Archives for March 2012

Record breaking March

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:56 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

It sure has been a marvellous March with record breaking daytime temperatures.

The March high of 23.9 Celsius recorded in 1965 still stands but a few local records have been broken.

John Goodger, who runs a weather station at Velindre near Glasbury in Powys, recorded 21.2 Celsius on Wednesday afternoon, 11 degrees above average and the highest temperature John has measured in March in 40 years of record keepong.

While the weather station at Bute Park in Cardiff recorded it's warmest March day on record yesterday afternoon with the temperature soaring to 20.9 Celsius, 70 Fahrenheit making the Welsh capital warmer than Athens, Malta and Cyprus.

Provisionally it looks like this March in Wales will be the warmest since 1957 with a mean temperature of 7.8 Celsius, 2.3 degrees above the long term average.

This month has also been very dry with only 32.0mm of rain (1.26 inches) 27% of the average monthly rainfall of 118.8mm.

March 2011 was slightly drier with 30.7mm. Nevertheless March 2012 is the fifth driest March since records began in 1910.

Wales enjoyed over 141 hours of sunshine this month. 45% more sunshine than normal making it the sunniest March since 2003.

I know some people are worried that this may be our summer. Hopefully that won't be the case and this is a taster of things to come but the current warm spell is on its last legs.

It's going to turn cooler and cloudier everywhere over the weekend with temperatures dropping back closer to the seasonal average.

Some gardeners are farmers wouldn't mind a drop of rain but apart from the odd spot tomorrow the weekend will be dry.

Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy but Sunday should be sunnier.

Next week looks colder and changeable and on Tuesday, some rain and showers are expected.

Wednesday should be fine but cold at night with some frost. At the moment, Good Friday may start dry but it could turn more unsettled over the Easter weekend.

So, the warm spell is coming to an end but we've enjoyed a good dose of sunshine - a real tonic after such a long winter.

Wye monster salmon return

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 11:02 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

The 1960s and 1970s was the golden age of salmon fishing on the River Wye when 'monster' salmon were regularly caught weighing in excess of 30lbs and measuring over 4ft long.

During the late 1980s up to 6,000 salmon were being caught each year but by 2002, this number had nose-dived to just 357, but early signs in March indicate that the larger fish are slowly returning.

Local fisherman with a recent 30lb salmon.

A local fisherman with a recent 30lb salmon caught in the River Wye.

Salmon stocks rapidly diminished due to a number of factors including pollution, habitat degradation and overgrazing of livestock.

The top of the river is at fairly high altitude and full of forestry and as acid rain fell, it made its way into the river, wiping out growing areas and salmon habitat in the tributaries.

Over the years a number of pollution incidents have occurred including the accidental discharge of 20 tons of sugar at Hereford in1994.

The following year the River Elan (an Upper Wye tributary) and the Upper Wye itself both received an inadvertent chemical release which killed tens of thousands of juvenile fish.

A healthy river would normally have a pH balance of around 6.5; the Wye during its worst period fell as low as 4, at which point fish reproduction can be affected. Vinegar has a pH balance of between 2.4 - 3.4.

Flood defence schemes on the Lugg - a major Wye tributary were also a contributing factor as fish passes were not initially included, preventing fish from migrating.

Habitat degradation caused by overgrazing of sheep was another contributing factor as the increased livestock (caused the river to become wider and shallow rather than narrow and deep which is preferable to the salmon and brown trout.

A 15lb salmon being returned at Upper Bigsweir on 3 March - The Wye & Usk Foundation

A 15lb salmon being returned at Upper Bigsweir on 3 March - The Wye and Usk Foundation

The historic practice of coppicing also ceased many decades ago which meant trees such as alder began shading large areas of the river banks, killing off the ranunculus weed which provided habitat for insects and their larvae - a vital food source for the fish.

In 1997 work began to improve the river and the results are now being seen. Despite the lack of rainfall, the River Wye is enjoying the best start to the salmon season for at least 20 years and after less than four weeks fishing, 95 fish have been caught and safely returned.

