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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Town crier goes hot foot to raise £1,000

Llangollen’s town crier Austin “Chem” Cheminais braved the hot coals to raise around £1,000 for the Wales Air Ambulance by completing a fire walk at Chirk Boathouse last night (Saturday).

The 63-year-old retired teacher, who is also a town councillor, has raised hundreds of pounds for the air ambulance over the past few years as a way of saying thank you for the way the Midlands helicopter zoomed in to airlift him to hospital back in 2010 after he was run over twice by a delivery van in the car park of the school in Walsall where he was headmaster at the time.

In his latest fundraising venture, along with other charity dare-devils, he walked over red-hot coals in full costume and ringing his bell every step of the way

After his ordeal by fire Chem said: “I actually raised around £1,000 and I'd like to thank everyone who contributed.
“At the end of it my feet didn't hurt at all because I'd been fully prepared beforehand by the organisers.

"If you sort of psych yourself and tell yourself you're not going to be frightened and it's not going to hurt then you are okay."

* Chem's charity page is at 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Kings Bridge to close temporarily

Denbighshire County Council has made a temporary traffic order for the closure of the B5103 Kings Bridge in Berwyn.

Coming into force on October 16, it has been made to facilitate highway drainage improvements and carriageway works by the county council's bridges section.

The order lasts for 18 months or the completion of the works, whichever is soonest.

The signposted alternative route will be via the B5103 from its junction with the A5(T) to the junction with the A542 Horseshoe Pass Road, Abbey Dingle Nursery to Abbey Road, Abbey Road, Castle Street and the A5.

Pedestrian access will be maintained throughout the closure period. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

County campaign puts spotlight on older people

A week-long series of events is being to take place across Denbighshire in the run-up to International Day of Older Persons (October 1) to celebrate the contribution of older people.

Nearly 30 years ago the United National General Assembly voted to establish October 1 as the International Day of Older Persons.

Last year the United Nations took a stand against ageism by drawing attention to and challenging negative stereotypes and misconceptions about older people and ageing. 

This year, a series of events is being arranged by the Denbighshire Ageing – Well Networking Group to showcase what support is available.

This Partnership includes Denbighshire County Council, Age Connect, Alzheimer's Society, British Red Cross, Care & Repair, Care Forum Wales, Citizens’ Advice Denbighshire, NEWCIS and the NHS and many more.

Events will include sessions of the Lost in Art project, social events, arts and textiles, a ‘culture club’ for arts and dance and Talking Points sessions for people to get advice and information on well-being issues.

A social media campaign will also get underway to promote the projects and help raise the profile of issues relating to older people.

Councillor Bobby Feeley, Denbighshire County Council’s Lead Member for Well-being and Independence, who is also the Council’s Older People’s Champion said:  “The increasing age profile is a fact we can't ignore.

“Throughout their lives older people have gained a wealth of knowledge, and as living longer becomes the norm, we need to recognise, value and harness their contribution.  We must encourage people to take responsibility for keeping well and fit and to stay independent for as long as possible.

“Denbighshire has the second largest population of older people in Wales. Nearly a half of the population of Denbighshire are aged over 50 and a quarter are over 65.  More and more people are living past 100 than ever before and this is a fact that needs recognising and celebrating."  

* To find out more visit the Talking Points between Monday September 25 – Friday September 29, or contact Karen Eynon, Older People’s Strategy Development Officer on  01824 706356, e-mail:

A copy of Denbighshire’s Ageing Well Plan can also be found by visiting:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Figures show Denbighshire performing well

Denbighshire continues to be one of the top performing councils in Wales, providing a high standard of service to the county’s residents.

