Category: Awards

High-flying travel agency lands top industry award

2706ORME TRAVEL03

A high flying travel agency business has landed a top industry honour after a major expansion.

Businesswoman Nia Hughes, who runs Orme Travel in Rhos-on-Sea, received a special recognition award at the 2017 Global Travel Group conference of independent agencies, held in Spain.

After five years of consistent growth from her base in Penrhyn Bay, the former Conwy Council project manager moved into the premises of Grosvenor Travel, which had closed because the owner retired.

According to Nia, she saw an opportunity to expand further and she employed two members of staff who had been made redundant by Grosvenor Travel.

Orme Travel now operates from Penrhyn Avenue in Rhos-on-Sea, with business booming thanks to bookings from existing clients of both agencies, along with new customers.

The way Orme Travel has taken off has also won praise from Colwyn Business Improvement District (BID), which aims to improve the conditions of the main business communities across the Bay of Colwyn  in Colwyn Bay, Rhos-on-Sea, Old Colwyn and Mochdre.

Nia, 44, said: “Things were going well and I developed a really good customer base but my shop in Penrhyn Bay was a little out of the way.

“I saw this as an excellent opportunity to expand my business and I was also able to offer jobs to the two staff who had been made redundant, which was a good thing for us all, as they have over 35 years’ experience in the travel business between them.

“I’m glad to say they are both still working with me – Mandie Brown, who lives in Llysfaen, and Helen Walker, who lives in Rhos.”

Nia, who lives in Llandudno with her husband and has two daughters, added: “Before I went into the travel trade I worked for a number of years in local government and managed European-funded projects for Conwy County Borough Council.

“I’d done quite a bit of foreign travel myself and had always been keen to have my own business. I was able to combine the two things and do something really different when I opened Orme Travel five years ago. I have loved every minute of it.”

One of the staff who kept her job when Nia took over was Mandie Brown who started out working in travel in Denbigh and went on to manage agencies and work in Llandudno and Deganwy before spending 13 years working with the former Grosvenor agency.

She said: “It’s been brilliant to keep my job and in stay in familiar surroundings.

“It’s nice that we still have regular clients we’ve been dealing with for many years coming in to book their holidays and Orme Travel clients along with new ones.”

Orme Travel offers a wide range of travel including coach tours, cruises, escorted tours, beach short and long haul holidays, city breaks and bespoke, tailor-made itineraries.

Nia and the team have just launched a new venture, Orme Travel Tours, which will see groups of people heading for Europe and further afield.

“We are proud to be an independent travel agent, which means we can offer a vast choice of holidays with scores of companies and provide impartial advice.

“However, we are also part of the Global Travel Group, a consortium which has about 400 agents across the UK, which enables us to offer the ATOL – Air Travel Organisers Licence – bond.

“It was as a member of this organisation that we won a special recognition award at the annual Global Travel Group conference at La Manga in Spain for successful expansion and change. I feel very proud of what we’ve achieved in quite a short space of time.

“Since opening in December business has been very good with us retaining Orme Travel Ltd. clients, gaining previous Grosvenor clients and attracting new ones, which is very promising for future growth. I have increased staffing hours since December and am on track to double the turnover this year.

“I think there’s a definite trend towards people who had been booking their holidays and trips online coming back to high street travel agents like ours.

“They value the support and expert knowledge we can offer and also the way we help people to feel more secure, especially with what’s happening in the world at the moment.

“I also think people are becoming more adventurous with their holiday destinations with families, who normally went to Spain, now booking cruises, tours and much more exotic destinations such as China. They need extra support with these kind of trips, which we can provide.

“I think moving to Rhos-on-Sea was the best thing I could have done for my business. I have a great team and we have combined a lot of experience and new ideas. There’s lots of passing trade in Rhos-on-Sea and it is a very happening area where a number of the other shop owners are now my friends.”

