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Island fort project deserves support

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St_Catherine's_Fort_Front,_Tenby_From_On_The_IslandA special Pembrokeshire Herald report by Dennis O’Connor
SINCE becoming uninhabited in the late 1970’s, the corridors of one of South Pembrokeshire’s most iconic buildings are now once again beginning to echo with the ambitious sound of change.
Cutting through the red tape in order to progress plans to re-develop the fort at St. Catherine’s Island, located just off the foreshore at Tenby, is painfully slow but the Island project manager Pete Prosser remains hopeful that approval will be granted so that work may finally begin to open what would undoubtedly be a highly popular tourist attraction.
Built in 1870, the fort was constructed to repel foreign invaders, but its guns were not installed until 1886. It later became a private house before an anti-aircraft battery was installed at the front of the island during World War Two. Much later it became the unusual location of a zoo before the island was vacated in the seventies. It is the rich early history of the fort that the developer wants to once again bring to life.
After the breath-taking trek along the island, the vast granite and limestone fort is hugely impressive when viewed from the approach to the drawbridge. As you enter the building, senses are flooded with the history of the long narrow corridors and beautifully designed vaulted ceilings of the rooms. The tracks on-which the cannons moved are still visible and the significance of the positioning of gun slots throughout the fort provide rare snapshots of the town. Even in darkened recesses there is a real sense of safety within the old building.
Since becoming vacant, the fort has been plagued by trespassers, some of whom have accelerated the decay of this wonderful building by their selfishness. As a result, some rooms are in a pretty sorry state. However, despite this and being open the elements, the building remains defiant to these intrusions and progress can be made through the warren of corridors which reveal the sheer scale of the building. After climbing the steps which lead out to the top of the fort the natural instinct is to head for the nearest vantage point to take in the stunning views of nearby Caldey Island and the mainland and the views are truly magnificent.
Public access to the five-acre island and fort is strictly prohibited and it is not difficult to see why. After years of neglect and decay the area is not fully safe so this is the predominant issue which is being addressed by Pete Prosser and his team. They are dependent upon low tides and muscle power to transport equipment to the island and this means having to work a full shift whilst being cut off from the mainland but spirits are high and there is almost a tangible sense of excitement now that safety work is underway.
When full permission for the project is finally granted, visitors can look forward to an interactive experience which will bring the varied history of the fort to life through its themed rooms and characters.
Children will be able to explore the fort’s tunnels in safety while parents and grandparents enjoy the sense of history. There is even a plan for one room on the lower floor to be fitted with underwater camera controls to that unique access is given to the marine life around the island.
Over years, many people would have gazed at St Catherine’s Fort and would have longed to know what it would be like to see inside the garrisoned walls, so when the rare window of opportunity opened to meet Pete and his team on the island for a personal tour, it was the realisation of a little boy’s dream that has been many years in the making.
However, not everyone is happy with the proposal to save the building from total decay. If the plans were not sympathetic to the fort or its history then that would be understandable, but any opposition to the idea of preserving such an iconic historical monument should be viewed cautiously by the people of Pembrokeshire who also deserve to have the opportunity to be able to have their childhood dreams realised.

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Community

Library reservations service expanded

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PEMBROKESHIRE’S Library Service has extended its reservation service.

Customers can place up to two reservations for books and audiobooks, which are available and in stock at libraries in Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Milford Haven, Narberth, Newport, Neyland, Pembroke, Pembroke Dock, Saundersfoot and Tenby.

Items are also available to reserve from the service’s Stack (store).

Library members can place reservations free of charge, in person or via the online catalogue.

To access the online catalogue, log on to https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/libraries-and-culture and select ‘Find Library Books’.

Customers can also place a request for an item not currently in stock, to be purchased as one of their two reservations.

The Library Service is not offering an Interlibrary Loan service at the present time.

For details on the library services currently offered in Pembrokeshire, please view https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/libraries-and-culture

 

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Community

Extra police patrols at Tenby skate park after ‘men approached young girls’

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CONCERNED locals in Tenby have taken to social media to write about concerns of inappropriate behaviour – between males they think may have been asylum seekers currently housed at Penally Army Camp – and young girls in Tenby.

The police have said they are investigating the matter.

Witnesses have said that young girls have been approached by males while at the skate park in Tenby.

The Home Office has said that the camp will be used to house up to 250 male asylum seekers whilst their claims are processed due to a shortage of alternative accommodation, caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Reports circulating on Facebook have claimed to have direct knowledge that male residents of the camp have been talking and exchanging contact information with local school girls, some suggesting that they were in school uniform when talking with the men.

However, the police have not confirmed that that is the case – it remains an unproved allegation.

One local claimed on Facebook: “So tonight a few of us concerned local parents decided to go to Tenby skate park.

“As we got there two young girls where sat on a bench waiting for someone.

“Some kids told us they were the ones talking to the men yesterday exchanging Snap Chat details and stuff.