Figures compiled by the Local Government Data Unit compare the performance of councils across Wales on a range of issues. 
The results for 2016/17 show that Denbighshire performed in the top half for the majority of activities it was assessed against, when compared with other councils.
Results also show Denbighshire has the least number of measures appearing in the bottom quarter of any authority in Wales. It had also shown an improvement in 17 out of 25 indicators it was assessed against
Denbighshire had:
  • One of the lowest waiting times for delivering disabled facilities grants
  • One of the highest rates for turning private sector dwellings to occupied through direct action by the Council.
  • 100% of final statements of special education need issued within 26 weeks.
  • One of the lowest sickness absence rates
Councillor Julian Thompson-Hill, Cabinet Lead Member for Finance, with responsibility for business performance, said: “This report makes very pleasing reading and reflects the commitment and dedication of both staff and councillors for Denbighshire to be a continuing high performing authority, providing the best quality services to its residents and its communities. This is at a time of on-going financial pressures.
 “The headlines speak for themselves and we are proud of our achievements. However, we recognise that there is always room for further improvement and we will not become complacent as we work to continue to be as good as we can possibly be in all areas of our work."

Couple take big bite out of artisan biscuit market

* Sweet taste of success...James Shepherd with the Aberffraw biscuits.

An enterprising couple are supplying one of the world's most famous stores and prestigious outlets in Singapore and Kuwait after reviving Britain's oldest biscuit.

Four years ago James Shepherd and his wife Natasha re-created the historic Aberffraw Biscuit which dates back to the 13th century.

They won plaudits from lovers of fine food when they officially launched it at Llangollen Food Festival in 2013.

Since then the premium shortbread, made from only the finest butter, flour and sugar, has become a firm favourite across the UK.

Among the places you can now buy the mouth-watering biscuit is the flagship Selfridges store in London’s Oxford Street.

To say a big thank you for helping to power the biscuit’s amazing rise to popularity the couple’s are returning to the festival which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
The event, which  has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK by the Daily Telegraph and Independent newspapers, will be staged at the iconic Llangollen Pavilion on October 14 and 15.
James, originally from Llandudno, and Natasha, a Welsh-speaker from Trefriw, met at Leicester University, married 14 years ago and have two children Rowan, 11, who is a pupil at Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy in Llanrwst, and nine-year-old Jasmine who attends Ysgol Bro Cernyw in Llangernyw.

The couple were watching the Great British Bake Off in 2012 when a feature about the Aberffraw biscuit, which was first baked in the Anglesey village of the same name 800 years ago, caught their eye.

Taking the same basic recipe from ancient times, they set up a company to start baking and marketing the biscuits.

The following autumn the tasty scallop-shaped treat was showcased for the first time in the new products section of Llangollen Food Festival.

After a couple of years Natasha left her part-time job with a governmental agency to join former journalist James as a co-director of the growing business which has gone from strength to strength.

Recalling how it all began, James said: “We started chatting about hearing about the original Aberffraw Biscuit on Bake-Off and realised that despite the fact we were both from North Wales and lived here all our lives, we had never even heard of it, despite the fact it was supposed to be Britain’s oldest biscuit.

“After working out our business plan we set up production at a unit in Llanrwst with me making the biscuits and even designing the packaging.

“From the start we wanted everything to be as authentic as possible, from the unique stamp for the scallop shape of the biscuit to the ingredients which include only top quality British products.

“Over the past four years the business has just grown. In fact, the scale of it now gets a bit staggering at times and I sometimes have to pinch myself as a reminder that it’s all really happening.

“We make the biscuits in four different flavours – traditional, chocolate, lemon and bara brith - and they’re all very popular.

“Apart from outlets across the UK, we’ve been selling 500 packets at a time to Dean & Deluca, an up-market chain of stores for their Kuwait branch and Gourmet Grocery, a high-end deli in Singapore, has been taking a similar order.

“After doing a couple of tasting sessions with Selfridges they are now taking them for their flagship store in London’s Oxford Street. Apart from that we’re doing a good online trade through Amazon.”

To cope with the upsurge in sales James and Natasha, who live in Llansannan, now have two production units in Llanrwst and employ five staff to help them.

In the past few years the biscuits and the company have been showered with awards, including Ambient Food Manufacturer of the Year - The Food Awards Wales 2015 (Overall Winner), Great Taste Award 2015 (Traditional Aberffraw Biscuit), Great Taste Awards 2017 (Lemon Abberffraw Biscuit) and Food & Drink Entrepreneur of the Year - Entrepreneur Wales Awards 2015 (Overall Winner).

