THE NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDEN OF WALES has recorded a 17% increase in visitors and record commercial figures for 2016/17, generating an operating surplus for the third year in a row.
The 20,000 rise in people through the door for the year to the end of March has been quickly followed by record-breaking figures for April, when visitor numbers more than doubled at the Carmarthenshire attraction.
With take-up in Garden membership beating all records up 16% as part of a £174,000 increase in commercial income – despite an £89,000 fall in public sector funding – and plenty of plans in place for new attractions and investment, Botanic Garden bosses are buoyant at the prospect for 2017.
Director Huw Francis said: “If the present is anything to go by, the future looks bright.”
Mr Francis explained that the Garden has been working hard at broadening its appeal and new developments introduced in 2016 had proved a big hit with local people and tourists alike: “We’ve invested in a new play park, a hay bale maze, water zorbing and a brand new tropical Butterfly House, the development of which has created a huge amount of interest.”
This year, the Garden is teaming up with award-winning Pembrokeshire Falconry to create the British Bird of Prey Centre which, says Mr Francis, will increase footfall still further with daily flying displays of amazing native birds of prey. The target is for 10% year on year increases in visitors over the next five years.
All this good news comes hot on the heels of the announcement by the Heritage Lottery Fund that it is backing the Garden’s Regency Restoration project to the tune of £3.55 million, which will reinstate one of Britain’s finest historic water parks and create one of Wales’ premier heritage attractions.
With plans to introduce camping and glamping on the 568-acre site in 2018, Mr Francis is confident the ambitious programme of growth will continue to pay dividends: “Last year was a big success for us in terms of visitor numbers and commercial return. And this new financial year has started with a bang, seeing our April visitor figure surge to a pretty amazing 19,456 up from last year’s 9,632.”
Head of Development, Rob Thomas, said: “The success of this fresh approach is clearly evidenced by last year’s results and the start we’ve made to this year.
“We have big plans for headline-grabbing summer events and these, coupled with the other new ventures, will drive up interest even further and keep people coming back over and over again – all of which will underpin our long-term sustainability and will firmly establish the Garden’s position as an iconic, must-see destination and a national asset for all of Wales.”
Coracle photos sought for Welsh Week
CARMARTHEN CORACLE & Netsmen’s Association has asked for anyone associated with the historic industry to send their photos and stories to them, to be used as part of a week-long celebration.
The Association will be proudly supporting Carmarthen’s Welsh Week, which begins on February 24 and finishes with a town parade on March 3.
Throughout the week, coracles will be proudly displayed at various locations around the town. Each coracle will symbolise Carmarthen’s oldest fishing tradition, which also represents the 2018 Wales tourism theme of ‘Year of the Sea’.
“During the 18th and 19th century, Carmarthen’s port was thriving, with huge cargo ships regularly visiting, its quayside bustling with traders and numerous warehouses. Too poor to live within the town’s boundary wall, the large coracle fishing families lived in tiny, damp cottages along the river bank,” a spokesperson for CC&NA said.
“Strangely enough, through time, it is only the coracle which has survived the major changes to Carmarthen’s quayside.”
To celebrate the unique heritage of Carmarthen’s coracle, the Association would like to honour the fishing families of bygone years by displaying a small selection of photos at each coracle located around Carmarthen town.
They are appealing to anyone who may have belonged to a coracle family to send a copy of your photo and any stories or memories they may have. The photos will then be proudly displayed inside each coracle for visitors to follow a ‘Coracle Trail’ around the town.
Any photos can be emailed firstname.lastname@example.org or sent via Facebook to ‘Carmarthen Coracle and Netsmen’s Association’.
Volunteers offer to wrap your gifts
A SCHEME set up by volunteers to wrap presents in the lead up to Christmas launched last Saturday (Dec 2).
Wrapped in Love, a new scheme in conjunction with Llanelli Town Council, will now be wrapping presents at Llanelli’s Indoor Market every Saturday between 10am and 3pm before Christmas.
Volunteers from Ty Gwyn Community Church have a stall situated outside Blodau Elli flower shop and are more than happy to wrap two presents per visitor for free.
Minister of Ty Gwyn Ivan Parker said: “A couple of our younger leaders had an idea to do something different and decided they’d like to offer a free Christmas wrapping service, in the run up to the festivities.
“It’s a big help for a lot of people. Not everyone likes wrapping presents and we’ve had a really good response here today. This is the first week of our launch and it’s something that we’ll be doing annually. The Town Council loved the idea and are on board with us.
“We want to connect with people and show that we care. I’ve been Minister at Ty Gwyn since 2006 and I love my vocation.
“We’re here every Saturday prior to Christmas and everyone is welcome. We supply all of the wrapping paper and some added extras of bows and tags if needed.
“There are 39 volunteers involved with this project over the duration of the next four weeks and we alternate doing a two and a half hour slot each.
“The spookiest thing for a few has been us approaching them, some have thought that we’re trying to sell them something. It’s been rather amusing when they’ve realised this isn’t the case.
“We also have white tote bags with information on our services and an invitation to our coffee morning at Ty Gwyn every Monday from 10am-2pm. Everyone is welcome and there is a token for a free cup of coffee.”
Curry evening raises funds for Twinning Association
THE LLANELLI and District Twinning Association held a successful and enjoyable curry evening recently, which raised over £600 to enable the association to carry on its work.
The packed-out fundraiser was held in Trinity Road’s Ali Raj establishment was packed out and everyone enjoyed the delicious buffet, plus raffle and an auction.
Llanelli Town Mayor Cllr Jeff Edmunds was in attendance, Chair of Llanelli Rural Council John Evans, Rural and County Councillors, Llanelli Town Council as well as many members of community organisations such as The Multicultural Network, The Community Partnership, Llanelli Tenants Network, Llanelli Ramblers, The Visually Impaired Bowls Club and The Sosban Shredders.
Chair of The Twinning Association Paolo Piana said: “It was a well attended evening with over 70 people, many different agencies attended. Involving a wide cross section of the community is a vital role within the Twinning Association, it gives people the opportunity across Llanelli and the surrounding areas to take part in community led activities and events. I’m thankful to everyone that donated prizes to the raffle and the auction and for being so supportive.”
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