“Then the men from the day before turned up… saw us and scurried off down the beach.

“The two girls then quickly wandered off.

“These girls were about 14.”

One resident had stated that they had reported the incidents he had seen and heard to the local police station, he claimed that an officer told him they were in talks with Greenhill School about the incidents.

Pembrokeshire County Council said that they are unable to comment on the alleged incidents, however a spokesman told The Herald in a statement: “All I would say is that our schools regularly advise pupils not to engage with strangers.”

Dyfed-Powys Police confirmed they are investigating two alleged incidents at the skate park, and have been in contact with the local schools.

A police spokesperson told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “We have received two reports of alleged inappropriate behaviour at the skate park in Tenby and are looking to speak to the people who contacted us.

“In the meantime the skate park is now part of our patrol plans and we have linked in with local schools to reinforce the School Beat Stay SMART online messaging.”

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Community

Off-duty lifesavers were lost but ready to react

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A PEMBROKESHIRE man whose life was saved by multiple twists of fate has praised those who stepped in during his hour of need.

Keen amateur triathlete Steven Landrey, 51, of Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, was out on a post-lockdown bike ride when he suffered a cardiac arrest that was to set off the incredible chain of events.

Steven said: “We were about 40km into an 80km ride when it happened.

“It was strange and lucky as only two weeks earlier I was running alone in Paris, and the night before I swam 2km alone in the sea, and during lockdown had done lots of exercise on my own.

“But that day, I had met my brother-in-law, Chris, and some friends.

“I dread to think what would have happened if I would have been alone.”

Meanwhile, just a mile or so away was off-duty Welsh Ambulance Service Community First Responder Angharad Hodgson, from Martletwy, and her firefighter partner Steve Bradfield, from Narbeth.

Steven Landrey, 51, of Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire

“We were heading to meet friends at Barfundle Beach. We hadn’t been there for a few years so were following the sat-nav in the car,” said Angharad.

“We were running late and had taken a wrong turn as the sat-nav must have frozen or lost signal.

“We decided to turn back on ourselves, and that’s when we saw Steven on the floor being worked on by Chris.”

Always travelling with their defibrillator and kit, Angharad and Steve, who is also a trained medical responder, were able to pull over swiftly and step in with their life-saving defibrillator.

Angharad, 23, said: “We put the pad on his chest and after about 30 manual chest compressions, Steven had stopped breathing and the defibrillator told us we could shock him twice.

“We did it and he came back to us, but his breathing was very sticky so we continued CPR until the air and land ambulances arrived to take over.”

Steven was taken by road to Swansea’s Morriston Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery to fit a stent into a lower left artery of his heart, which had flooded with blood and caused the cardiac arrest.

Steven is making a good recovery at home and is taking the first steps back to work in his role as a European Managing Director for Babcock Aviation, an aerial emergency services business.

He said: “I’m working with the National Cardiac Referral Scheme and also a personal trainer and am feeling well and getting strength back every day.

“With my work, I have seen emergency care provision across Europe and Canada and the care I received at every step of the way here in Wales has been world-class.

“I can’t thank Chris, Angharad, Steve, the air ambulance crew and the paramedics enough, along with the doctors and surgeons at Morriston, they were all amazing.

“I realise everything went my way that day, and for those few hours I was the luckiest man alive, but having these trained people in our communities to support emergency medical services is absolutely vital.

“Community First Responders like Angharad, CPR training and Public Access Defibrillators really do save lives and are to be respected.”

Glyn Thomas, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Community First Responder Officer in Mid and West Wales, said: “The prompt actions of Angharad and Steve were no doubt a major factor in the patient’s survival.

“Even off-duty as they were, they demonstrated control and organisation – they are both a credit to their communities and organisations.

“We wish Steven a smooth recovery and all the best for the future.”

Today is Restart a Heart Day, a national initiative run by the Resuscitation Council UK, British Heart Foundation, St John Ambulance and the ambulance services across the UK to promote education around Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

In the absence of physical events due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Welsh Ambulance Service is encouraging people to watch a video by Resuscitation Council UK and keep an eye on social media from partners like Save a Life Cymru who are promoting key messages such as early recognition of cardiac arrest, early CPR and early defibrillation.

Restart a Heart Day runs parallel to the Trust’s month-long Shoctober campaign which aims to educate primary school children on the benefits of getting confident with CPR – even making this brilliant animated video.

Angharad, who also works for the local authority’s social services team in Pembrokeshire, has been a Community First Responder since April 2019 and was inspired to make that brave step by another incident back in 2018.

She said: “I was driving home from shopping along the A40 in Carmarthen when I came across a terrible car accident on the opposite carriageway.

“I pulled my car over and crossed the road to try and assist without any thought process really.

“Seeing the work of the paramedics on scene really spurred me on to become a Community First Responder.

“I’d like to thank Tony Wall who is my CFR Co-ordinator for being so supportive and giving so much of his time to fundraise for life saving equipment such as defibrillators in local communities.”

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