News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

North Wales MS charity set for year ahead

Future plans and activities for MS Synergy were decided by members at the annual general meeting held alongside its September monthly gathering earlier this week.

MS Synergy is North Wales’s own independent support group charity for people with multiple sclerosis and those affected by it, such as relatives, carers, friends or anyone with any kind of interest in the illness.

At the AGM, held at Prestatyn’s Paanshee Bangladeshi Restaurant on Tuesday 15th, members approved the annual report, adopted the accounts and took important decisions about future administration and organisation. These were finalised by making some minor amendments to the constitution.

After two years as chairman, Nigel Partington had already forewarned us that he had decided it was best for him to stand down. Naturally, everyone was sorry his health had prompted that decision and sent him their best wishes along with their hopes that he would attend future gatherings whenever he felt able.Kathy Ruane

In his place, the group was fortunate to be able to elect two Co-Chairmen. These are Christine Cooper  (below) and Kathleen Ruane (right). Kathy has MS and if her surname sounds familiar, that is probably because her brother is Chris Ruane, former Labour MP for Vale of Clwyd. He served as MP for 18 years before losing his seat at this year’s general election.christine cooper_edited

The role of secretary proved to be a little more difficult to fill but was resolved with the help of some lateral thinking and ingenuity. I have been secretary for the last two years but moving to Spain in November meant that MS Synergy needed a new secretary – or did it?

With no-one putting themselves forward, the meeting decided to re-elect me (below left) as secretary to do from Spain everything that I had always done on computer in Colwyn Bay. Let’s face it, that can be done anywhere in the world with access to the internet. The one important part of the work that needs a hands-on presence in North Wales, the organisationian gravatar_edited of the monthly meetings or ‘gatherings’, was given to another committee member.

Former long-term group organiser and, for the past two years, gwawr_editedtreasurer, Gwawr Jones (below centre), was re-elected to look after the finances while Eryl Thomas (below right) Eryl Thomas_editedjoined the committee as Gatherings Coordinator.

Three remaining committee member roles were left unfilled, allowing the committee to co-opt people in the future.

With me going to be many miles away, members agreed that future general meetings and committee meetings should include a free computer-to-computer video link to make it possible and feasible for me to take an active part and to take minutes. Isn’t modern computer technology wonderful?

One last piece of re-organisation agreed by the AGM was in regard to bank payments and withdrawals. The previous constitutional requirement was for each cheque to bear two signatures from any of the three officers. An amendment passed on the night now requires two signatures from any of the officers and committee members resident in the UK. That will make the treasurer’s work a lot easier.

  • MS Synergy is a ‘local small charity’ as defined by the Charities Act. As such, it is only allowed to raise up to £5,000 a year.




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Steps towards Spain

Work 1 

Bathroom fitments removed and stored in bedroom while wet-room is fitted.

Preparations for our great move to Spain continue apace with Tuesday witnessing another step, actually two steps, along the journey. Then, one more step was taken this morning.

First step: Pictures have arrived showing the work in progress to turn the dream home we found into one that is absolutely perfect and one in which I can live comfortably with my disability. Although I don’t need it now, Lisa and I made the important decision to buy a home in which, if needed in the future, I could use a wheelchair indoors.

In truth, if it ever happens, that should be several years away but as we are making a big move, really a lifestyle change, we decided to be ready for whatever Multiple Sclerosis may hold for me in the future. We don’t want to be forced to move again.

One of the key improvements being made as part of the package of conversion works is the provision of a wet-room. The bathroom fitments have been stripped out already and a full wet-room is about to be installed complete with a fully accessible level entry walk-in shower that will also be suitable for a special roll-in shower chair,

Step two we made without actually needing to do anything more ourselves as we had already done our part. It came in the form of an email from Paul, the driver/courier from Anyvan. He let us know that our possessions have arrived safely in Spain and have been delivered into our new home. Nothing more can be done with those until we get there in November.