Colwyn BID project manager Anna Openshaw said: “It’s great to see an existing business, which was facing closure, being re-born and revived in this way by Nia and her fantastic team.

“Rhos-on-Sea has become an exciting place to be due to the growing number of bespoke businesses that have been moving there over the past few years and Orme Travel Ltd is to be congratulated for adding to the vibrancy of the area.”

To find out more about Colwyn BID please visit www.colwynbid.co.uk and for Orme Travel visit ormetravel.co.uk  or call  01492 540840.

Mountain biking Mecca is Wales’s number one

Bikes
It’s official, it’s number one – Coed Llandegla, with over 200,000 annual visitors and over 40 kilometres of tracks, is Wales’s top mountain biking centre.
Who says so? The mountain bikers bible, Mountain Biking UK magazine, which ranked Coed Llandegla the best of over 20 centres in Wales.
That’s music to the ears of the Oneplanetadventure team who run the bike centre which has grown in five years to be the biggest tourism attraction in Denbighshire.
The magazine says: “Our pick of Wales. No matter what you ride, Llandegla has it covered.
“If there’s such a thing as the future of British mountain biking Llandegla might well be it.”
And it’s just the latest accolade to be picked up by this mountain biking Mecca just off the main Wrexham to Ruthin road in the pine forests of Coed Llandegla.
Their kitchens can cope with 400 people a day and chef Dylan Jones bacon bap was voted best in Britain by The Observer newspaper while the full breakfast was rated best in Wales and two years ago only Glen Tress in Scotland was judged a better challenge for bikers of all standards.
But only five years ago the only people wandering the forest roads would be loggers taking out timber for UPM (United Paper Mills) Tillhill, owners of the woodland, for their giant paper production plant at nearby Shotton.
But now the trails which wind through the stands of pine and spruce are the habitat of bikers and walkers enjoying the challenge of the great outdoors.
They can pull in 1,000 cars a week – that means about 2,500 people with a busy Sunday typically seeing 1,000 visitors to the 1100 acres of woodland.
Oneplanetadventure was begun by mountain biking mates Ian Owen and Jim Gaffney when the owners of the lands, UPM Tillhill, were looking for additional uses for the forest.
It was the kind of job that appealed to local man Ian, from just up the road in Bwlchgwyn and to Jim, then Denbighshire County Council’s mountain biking officer.
Ian, 42, was not long back from being the first Briton to ride across the Himalayas. He said: “That was 6,000 miles and it took me about six months in temperatures that went from -60C to plus 60C.
“I needed to do something before I set off on a round the world bike ride – that’s still the dream.
“UPM Tillhill wanted us to come up with a business plan and Jim and I sat down and did our best but we knew so little about that sort of thing that we forgot about VAT and all our figures were 17 and a half per cent out.”
They did enough to impress UPM though and what they lacked in managerial experience they made up for in biking know-how and enthusiasm.
It’s a determination that is recognised by Denbighshire County Council’s Principal Area Regeneration Officer, Sue Haygarth who said  “Coed Llandegla is the perfect example of a business realising its vision through expertise and determination.