A decade ago the total salmon catch for March and April was just three.

Four fish have been over 30lbs and 27 more than 20lbs, evidence that the monster 'portmanteau' salmon, for which the Wye was famous last century, are returning.

Other positive evidence is that a much higher than average number of 'kelts' (salmon which have spawned) returning to the sea, have been caught, indicating good levels of spawning fish from last year.

Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith, Director of The Wye and Usk Foundation, explained: "The success has been very much the result of partnership working."

Adding a note of caution, Dr. Marsh-Smith says: "In spite of this excellent start, we are now seriously short of rain and salmon catches are increasingly confined to beats below Monmouth that benefit with fish coming in on the tides."

Watch salmon on BBC Wildlife Finder.

BBC Wales News: 'Timeless Wye' is voted public's favourite river.

BBC Wales News: Climate change danger to salmon in River Wye.

Crescent moon

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:36 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2012

Liam Reardon sent in this stunning shot of the recent crescent moon with Venus to the right. It was taken from Tycoch in Swansea looking West:

Crescent moon with Venus by Liam Reardon

Weather pattern stuck in a rut

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:24 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The weather today is the same as yesterday and the day before and it's not often you can say that in this country!

The weather pattern is stuck in a rut at the moment with a slow moving area of high pressure over Britain. However, over the next couple of days, the high will gradually move away to the west of Ireland and that means a change in wind direction.

The wind will turn into the north west and that will allow cooler air to flow in from the Atlantic. The north-westerly wind will also bring some cloud with it as well.

By the end of this week it will be much cloudier and cooler and that goes for the weekend but apart from the odd spot of rain or drizzle, the outlook is dry with no sign of any useful rain.

There is more dry weather to come next week but further into April there are signs that it will turn more unsettled with some rain and showers.

Met Office weather chart

Met Office weather chart

With clear skies at night, we have seen a huge rise and fall in temperature between the day and night. Last night in Bala, Gwynedd the temperature fell to minus 1 Celsius with a frost - a reminder that it is still only March.

Clear skies have meant that Jupiter and Venus are looking amazing at the moment in the western sky to the right of the moon, with Venus being brightest and Mars, the red planet in the south east.

However, with 12 hours of sunshine at this time of year, temperatures rocket upwards and in Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent 20 Celsius, 68 Fahrenheit was recorded this afternoon - that's about 10 degrees above the seasonal average and warmer than Palermo in Sicily!

The highest temperature recorded in March in Wales was 23.9 Celsius at Prestatyn, Denbighshire and at Ceinws, Powys on 29 March 1965.

Porthmadog recorded 22.2 Celsius last Saturday but the coming weekend will be cooler and much cloudier with temperatures ranging between 10 to 14 Celsius.

Marvellous March

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:46 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2012

What a glorious weekend: lots of super Spring sunshine with afternoon temperatures more like June than March!

Great weather for everyone taking part in Sport Relief including me and my colleague Sue Charles

Porthmadog in Gwynedd was the warmest place in the UK on Saturday with temperatures soaring to 22.2 Celsius, 72 Fahrenheit. That's about 12 degrees above the seasonal average and warmer than Malaga in Spain!

The reason it was so warm in Porthmadog was due to the wind direction, blowing from the east, with the air flowing down the side of the mountains. As the air sinks it warms causing the temperature to rise. This is known as a Foehn wind.

The last time it was this warm in March in Wales was in 2005. Mind you, the nights have been chilly, if not cold. In Bala the temperature at 7am this morning was -1C (30F). So we may be into British Summer Time but we haven't seen the last of Jack Frost.

Satellite image of the UK

Satellite image of the UK

The satellite picture shows much of the UK and Ireland is basking in sunshine today. There is hardly a cloud in the sky and it's not often you can say that!

The fine and settled weather will continue for the rest of this week but by the weekend it will turn cooler and cloudier. The wind will turn more into the north with colder air trickling down from the Arctic. Temperatures will drop close to normal and some frost is likely.