I have to say that Lisa and I are both so impressed with Anyvan’s method of operation in which any of its couriers who want a particular job bid against each other to win the business. That way the client can get the best possible price. What’s more, the professionalism, courtesy and willingness to be as accommodating as possible – as clearly demonstrated by Paul – show all of the company’s associated drivers in the best possible light. They really do seem to know everything about giving top-rate service and superb customer relations. We would have no hesitation in using their services again and would highly recommend them to others.

Step three took the form of a visit to the vets this morning. Having given both Pooka and Prissy a health check-up, the vet scanned the microchips they had implanted before their trip here from Florida in March 2012 and gave them both their rabies vaccinations.

Tomorrow, we have to go back to the vets – just us, not the cats – to pick up their ‘pet passports’ that will allow both of them to enter Spain without going into quarantine.

Just one more thing to do today, this time because of our holiday before we leave for Spain, and that is to telephone the cattery to book the cats in for their stay while we are in the USA.

If you wonder why we have a holiday just before moving abroad, the holiday was booked before we decided to move; then the money came through from my former matrimonial home. It is all a bit of an almost runaway train but one of our own choosing and in which we are enjoying the ride.

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Burying visual pollution

pylon2 Pic: National Grid/PA

Most people are opposed to pollution but, of those, the vast majority tend to think of it as illegal dumping of litter, chemical spills or escapes as well as noxious substances in the air. They are right that these are all forms of pollution but it by no means stops there.

Other types of pollution include: light through light trespass or over-illumination; noise from various sources from industrial, transport and even loud music; radiation; thermal; and water. And those are just a few examples.

There does exist, however, another form of pollution that many people find extremely offensive. This is known as ‘visual pollution’ and may be of various types but includes man-made objects such as wind turbines, pylons and overhead power cables in an otherwise mainly unspoilt natural landscape. Even windfarms placed offshore to protect rural landscapes are still criticised for marring seaside views.

With all that in mind, I am absolutely delighted that views across certain UK rural areas are to be improved following the National Grid’s decision to remove overhead power lines.

The move is part of £500m of funding from regulator Ofgem to transform four protected landscapes across Wales, including one in the Snowdonia National Park, and England by burying cables underground by 2021.

The stretch in Snowdonia runs from Portmeirion to Llyn Trawsfynydd while England’s New Forest, Peak District and Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are the other three areas which will see overhead power lines disappear.

The stakeholder group of conservation organisations, which advised National Grid on which transmission lines to prioritise, was chaired by environmentalist Chris Baines. He said that some “difficult decisions” had to be made.

“Reducing the visual impact of pylons and power lines in our most precious landscapes is highly desirable but it is also very expensive and technically complex so we have had to make some difficult decisions.

“Although four schemes have been prioritised, none of the locations on our original short list have been dropped and they will remain under consideration for future work to reduce the impact of National Grid’s transmission lines under the vision impact provision project,” he said.

For me, the news is a welcome step in the right direction. But it is just that, a step, a first step on a long journey. Even this step is set to cost £500m and is scheduled to take up to six years to complete.

When any power line is moved from overhead to being buried, there is a major benefit for customers too. In strong storms, the likelihood of power cuts is much reduced as the risk of fallen lines is eliminated.

Another visual pollution pet hate of mine is the wind turbine. Intrusive whether on land or off-shore, the wind farms are not only bad to see but also inefficient. A study* published at this time last year found that, on average, wind farms produce 80 per cent of their potential power output for less than one week annually – and they manage 90 per cent output for only 17 hours a year.

If you have ever looked at wind turbines, you will know that they are useless in low winds and that they are often stationary in high winds. And if you wonder why, I’ll tell you: They are turned off to prevent damage if the wind speed is too high.

As unpalatable as it may be, the truth is that wind turbine technology is one renewable source of power that we cannot afford.


