as the majority have embraced tourism and cater for people of all ages and abilities with state of the art visitor centres, plush wooden boardwalks, comfortable well positioned bird hides and wildlife guides on hand.

They are also attracting large numbers of schools too with a range of activities designed to teach schoolchildren about the local wildlife and the environment - including pond dipping, bird watching, bush-craft skills and bark rubbing.

Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve in south Wales has had over 16,500 school children through its doors since it opened in 2005.

CCW Reserve Manager Kevin Dupé said: "It's a great time of year for people to get out and see the over-wintering birds. Tufted ducks, pochard and gadwall are commonly seen on the reserve's reedbeds. Keep a look out and you may be lucky enough to see a golden-eye duck, short-eared owl or marsh harrier, which are a rare sight."

Reserves in Wales

Wetland reserves in Wales were given a boost in 2011 when the RSPB reserve at Ynys Hir in Ceredigion became the new home for BBC Springwatch.

The 700 hectare reserve is set in a stunning location at the top of the Dyfi Estuary, flanked by the Cambrian Mountains with a huge variety of different habitats including Welsh oak woodland, wet grassland, saltmarsh, reedbeds, heathland, rivers and ponds.

The nearby Dyfi Reserve, managed by the CCW comprises of the Dyfi Estuary, Ynyslas Dunes and Cors Fochno (Borth bog) is one of the largest and finest examples of a raised peat bog in the UK.

The Dyfi estuary is one of only 11 sites in Britain which has been registered as an international Biosphere Reserve and is a vital feeding ground for large numbers of wildfowl.

In winter large numbers of waders and wildfowl use the estuary including important numbers of wigeon and the estuary also supports the only regular wintering population of Greenland white-fronted geese in Wales and England.

The Ynyslas dunes are home to many rare species of fungi and orchid and also a nocturnal hunting spider Agroeca dentigera which is unknown elsewhere in Britain.

Cors Fochno is home to a large number of sphagnum bog mosses including three which are nationally scarce and provide a rich habitat for bog invertebrate rarities such as the rosy marsh moth, the large heath butterfly, bog bush cricket, small red damselfly, and the jumping spider, Heliophanus dampfi.

In 2011, osprey successfully bred at Cors Dyfi near Machynlleth for the first time and thanks to GPS tracking, Reserve Warden Emyr Evan has been monitoring the birds as they made their winter migration south to Gambia and Senegal.

Wetland habitat can also be re-created and thrive near large populations such as the man-made Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre in Llanelli which opened in 1991.

American / Caribbean Flamingo taken in Llanelli in August 2011. Image by Steve Greaves

American / Caribbean Flamingo, WWT Llanelli in August 2011. Image by Steve Greaves.

Besides the thousands of wintering waders that visit the 450 acre site, the centre has also attracted more exotic species such as little egret and flamingo and in July 2011 hit the headlines when a lesser flamingo chick hatched - only the second ever born in captivity in Britain.

Wetland Facts

  • Wetlands are used for fishing, farming, transport, tourism, recreation and sport.
  • Communities around the world use reeds to make rafts, boats, housing materials and thatching as well as peat for fuel.
  • Many countries still rely on waterways as their principle method of travel and transportation.
  • Man-made wetlands such as paddy fields provide rice to over half of the world's population.
  • The world's largest continental wetland is the Pantanal in South America covering an area larger than England.

Other wetlands to visit in Wales:

Cors Caron

Cors Geirch

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Llanelli


Cors Goch

A bright start to February

Post categories:

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 10:24 UK time, Thursday, 2 February 2012

What a beautiful start to February with two very cold, but dry and bright days . The whole country enjoying lots of sunshine with top temperatures between -1 and + 4 Celsius

Bwlch looking down into the Rhondda Valley. Image by Joel Thurston.

This could be somewhere in the Alps but it's actually from the top of the Bwlch looking down into the Rhondda Valley. Image by Joel Thurston.

The dry and very cold weather looks set to continue for another couple of days with more sunshine and hard frosts. Temperatures in central Wales could fall as low as -8 Celsius or lower in a few spots, especially where there is any lying snow on the ground.

More frosty windscreen again today for some but not all. This is because the air is dry with little moisture in the atmosphere and a breeze helped to mix the air.

The Brecon Beacons covered in snow by Chris Aylward.

Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons covered in snow by Chris Aylward.