​Ex-journalist James  added: “Being at Hamper Llangollen this year, especially as it’s the 20th anniversary, will be good because it’s where it all began for us.  

“Apart from that, it will be great just to be part of the event and to thank them for all they did to help us get the business off the ground.

“Hamper Llangollen is a great festival in a fantastic location which attracts people who are really enthusiastic about good quality local produce.

“We can’t wait to meet the visitors and show them all our new developments.”

The Aberffraw biscuit (or sometimes Aberffraw cake) and is said to originate from 13th Century Anglesey.

Legend has it that a Welsh king was holding court in Aberffraw and his wife was walking on the beach there and, spotting a pretty scallop shell, asked for a cake to be baked in the same form.

A far more realistic source for the biscuit was the famous pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

This pilgrimage to the church of St James in Galicia, north western Spain, began in about the 8th Century with pilgrims wearing badges on their hat in the shape of a scallop shell.

It’s for this reason Aberffraw biscuits are sometimes also called James cakes. Under the patronage of King Gruffudd ap Cynan (1075-1137) or his son and successor Owain Gwynedd (1137-70), a stone church was built at Aberffraw with Romanesque features similar to 12th Century churches on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

This building is the final link to the scallop shell of St James pilgrims and the small Welsh village of Aberffraw.

Llangollen Food Festival committee member Phil Davies said: "We're delighted that James and Natasha will be helping us celebrate our 20th anniversary this year.

"We're particularly proud that we played a role in the launch of their Aberffraw biscuits which have been so successful.

"As a festival, it is an important part of our mission to provide a shop window for a host of extremely talented indigenous food producers like James and Natasha."

Check out Aberffraw biscuits at and Llangollen Food Festival at

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Former bank could get new use

* Save our bank protestors outside the branch in November 2013.

According to a story in the Daily Post, the former HSBC bank in Bridge Street, Llangollen could be transformed into adventure firm headquarters and bunkhouse.

The branch closed back in February 2014 despite furious protests by the local community.

* For the full story see:

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top sommelier heading for Hamper Llangollen

* Top sommelier Dan Davies is heading for Hamper Llangollen. 

One of the UK's youngest head sommeliers who has served stars like Sir Tom Jones and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin will be sharing his wine expertise at Llangollen Food Festival.

It will be quite the family affair for Dan Davies, 22, will be joining his father, festival stalwart Dai Chef, who will also be assisted by younger children Megan, 12, and Ellis, seven, for a cookery demonstration.

The event, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK by the Daily Telegraph and Independent newspapers.
It's being held at the iconic Llangollen Pavilion on Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 15.
Dan, who was brought up in Chirk and is currently head sommelier at the two-Michelin starred Whatley Manor Hotel in the Cotswolds, has also served two of the biggest names in the culinary world, Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal and the queen of cakes, Mary Berry.
Now, he is looking forward to returning home to North Wales and helping visitors discover some exciting homegrown wines.
He grew up attending the Llangollen Food Festival and although he wasn't old enough to remember, he met legendary operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti in 1995.

At the time his dad was working at the nearby Bryn Howel Hotel and spent a week as the opera superstar's personal chef when he made an emotional return to the eisteddfod, 40 years after he had first competed there as a 19-year-old member of the Chorus Rossini choir from Modena, Italy in 1955.

Daniel, said: "I don't remember seeing Pavarotti but I've seen the photos of me in my chef whites standing next to my dad!

"It'll be nice to come up. I'm looking forward to having a bit of fun and speaking about wine.

"I work most weekends so it's exciting to do something a bit different.

"I'll be matching wines to dad's meals - they will be a selection of Welsh and English wines.

"Hopefully people will discover some new wines and see what we're capable of producing in Britain, which is high quality wine.

"Wine over here is really flourishing. The Germans, for example, are keeping a really close eye on our wine, particularly with the climate change.

"It's a really exciting market - one of the fastest growing for wine in fact.