For those of you desperate for rain, it looks like April will start dry but there are signs that the heavens may open before Easter as the weather pattern begins to change and it turns more unsettled.

In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine if you can and don't forget the suncream!

Super spring sizzler

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:21 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012

Today is a special day - it's World Meteorological Day and the anniversary of the World Meteorological Organisation's formation on 23 March 23, 1950.

Each year, on 23 March, the WMO celebrate around a chosen theme.This year, the theme is "Powering our future with weather, climate and water"

Robert A. Heinlein said "Climate is what we expect and weather is what we get" and another popular quotation is: "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it".

The weather will be a big talking point this weekend as it's going to beach and picnic weather with temperatures more like May than March!

It may start grey in a few places first thing in the morning but any low cloud, mist and fog will lift fairly readily and the whole of Wales will become fine with plenty of hazy sunshine.

Met Office weather chart for 24 May 2012

The nights will turn cool but by the afternoon it will feel pleasantly warm with light winds. Top temperatures 16 to 20 Celsius. The average maximum temperature for this time of year is nearer 10 Celsius.

So great weather for heading to the beach this weekend but some coasts will be cooler with a breeze off the sea. And if you fancy a paddle, be warned, the sea is still quite cold around 8 or 9 Celsius.

baby on a beach with bucket and spade

This weekend will be great weather for the beach.

It will also be ideal weather for a walk on the coast, hills and mountains but don't expect crystal clear views. Like today it will be hazy with dust and pollution trapped in the lower layers of the atmosphere reducing the visibility.

If you're taking part in the Sport Relief Mile on Sunday, the weather will be perfect but don't forget the suncream and drink plenty of water. And there is still time to enter.

I know some farmers and gardeners wouldn't mind a drop of rain but there is no sign of any. Next week high pressure will keep things dry with plenty more fine and warm weather.

In fact this March may turn out to be the driest in Wales for over 50 years.

Spring makes a grand entrance

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 09:42 UK time, Thursday, 22 March 2012

It's a sure sign that spring is on the way when the fields start filling up with new-born lambs.

Tuesday was officially the first day of spring, and I spent part of it with the area warden for the National Trust in Carmarthenshire, Wyn Davies.

Wyn admits this is his favourite time of the year, and walking around Dinefwr Park near Llandeilo this morning, it was easy to see and hear, why.

'It's the birdsong that immediately makes me realise spring is here' says Wyn, and it's worth getting up early to hear the dawn chorus at the moment.'

'This morning I heard a green woodpecker hammering away at a tree and you can clearly see that many birds are starting to think about nesting now.'

Snowdrops are beginning to make way for primroses which are already out in abundance and the woodland is a carpet of green, signalling the arrival within the next couple of weeks of the bluebells.

Chestnut trees are beginning to bud and there's a real sense that new life is being created.

white park cattle

White park cattle

We also made our way to the field in front of the main house at Dinefwr to see some more new arrivals, the famous White Park cattle, native to Dinefwr, have already produced 6 calves, four pure white and two coloured black and white.

This suggests that somewhere along the line, possibly hundreds of years ago, a black bull was used whose genes are still present in the blood.

There's evidence that White Park Cattle were here in the 10th century and are mentioned in the laws of Hywel Dda.

Today, one of the cows was guarding the circle of new calves while the rest of the herd were grazing nearby.

Wyn also pointed out the crows landing on the cows backs, picking at the loose hairs of the the cattle's winter coats, providing perfect insulation for their nests.

Nature has a way of making sure nothing goes to waste.In the deer park, the fallow deer (first introduced here by the Normans), are getting ready to shed their antlers, while the does begin to think about producing their young.

As a warden, Wyn is busy making sure the footpaths and fences are ready for Easter visitors.

As nature wakes up, it's well worth taking the time to notice the arrival of a new season.

Badger cull for Pembrokshire scrapped

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 10:22 UK time, Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Welsh government has dropped plans to cull badgers as part of an attempt to wipe out bovine TB in cattle.