* Wind Power Reassessed, Adam Smith Institute and the Scientific Alliance

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Older eyes to learn new way to see

camera no camera yes Good tip: Hold mobile sideways to record video

There’s a potentially exciting opportunity for older people in the county of Conwy, in North Wales, to get more involved in community television. And they can do this learning to look at the world through the lenses of their mobile devices, taking their own videos and uploading them to their local television channel.

What? Take their own videos, edit them and upload? Just how will they do that? It’s not like they are children of today who are so well-versed in computers and modern technology. No, these are the older generation, senior citizens. It’ll never work, you can’t treat old dogs new tricks, doubters might well say.

That does not deter one local go-ahead organisation from being determined to do just that, though.

TVConwy, which is run completely by volunteers, has come up with a plan to make it work. What’s more, financial backing for the local community interest company to put the project into action, has come in the form of a lottery grant of £3,547 from the Grab-a-Grant scheme run by the Big Lottery Fund. The grant was gained by being one of the five winners, chosen by public vote through two sister local newspapers, the North Wales Chronicle and the North Wales Pioneer.

The project will take the form of group workshops and will provide training to older people so that they fully understand how to use mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets, to take and edit photos and videos. Training will also include how to upload the product of their efforts to the tv channel’s website (

TVConwy director Debbie Braden is delighted that it has won the grant. She said: “I would like to thank everyone who voted for us. It means so much to everyone in our team and to those who will benefit from the training. Our ‘Through Older Eyes’ project will provide training so more older people can get involved in and be represented on the community TV channel by capturing community events they attend or promoting causes they are interested in and wish to publicise.”

She explained that training will include learning the basics of mobile device photography and capturing video as well as simple editing and uploading of the results. People will also be encouraged to share information, creativity and opinion.

Speaking about ‘Through Older Eyes’ TVConwy’s Mark Ramsden said: “The resounding feedback that we’ve received from older people is that many lack the knowledge to use mobile devices to take photos and videos and older eyesupload images to share them.

“Learning these skills as part of a group workshop will enhance people’s confidence, build community spirit and reduce feelings of isolation.

“Hopefully, they will also feel more confident about sharing content with friends and family as well as our community TV channel.”

The other four organisations that also gained grants are: Parkinson’s UK Llandudno and District Support Group, Holyhead and Anglesey Amateur Boxing Club; Plas Road Allotment Association and Hope Restored.

  • Interest declaration: Multiple Sclerosis prevents the writer from being an active member of TVConwy but he does act as admin of its Community Forum on Facebook and has run a journalism workshop for the channel’s volunteers.



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Housing plan threatens heritage landscape


Maybe I am missing something. It is possible, after all no-one is perfect but just where is the logic in deciding that an area is worthy of being designated as a special landscape only for the same body of people now to be asked to consider giving a developer permission to build 93 houses there?

If you can see any logic, please do tell! It just seems so ridiculous.

The august body that decided to give it Special Landscape Area status, as shown the local development plan, and is now considering giving outline planning permission is none other than Conwy County Borough Council.

The site in contention is in Sychnant, high above Conwy town, near to Pinewood Stables and the building that in my childhood was Pinewood Towers Hotel.

Local people are incensed by the plan to build houses in such a beautiful area that borders the Snowdonia National Park which will, if the developers get their way, be visually blighted no matter how sensitive the developers say they are going to be.

After all, it is not just the houses. Really, it is 93 houses, numerous roads and probably 150 cars, with buses connecting the new properties with the town.

The planning application has been submitted by Beech Developments and it has been out for public consultation. Opposition is being led by members of the Parc, Llys and Sychnant Residents Group.

The group says: “We oppose these plans to build in such a beautiful and unique area. Not only are they but metres away from the Snowdonia National Park but the fields are a Special Landscape Area. It would be completely inappropriate to build such a large development here. The land ought to be protected and remain agricultural and wildlife friendly.”

Such a large development? Any development would be wrong. Our landscape is an important part of our heritage, let’s keep it that way.

According to the council, there is a shortage of housing in Conwy and I have every sympathy with efforts to create more but not at the expense of such a beautiful area. They should find other areas in which to build; areas that are not so environmentally sensitive.

