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Village Bakery duo join upper crust with top awards


Two bakery apprentices have risen to the top to win prestigious awards.

The duo from the Village Bakery were honoured at Coleg Cambria’s annual awards for apprentices studying with them.

Daryl Stephenson 36, from Ruabon, was named Bakery Apprentice of the Year while Tim Pluvis, 22, from Llangollen, was crowned Engineering Maintenance Learner of the Year.

Late-starter Daryl fulfilled a life-long ambition to work with food when he joined the Village Bakery three years ago.

The father of two previously worked as a team leader at Tesco and as an aerial installer.

He now works in the family firm’s new test kitchen and recently met the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall when they officially opened the new £4 million Baking Academy and Innovation Centre on Wrexham Industrial Estate.

Daryl, who’s now studying for a Level 3 NVQ said: “I always wanted to work with food and this was the time to do it.  So I applied and I was lucky enough to get a job here.

“When I left school I really wanted to become a chef but at the time I didn’t have the transport to get to Deeside College which was the only place that did it at the time.  So I settled for my second choice which was electronics.

“I’m now fulfilling my life’s ambition because I love working with food.  With hindsight, I should have done it years ago.

“I’m doing product development and working in the new test kitchen which has  wonderful top of the range equipment.  Every day is like Christmas and every day is different.  There’s always a new challenge, something new is being developed or something’s changed.

“I also got to meet the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall when they came. I had a brief chat with the prince – he’s very funny and very pleasant.  It was a great experience meeting him and Camilla as well.

“I was very honoured to win the Bakery Apprentice of the Year Award – you might say I was surprised but very delighted.”

Winning the award was also a proud moment for Tim Pluves who beat stiff competition from 500 engineering apprentices working for other major employers like Airbus, Shell and Magellan.

Tim, a talented rugby player, who represented North Wales in his youth, joined the Village Bakery two and half years ago after studying electrical and mechanical engineering at Coleg Cambria.

He said: “I came here as an apprentice and I’m now doing a HNC course and going into my second year.

“The Village Bakery is a brilliant place to work and they have funded all my studying. They’ve always looked after me and given me the training and opportunities that I desired.

“It’s a growing company, expanding all the time so there are great opportunities here.  It’s a go-ahead company and it feels like I joined at the right time but you have to work hard.”

Managing director Robin Jones said: “I am extremely proud of Daryl and Tim. They are a credit to themselves and to the Village Bakery.

“One of our strengths as a company is that we have always been able to develop our own talent.

“Most of our managers and supervisors started out as apprentices and that’s important because they have bought into the Village Bakery ethos of doing things in the right way to ensure that quality is always king.

“People like Daryl and Tim are providing a firm foundation for future growth and success and we will be training a new generation of apprentices at our state-of-the-art Baking Academy and Innovation Centre.”

Carenarfon care home crowned as best new in UK


A £7 million centre of excellence for dementia care in Gwynedd has been crowned as the best new care home in the UK.

Bryn Seiont Newydd, in Caernarfon, took the top prize in the main category at the prestigious Pinders Healthcare Design Awards 2016.

The glittering Oscars-style presentation ceremony attended by 2,000 people was held at the four-star Lancaster Hotel, in London.

Bryn Seiont Newydd was opened by the Pendine Park care organisation last November on the leafy five-acre site of the former Ysbyty Bryn Seiont community hospital on the outskirts of Caernarfon.

The bilingual, 71-bed facility is already full and has created more than 100 much-needed jobs in the area.

The centre, designed by Denbigh-based chartered building surveyors Wynn Rogers and built by Ruthin-based Carroll’s, is divided into eight small, family-like units so that the residents receive individual care and attention while benefiting from the back-up of a larger organisation.

Work is now underway to build 16 companion living apartments to help couples stay independent for longer.

The development is the brainchild of Mario Kreft MBE and his wife, Gill, who founded the company just over 30 years ago when they were unable to find suitable social care for their own grandparents.

The couple now run seven other care homes in Wrexham, a domiciliary care company and their own in-house training organisation, employing a total of around 800 people.

Mr Kreft, who is also the chair of Care Forum Wales and received his MBE for services to social care, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that Bryn Seiont Newydd has been recognised as the best new care home in the UK.

“We are particularly proud that we have been able to invest in North West Wales and build Bryn Seiont Newydd without any public funding.

“The fact there has been so much interest so soon is a clear demonstration of the need for the services that we are providing here for the community.

“We have been deeply touched by the warmth of the welcome we have received from the local community and the genuine enthusiasm for what we are aiming to achieve.

“While getting the fabric of the building right was extremely important, what makes Bryn Seiont even more special is the fantastic, committed team we have working here.

“The golden thread running through everything we do is our award-winning enrichment programme which put the arts right at the centre of how we improve the quality of life for our residents and also the staff looking after them.

“We have appointed a musician and an artist in residence because we want our residents to have opportunities to engage in the arts and music as we know from experience the massive benefits this can bring to their lives.”

Among those representing Pendine Park at the awards ceremony was Sarah Edwards, who works on a consultancy basis as their artist in residence.

