Category: News

Eco-friendly baker creates new ponds for wildlife

Village Bakery Wrexham .... Pictured is Director Christien Jones.

A new haven for wildlife is taking shape right in the middle of one of the UK’s biggest industrial estates.

The Village Bakery have spent £25,000 on creating two new ponds at the six-acre nature reserve at Erlas Black Wood.

The site is next door to the family firm’s two bakeries on Wrexham Industrial Estate and will become an amenity for staff and members of the public when it’s finished.

The broad leaf woodland dates back to the 17th century and includes native species like oak, ash and willow.

It’s known there are tawny owls nesting there and it is also an important habitat for greater crested newts.

The company has been working with the North Wales Wildlife Trust and environmental specialists Enfys Ecology to create and manage the habitat for the newts.

Projects director Christien Jones said: “We’ve created two new ponds to add to one that was there already.

“One of them is 40 metres by 20 metres, another them is 10 metres squared and the third one is about 30 metres by 20 metres.

“They’re substantial ponds but they’ve been designed by Enfys Ecology to have certain depths, to have some newt habitat.

“The habitats come in various forms, from piles of logs, decaying logs, to piles of used brick.

“The newts like long grass and undisturbed felled trees so we’ve cleared a few trees and mulched some others, while some we’ve left as stacks of logs.

“Our ultimate aim is to open the area up to our staff and members of the public as an area where people can go for a relaxing walk.

“There are thousands of people working on the estate and I am sure they would welcome somewhere to go during their lunch break instead of doing a circuit around the main road.

The nature reserve project is part of the company’s Village Green campaign to make the family-run business as environmentally sustainable as possible.

Since 2012 the Village Bakery – which has another bakery in Minera – has slashed the use of electricity by 18 per cent

They have also installed more than 1,000 roof-top solar panels. The 250 kilowatt system means in summer they are able to run their bakery just on solar energy during the majority of daylight hours.

Earlier this year the Village Bakery planted the verges and grassed areas around its two bakeries on Wrexham Industrial Estate with wildflower seeds.

According to the company, the newly-sown wildflowers in the verges will create the idea habitat for the endangered Grizzled Skipper butterflies.

The numbers of the butterfly, which has a distinctive chequered black and white pattern on its wings, have halved in Britain over the past 40 years.

In addition, they have created a spectacular four storey high living wall of evergreen plants at their new Baking Academy and Innovation Centre which was officially opened by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall .

The building’s ground-breaking design includes a host of other green features including rainwater harvesting, massive levels of insulation and building panels made of recycled material.

The living wall – believed to be the biggest of its type in Wales – has been planted with hundreds of plants which change colour as the seasons come and go.

Mr Jones added: “Business has a responsibility to the environment to do our duty and set something aside for these purposes because otherwise the whole area will be covered in concrete.

“We want to show that it is possible for business to live in harmony with nature, for the benefit of both.

“We have a track record of investing in the environment. It’s part of our DNA as a company thanks to our chairman, Alan Jones, who has been a champion of the countryside for years.

“As a company, the Village Bakery has had an environmental policy for a long, long time, long before it became a requirement.

“We feel it is really important that we invest in the future of the planet and our nature reserve project makes a real statement about our commitment to the environment.”

Talented young printmaker wins top award

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A talented young North Wales designer currently taking the luxury fashion world by storm has just landed a prestigious award.

Gethin Ceidiog Hughes, 26, from Denbigh, has added to his widespread acclaim by scooping the coveted Eirian Llwyd Memorial Award to honour artists who have shown outstanding dedication and creative talent in their field of printmaking.

At the same time, his striking new range of woven silk scarves  is selling well in high-end boutiques and shops after being launched last year.

Eirian Llwyd, the wife of former Plaid Cymru leader and Deputy First Minister of Wales Ieuan Wyn Jones, was herself a distinguished printmaker and founder of Y Lle Print Gwreiddiol – The Original Print Place – on Anglesey.

Following her death at the age of 63 in 2014, her family and the Arts Council of Wales set up a memorial trust in her name to provide financial awards for new and upcoming Welsh artists who specialise in the medium of printmaking.

