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Journey of respect and tribute

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pc_Walkers-Pembrokeshire-Coast-Path-above-Marloes-SandsA special Pembrokeshire Herald report by Dennis O’Connor
IF A tribute to the bravery of our armed forces can be measured in miles, then the rugged beauty of the 870 mile Welsh coastline will bear witness to a unique and moving tribute over the next few months as eleven teams of four men and women embark on a personal journey of respect and tribute. 
Fifty young Welsh Guardsmen have lost their lives whilst on active duty since the end of WWII. Jan Koops and David (Dai) Graham are both veteran Welsh Guards who served in the Falklands War.
They are aware of the devastating impact that active service can have on soldiers and their families as they cope with bereavement and these two men are the driving force behind the team organising the Walk on Wales (WOW) challenge which aims to raise one million pounds for the benefit of two charities, the Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal and the Combat Stress Charity.
Each name, rank and number of the fallen has been inscribed on a specially commissioned silver baton which also conceals the names of a further eight soldiers from other regiments and Corps who were killed on active duty whilst attached to the Welsh Guards. The baton will pass from team to team along the coast for the duration of the walk (August 25th – November 2nd) before finally being delivered to its resting place at Llandaf Cathedral.
Both charities provide essential support. Many have returned safe from battle but have suffered and continue to suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which severely inhibits their ability to lead “normal” lives.
In preparation for the event, the teams have undertaken months of arduous training out on the coast in all weather conditions. Each mile completed in training has been considered as a small sacrifice to those who have given so much more.
The WOW logistic team based in Cardiff has been busy ensuring that the success of the event and safety and welfare of the teams and guest walkers remains a priority. This has been aided greatly by significant sponsorship by large companies including Bluestone and Radio Pembrokeshire.
The Pembrokeshire coast bears host to the Walk on Wales teams as they enter St. Dogmaels on October 3rd before continuing along the whole of the coast towards the Carmarthenshire border. 
Team 7 (New Quay to Whitesands Bay) is led by Jim Salmon, who is from St. Davids and Team 9 (Freshwater West to Burry Port) is headed by another local man, Rob Davies from Letterston.
Both men are veteran Welsh Guards, and Jim says: "I'm privileged to be part of a team involved in raising funds for these two charities.” Rob Davies added,  ‘I loved my  time in the Regiment and really enjoy getting involved with all  things to do with the Welsh Guards, so when the message came to me that Walk on Wales was looking for someone to lead a team from Freshwater West to Burry Port, I jumped at the chance.”
Throughout the challenge, the teams will be joined by some well-known faces including including MPs Stephen Crabb and Simon Hart. Members of the public who want to pay their own personal respects are welcomed and encouraged to sign up to take part in this unique event. Registration is easy through the Walk on Wales website. You can walk any distance of your choice on any day or week stage.
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Safety boost for cyclists in Pembrokeshire

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A NEW campaign has been launched to improve road safety in Pembrokeshire.

‘Close Pass’ aims to remind motorists to give a 1.5m safe passing distance when overtaking cyclists.

More than 100 signs highlighting the safe passing distance have been put up on roads around the county.

The hi-visibility signs target popular cycling routes including Ironman, the Tour of Pembrokeshire, Wales Long Course and the National Cycle Network.
“Research has shown that a third of all confrontational incidents which take place between drivers and cyclists are related to close passes,” said Cllr Phil Baker.
“This initiative aims not only to improve safety but also the relationships between all road users.”

The Close Pass campaign has been launched by the road safety team at Pembrokeshire County Council with Sarah Hitchen, whose husband, Tenby Aces cyclist Jason Hitchen, was seriously injured while cycling on the A4139 near Manorbier in August 2017.

Jason was airlifted to Morriston Hospital following the collision, which took place while he was training for Ironman.

His injuries included six double fractured ribs, a collapsed lung, shoulder dislocation, muscle and tissue damage, several cuts and bruises – and he was told he would never do a triathlon again.

Incredibly, Jason completed the Long Course last year, following eight gruelling months of rehabilitation, and completed the event again this year.

Sarah said the campaign aims to make a ‘real difference’.

“The number of people cycling on our roads has risen drastically and we need to create a better environment for everyone – drivers and cyclists,” she said.

“We also need motorists to slow down and be more conscious of the need to leave an adequate gap between themselves and other road users.”

She said the campaign was very close to her family’s hearts.

“We’re trying to turn a negative situation into a positive and save other people’s lives,” she said. “We don’t want anyone else to have a phone call from the police saying their loved one has had a serious accident.”

Cllr Phil Baker praised Sarah’s determination to raise awareness of the issue and her work on the campaign.