The residents’ group has sent a letter to the council, saying: “We are requesting that you refuse planning permission for this development because of the area’s sensitivity and natural beauty. The field borders the Snowdonia National Park and therefore ought to be protected. The development is highly unsuitable for this historic landscape.” The group has also presented the council with a petition of nearly 500 people opposed to the plans.

Independent Conwy ward councillor Joan Vaughan said: “It is bordering on Snowdonia Park, so it is a shame to lose a green space. The main issue is coming down into Conwy. It’s extremely busy and, with all the extra traffic, I truly suspect the road will not be able to take it. Unless the council does something about the road, it will be a nightmare.”

Mike Roberts is land and planning director at Beech Developments. He said: “Whilst the layout (as shown in the application) is only indicative it does show that an attractive and high quality development can be achieved. Affordable houses will be provided for local people who wish to rent or purchase their first home.

“We have had discussions with the relevant statutory authorities regarding drainage, access and highways and other technical issues and their comments have been taken on board.

“It is always regrettable some greenfield sites have to be developed but we live in an area where brownfield sites are in short supply and there is a substantial unmet demand for housing locally.”

Public consultation has now ended, so the application will soon be considered by the planning committee.

Let’s hope than sanity prevails and that Sychnant remains unspoilt and blight-free.

  • Ian Franks is an experienced award-winning journalist and one of his specialities is the countryside. He spent some years as Rural Affairs Editor of weekly newspapers covering the Caernarfon and Anglesey areas – and was named as Welsh Farming Journalist of the Year in 1999. He is reknowned for not being afraid to voice his forthright opinions and his campaigning style of writing. He currently lives in Colwyn Bay.
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‘New Elizabethan’ reign is longest ever

queen reign

September 9th 2015 was no ordinary day. Try as she might not to celebrate becoming the UK’s longest serving monarch in all history, her subjects simply refused to let the day go unmarked.

The media was involved in reporting the special day and, to be fair, even though saying that Her Majesty wanted to keep the day low-key, her staff at Buckingham Palace released an official photograph taken by Mary McCartney (above). And on te River Thames, the occasion was marked by a flotilla of boats including the royal barge Gloriana and a fireboat sending plumes of water high into the air, a four-gun salute from HMS Belfast as well as Tower Bridge lifting in salutation.

I am nearly as old as the length of time that Queen has reigned, being born in 1952. That might qualify me as a New Elizabethan and, even if not officially, it would do for me. In fact, we often use monarchs’ names to describe certain times in history, such as Elizabethan (Queen Elizabeth I), Georgian, Edardian and Victorian, so why not call this time ‘New Elizabethan’? Sounds good to me.

Not many people get to see the Queen at close range but it has happened twice in my life.

The first was in 1977, when she celebrated her silver jubilee. At the time I was a press officer of the London Borough of Greenwich and was escorting/shepherding those journalists not given rota passes to be with her.

As I got the last one through a gate and away from the intended route, I turned around to see her right there. She just looked and smiled before moving on.

queen st john_edited

Another 25 years sped by and this time there was a uniform involved. It was when the official golden jubilee tour visited Bangor in North Wales. The visit included a celebratory service in the city’s cathedral, where four of us were on duty in St John Ambulance uniforms just in case our first aid skills were needed. They weren’t!

Anyway, as the procession left the cathedral, members of the congregation acknowledged her by giving a court bow, just nodding the head downwards, as she passed. Even the women were doing so but the court bow is traditionally only used by men; women curtsey, not a full curtsey but a simple bob one.

Our senior St John officer, a woman, decided that the three female officers present would give a bob curtsey, not the court bow. As the Queen approached, they all curtsied in unison. At first the Queen appeared to be taken by surprise by the sudden movement but then, realising what was happening, smiled broadly.                                                   Sovereign Head of Order of St John

We felt that nothing less was acceptable for our monarch who is also Sovereign Head of the Order of St John that is behind St John Ambulance.                                                                                                                      

The time that the longest reign was reached cannot be calculated exactly as the precise time that King George VI died is not known but it is thought that he died at about 1am. If that is the case, the Queen became our longest reigning monarch shortly after 5.30pm on the 9th.