Environment Minister John Griffiths said he had instead opted to vaccinate the animals after carefully considering the scientific evidence.

A review of the science involved in controlling bovine TB was commissioned after last year's assembly elections.

badgers feeding

Badgers feeding.

The Farmers' Union of Wales attacked a "cowardly betrayal", while the RSPCA said it was "delighted and relieved".

The previous government had planned a pilot cull of badgers in west Wales.

But Mr Griffiths revealed on Tuesday that he was scrapping the plan, saying a five-year vaccination programme will start in the intensive action area - the TB hotspot in north Pembrokeshire where the cull was due to take place.

Find out more on BBC News

Polar bears finally see the light

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 15:35 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Today is the spring equinox when the sun is directly overhead the equator. Day and night are almost the same length, twelve hours all over the world and some people take today as the "official" start of spring.

At the North Pole, the polar bears are celebrating the first appearance of the sun in six months but at the South Pole the penguins are preparing for six months of darkness.

Apparently today is the earliest start to spring since 1896 but if it wasn't a leap year, spring would start on 21 March.

The word "equinox" comes from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox (night). It means equal day and night but in reality, the day is slightly longer than the night at an equinox.

Sunrise over Holywell by Dilwyn Lloyd.

Sunrise over Holywell by Dilwyn Lloyd.

In Wales, day and night were almost equal on 17 March before the spring equinox so why wasn't St. Patrick's Day the equinox? Well, it all depends on the precise moment when the centre of the sun crosses the equator.

Sunrise and sunset occur when the top of the sun, not the centre, is on the horizon. That's why there are a few extra minutes of daylight on the equinox.

The earth's atmosphere also refracts, or bends, light from the sun. So, the top of the sun appears to be above the horizon when it is actually below it.

The best of the sunshine today has been in parts of the north and east with temperatures in Flintshire rising as high as 15 Celsius.

Last month was drier than normal in Wales with only half the average rainfall, 57.8mm and we would normally expect 114 mm in February.

So far this month has been dry in Wales and up until the 14 March, only 20.8mm, (17% of the monthly average rainfall) has fallen.

Looking ahead, there may be some rain and showers later on Thursday, overnight into Friday but apart from that, the outlook for this week and next is dry with high pressure over us.

Cloud amounts and sunshine will vary from day to day as will temperatures - rising well above average during the day, but at night it will turn chilly with a risk of some ground frost, low cloud, plus a few mist and fog patches as well.


An unlikely siege: Dryslwyn castle

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 16:10 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2012

One advantage of living in Carmarthenshire is that we're spoilt for choice when it comes to castles and on a sunny day, it makes for a cheap and easy day out with the children to combat the familiar cries of "we're bored!"

And it's an activity that doesn't involve sitting in front of a screen of any sort. So armed with plastic swords, we descended on Dryslwyn castle at the weekend.

Actually ascended is more like it, as it's a steep climb up to the castle itself from the car park next to the river Towy, but it's definitely worth it when you get there.The view is spectacular down across the Towy Valley.

Dryslwyn castle in the sun.

Dryslwyn castle in the sun.

Cadw who maintain the castle, are carrying out work on one of the main walls, or what's left of it, so the structure is currently covered in scaffolding.

But when you think that the castle has been standing here for around 800 years, it's hardly surprising that it needs the occasional bit of renovation work.

The castle under scaffold.

The castle under scaffold.

Dryslwyn is one of the so-called 'native Welsh castles' built by Welsh princes and in Dryslwyn's case, along with its neighbouring castles of Dinefwr and Carreg Cennen, performed an important part in protecting the old kingdom of Deheubarth in South West Wales.

If you're watching the current BBC Wales series, The Story of Wales then you'll know all about this, but there's something about visiting a castle which brings the past to life, helped with diagrams along the route of the footpath, imagining what the castle might have originally looked like.

The castle at Dryslwyn was seized by Owain Glyndwr in 1403 before being finally occupied by the English king Edward 1.