And he said it was important that there is mutual respect on the road.
“Vulnerable road users such as cyclists and horse-riders need space on our country roads too,” he said. “They share our roads and are exposed to other traffic.
“You may be in a hurry but be patient; before you overtake them, make sure you have given them enough room as they could adjust their road positioning unexpectedly for a pothole or drain.”

Pictured are Sarah and Jason Hitchen and their daughter Ella, who has raised awareness and funds for the Welsh Air Ambulance since her father’s accident. Also pictured is Cllr Phil Baker, Road Safety Officer Kirstie-Anne Donoghue and Transport Planner Clare Williams.

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All aboard as Milford Haven sight loss group take to the tracks

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IT WAS a case of full steam ahead for the Milford Haven Macular Society Support Group after they were invited to take part in a Familiarisation Day organised by Transport for Wales.

Members of the group got on-board for the hour-long journey from Milford Haven to Carmarthen to test some of the assisted travel services available to people with sight loss and other disabilities when travelling on Transport for Wales’ trains.

The group was accompanied by Geraint Morgan, community affairs manager at Transport for Wales. Geraint recently visited the group at one of its monthly meetings to talk to its members about the support on offer to anyone using the train who has a visual impairment. He also invited the group to come and try it out for themselves.

The trip was one of many events taking place throughout the UK as part of Macular Week, which runs from 24-30 June. Now in its fifth year, Macular Week is organised by the Macular Society to raise awareness of macular disease. This year, the Society is highlighting the importance of research funding to find a cure.

Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. Nearly 1.5 million people are currently affected and many more are at risk. The disease can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, leaving them unable to drive, read or see faces. Many people affected describe losing their sight as being similar to bereavement. There is still no cure and most types of the disease are not treatable. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common form of macular disease, affecting more than 600,000 people, usually over the age of 50.

Milford Haven Macular Society

Madeline Roberts, leader of the Milford Haven Macular Society Support Group, said: “When Geraint asked us if we’d like to see how the assisted travel service works, we thought it was a great idea.

“I travel by train a lot myself, but many of our group don’t use it regularly or haven’t travelled by rail for a long time. For some of them, it’s simply because they just haven’t felt confident enough to do it. But there’s so much help and assistance available if you need it and nothing is too much trouble for the staff.

“It was also great that we could do this during Macular Week and use the opportunity to raise awareness of macular disease and spread the word to as many people while we were out and about.”

Geraint Morgan, community affairs manager at Transport for Wales, said: “For many people with sight loss, public transport is an important means of being able to travel – for work, for leisure or meeting family and friends. The objective of our assisted travel talks and familiarisation trips is to help raise awareness of the assistance that can be provided when travelling by train.

“The familiarisation trips offer an opportunity for people to experience a journey by train with the aim of giving everybody the knowledge and confidence to travel again in the future.”

For more information about assisted travel services available from Transport for Wales, please visit: https://tfwrail.wales/accessible-travel/booking-assistance.

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Drive For Life refresher course keeps motorists over 65 on the road

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‘WE’RE not here to stop you driving, we’re here to make sure you keep driving’.

That’s the message given to motorists on Pembrokeshire County Council’s free Drive for Life course.

The one-day refresher course is offered to experienced motorists who are over the age of 65 and driving regularly.

It gives them an overall update on all aspects of safe driving, both in theory and in practice.

Elaine and David Evans of Scleddau – who travel frequently around the country to visit family and to perform with the Fishguard Folk singers -completed the course recently.

It was ‘time very well spent’, according to Elaine.

“It’s all about keeping you safely on the road for as long as possible,” she said. “I’d encourage anyone to do it – it’s only for one day and the benefits are enormous.”

Organised by the Council’s road safety team, the course consists of a classroom session at Haverfordwest fire station in the morning followed by a light lunch and a two-hour driving session in the afternoon.

Both sessions are led by local approved driving instructors.

David said it was very enjoyable. “The instructor explained everything very clearly and covered a wide range of topics including the Highway Code, road signs, and hazards awareness,” he said.

The practical afternoon session allows the driver to cover subjects they want to refresh, such as parallel parking, junctions or particular roundabouts.

Elaine said it was a great confidence boost. “You worry that after all you might have slipped into some bad habits, but actually it was reassuring to know that you’re still good at driving after all these years,” she said.

“The instructor advised on our strengths and could also help with any weaknesses.”

She added: “I’d like to say how lucky we are to have this facility in Pembrokeshire. It was a great course and everyone benefited – men and women.”

The Drive for Life initiative is funded by the Welsh Government.

All course participants who return a post-course questionnaire are entered into a prize draw to win £50. Elaine Evans was the most recent recipient.

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