“They have a fantastic natural environment there for biking but the skill is in recognizing that magnificent resource and having the knowhow to take advantage of it and make it happen and in having sympathetic owners in UPM Tillhill who have allowed them to develop the business.”
Ian, 42, said: “I got into mountain biking at the start back in the early 1980s and people ask me now, ‘Are you still playing with mountain bikes?’ and I say, ‘Yes I am and I’ve turned it into a successful business.’”
That business was threatened by the worst winter in over 30 years with up to two feet of snow closing the trails at Llandegla for weeks and Ian and Jim estimate they have lost £100,000.
They’re weathering the financial storm though and £1million of new investment is going into the centre with new trails including a ferociously fast freeride track with some terrifying leaps and banked curves or berms as well as a major new skills area.
That will be in addition to the existing trails ranging from the family or green trail, an introductory three mile course that can be ridden on a road bike, through more challenging beginners and intermediate tracks up to the 13-mile Black run for the more expert biker.
“We wanted to provide a place where anyone could come along and ride,” added Ian: “Where families can go out together and where people can improve and build their skills.
“Each run is separate so you always have the feeling you’re on a journey and that’s part of the appeal.
“Our average customer is 39 years old, lives in Stockport, drives an Audi A3 and earns about £50,000 a year but that doesn’ty mean we don’t cater for everyone else.”
Everyone else includes the likes of the amazing Atherton family from Oswestry, Gee, Dan and Rachel, champions all, and Jason Rennie, Wales’s answer to Evel Knievel and until recently the holder of the world record motorbike jump at over 250 feet.
Jason also set the world distance record of 134 feet for a pushbike and he did it at Llandegla in 2008, towed behind a motorbike until he reached 85mph when he dropped the rope and shot up the ramp.
He’s at Llandegla regularly building the new tracks and is a big fan, having known Ian Owen since boyhood.
Working hard to improve has been key to what Oneplanetadventure have done but, according to Ian, they started with some obvious advantages.
“We’re within two hours drive for a third of the population of the UK,” he said: “And really this is the first hill you reach for miles across the flat lands of the Cheshire plain so we’re in the ideal spot.
“When we started we sold coffee, tea, bacon baps and inner tubes – now we’ve got an award-winning restaurant and a shop with over £150,000 of stock, and quality changing facilities and showers.
“But Wales really is the most fantastic place for mountain biking and could sell itself a lot more but it’s a question of money.
“Four years ago Wales was voted the best mountain biking destination in the world and it still is – it’s perfect.
“If you’re in the Alps or in Canada you’re fine if you’ve got a chair lift to get you up there but you can’t ride anywhere else but here in Wales we’ve got miles of bridleways as well which you can access.
“I’ve been lucky enough to ride all over the world and every time I come back I realise just how good the riding is here.”
For the high jump: Oneplanetadventure partners Jim Gaffney, left and Ian Owen, with flying bikers Jason Rennie and Mei Black.