At the end of our visit, the plastic swords didn't make much impact, so the castle is still standing on its magnificent hilltop location, keeping an eye out for other potential invaders.

For more information on visiting Dryslwyn castle, go to

Grand slam of birds

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 16:11 UK time, Friday, 16 March 2012

It looks like a mixed bag of weather for the Six Nation's Final on Saturday but fingers crossed the rain holds off and the roof being open makes no difference whatsoever to France.

Currently the Met Office are warning of the odd heavy shower along with sunny spells for Cardiff tomorrow afternoon, with light westerly winds and good visibility - so kicking shouldn't be a problem for the players.

Highs of around 9 or 10 degrees so wrap up warm as it's not summer just yet. One more week to go before the clocks spring forwards and lighter evenings.

Staying on the rugby theme, RSPB Cymru blogger has chosen his Grand Slam winning team of birds. What birds would make the starting line up? What skills would they require to fill the positions?

Have a great weekend and if you've got a great nature feature you'd like me to cover, get in touch via the website at

Keep up to date with all the action on BBC Wales Sport and Radio Wales.

Anti-cyclonic gloom

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:54 UK time, Thursday, 15 March 2012

The weather's been quiet and settled this week with high pressure over us but it has brought a mixture of weather - from glorious sunshine to low cloud, mist, fog and even drizzle, which meteorologists call anti-cyclonic gloom!

The best of the sunshine and the highest temperatures have been on the high ground above a temperature inversion. Yesterday Bala in Gwynedd enjoyed nearly 8 hours of sunshine.

Cardiff Bay Barrage in fog by Annette Wilkins

Annette Wilkins from Penarth took this photo of the fog lifting over Cardiff Bay barrage this morning.

Tirabad in Powys, 1000 feet above sea level, was one of the warmest places in Wales with a high of 11.5 Celsius while Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire could only manage 7.3 Celsius in the mist.

Mind you, the high pressure is moving away and the weather is about to change. The breeze will pick-up tomorrow and that will lift the low cloud onto the hills and mountains.

A front will bring some rain later tomorrow and then over the weekend a tough of low pressure will bring a few heavy showers and longer spells of rain.

If you're going to the Six Nations final in Cardiff on Saturday take a brolly just in case.

On Sunday it may be cold enough for the showers to turn wintry on the hills and mountains but it should dry and brighten-up during the day.

Sunday night and into Monday will be cold with a slight frost but next week it will be turning milder and breezy with some rain, drizzle and hill fog.

From the middle of the week onwards the signs are that the weather will improve, becoming fine with sunshine and above average temperatures but chilly at night with a risk of ground frost.

Above the fog

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 09:24 UK time, Thursday, 15 March 2012

More fog and mist today but in parts of Wales where the sun has poked through there have been some stunning vistas thsi week. Here are a few interesting photos from this week:

Early morning mist over the Llyn Peninsula by Barri Elford.

Early morning mist over the Llyn Peninsula by Barri Elford.

Looking down on Rhondda Fawr by Mike Davies.

Looking down on Rhondda Fawr by Mike Davies.

Vale of Neath from Craig y Llyn by Mike Davies

Vale of Neath from Craig y Llyn by Mike Davies

from Drummau Mountain looking towards Kilvey Hill - Jo Evans.

Taken from Drummau Mountain looking towards Kilvey Hill. A sea mist had rolled in and had obscured all the low lying land leaving just an island in a sea of mist - Jo Evans.

Fog bow by Alan C

I recently witnessed a fog bow (the outer circle) a brocken spectre (my shadow in the light) and a glory (coloured ringed halo) - Alan C

Dry and settled weather

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 16:19 UK time, Monday, 12 March 2012

Well it was very much a case of mixed fortunes over the weekend. Most of Wales enjoyed turned out sunny yesterday with temperatures in Usk soaring as high as 17.7 Celsius on Saturday.

However, some places stayed grey, cool and misty with fog patches on the coast and at Mumbles Head the temperatures struggled to reach 10 Celsius.

