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New Margam Park bike trails funded by green energy are runaway success

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A project to re-design mountain bike trails at Margam Country Park funded by a nearby renewable energy biomass plant has been a huge success.

Earlier this year, Neath Port Talbot Council allocated funding for the project to the Margam Mountain Bike Club from the Margam Green Energy Community Benefit Fund.

Money for the fund comes from Glennmont Partners, one of Europe’s largest and best-known renewable energy fund managers and who are the owners of the biomass plant at Harbour Way, Margam.

Fuelled by waste wood, the Margam Green Energy plant provides renewable energy for up to 75,000 homes and employs 30 people onsite.

Using the money, the Mountain Bike Club worked with trail design specialists Back on Track on the project to transform the existing competition grade cycle tracks at Margam Country Park into downgraded ‘red’, ‘black’ and ‘blue’ trails.

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The project was led by the Physical Activity and Sports Service team based at the park who also physically built the trail in partnership with Margam Park staff.

The trails are now accessible to the novice mountain biker but they still provide a challenge for those with a bit more confidence.

The project has been a huge success and since the reopening of the park, the club has witnessed a huge upsurge in membership and ad hoc usage.

Cllr Peter Rees, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture, said: “This is a fantastic example of the council working with our renewable energy partners to produce benefits the community can enjoy.

“These new trails give much wider access to mountain biking which is not only good for people’s health but which also attracts more visitors to our flagship Margam Country Park.”

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Murray Paterson, UK Biomass Manager for Glennmont Partners said: “Supporting this type of project is precisely what our Community Benefit Fund for Margam is about – supporting local community groups and organisations. Given the easing of lockdown restrictions, we hope people of all ages make full use of the bike trails and explore the beauty of Margam Country Park.”


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Carmarthenshire

Keep your distance message as Portuguese Man o’ Wars wash ashore

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Beach walkers are being advised to keep clear of Portuguese Man o’ Wars that are being reported washed ashore along the Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire coast.

The Man o’ War is made up of a colony of organisms working together, and often mistaken for a jellyfish.

For humans and dogs a Man o’ War sting can be extremely painful and dead Man o’ Wars can still deliver a sting.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Beaches Officer Myrddin Dennis, said: “It’s not unusual for Man o’ Wars to wash up on the Pembrokeshire shore and we are receiving calls about them from around our coastline.

“Our advice would be to keep your distance and not to touch them.  Please also keep your dogs on leads so they don’t get too close.”

(Lead image: Pembrokeshire Council)

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Environment

Professor becomes clean air champion for Wales

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A Swansea University expert has been named as one of the UK’s latest clean air champions.

Paul Lewis, Professor Emeritus at Swansea University Medical School, has a research background in the environmental impacts on respiratory health.

He is an expert member on the Welsh Government Clean Air Advisory Panel, helping advise on fine-particulate targets in readiness for a new Clean Air Act in Wales. 

He is also a member of the Wales Air Quality Direction Independent Review Panel and the Domestic Solid Fuel Burning in Wales, Task and Finish Group. 

Professor Lewis’s new role will see him joining the existing national Clean Air Champions  UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) Clean Air Programme. 

Professor Lewis said he was delighted at his appointment: “The role will allow me to engage with key stakeholders from academia, industry, government, the NHS and third sector right across Wales to help develop new solutions and policies to reduce air pollution and the impacts on our health and wellbeing.” 

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The Clean Air Programme is a £42.5 million investment that supports high quality research and innovation to develop practical solutions for today’s air quality issues and equip the UK to proactively tackle future air quality challenges. 

Professor Lewis and his fellow champions act as the central point for air quality research in their respective regions and will work to increase collaboration and impact across and beyond the programme. 

They will engage with researchers funded by the Clean Air Programme to explore ways of promoting knowledge exchange with relevant research users such as local businesses, industry health professionals, local authorities and the public. 

They will also gather intelligence on new local research, policy, and industry developments and contribute new ideas to enhance the impact of the programme.

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Environment

City parks flying the green flag for excellence

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The lake at Brynmill Park

Six of Swansea’s main parks have once again been awarded green flag status, recognising the vital role they play in boosting residents’ wellbeing and improving the natural environment.

The Green Flag Award programme is delivered in Wales by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, with support from Welsh Government. Sites are judged against eight strict criteria, including biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental management and community involvement.

In Swansea, the Council’s Clyne Gardens, Singleton Botanical Gardens, Brynmill Park, Parc Llewelyn, Cwmdonkin Park and Victoria Park have all gained the prestigious flag status.

Two more green flags have been awarded to Penllergare Trust for their efforts at Penllergare Valley Woods and Swansea University has received recognition for Singleton Campus.

Mark Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environment Enhancement and Infrastructure Management, said: “Once again, our parks and cleansing teams have had their commitment to keeping our much loved parks in wonderful condition rewarded. It’s also important to recognise our council staff have achieved this during the pandemic making this achievement even more special.

“Retaining green flag status is important to the council in terms of making a wider statement on our commitment to ensure the public and visitors to the city have excellent green spaces they can visit and enjoy what we have to offer.

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“I’m also pleased to see a large number of community gardens also get recognition for what they offer residents. This is largely down to community groups and volunteers who take it upon themselves to look after these green spaces and make sure that wherever you live in Swansea, there is certain to be somewhere nearby that families can visit.”

A total of 13 ‘community awards’ have also been given to smaller community based gardens and green spaces, including two new winners – Clydach Community Garden and Blaenymaes Community Garden.

Julie James, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change, said: “Green spaces are vital for mental and physical well-being and throughout the pandemic we have seen how important these spaces have been for local communities. 

 “Wales still holds more than a third of the UK’s Green Flag community sites and it is fantastic to see more places in Wales receiving Green Flag Award and Green Flag Community Award. 

 “These landscapes play a vital role in delivering rich ecosystems and vibrant and resilient communities, and I congratulate all of the sites for providing excellent, year-round facilities and events for people in Wales.”

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 Lucy Prisk, Green Flag Coordinator at Keep Wales Tidy said: “The pandemic showed us just how important high-quality parks and green spaces are to our communities. With more visitors than ever enjoying our green spaces, I’d like to congratulate the hard work of staff and volunteers who have maintained excellent standards at these sites.”

Lead Image: The lake at Brynmill Park (Image: Swansea Council)

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