It’s official, it’s number one – Coed Llandegla, with over 200,000 annual visitors and over 40 kilometres of tracks, is Wales’s top mountain biking centre.Who says so? The mountain bikers bible, Mountain Biking UK magazine, which ranked Coed Llandegla the best of over 20 centres in Wales.That’s music to the ears of the Oneplanetadventure team who run the bike centre which has grown in five years to be the biggest tourism attraction in Denbighshire.The magazine says: “Our pick of Wales. No matter what you ride, Llandegla has it covered.“If there’s such a thing as the future of British mountain biking Llandegla might well be it.”And it’s just the latest accolade to be picked up by this mountain biking Mecca just off the main Wrexham to Ruthin road in the pine forests of Coed Llandegla.Their kitchens can cope with 400 people a day and chef Dylan Jones bacon bap was voted best in Britain by The Observer newspaper while the full breakfast was rated best in Wales and two years ago only Glen Tress in Scotland was judged a better challenge for bikers of all standards.But only five years ago the only people wandering the forest roads would be loggers taking out timber for UPM (United Paper Mills) Tillhill, owners of the woodland, for their giant paper production plant at nearby Shotton.But now the trails which wind through the stands of pine and spruce are the habitat of bikers and walkers enjoying the challenge of the great outdoors.They can pull in 1,000 cars a week – that means about 2,500 people with a busy Sunday typically seeing 1,000 visitors to the 1100 acres of woodland.Oneplanetadventure was begun by mountain biking mates Ian Owen and Jim Gaffney when the owners of the lands, UPM Tillhill, were looking for additional uses for the forest.It was the kind of job that appealed to local man Ian, from just up the road in Bwlchgwyn and to Jim, then Denbighshire County Council’s mountain biking officer.Ian, 42, was not long back from being the first Briton to ride across the Himalayas. He said: “That was 6,000 miles and it took me about six months in temperatures that went from -60C to plus 60C.“I needed to do something before I set off on a round the world bike ride – that’s still the dream.“UPM Tillhill wanted us to come up with a business plan and Jim and I sat down and did our best but we knew so little about that sort of thing that we forgot about VAT and all our figures were 17 and a half per cent out.”They did enough to impress UPM though and what they lacked in managerial experience they made up for in biking know-how and enthusiasm.It’s a determination that is recognised by Denbighshire County Council’s Principal Area Regeneration Officer, Sue Haygarth who said  “Coed Llandegla is the perfect example of a business realising its vision through expertise and determination.“They have a fantastic natural environment there for biking but the skill is in recognizing that magnificent resource and having the knowhow to take advantage of it and make it happen and in having sympathetic owners in UPM Tillhill who have allowed them to develop the business.”Ian, 42, said: “I got into mountain biking at the start back in the early 1980s and people ask me now, ‘Are you still playing with mountain bikes?’ and I say, ‘Yes I am and I’ve turned it into a successful business.’”That business was threatened by the worst winter in over 30 years with up to two feet of snow closing the trails at Llandegla for weeks and Ian and Jim estimate they have lost £100,000.They’re weathering the financial storm though and £1million of new investment is going into the centre with new trails including a ferociously fast freeride track with some terrifying leaps and banked curves or berms as well as a major new skills area.That will be in addition to the existing trails ranging from the family or green trail, an introductory three mile course that can be ridden on a road bike, through more challenging beginners and intermediate tracks up to the 13-mile Black run for the more expert biker.“We wanted to provide a place where anyone could come along and ride,” added Ian: “Where families can go out together and where people can improve and build their skills.“Each run is separate so you always have the feeling you’re on a journey and that’s part of the appeal.“Our average customer is 39 years old, lives in Stockport, drives an Audi A3 and earns about £50,000 a year but that doesn’ty mean we don’t cater for everyone else.”Everyone else includes the likes of the amazing Atherton family from Oswestry, Gee, Dan and Rachel, champions all, and Jason Rennie, Wales’s answer to Evel Knievel and until recently the holder of the world record motorbike jump at over 250 feet.Jason also set the world distance record of 134 feet for a pushbike and he did it at Llandegla in 2008, towed behind a motorbike until he reached 85mph when he dropped the rope and shot up the ramp.He’s at Llandegla regularly building the new tracks and is a big fan, having known Ian Owen since boyhood.Working hard to improve has been key to what Oneplanetadventure have done but, according to Ian, they started with some obvious advantages.“We’re within two hours drive for a third of the population of the UK,” he said: “And really this is the first hill you reach for miles across the flat lands of the Cheshire plain so we’re in the ideal spot.“When we started we sold coffee, tea, bacon baps and inner tubes – now we’ve got an award-winning restaurant and a shop with over £150,000 of stock, and quality changing facilities and showers.“But Wales really is the most fantastic place for mountain biking and could sell itself a lot more but it’s a question of money.“Four years ago Wales was voted the best mountain biking destination in the world and it still is – it’s perfect.“If you’re in the Alps or in Canada you’re fine if you’ve got a chair lift to get you up there but you can’t ride anywhere else but here in Wales we’ve got miles of bridleways as well which you can access.“I’ve been lucky enough to ride all over the world and every time I come back I realise just how good the riding is here.”