The reason for the generally dry and settled weather is high pressure. Under high pressure the air sinks and warms and this can create a temperature inversion.

James Street went for a walk in the hills overlooking Treorchy and the rest of valley`s.

Normally temperature falls with height but with an inversion it rises so that the top of a hill can be much warmer than the valley below.

This has been the case today with cloud, mist and fog trapped beneath the inversion, while above the inversion, on higher ground, it is warm and sunny.

At night if the sky is clear with little wind the temperature can drop like a stone. Last night for example, the temperature in Tredegar fell as low as 2 Celsius with ground frost but with plenty of sunshine today the temperature has soared to over 16 Celsius.

There's more dry weather to come over the next few days but there are signs of a change on the way later in the week. The high pressure will move away and it is expected to turn more unsettled with some rain.


Use it or lose it

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 09:36 UK time, Friday, 9 March 2012

So when the Post Office/general stores reopened after a recent makeover, thanks to a grant from the Welsh Government, the local male voice choir turned out to help celebrate the occasion in style.

As well as the singing, there were speeches, a buffet and a glass of bubbly to mark the event, with a big crowd to wish the new owners well in their venture.

On a national scale, this may seem like a small event but when you think of how many rural shops and post offices have closed in recent years, it makes Bancyfelin's story all the more significant and heart-warming.

The local male voice choir helped celebrate the reopening of the local shop.

The local male voice choir helped celebrate the reopening of their local shop.

So many villages which once boasted a shop, a school a pub and a post office have gradually lost their local services and don't get me started on the issue of rural transport.

I've tried to think of other villages around the area where I live (Carmarthenshire) and am struggling to come up with names of those that still have a shop.

We can't deny that competition from the supermarkets has put pressure on local stores, but we, as customers must surely take some of the blame too.

We've embraced the convenience of doing our entire weekly shop in one go, driving past smaller shops on our way to the big retailers.

We can't then be surprised when local businesses shut up shop and as the saying goes, use it or lose it.

According to figures from the Rural Shops Alliance, rural shops are closing at a rate of around 33 per month across the UK, with around 12% of independent shops closing last year alone.

Rural pubs are also struggling in these economically challenging times but it's also worth noting that farm shops seem to be bucking the trend, revealing that there can be an alternative to the supermarket giants.

And here again, we have a Welsh success story. The Cwm Cerrig Farm Shop at Cross Hands near Llanelli has just been awarded Best New Farm Shop in the UK by FARMA (the National Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association).

So maybe it's worth thinking about the plight of our local shops and celebrating good news when we hear it.

High pressure building from the south

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Behnaz Akhgar Behnaz Akhgar | 10:43 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

It's hard to believe this was the scene yesterday with a bright and frosty start to the day:

Frosty morning in the Neath valley by Mike Davies.

A frosty morning in the Neath valley by Mike Davies.

Today however the sunshine has replaced by wind and rain, although there's a chance of seeing the frost returning on Thursday morning for some parts of Wales.

Tonight the cloud and rain will be clearing to reveal starry skies with west to north westerly winds.

If you live in a sheltered area away from the wind, there's a good chance of a few frosty patches and icy conditions as the temperatures dip away.

High pressure is building from the south but it's a gradual process and will really help to settle things down through the weekend with warmer and drier air taking charge.

There are still spits and spots of rain possible from Thursday to Saturday but by Sunday it's looking dry and mild.

Early indications are that we may just hang on to the settled weather, well into next week and with the nights staying lighter for longer, means we can head out for nice walks or bike rides and get fit in time for summer!


Temperatures rising this week

Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 14:47 UK time, Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Derek Brockway is away at the moment so here's the latest weather update from Behnaz Akhgar:

BBC Wales weather presenter, Behnaz Akhgar

BBC Wales weather presenter, Behnaz Akhgar

I don't know about you but this weather is certainly confusing. One minute it's cold and frosty and the next, above average temperatures.

I've recently had a few days off and got caught out by the frost this morning, so even us forecasters can sometimes forget to listen.

We're in a transitional period at the moment, stuck between winter and summer - where anything is possible so the confusion continues...

