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.”
Sports groups take over lease at Canolfan Carwyn centre
SPORTS groups in the Drefach area have teamed up to take over the running of the Canolfan Carwyn Centre.
The centre, owned by Carmarthenshire County Council, was due to close at the end of the summer due to budget restraints.
However, the two local county councillors, Aled Vaughan Owen and Darren Price, together with a number of sporting groups, came together to save the facility.
They formed Grwp Canolfan Carwyn and took out a lease to keep the centre open, running it themselves.
Organisations include Gwendraeth squash club; Drefach, Bancffosfelen and Tumble Colts football teams; Pontyberem Rugby Club; Gorlas Community Council; Bobby’s Boxing Gym; and other members of the community.
Gorslas Community Council donated £1,000, and all other clubs committed to using the facility on a regular basis.
The organisation is currently looking for volunteers to help out in any way they can, including opening and closing, general maintenance, cleaning, booking and marketing.
The groups hope to extend the activities at the centre to include things such as gymnastics, concerts, children’s parties, and a range of other events.
Cllr Vaughan Owen said: “We are appealing to the community to help us make a success of the Canolfan Carwyn Centre.
“We feel it is important to the area and although we understand the potential pitfalls we are confident with the right support we can secure its long-term future.
“In the words of the late, great Carwyn James, who the centre is named after, ‘Take a risk or two, make a few mistakes. As long as you are adventurers, I won’t mind.’
“With the energy from local sports teams and members of the community, the centre can be kept open with the potential not only to secure the future of certain sport and fitness opportunities in the community, but also to develop new initiatives that expand the services provided.”
The centre was one of a number of recreational assets offered for transfer or lease by Carmarthenshire County Council.
To date, there has been interest shown in around 82% of sites available, with around half of these already being taken over by local organisations.
The county council’s executive board member for assets Cllr David Jenkins said: “This is another excellent example of a community working together to secure the future of a local facility.
“Well done to all those groups and individuals who have made this commitment, I wish them every success for the future.”
Soprano’s show-stopping turn on Stepney Street
A CANADIAN soprano wowed shoppers in Llanelli town centre this week, as she gave a stunning performance to raise funds for Breast Cancer Now.
Kyla Lingley received loud applause from passers-by on Stepney Street as they stopped in their tracks to listen to her outstanding vocals and generously donate to her charity bucket.
During Kyla’s studies in Ontario, the talented lady won the INCO Search for Excellence Award for her pristine vocals. Since this time, her career has taken some exciting turns which have led her to England and Wales. She has performed in numerous operas and concerts and has even sung live on BBC Television with Welsh soprano Katherine Jenkins at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in front of an audience of 75,000 people.
Kyla has chosen to devote her time when she’s not in performance mode to avidly raising funds for the Breast Cancer Now Charity. This has been achieved through giving outdoor performances in shopping malls at various UK locations.
Kylas’ mission is to uplift others and possibly inspire them through her love of music as it plays such an integral part of everyday life. Her core belief is to help others whenever possible through her voice.
Wartime high tea a success
A WARTIME-THEMED high tea party to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s was held in Llanelli’s Selwyn Samuel Centre last week.
The party, which will become a monthly event, saw residents from four care homes – Y Plas, Hafan Y Coed, Ashley Court and Y Bwthyn – in attendance, and the Lliedi Suite at the centre was packed to its 250 person capacity.
Visitors enjoyed a fantastic buffet with abundant tea and coffee, and staff got in on the fun, donning war-themed outfits.
The afternoon which was the first of its kind in the Selwyn Samuel Centre definitely catered to the older generation and the entertainment was first class.
Female duo The Jazzabelles wowed the audience with wartime hits such as ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and ‘How Much Is That Doggy In the Window’.
The street party catered for all but especially for those living with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Cream tea and unlimited food was at a cost of just £7.50 per person and was clear value for money.
Alison Davies, Sue John and Kian Disalvo were the event managers and they couldn’t do enough to keep their guests happy throughout the duration.
A spokesperson for the event said: “We feel that today went very well. We always try hard to aim to cater to everyone’s needs. Our buffets are made from scratch and the Selwyn Samuel Centre caters for all within the community. We take the utmost care in the running of our events and have different types of events for all walks of life.
“Our events can be ghost nights to cream teas all the way to tribute nights. Today’s wartime event has definitely been a more than colourful indoor street party and the WW2 theme has worked well with plenty of happy visitors from the local care homes who without a doubt have happily reminisced.
“Our rooms are always available for hire and the staff at the centre are first class. The next of our forthcoming events are to be held on November 7 and December 5. A warm welcome is extended to all.”
To book a place for the next themed event, telephone 07729 655114.
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