Just an aside here, if you are ever introduced to the Queen, royal protocol and etiquette demand that the first time you address her that you call her ‘Your Majesty’ but after that just say ‘Ma’am’ but remember to pronounce it as in ham not as in arm.

Similarly, if meeting any royal prince, it is ‘Your Royal Highness’ the first time, and subsequently just ‘Sir’. Simple really.


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Rescuers’ story stirs up web interest

oggie rescue 

Ogwen Valley team members prepare to rescue trapped climbers

Oh wow. What a fantastic three days since this blog on Saturday featured the work of the UK’s volunteer mountain rescue teams.

It has been tweeted, retweeted, appeared on other social media and has generated a wonderful reaction. I just hope it helps the Llanberis team to raise enough extra cash to pay for the essential repairs to their three vehicles. Why does anyone intentionally damage what are three essentially emergency service ambulances/rescue team transporters? Such mindless acts are beyond my level of understanding.

One of the tweets received was from the mountain rescuers. They thanked me for what they described as my ‘kind’ words. Well, ok the blog post was certainly not unkind but ‘kind’, no. The words used were carefully chosen, they were accurate and truthful. Such people are largely unsung heroes who face each challenge with courage and determination.

Of course, although the post only mentioned the two teams who operate nearest to my home, there are so many other teams around the country whose members are as equally dedicated, brave and committed to keeping alive anyone who runs into trouble on their ‘patch’.

Then there are similar volunteers who belong to cave rescue organisations. These people, all experienced and highly trained potholers, descend into the depths of the earth to find and rescue anyone who is having difficulty returning to the surface.

I have only tried exploring a cave system once – and that was as an adult leader with the Scouts while under the care of a professional guide. The cave was not difficult because the Scouts could be as young as 11 but trying to squeeze through narrow gaps while crawling snakelike on my stomach was not a pleasant experience. There may have been no fear showing externally but, oh boy, to get outside again was just heavenly. Never again, that was the private and silent vow made.

• Towards the end of last week, police were concerned over the safety of Stephen Longfellow, an experienced walker who was missing. They had found his car by Tryfan, one of Snowdonia’s most impressive mountains. It is a challenge to reach the summit, something I did years ago, but there are many places of danger on the mountain and in the surrounding area.missing man

Tryfan is slap bang in the middle of Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue team’s patch and so their members were asked by the police to look for the missing man. Searches were mounted in the midst of other rescue call-outs.

Now, there is a difference between searching for someone who is known to be alive or who has not been      Stephen Longfellow                                                        lost and maybe injured for long as against someone who has been missing for days. In the latter case, they hope to find and rescue whoever it is but they realise it may be a search and recover operation instead of a rescue. 

This time, unfortunately, the Oggie team members had to recover a man’s lifeless body after they found it on Sunday. The body was then taken for formal identification. The team’s Chris Lloyd told the BBC that he believed the man had fallen “quite some distance”.

As you can see, not all search and rescue operations have joyous endings.

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Religious freedom and the law

us constitution The US Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

Exactly what is meant by the term ‘freedom of religion’ varies widely from country to country and even person to person. Even in one country, there are differences of interpretation.

The most notable case at the moment is that of an elected clerk in the USA state of Kentucky.

Quoting her right to religious freedom under the constitution’s first amendment, Kim Davis has steadfastly refused to issue wedding licences to single-sex couples. As an Apostolic Christian, she is opposed to such marriages. However, since the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of gay marriages, she has refused to issue ANY licences.

A week ago, having once again refused to comply with a court order to resume issuing licences, she was jailed for contempt of court.Kim Davis

So, just what is the law? Well, the first amendment does guarantee all citizens the right of freedom of religion. But the question seems to be more about just how far you can take that. Can you legally choose to exercise your freedom to the detriment of others? Can an elected official choose to refuse to carry out an element of her duties because of her own beliefs?