There are only 14 days left now until the first day of spring so maybe then, the weather will settle down.

Last night it was cold thanks to clear skies and light winds which meant a frosty start for some this morning, but some lovely sunshine around too.

Cloud and rain will be making its way in from the west later - so good news for farmers and gardeners as we haven't had much rain recently but the wind will be picking up too.

The rain will clear tomorrow but we'll keep the blustery conditions with sunshine and showers following closely behind.

Overall the temperatures will be rising throughout the week and by the weekend, high pressure will be centered across the country so it should become settled and dry but I can't promise wall to wall sunshine!



A wild walk around Parc Slip

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Martin Aaron Martin Aaron | 12:07 UK time, Monday, 5 March 2012

In between the showers on Saturday I decided to drag the family out for a walk to Parc Slip nature reserve near Bridgend.

The reserve is 305 acres and managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and home to many species of butterfly, birds, amphibians and reptiles such as great-crested newts and adders.

It's very close to Bridgend and Maesteg and fairly easy to get to - I say fairly, as I took three wrong turns getting there and struggled to spot any sign posts saying 'Parc Slip' but my mobile phone and Google maps saved the day.

We arrived just as one of the wildlife wardens was marching off, closely followed by a line of parents and kids - complete with wellies and fishing nets, so I'm assuming there was a pond dipping exercise taking place somewhere.

The rain eased and the sun threatened to come out and once we were on the trails, the wind eased and the wildlife hunt began.

Our first stop was at the wildlife pond to show my young apprentices some frog spawn, which was so easy to find, it could have been placed there - but perfect for little eyes to spot.

Moving along the trail, grabbing kids from jumping into the deepest puddles, we passed teal and mallard and entered the first bird hide - overlooking a decent sized pond with a small island in the middle.

There was plenty of birdlife on show including black-headed gulls, swans, a heron, plenty of teal and mallards and a lone lapwing sat on the island.

There weren't many people about but I chatted with one gentleman who looked like he knew a thing or two about the reserve and he informed me that there was an adder hotspot nearby.

I was surprised to hear that adder were out and about this early but he assured me there was a section of trail where he regularly saw them when the sun was out, basking in amongst the old bracken and undergrowth.

We by-passed the butterfly and dragonfly walk as my little boy already had soaking wet trousers, socks and wellies and I couldn't face pulling him face-first out of any more mud.

Following a narrow road, I noticed something moving in the verge and was delighted to find a medium sized toad, attempting to burrow its way inside a grassy tussock.

I gently eased him out onto the palm of my hand to show the boys what a toad looked like and after some initial cries of 'monster' and 'dragon' they were genuinely intrigued by this lumpy little brown creature with its long back toes and golden eyes.

A miniature waterfall at Parc Slip reserve.

A miniature waterfall at Parc Slip nature reserve.

There are a few different trails to take, varying in length and I may well have gone wrong opting for the easiest and driest routes on the day but we passed over some little wooden footbridges spanning mini waterfalls flowing into a crystal clear stream.

Along the way we spotted a green woodpecker flitting low across a marshy field, saw great tits and blue tits in the woods and heard chiffchaff and robins up in the tree tops.

Nearing the 'snake section', I moved up ahead of the group as snakes are hard enough to find normally, without two little boys in tow, whacking the brambles with swords fashioned from muddy sticks.

After 10 minutes of pain-staking searching, I spotted what looked to be a silver-grey coloured lizard, approximately 1.5cm in circumference, nestled in a shallow hole surrounded by brambles - my first adder sighting of 2012.

I was expecting to see the pronounced dark zigzag markings of a larger adder but from the small part I could see - this juvenile only had a few black stripes on its side.

I shouted 'adder!' but by the time the group had caught up, it had slowly slithered back into its hole, away from prying eyes. Nevertheless, it was exciting to actually find one, as it literally was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Incidentally - snakes don't hibernate, they brumate over winter. In other words, their body temperature is maintained at a cooler level than normal, but they are awake and slowly move around to keep warm.

