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Green zone created outside Morriston Hospital

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A green oasis giving staff, patients and visitors a chance to escape to the country has been unveiled in the grounds of Morriston Hospital.

What was previously an unremarkable grass verge has been transformed into an amazing space with a grass-roofed roundhouse at its heart.

It opens on to a wildflower-lined, open-air corridor with seating where people can enjoy some precious moments of tranquillity.

Similar greening initiatives are taking place across Swansea Bay hospitals and dozens of other health board sites at a cost of £1.28 million – the majority of it funded by the Welsh Government.

It’s all thanks to Biophilic Wales, a collaboration headed by the National Botanic Garden of Wales, with Swansea Bay University Health Board, Swansea University and Natural Resources Wales.

Officially opening the new roundhouse: l-r Swansea Bay UHB Chair Emma Woollett, Deb Lewis, National Botanic Garden of Wales Director Huw Francis and Biophilic Wales Project Manager Kathryn Thomas (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Biophilic Wales has three main themes; Grasslands for Life, Plants for People, and Inspiring Spaces.

Swansea Bay’s involvement has been with Inspiring Spaces, which uses sites owned by the health board as focal points for green projects which have been co-developed with the local community.

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Des Keighan, the health board’s Assistant Director of Operations, Estates, said there were spaces available that had not been used effectively.

“During the pandemic staff didn’t want to go to the break-out spaces provided because of the restrictions,” he said.

“Having somewhere in the grounds were they can sit and reflect away from the hurly-burly of the hospital is a big improvement for them but also gives patients somewhere to sit and reflect too.”

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The roundhouse is a large gazebo made of solid wood with a grass roof and benches where people can sit if it’s raining.

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It’s located to the left of the road leading up from the hospital lower entrance to the multi-storey car park.

There is also a walkway heading downhill, bordered on each side by railway sleepers with benches in.

“People can sit inside there and it almost forms a tunnel effect with either side having soil banks that have been planted with wild flowers,” said Mr Keighan.

“When you’re sat in the seat, you’re screened from the hospital and the noise of the road.

“It’s not fully grown yet and there will be hedges along the top of the sleepers as well to protect people. So it’s a space away from the hospital that allows you to feel a bit closer to nature.”

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Morriston Hospital Service Director Deb Lewis said it had been difficult a year ago to envisage what it would look like. The end result, she said, was absolutely phenomenal.

“Those of us who have worked in Morriston over the last 18 months know the challenges we faced providing staff and patients with break-out areas,” Mrs Lewis added.

“Social distancing has been hugely challenging in the areas that we did have. Providing a space like this is fantastic. I know it will be really appreciated by staff and patients.”

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Biophilic Wales is funded by the Welsh Government, which awarded a grant of just under £1 million for the Swansea Bay project.

This was match-funded by staff time donated by the health board, the university and Natural Resources Wales, as well as the time donated by a small army of local volunteers who undertook the work.

They, along with Swansea Bay UHB’s gardening and environment teams, were thanked during the official launch of the green space there.

Health Board Chair, Emma Woollett officially opening the project (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Health Board Chair, Emma Woollett praised them for the imaginative way they had brought the project – the first of its kind in Wales – to life.

“Supporting well-being is absolutely fundamental to our staff and the patients that visit. It is also a positive experience for those who are involved in projects like this across our sites.

“This is all really important for us. It’s such an exciting project so thank you all very much indeed.”

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The project, led by Dr Natasha de Vere, Head of Science at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, is serving as a pilot study that will help develop models that can be applied throughout Wales.

National Botanic Garden of Wales Director Huw Francis said it had been a real privilege to work on it.

“The importance to health and well-being of green spaces is increasingly recognised,” he said.

“The development of this area and the other green spaces the project has worked on will hopefully provide valuable places for respite, rehabilitation and recuperation for the staff of the NHS, the patients they care for and the family and friends who visit.

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“We sincerely hope the green spaces that have been created will enhance the health and well-being of everyone who can make use of them, and support NHS staff as they undertake their essential and much-appreciated work.”

Swansea Bay Staff Experience and Organisational Development Manager Julie Lloyd was among the guests at the launch (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

Green spaces large and small are being developed on a total of 40 health board sites across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

Biophilic Wales Project Manager Kathryn Thomas said every day she and the volunteers went out was an absolute pleasure.

“What we’re doing is just reinforcing that people are happier and healthier when they’re outside and working with nature. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to create these sites.”

The health board is already developing a full-scale solar farm to supply almost a quarter of Morriston Hospital’s power, cutting the electricity bill by around £500,000 a year and significantly reducing carbon emissions.

This is part of a £13.5 million investment in energy-saving and carbon-reduction measures across the health board estate.

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Mr Keighan said: “It’s all part of the Future Generations Act, looking at how health interacts with the wider community and trying to make the space that we do have more useful.

“Where the roundhouse is located was just a green area that people drove past and didn’t think anything of.

“Now, it’s a space where staff and patients can retreat to and just have that little bit of stillness in what can be a very busy life.”

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Environment

Cadle Heath is alive with the sound of critters

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From endangered bats to moths, beetles and unusual critters, a Swansea suburb is giving locals an opportunity to discover exactly what’s living on their doorstep.

The Cadle Heath BioBlitz event funded by the Swansea Nature Partnership on Saturday, May 14, is a day packed with scavenger hunts, guided walks, opportunities to learn about the wildflowers, bugs birds, reptiles and mammals and help to gather important nature data by recording the unusual species living in this urban heath.

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This nature reserve is one of Swansea’s best kept secrets and stretches from behind Swansea Community Farm on Carmarthen Road, to popular shopping-destination, Pontarddulais Road Retail Park.