The judge thinks the answer to both questions is NO. But is he correct or do the lawyers acting for the clerk have a valid argument?

Now, here it must be pointed out that I am no lawyer. My training has been as a journalist, my legal training only equates to media laws such as libel. It must also be realised that being British, I am not well versed in the intricacies of the US judiciary system.

Having said all that, though, there is one Supreme Court ruling which seems to fit this case perfectly, saying “Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order.”

In Reynolds v. United States (1878), the Supreme Court found that while laws cannot interfere with religious belief and opinions, laws can be made to regulate some religious practices (e.g., human sacrifices, and the Hindu practice of suttee). The Court stated that to rule otherwise, “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government would exist only in name under such circumstances.”

I may be wrong, not being an expert, but as a layman that means to me that the clerk in question can have whatever beliefs she likes but cannot legally let those interfere with the duties of the office she holds or allow them to subvert good order. In short the doctrines of her religious beliefs are cannot be treated as superior to the law of the land.

I feel that the clerk has only three options to choose between:

  1. To obey the court by issuing licences despite her private religious objections
  2. To resign as she cannot fulfill the duties of her office;
  3. To stay in prison while her legal team fights on.

We’ll just have to wait and see how all this turns out.

In EU countries, freedom of religion is guaranteed under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights that have been put into national laws, for example the UK’s Human Rights Act.

The ECHR states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

The freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

That appears to mean that if the Kentucky clerk was making the same stand in Europe, she would run foul of this law too.

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Hero volunteers need support

Llanberis MR team








Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team using stretcher to remove casualty to safety.

Everybody has their own ideas about what makes someone a hero and, of course I have tremendous respect for everyone doing difficult and often dangerous jobs in the armed forces and the main emergency services – police, firefighters, ambulance crews and coastguards.

They key word there, though, is ‘job’; they are being paid to do that, although that makes it no less dangerous and often they go above and beyond what duty demands.

Similarly, I am not wishing to underplay the importance of once in a lifetime acts of heroism by anybody faced with a difficult situation and attempting to save the day. Each such act, though, is very much a one-off.

The people who I admire and feel deserve greater recognition for their dedication, commitment and heroic actions in all sorts of often atrocious weather conditions are the members of our mountain rescue teams as well as the crews of the lifeboats that dot the shores of the UK.

These people are all volunteers. Climbers who have decided to help others and seafaring folk who have chosen to put other peoples’ lives first at sea.

Fairly close to where I currently live, there are two superbly run teams of mountain rescuers: Llanberis and Ogwen Valley. There are plenty more but I got to know some of the members of these over the last 20-plus years. In fact, so long has it been that the ones I knew have probably all retired by now.

Anyway, to cut a long story down a bit, Llanberis Mountain Rescue team, whose patch includes Snowdon itself, have just dealt with the busiest month in their long history. They were called out an amazing 34 times in August, with the most hectic day being Wednesday 12th. This involved responding to seven call-outs in just five hours. And as most rescues can take a few hours, they often had to have more than one rescue team out at the same time.

Chairman of the Llanberis team is Rob Johnson said: “More than half of the 34 incidents that we were called to in August were as a result of people being lost on the mountain. With a little preparation this is not necessary.

“People often treat Snowdon as a tourist destination, rather than a mountain, and this leads people into being poorly equipped for the conditions the mountain often presents. Having a map and a compass and the knowledge of how to use them costs very little but will massively add to the enjoyment of a mountain day and will take a great strain off volunteer rescue services.”

The problem seems to be that Snowdon has a railway linking Llanberis with the summit where, during the summer tourist season, the building is open and houses a café, bar, gift shop and other facilities. It is easy to see how people do get the ‘tourist attraction’ impression.