The reason for the cold weather is high pressure over Russia and that means easterly winds blowing cold air into Britain. Milder air is waiting in the wings though over the Atlantic and that will attempt to push the cold air out of the way over the weekend.

On Saturday rain will spill across the country and as this falls onto frozen, ground ice could be a hazard. A little snow is also likely in places but should quickly turn to rain as temperatures rise. So it will be a wet, breezy and soggy end to Saturday.

As the rain clears, most of Sunday should then be dry and feeling less cold just in time for Wales' Six Nations clash with Ireland. If you're in Dublin for the match - the latest forecast is cloudy and damp with temperatures up to 10 Celsius.

On the trail of Richard Burton

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 12:39 UK time, Wednesday, 1 February 2012

At one time, he was the highest paid actor in Hollywood, he was married to the world's most beautiful woman and had one of the most recognisable voices in showbusiness - he was of course, Richard Burton.

Despite the glamour and success of his later years, his remarkable life began in far humbler surroundings - in the small village of Ponyrhydyfen in the Afan Forest Park near Port Talbot.

Last year, the local community decided it was high time their most famous son was honoured and came together to create the Richard Burton Trail, a 3 mile walk, taking in some of the places which were important to the man himself.

Today, I've been to the area to walk the trail and was greeted with the sight of the Afan Valley bathed in winter sunshine, with a sprinkling of snow on the surrounding trees and on the Foel, the second highest peak in the Afan Forest Park.

The old mineral line viaduct spanning the Afan river.

The old mineral line viaduct over the Afan river.

My guide was Jonathan Price, a ranger with the Forestry Commission, working in the Afan Valley. We began in the Rhyslyn car park and walked across the aqueduct, high above the Afan river.

The house where the famous actor was born is under the aqueduct, backing onto the river - a lovely spot, but hard to imagine that a family of fourteen once lived there.

Richard was the eleventh of twelve children and his younger brother Graham Jenkins who still lives in the area, has been involved with the trail project, helping to piece together interesting facts about his older brother's life.

All along the walk, there are special way markers with information about Richard Burton, his life and career.

The first we passed told us that he was born on 25 November 1925 in Pontrhydyfen weighing twelve pounds. This was accompanied by a photo of him in his rugby kit, posing with the team as a youngster.

We passed Penhydd Street where many members of Richard's family lived and on to the Pontyrhydyfen viaduct, another reminder of the area's industrial past.

We joined the Connect2 cycle route to continue on the trail towards the portrait bench and the amazing sight of three life-sized metal sculptures of three local celebrities - Richard Burton, Rob Brydon and Richard ('Dick') Wagstaff, who was the area warden for the Afan Forest Park until he retired last year.

Sculptures of Richard Burton on right, rob Brydon in the middle and Richard Wagstaff on the left.

Sculptures of Richard Burton on right, rob Brydon in the middle and Richard Wagstaff on the left.

He was voted in by local people and by all accounts is quite a character. Next to the sculptures is a metal box with a dial.

If you wind the dial, you can hear the unmistakable sound of Richard Burton reading extracts from the works of Dylan Thomas, including 'Under Milk Wood' and the poem he wrote after his father's death, 'Do Not Go Gentle....'.

It's a great idea to 'illustrate' a walk in this way and brings the person and their landscape to life.

It's just such a shame that already, only a few weeks after the trail's official opening, many of the way markers along the route have already been vandalised - many of them have been sawn off, leaving a metal 'stump' behind where the information about Richard Burton would have been.

Jonathan Price, Ranger with the Forestry Commission with a vandalised sign.

Jonathan Price, Ranger with the Forestry Commission with a vandalised sign.

Why would anyone want to do this? Jonathan Price was also at a loss to explain this and pointed out that those signs will have to be repaired at considerable cost.

This innovative project has been overseen by Neath Port Talbot County Council and hopes to bring tourists to the area, proving once again that 'green tourism' is the way ahead, but also that increasingly, the tourism industry needs to provide and extra something to draw people into an area.

The trail ends back in Pontrhydyfen, passing Bethel chapel, where the local memorial service for Richard Burton was held after his death in 1984.

Today, the chapel is boarded up and for sale but it stands in a prime location, overlooking the river and the aqueduct where we began and where Richard Burton would have spent much of his childhood.

For more information about this walk visit

BBC Wales Nature blog: Richard Burton walking trail opens

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