Gethin is only the third winner of the annual award which carries a cash bonus of up to £2,500 to allow artists to develop and continue their printmaking practice by purchasing new equipment or working on new projects.

Nominations for the award come from the curators of galleries or managers of print centres across Wales and it’s judged by a panel of experts including the Arts Council of Wales’ Portfolio Manager for Visual and Applied Arts, a development officer and a national adviser with expertise in visual arts.

Gethin, who completed his MA at the famous Cardiff School of Art and Design and has rapidly established a formidable reputation as a photographer and printmaker, said the money would help finance new developments and projects.

His range of women’s scarves which are proving such a hit with fashion conscious buyers are based on geometric patterns inspired by the work of Russian painter Kazimir Malevich.

All six designs, which Gethin is marketing under the brand Wilding, which is his mother’s middle name, are derived from Malevich’s iconic 1915 painting Black Square and are variations on the same theme of black and white squares.

He turned to a traditional silk weaving mill in Halifax, West Yorkshire, to have them woven ready for the shops using the traditional weaving process.

Aimed at the luxury end of the market, the scarves retail at £200.

Gethin said: “Things have been going very well and I’ve had lots of positive feedback so far. The scarves are available at boutiques and other high-end outlets across North Wales and northern England.

“I’ve been so busy with the scarves project that I’d almost forgotten that Philip Hughes, the director of Ruthin Craft Centre, had entered me for the Eirian Llwyd Memorial Award.

“This is the first award I’ve ever entered and to win is just fantastic. It was also totally unexpected as I know there such a talented pool of artists to choose from.

The presentation took place during the Creative Conversations event hosted by the Arts Council of Wales at the Volcano Theatre in Swansea.

He added: “I’m very proud to have won such a respected award, especially as I’m one of the first few recipients, and the money I’ll receive as part of it will come as a big and welcome boost to me.

“It will allow me to take my career to the next level. As an artist finding funds is always difficult but this will give me a really good kick-start and push in the right direction.

“It will enable me to do different types of work and to think about new designs and projects. So for me it’s definitely now a case of onwards and upwards.

”I feel hugely honoured that the award is in memory of Eirian Llwyd who was a remarkably talented printmaker who also did so much to promote the medium, as well as providing opportunities for artists in Wales.

Before he came up with the scarves, a landmark artistic project for Gethin came in 2016 when he produced a series of screen prints to visually tell the story behind tracks from a new album by Bristol band Dr Meaker, recently feted as the UK’s hottest live dance act.

In the world of photography Gethin has had assignments for every major event music promoter in Cardiff, which gave him the opportunity to picture a string of major international DJs and music bosses, including the legendary drum and bass producer Goldie.

Examples of Gethin’s powerful work have been published in Complex Magazine, Drum & Bass Arena, Wales Online, BBC Wales and also in regional newspapers.

In 2015 he staged his first photographic exhibition at which he showcased his work as part of the international Diffusion Festival.

This exposure sparked off a boom in his projects, including the Sunfall Festival in London and his collaboration with Dr Meaker.

More recently Gethin has trained with artists and printers as part of the Proof Scholarship scheme at the Regional Print Centre which is part of Coleg Cambria in Wrexham.

Gethin was nominated for the Eirian Llwyd Memorial Ward by Philip Hughes, who runs the Ruthin Craft Centre.

He said: “Gethin is a particularly interesting and innovative young artist designer with a distinctive talent and I’m delighted that he has won this award.

“He has achieved much since he graduated and gained a wealth of relevant expertise to achieve his ambitions.

“He has pursued all the opportunities that have been offered to him including developing commissioned work alongside his own practice. He is now at an important point in his early career and beginning to establish his practice in Wales.

“His recent work is a journey of exploration, at first using silk-screen, but now moving in to etching.

“I believe he has considerable talent. His prints exude a vibrant and joyful use of colour coupled with vital abstract mark-making.”

Course creates marriage made in business heaven

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A pioneering leadership and management course played cupid to two Anglesey firms.

Peninsula Home Improvements and Gwynedd Garage Doors Ltd have now moved in together in a “marriage made in business heaven”.