The event, which is organised by Swansea Community Farm, South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre and Penderi Green Regeneration project, will take place between 10am and 3pm at the farm. Followed by a bat walk at 8.30pm, giving people the chance to listen for the elusive, red-listed, Lesser Horseshoe Bat in its natural habitat.

Kate McCabe from Pobl, leading on the Penderi Green Regeneration Project, said: “This is an exciting event for us. Cadle Heath is one of the best examples of urban heathland in the country and we are proud to have such a rich, exciting space for nature in the heart of Swansea’s Penderi region. The fact that the heath is home to a red-listed bat species is something we should be really proud of and something we should protect and celebrate.”

“Cadle is in such a highly populated part of Swansea that it is often overlooked, and people don’t often realise the hidden haven that exists for local wildlife. This family-friendly event will really bring the area to life, giving people a unique opportunity to really explore the area with the guidance of passionate scientists and nature experts.”

Katharine Aylett, from Swansea Community Farm, said: “We are proud to be hosting such an important and exciting event for the area, and to be partners of Pobl’s Penderi Green Regeneration Project. At Swansea Community Farm, we know the positive effect activities like this have on the community and local wildlife; it’s about raising awareness of the natural world and bringing people together, outdoors. 

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“The Penderi Green Regeneration Project itself, is vital to the area and is already having a clear impact on this part of Swansea. We’re looking forward to working with them on future events and initiatives.”

The Penderi Green Regeneration Project is an initiative to support local people in their desire to improve green spaces in their area which will help boost health and wellbeing. Through a series of physical and educational opportunities, the initiative will bring the wider neighbourhood together to regenerate green spaces in the Penderi area of Swansea.

Funded by UK Government, under the Community Renewal Fund (CRF), Pobl Group is able to deliver the Project with the help of key partners, Swansea Environment Centre, Room To Grow and the Conservation Team at Swansea Council.

For more information on the free event, visit: www.swanseacommunityfarm.org.uk

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Environment

First Minister celebrates 10 years of the Wales Coast Path

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The First Minister will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Wales Coast Path with a visit to meet volunteers and walkers.

A year long programme of events and activities celebrating the Wales Coast Path will take place throughout 2022, including walking festivals, virtual challenges and art installations.

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Since its opening in 2012, the Wales Coast Path has established itself as a beacon of our nation’s natural beauty.

The 870 mile path guides walkers along Wales’ picturesque coastline, weaving its way past a hundred beaches and sixteen castles.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The coastal path is one of the crowning glories of Wales and one of the proudest achievements of devolution.

“I would like to thank all those involved in the management of the path. Particularly the staff and volunteers, who are out in all weathers, working hard to maintain the path to such high standards.

“If I had to choose my favourite stretch of the path, the portion between Pendine and Amroth would be a candidate: starting in my own home county of Carmarthenshire, and ending in Pembrokeshire. It may not be the most well-known part of the path, but it offers huge variety: some challenging climbs, outstanding variety of flowers, secret coves and plenty of historical interest”.

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The Welsh Government will build on the successes of the first ten years so that more people are able to enjoy the path, from more backgrounds, more easily, and with more benefits for local communities, businesses and the environment.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS, asked Huw Irranca-Davies, MS for Ogmore to undertake a review of the Wales Coast Path.

A small group, drawn from academia and the public, private and voluntary sectors was established to undertake the review.

The Group reflected on the key achievements over the last decade and identified how to maximise opportunities for the future.

Their report has been published on the Welsh Government website today (11 May).

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The review recognises the potential value and challenges of the Wales Coast Path. It contains 19 recommendations for the Welsh Government to consider when developing its future strategic approach to the path.

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Dyfed Powys Police

Man banned from driving for 12 months for fishing offence

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A man from Merthyr Tydfil who travelled to the River Loughor, near Llanelli to fish using a barbaric and illegal method, has been banned from driving for 12 months as part of his sentence.

Vu Quang Tien pleaded guilty to an illegal fishing charge and also to a charge of obstruction of a Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Fisheries Enforcement Officer on 26 April at Swansea Magistrates Court.

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Mr Tien and two other anglers were witnessed by NRW Fisheries Enforcement Officers deliberately using the illegal foul hooking method of fishing – also known as snatching – at the river Loughor on 15 August 2021. NRW officers attended the site after several reports of illegal fishing were made to NRW’s 24/7 incident call centre by concerned members of the community.

When approached and questioned by NRW officers, Mr Tien and his accomplices showed significant hostility and reluctance to share identification documents which eventually had to be extracted by use of reasonable force.

All of Mr Tien’s fishing tackle and fish, along with his associates’ fishing tackle was seized by NRW Officers at the time of the incident. The district judge on the day at Swansea Magistrates Court gave permission to NRW to confiscate these items permanently from each of them.

The District Judge disqualified Mr Tien from driving for 12 months due to seriousness of the incident, and the premeditated and deliberate action of travelling such a distance to commit the offence.

He was also ordered to pay a total of £2,334 in fines, NRW costs and a victim surcharge.

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Mark Thomas, Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “We would like to again thank Dyfed Powys Police, the local communities and also the law-abiding anglers in the area for their continued support in reporting these illegal fishing activities.

“Foul hooking is a truly barbaric form of fishing carried out by a small minority of anglers in Wales, who have no regard for fish welfare.

“NRW and the Police take these incidents seriously as do the courts.

“Hopefully, the small minority of anglers who may in future, think of using any illegal fishing methods will take heed of the heavy fines and driving ban in this case issued by the courts.”

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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