For the high jump: Oneplanetadventure partners Jim Gaffney, left and Ian Owen, with flying bikers Jason Rennie and Mei Black.

Gethin is on top of the world

Gethin Hughes and Pete Williams
A university student won a bronze medal at the tae kwon do world championships.
Gethin Ceidiog Hughes, 18, from Denbigh, fought his way to the semi-final at the tournament held at the Telford International Arena.
His instructor, Pete Williams, said Gethin’s achievement was all the more remarkable because a knee injury meant he’d lost a lot of training leading up to the event.
A former pupil of Ysgol Glan Clwyd, in St Asaph, Gethin is now studying Product Design at UWIC in Cardiff.
He took up tae kwon do, a martial art which originated in Korea, four years ago and attends Pete’s classes at St Asaph Leisure Centre.
Last year Gethin won a gold medal at the Welsh Closed Championships in Cardiff  and a bronze medal at the British Championships in Hereford.
But the world championships in Telford were a major step up with 2,000 competitors from around the world, from as far afield as America and Australia.
Pete’s son, Terry, who also won a world bronze a few years ago, sparred with Gethin in the weeks leading up to the event where he was competing in the lightweight men’s division for red belts.
He said: “It was a really tough tournament and I was thrilled to have won a bronze medal in the world championships.
“I really do have to pay tribute to Pete because he is an absolutely brilliant instructor and the sparring sessions with Terry were a huge help.”
Pete, from Mynydd Isa, near Mold, is a 4th Dan black belt. He is a fully qualified instructor accredited by the Taekwondo Association of Great Britain and has been teaching taekwondo in St Asaph for 10 years.
He said: “I’m here in St Asaph to try and help kids to become better, to look after themselves and to give them the confidence and the belief in themselves,
“It helps give them confidence in life and teaches them discipline and self-control. It gives you respect for other people.
“In the weeks leading up to the world championships, Terry gave Gethin extra sparring training on Saturday mornings.
“Gethin has shown that he’s got the commitment and the ability.
“Unfortunately, he got an injury before hand. If he’d been able to train fully, I quite believe he could have quite easily won the world championships.
“I am absolutely delighted because this is a huge accolade for such a small club.
“The competitors came from every corner of the world and for Gethin to come third  in the world is fantastic. It’s a brilliant achievement.”
The tae kwon do classes are held at St Asaph Leisure Centre every Wednesday and Friday evening between 7pm and 8pm with classes for younger children on Saturday mornings between 10am and 11am. The first taster lesson is free.

A university student won a bronze medal at the tae kwon do world championships.

Gethin Ceidiog Hughes, 18, from Denbigh, fought his way to the semi-final at the tournament held at the Telford International Arena.
His instructor, Pete Williams, said Gethin’s achievement was all the more remarkable because a knee injury meant he’d lost a lot of training leading up to the event.
A former pupil of Ysgol Glan Clwyd, in St Asaph, Gethin is now studying Product Design at UWIC in Cardiff.
He took up tae kwon do, a martial art which originated in Korea, four years ago and attends Pete’s classes at St Asaph Leisure Centre.
Last year Gethin won a gold medal at the Welsh Closed Championships in Cardiff  and a bronze medal at the British Championships in Hereford.
But the world championships in Telford were a major step up with 2,000 competitors from around the world, from as far afield as America and Australia.
Pete’s son, Terry, who also won a world bronze a few years ago, sparred with Gethin in the weeks leading up to the event where he was competing in the lightweight men’s division for red belts.
He said: “It was a really tough tournament and I was thrilled to have won a bronze medal in the world championships.
“I really do have to pay tribute to Pete because he is an absolutely brilliant instructor and the sparring sessions with Terry were a huge help.”
Pete, from Mynydd Isa, near Mold, is a 4th Dan black belt. He is a fully qualified instructor accredited by the Taekwondo Association of Great Britain and has been teaching taekwondo in St Asaph for 10 years.
He said: “I’m here in St Asaph to try and help kids to become better, to look after themselves and to give them the confidence and the belief in themselves,
“It helps give them confidence in life and teaches them discipline and self-control. It gives you respect for other people.
“In the weeks leading up to the world championships, Terry gave Gethin extra sparring training on Saturday mornings.
“Gethin has shown that he’s got the commitment and the ability.
“Unfortunately, he got an injury before hand. If he’d been able to train fully, I quite believe he could have quite easily won the world championships.
“I am absolutely delighted because this is a huge accolade for such a small club.
“The competitors came from every corner of the world and for Gethin to come third  in the world is fantastic. It’s a brilliant achievement.”
The tae kwon do classes are held at St Asaph Leisure Centre every Wednesday and Friday evening between 7pm and 8pm with classes for younger children on Saturday mornings between 10am and 11am. The first taster lesson is free.