Ms Edwards, who was responsible for the acclaimed interior design of Bryn Seiont, said: “This is a fantastic accolade for Bryn Seiont Newydd and I feel honoured and privileged to have been part of the team who made it all happen.”

Equally proud was Sandra Evans, the manager of Bryn Seiont Newydd.

She said: “We already have an Investors in People gold award in Wrexham and this is something we would like to extend to Caernarfon, using our own training company, the Pendine Academy of Social Care.

“The value of high quality and relevant training is at the heart of our philosophy which is why we have developed our own bespoke training programme in which the arts are embedded for all our members of staff, including the admin, maintenance and cleaning teams.

“We are determined to create something really special here at Bryn Seiont Newydd and the site itself, that’s fringed with mature trees, is the perfect setting.”

Click and Collect boost for shopping centre


THE internet revolution has brought a massive boost for a shopping centre in North Wales.

While many predicted that online sales would sound the death knell of traditional bricks and mortar shopping, major stores at the Eagles Meadow in Wrexham say their sales have been given a healthy shot in the arm by Click and Collect.

Retailers say more and more customers order online and picking up their purchases in store, often the next day.

Andy Smethurst, operations manager of the big Debenhams store, revealed that their Click and Collect operation had grown by as much as 20 per cent in just the past year.

Store bosses said that new lower parking fees announced at Eagles Meadow to widespread acclaim late last year were also making it easier for people to collect their internet purchases. And centre bosses confirmed that the number of car parking was up by 30 per cent.

Andy Smethurst said: “We set up our Click and Collect facility a few years ago and it’s increasing in popularity to the point where it went up by 20 per cent last year.

“People order online and, with most things, they can pick their purchase from a dedicated area in store the next day, free of charge.

“If we’ve got the item in stock at the store we can set it aside ready for collection and if we don’t have it we can have it sent from another of our centres by 10am next day.

“People like Click and Collect because they don’t have to wait in at home while a courier service delivers their goods at home or drops them off with a neighbour.

“They can collect at their own convenience and it only takes a few minutes for them to come into the store, either during the day or after work, especially on our late night shopping evenings.

“Another bonus for us is that when they come in to collect their purchase people have a look around the store and buy other things.

“The cheaper parking introduced at Eagles Meadow just before Christmas has also helped to boost our Click and Collect service.”

Emma Pashley, manager of the Topman store, reckons as many as 70 per cent of people who come in to collect items bought online make further purchases when they call in store.

She said: “Topman and our sister store Topshop introduced Click and Collect just over two years ago and it’s gone from strength to strength.

“People order items in the comfort of their own home and then don’t have to wait around at home for it to be delivered, which is difficult if you’re out at work all day.

“It’s increased in popularity quite a bit since we started it and usage of the service peaks just before Christmas and during the holiday season when people are getting their new summer clothes together.

“There are quite a lot people who take a look around the store and see other things they like when they come in to pick up their purchases. In fact, I’d say that 70 per cent of people buy something extra in that way.

“Click and Collect has been a real boost for us as it’s bringing more people into our store and increasing the centre’s footfall generally.”

Ann Littler, manager of the Wallis clothes store, said: “We’ve definitely seen our Click and Collect service get more popular since we started it a couple of years ago.

“We have one main delivery of goods bought online each week and it’s now usually three big sacks full of items.

“We’ve also got a computer terminal in store with which people can order online if we don’t happen to have the size or colour they want.  These items can also be delivered on a Click and Collect basis.

“By getting people into the store in this way we’re also seeing them buy other things, which has been good for our business and the footfall of the whole shopping centre.

“It’s just another customer service that you must have if you want to have a successful business in this day and age.”

Eagles Meadow centre manager Kevin Critchley said: “It’s the case these days that most bricks and mortar retailers are also internet retailers, so offering Click and Collect makes obvious sense.

“It’s advantageous in that it not only brings more people into the shopping centre when they pick up their purchases but also means that retailers with limited floor space can offer a much wider range of stock from their online collection.

“Of course, the popularity of Click and Collect at Eagles Meadow has been helped tremendously by our new car parking rates, which were drastically reduced by between 55 per cent and 38 per cent last winter.

“Our latest figures show that the number of car parking tickets sold at Eagles Meadow in February was 30 per cent up on the same period the previous year, which shows clearly that the reduced charges are attracting more people to shop at the centre.

“Among the changes is a new one hour rate of £1 for people who just need to pop by for a quick visit, and that makes it far cheaper to leave your vehicle while you collect your purchases than it would have been this time last year.

“The two hour rate has been cut from £3.10 to £1.50 while the three hour charge is down from £4.49 to £2, with a reduction in the four hour fee from £5.60 to £3.50.

“The evening rate has also been reduced from £2.50 to £1.50 for people going to the cinema, tenpin bowling or to eat at one of the centre’s restaurants.

“The change came about because the lease held by car park operators Vinci was  terminated by mutual agreement and taken over by multi-national car park specialists Secure Parking UK who have more than a million car parking spaces in 11 countries world-wide.”

For more information about the Click and Collect services available at Eagles Meadow go to