They struck up their unique relationship at the European-funded ION Leadership Programme at Bangor University.

As a result, Gwynedd Garage doors are now based at Peninsula’s premises in Gaerwen, with a spectacular view overlooking the Menai Strait towards Snowdonia.

The union has provided a big boost for both companies because their businesses are complementary and they now generate new customers for each other.

It all came about after Peninsula chief executive Ken Grayson met Carys Owen whose brother, Paul, runs Gwynedd Garage Doors, during one of the ION Leadership courses.

As well as selling uPVC doors and windows, Peninsula concentrate on high-end glazing products similar to the ones used on the hit TV show Grand Designs fronted by Kevin McCloud.

In the past they also sold garage doors but it was never a core part of the business.

Ken said: “I was on my second ION course at the university where one of the benefits is the opportunity to network and talk to like-minded people.

“I met Carys and we realised that we weren’t focusing really strongly on garage doors which is something they obviously specialise in.

“As companies, we both had gaps in what we offered so it seemed to be a really good, cooperative way of partnering up.

“It’s a strategic arrangement and it works for both sides so there were no disadvantages for either of us. It just seemed like a marriage made in business heaven.

“The synergy between the two companies means we are now greater than the sum of our individual parts.”

As well as being based in Gaerwen where they pay rent for the office, showroom and warehouse space, Gwynedd Garage Doors also benefit from the Peninsula sales team who drum up sales leads when they are out and about.

Together, the two companies have a workforce of around 30 people, with 23 of them on the Peninsula side.

The agreement is working well for Gwynedd Garage Doors which was founded by Carys and Paul’s dad, Goronwy, in Aberffraw, in the early 1980s.

Paul said: “Our passion is garage doors and the benefit of this arrangement is that it frees up my time to do what I’m good at which is installing doors, and surveying and getting the customer the best door for their budget.

“Having the salesman going out and selling before I go in and finish off the installations, and just being incorporated with a bigger brand is good for our brand.

“This partnership works well for all involved, especially the customer because we’re now a one stop shop for everything they need.”

It was a sentiment echoed by sister Carys, managing director of a business consultancy company, Capacity2learn.

She said: “Moving in together seemed like a win-win situation for us and what  the ION course gave us was the confidence to think outside the box to come up with this imaginative solution to make the most of the strengths of both companies. Lots of positives have come out of it from both sides.”

Gwenllian Owen, the Programme Manager for the ION Leadership project, which is  backed with £2.7 million from the European Social Fund, is proud of both business partners in the new relationship.

She said:  “ION leadership helps develop and grow small to medium enterprises and works with large organisations as well.

“We work with business owners, managers and aspiring leaders to help them develop their leadership skills in order to become more effective at what they do but also to encourage and support their staff to become more effective.

“In this case we seem to have acted like a dating agency for Peninsula and Gwynedd Garage Doors and it’s worked out really well.

“It’s very satisfying because we work very closely with these businesses when they’re on the programmes and encourage them to discuss potential partnerships.

“We have seen a number of partnerships develop as a result of our courses but this is the first one where they are working so closely and based at the same premises.

“It’s mutually beneficial for both partners and long may that continue.”

World champion Welsh Cake maker is crowned

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The world’s Champion Welsh Cake maker has been crowned.

Bev Marsh from Tywyn, Gwynedd, was chosen after a bake-off by cooks from around Wales, all bidding to take the title at the first-ever Jones Crisps World Welsh Cake Championships.

She picked up a year’s supply of Jones crisps, plus £150 and a specially-made trophy.

Judges said Bev’s cakes were tasty and perfectly cooked, with a melt-in-the-mouth quality.

And retired GP Ieuan Jones from Talwrn, near Llangefni, whose bakes were flavoured with pink peppercorns and cranberries, won the title Alternative Flavour Welsh Cake Maker, bagging £50 and a case of Jones Crisps.

Farmer, broadcaster and social media champion Gareth Wyn Jones from Llanfairfechan presented Ieaun with his prize. The good news was broken by phone to Bev, while she was at work at Brighter Foods in Tywyn, where she is a shift supervisor.