"We use the Bacchus grape, which is like an English or Welsh Sauvignon, but the taste is more elderflower and tart. There are some really interesting styles and I think people will be surprised."

Daniel, a former pupil of Ysgol David Hughes in Menai Bridge, Anglesey, has been by his dad's side most of his life but was never destined to follow in his footsteps as a chef.

He said: "I wanted to be an air traffic controller when I was 16. I was learning to fly but never ended up getting my pilot's license.

"I was always in the kitchen with my dad which funded my flying at the time.

"He sat me down one day and said why not think about doing hospitality, you're good at it."
Daniel, who went on to study catering and hospitality at Coleg Llandrillo Cymru,
moved on to the five star Cliveden House Hotel in Berkshire where he was introduced to the wine profession - and has never looked back.

Daniel explained: "I was teetotal at the time but it's safe to say I'm not anymore!

"It all started from there really - I fell in love with the subject. I love the challenge and puzzle involved.

"I'm really enjoying my current role. I work in lovely surroundings, very pretty.

"There are a lot of vineyards in the area that I can visit and I also try to get to London as much as I can for wine tasting events.

"I try to get out to as many places as I can, here and abroad, to increase my knowledge. It's very important."

Working as a sommelier since 2013 has resulted in Daniel rubbing shoulders with some very high profile names.

"Sir Tom Jones was a regular at Stovells - a Mexican restaurant that I worked at in Surrey", he explains.

"He must have come in five or six times. He wasn't a big drinker but he always knew what he wanted.

"I've also served Heston Blumenthal and Mary Berry. Heston had really good knowledge and liked to chat. He's more into his classical wines.

"Then there was an occasion when we had Chris Martin at the Cliveden. I try not to interact too much because they're in their bubble and want to enjoy their night.

"I don't really think too much about the fact they're famous. I'm in professional work mode and treat every guest the same."

Proud father Dai believes his son will become a Master Sommelier by the time he is 40, which is the highest accolade possible and a rare feat achieved by only a few hundred people around the world.

He said: "Daniel has got such knowledge of wines, it's unbelievable. 

"He's been in the kitchen with me all his life. He ran the Ship Inn when he was just 16.

"I always said he was too nice to be in the kitchen so I put him out front and he was made to be with people.

"We decided as a family he should follow the front and it's gone on from there. He's now a sommelier and he loves it."

Dai is looking forward to working with his family, or 'Team Dai Chef' as he refers to them, and will be rustling up a series of meals from the latest culinary craze at the festival.

He explained: "We'll be doing a live workshop on stage. This year we're going to be doing 'clean eating'.

"Dan will be matching the wines to the dishes we do on stage. It'll be innovative and hopefully people will like it at the show.

"There is a big call for clean eating with lots of new places popping up. It is a challenge to keep moving with the times but you have to keep yourself ahead of the game.

"Clean eating is massive in Vegas and New York, and is big right now in London. It's just starting to spread from there.

"It's sharp and exciting food. All your carbs are counted and there is a lot of fresh fruit and veg."

Dai added: "Dan is very much customer first whereas Megan is like me - she has kitchen attitude!

"She's been doing cookery demonstrations since she was five and will be serving up some Greek flatbreads.

"Ellis will also be chipping in. It's a real family effort!"

Dai, who has cooked for Catherine Zeta Jones and the House of Lords during his long, distinguished career, is a regular at Llangollen Food Festival.

He is now working as a freelance and consultant running meal services for private functions.

"I celebrated my 60th birthday this year and I've already visited 30 different restaurants", said Dai.

"I'm completely flat out but I still love it."

Phil Davies, a member of the committee at Llangollen Food Festival, said: "We're delighted Dan is returning to Llangollen Food Festival where he'll be joining his dad, the ever popular Dai Chef, and his family for a culinary masterclass.

"This year is going to be a very special as the festival is celebrating its 20 anniversary so, with advice from Dan, we will be raising a glass or two to mark the occasion.

"With a record number of around 120 stall-holders, this year's festival promises to be the biggest and the best yet. I can't wait."

* To find out more about Llangollen Food Festival go to