Angel Katie is now a champion elf too!

Angel Katie is now a champion elf too!

A little girl from Wrexham has been chosen as the first ever Champion Elf of Wales.

Katie Jones, three, was chosen by a panel of judges headed by the man of the moment, Santa Claus.

The Welsh National Elf Service Championships were held at the Debenhams store at the Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre in Wrexham.

Apart from Santa, the other guests of honour included the Mayor and Mayoress of Wrexham, Cllr Jim Kelly, and his wife Elizabeth, and the children were entertained by award-winning magician Jay Gatling.

It’s hoped the Elf Championships will now become an annual event.

Appropriately, winning elf Katie will be celebrating her fourth birthday on Christmas Eve.

Mum Angela said: “It’s been brilliant and the kids have been excited all day.  I spent all morning doing her hair and getting her make-up right.

“I couldn’t believe that she is the first ever Champion Elf of Wales – and she’s an angel in her nursery school nativity play this year.”

Two other Elves, Noah Murray Jones, four and half, from Holywell, and Abbie Jones, from Wrexham, were chosen as Highly Commended Elves.

Noah’s mum, Emma, said: “I think it’s very well organised and it was great and the magician show topped it all off nicely. Noah is thrilled.”

Equally delighted was Abbie’s mum, Rachel, who added “She loves this kind of thing, she was so excited. She couldn’t wait and she’s had a whale of a time. It’s a very exciting time of year – kids love it and so do the mums.”

The proceedings were hosted by former children’s television presenter Nia Ceidiog, who hails from Wrexham.

These days she’s the boss of an independent television production company and will be attending a very different event next Sunday.

Her documentary series for pre-school children, Y Diwrnod Mawr (Big Day), has been shortlisted for a Children’s BAFTA and she will be attending the ceremony at London’s Park Lane Hilton next Sunday evening.

She said: “I love working with children and the Elf Championships are a  lovely idea. Let’s face it, Santa is going to be extremely busy between now and Christmas and he can do with all the help he can get. We had some really fantastic elves  here today. They’ve all done Santa proud.”

Cllr Jim Kelly said: “I have really enjoyed myself here today, it’s been tremendous. A big part of my role is to be out in the community, being the civic face of Wrexham and saying thank  you to everybody and it’s lovely to see the children here, it brings their families in and it’s the start of the festive season.

“The effort that they’ve made is fantastic. We need more events like this and let’s not forget this is a historic occasion, we have the first ever Elf Champion of Wales. Wrexham is setting the trend as usual.”

Head Judge Santa was delighted with the standards of Elves who came forward to take part.

He said: “I can see that Wrexham is the perfect venue for the Welsh National Elf Service Championships and I’m planning to be back next year.”

Father Christmas was assisted on the judging panel by Rob Mannix, the Manager of Debenhams, and Kevin Critchley, the Manager of the Eagles Meadow shopping centre.

Rob said: “It was a magical occasion. I think this will become an annual event and hopefully next year we’ll have even more young children vying for the opportunity to help Santa.”

Kevin added: “I absolutely loved it. It was great to see the smiling faces of the children and the real apprehension on the faces of the parents.

“I’m not sure who took it more seriously, the children or the parent – but everybody enjoyed it.

“There were some remarkably good elves here and I think Santa can take quite a few of them to help him pack the presents and making toys for the children.

“They were very enthusiastic about the idea of working hard, they’ve put a lot of effort into it and one little girl pointed out that working hard was the most important thing an elf had to do.”