Actually, I must share this true story with you. Before I was diagnosed with MS and at a time I could still get around easily, I loved to go mountain walking. Well, this day I had walked up to the top of Snowdon and after getting my fill of great views in all directions (not possible when the clouds roll in), I decided to enjoy a cuppa before starting the descent. No sooner had I sat down in the café than a trainload of tourists arrived. One woman spotted a dog and said if she had known dogs were allowed, she’d have brought her beloved pet with her.

I am afraid that I could not help myself. “Madam,” I said,sarda dog “That is a Search and Rescue dog.”

She was surprised and said, “Do people get lost up here then?” She had no idea how dangerous Snowdon and the other mountains are. “Madam, people die up here,” I replied.

                                       Search and Rescue Dog ready for action.


♦ Finally, I am sad to report that all three of the Llanberis team vehicles were disabled during an attempted theft of their doors. The would-be thieves also cut through wiring in an attempt to disable the alarms.

Llanberis MR team vandalised









Team vehicles with doors removed and wiring cut.


Police are investigating and the team is having to rely on neighbouring teams for vehicles as Llanberis team has been left unable to deploy team members or equipment.

Since posting about their loss on Facebook, the team has received a great level of support with many people asking how they can donate. If you would like to help these brave volunteers get back on the road, you can donate by visiting the donation page of the team’s website here:

You can also donate via text, by sending a message to 70070 and writing: “LMRT14” followed by the amount you’d like to donate e.g. “£5” or “£10”. I know they would be thankful for any donation, however small.

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Accurate forecasting is cold and wet

weather signs

It is usually good to be proved right but sometimes you really want to be wrong.

Back in 2001 when I was rural affairs editor for a newspaper in North Wales, UK, I went out on a limb.  It was the time of foot and mouth disease and by tracking all the reported cases in that outbreak against the previous one in the 1960s, I predicted the date that the final case that year would be confirmed. Although no scientist, my prediction – made weeks earlier – was just ONE day out.

So, it meant that the British government at the time, headed by prime minister Tony Blair, wasted masses of money and caused so much heartache by killing tens of thousands of animals unnecessarily. Why was it unnecessary? Because no such drastic mass slaughter took place in the 1960s yet that outbreak lasted only one day longer.

Soon after starting this blog at the beginning of August, I criticised weather forecasters and others who kept talking about driest and hottest summer since records began. From my own observations, I could not believe it and asked ‘where is the sun?’ This was one time that I would love to have been wrong.

Well, although trying really hard not to appear to be superior (ok, ok, not too superior), an almost smug ‘I told you so’ smile has just crossed my face – because, although disappointed by the weather, my analysis was right.

Temperatures may have hit a record high in some parts of the UK, though not where we live, in July but a wet and windy August made this summer the country’s coldest in the past three years.

The average temperature for summer was only 13.9C (57F) – and this was despite London Heathrow Airport recording a high of 36.7C (98F) on one sweltering day in July.

Not only was August cold but, to make matters worse, more rain fell than average for the month that ended with a wet bank holiday weekend. The Meteorological Office has now said that the counties of Dorset and Hampshire as well as the Channel Island of Guernsey had the wettest end to any summer in the last 50 years. At the same time, Cornwall and the south coast had to put up with rainfall approaching three times the monthly average for August.

slingo Dame Julia Slingo, Met Office chief scientist

The Met Office’s chief scientist Prof Dame Julia Slingo said: “No-one can deny that we have had a pretty disappointing summer with a lot of unsettled weather and only a few warm spells, especially through July and August.”

Disappointing! She got that right. Disappointing weather after what turned out to be disappointingly inaccurate forecasts of better things.

She admitted early predictions that temperatures and rainfall would be near normal had proved to be wrong. No kidding! It seems like the BBC has made the right decision to give its weather forecasting business to someone else – even though that decision was made on the grounds of costs not accuracy.

Bearing all this in mind, Lisa and I are really pleased to be moving to Spain in two months’ time. There we will be assured of long hot summers with just occasional rain. We really cannot wait.

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