Category: Awards

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.”

Caring quartet have the X-Factor

Caring quartet have the X-Factor

Forget the X Factor – the remarkable qualities of the Fab Four of social care have created a bit of history.

For the first time ever, the prestigious Dignity in Care Award was shared between a quartet of contenders at the Wales Care Awards, organised by Care Forum Wales.

The judges decided that Marian Ryles, Juli Andrew, Inti Zirga and Fay Louise Gallagher all deserved the Gold award.

The accolade was sponsored by the Welsh Assembly Government and the awards were presented by the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Gwenda Thomas AM.

Speaking at the awards ceremony at Cardiff City Hall, Head Judge Jan Wood said: “The standards this year were particularly high and it was absolutely impossible to separate this very special quartet in the Dignity in Care category. They all deserved gold.”

For her part Marian Ryles has now emulated Dame Kelly Holmes by completing a golden “double” after several thrilling experiences.

She completed a parachute jump, abseiled down a cliff and had a go at canoeing but she admitted that her latest achievement left her speechless.

The 56-year-old grandmother won gold in the category for Supported Living Care Practitioner, which was sponsored by Pendine Park Teaching Care Centre and ACT Training. The awards were presented at a ceremony in Cardiff City Hall.

To her amazement she was then named as one of four joint winners of the Dignity in Care Award.

For the past 19 years Marian has worked for the St Asaph-based care organisation Cartref Ni, and for much of that time has been a support worker for people with learning difficulties living in their own home in the Prestatyn.

Marian said she was shocked and embarrassed to be nominated for doing something which she enjoyed so much.

Undaunted, she has taken part in several exciting activities including a parachute jump and abseil down a cliff in Loggerheads to raise money for St Kentigern Hospice.

“To win one gold was amazing, but I couldn’t believe it when they gave me the Dignity in Care Award as well,” she said.

Television presenter Jason Mohammed could plainly see the shock on the face of Julia Andrew, from Aberystwyth, when she also claimed a double success.

She confessed that she was absolutely stunned when her name was announced at the ceremony at which the TV presenter was MC.

For she received not only a silver award in this year’s Wales Care Awards organised by Care Forum Wales but was one of four joint winners of the Dignity in Care award.

Julia, a former firefighter who for the past four years has been Care Manager for Crossroads Mid and West Wales, had been nominated in the category for Leadership and Management in Supported Living Care, sponsored by Christie and Co.

She commented: “Without a great team Crossroads would not be Crossroads. I enjoy working with the team to get them motivated.”

A Swedish woman, Inti Zirga, joined the roll of honour and dedicated her awards to her boss.

She won a gold award in the category for Residential Care Practitioner, sponsored by Barchester Healthcare and was then stunned to be called up onto the stage a second to learn that she was one of four joint winners of the Dignity in Care Award.

Inti, 32, is a senior carer and deputy manager at the Newton Grange Care Home in Newton, Swansea, where her manager, Roberta Rowe, described her as “one in a million”.

She was “over the moon” to have received the awards, and added: “I am dedicating them to Bobby (Roberta) because I couldn’t have done it without her. I came here as a very raw 21-year-old she taught me everything.”

First for Fay Louise Gallagher came a silver for Leading Practice in Learning Disability Services, which was sponsored by Mental Health Care before finding that she, too, had won a gold award for Dignity in Care,

Fay Louise is a support worker for Care Management Group of Pontllanfraith, Blackwood, and was nominated by Rachel Hawkins,  residential services manager.

She believes that clients, whatever their problems, should be able to follow their interests and passions, just like anyone else.

She said:  “After getting the silver, to receive a gold award came as a shock. I’m really pleased and it was a lovely evening.

“I’ve had many messages of congratulations, including from the company head in London, and I’m hoping that these awards will lead to greater things in my career.”

The Deputy Minister said Care Forum Wales  continued to play an important role in advocating the importance of Dignity in Care.

She also congratulated the organisation on the work they were doing to train “dignity ambassadors.”

Mrs Thomas added: “I know how important initiatives such as this that embed dignity in care for all staff are in taking forward this work.

“To demonstrate this commitment in practical terms and to provide support to this work, I have set aside £150,000 to support a number of developments across Wales.

“About 20 small projects have benefited from receiving a small amount of funding from this pot.

“All of these have as their fundamental aim an innovative and person-centred approach to looking at ways that they can take forward the dignity in care agenda.”