The contest, part of the popular Llandudno Christmas Fayre, was held at the town’s  Trinity Church, in partnership with Bodnant Food Centre Wales, Go North Wales, Llandudno Chamber of Trade and Merched y Wawr.

Around 20 bakers entered the contest, with entries from as far afield as Tregaron in South Wales. Welsh Cakes are known by a variety of names in different areas of Wales, such as Picau ar y Maen, Pice Bach, and Theisen Radell.

It was just the second time that  mum-of-two Bev, 62, had made Welsh cakes, she admitted.

‘“I looked for the recipe online, because it’s not something that I’ve made before,” said Bev, who moved to Tywyn 40 years ago from the West Midlands. “I do love baking and my granddaughter Sarah, who is two, sampled my first trial batch. My other granddaughter, Carys, 13, was the time keeper to make sure they were cooked properly.

“I used to do a lot of baking before my husband Phil died, and now I enjoy doing it with my three grandchildren.

“I made the winning entries on Tuesday so they could be posted, and it’s good know they got there safely

“I entered the competition with some of my colleagues from Brighter Foods, as we all like taking part in contests like these. I am really pleased that one of us has won, as there was stiff competition from my colleagues.

“I will be sharing my year’s supply of Jones Crisps with my colleagues at work as that’s only fair.”

She revealed that the winning cakes were made from a combination of Welsh butter and lard, but she left out the spices that are often added.

She added: “I thought that back in the day people would use lard a lot, and that they probably won’t have access to spices, as they were expensive.”

Geraint Hughes of Jones Crisps, who organised the contest, said: “I love Welsh Cakes and I wanted to celebrate the very best that Wales has to offer.

“I am delighted that Bev has won. We’ve had a wide variety of entries and it’s been a real dream tasting them all – the judges have had a difficult task in choosing the winner.

“I was delighted to be able to announce that  she is our Champion Welsh Cake Maker. It’s a title never awarded before, and Bev should be proud to be the first person to hold this office. I am sure that her family will agree that their Welsh Cakes are truly champions.

“We were expecting some weird and wacky food combinations for the Alternative Flavour Welsh Cake category and the entries certainly lived up to our expectations.

“Ieuan‘s creation of pink peppercorns and cranberries was most unusual, but lovely to sample.”

The grandad of seven said he was inspired by his daughter Delyth, a professional cook for a Wirral hotel.

The 68-year-old, who is often called on to create cakes for village fund-raising events, said: “Myself, my wife Mary, and our four children all cook, and my daughter Delyth and I especially like trying out different flavours. I thought for this I would try something that might be suitable for Christmas and also for savoury toppings, such as cream cheese or salmon.

“Pink peppercorns give a lovely delicate flavour and the cranberries have a very seasonal flavour, I actually used cranberries that my sister in law brought over from America.

‘I did also enter the Traditional category, using Halon Mon vanilla salt, so it is interesting that the Alternative ones were more popular with the judges ”

Other entries to the Alternative Flavour category included walnut, butterscotch, blueberry, apricot and rhubarb.

The judging panel included Linda Jones from Rhiwlas and Majorie Jones from Glan Conwy, and lead by Delyth Jenkins of Ffos y Ffin, near Aberaeron, who won last year’s Jones Crisps Bara Brith World Championships - her winning bake  is now on sale to the public.

Delyth said: “There was very high standard of entries and it was a difficult choice. However, we thought Bev’s entry was nice and moist, well baked with a good colour. The cakes were all the same size, with an excellent taste. It was also good to see she’d used Welsh ingredients

“Ieuan’s Alternative Welsh Cake was lovely, delicately flavoured and a real winner. We thought it would make an excellent savoury cake, similar to a blini.”

Jones Crisps is the only crisp company based in Wales and owned by Welsh food entrepreneurs. The crisps are made with 100% Welsh grown potatoes. Each crisp is hand cooked in high oleic sunflower oil, to produce excellent old fashioned crisps with a proper thick crunch and punchy flavours.

Jones Crisps is proud to support outdoor events across Wales including the Cardiff Triathlon, Slateman, E-tape Eryri and Jones Crisps Anglesey Half Marathon.