The return leg took us past a memorial stone marking the colliery disaster that happened here in the 1892 when 112 people lost their lives and it's hard to believe that this site was once an open cast mine.

From here it was a short trek along a tarmac road past woodland and marshland back to the car park.

I'll definitely be returning in summer, once the reed beds have grown, the weather is warmer and there are a few more birds about, but for a first visit - on a cold, wet and windy day in March, I was very impressed.

Try one of the Parc Slip walks

Parc Slip Nature Reserve

Community woodland

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 15:13 UK time, Friday, 2 March 2012

Have you ever thought of owning your own woods? How about getting together with people living around you and buying a community woodland?

That's what happened when Troserch woods near Llanelli came on the market five years ago.

Villagers got together, decided they didn't want to see their local woods falling into the hands of private enterprise and applied for a grant from the Forestry Commission to buy all 80 acres of Troserch woods.

After the initial sense of achievement when the money came in, the committee members then realised that they had the small matter of maintaining a whole woodland to contend with.

This week I've been for a walk in the Troserch woods, with the woodlanders, to find out how the project is going.

We started from the car park and passed the 'Christmas tree nursery' where around 200 firs were planted two years ago with the aim of selling them (when they're big enough) to local people.

Lincoln Glover lives next door to the woods and has acquired a chain-saw license in order to get stuck in with the continual work of maintaining the forest.

'We clear-felled a whole section near the river last year and sold the timber, giving us enough money to cover our costs for the next ten years' he told me as we headed down one of the trails through the trees.

Around the next corner we came across the roundhouse, a wooden structure with grass covering the roof, complete with a hole in the top, allowing for fires underneath.

It was made by the woodland members from materials gathered entirely from the forest and offers a bit of shelter for anyone using the woods. Standing on its own, completely surrounded by trees, it looked like something from a fairy tale.

But there is a challenge ahead - getting more people to use the woods and get involved. Most of the committee admitted that not enough people in the area know about the woods on their doorstep, never mind helping out with running the scheme.

Greg Wilkinson, another dedicated committee member said that they understand that people have busy lives and not enough time to donate to helping out, but he also stressed that the health benefits from a project like this are huge.

Llais y Goedwig (the Voice of the woods) is the community woodland network for Wales and they're hosting their annual conference next week.

This year's theme is 'participation' - trying to encourage more people to get involved in their local woodlands and having a greater say in how the environment is looked after in Wales at the same time.

Jokes about tree-huggers aside, there's a lot to be said for getting away from it all by getting back to nature.

Our walk in the woods took us down to the River Marlais, where I was reliably informed otters and kingfishers have been spotted. It was a beautiful place and only a few minutes drive from the motorway.

Sometimes it's easy to miss what's right under our noses.

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Warmest place in UK

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Derek Brockway Derek Brockway | 09:22 UK time, Friday, 2 March 2012

It was a dry St. David's day across much of Wales yesterday although it wasn't sunny everywhere and like today, many places woke up to fog making for some tricky driving conditions during rush hour.

The air over us currently has come from the tropics and yesterday Cardiff was the warmest place in Britain with temperature of 16 Celsius recorded at Bute Park which is more like May than February and 7 or 8 degrees above the late February average.

At this time of year there can be big changes in temperature. During the night if the sky stays clear it can turn cold with a risk of frost, mist and fog but by the afternoon it can be pleasantly warm with sunshine and gentle breezes.

We'll see more dry weather today and plenty of sunny spells once the mist and fog lift. Unfortunately over the weekend, the weather will turn more unsettled.

Saturday will be breezy with rain first thing but it should clear and brighten-up with some sunshine and the odd shower.

The forecast for Sunday is more uncertain as it all depends on the track of an area of low pressure moving in from the Atlantic.

At the moment, Sunday could turn out wet with some heavy rain and turner colder too. Some of the rain could turn to sleet and snow, especially on higher ground before it clears.

Next week looks colder with some fine weather, sunshine and frosts.

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