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Icelandic whooper swan found in Pembrokeshire



ONE of the oldest Icelandic whooper swans on record has been found in Pembrokeshire – having spent almost three decades on Earth. 

RSPCA Cymru was alerted after a member of the public found the male swan grounded underneath power lines in the Letterson area of the county on 1 April, after a suspected collision.

Other swans – believed to be joining the swan on a flight back to Iceland – were circling above the stricken swan; who was then confined by a member of the public before RSPCA rescuers were contacted.

RSPCA animal rescue officer (ARO) Ellie West rushed him to Tinker’s Hill Bird of Prey & Swan Rescue Centre in Amroth for immediate care, before the bird went on for veterinary examination. 

Sadly, X-rays revealed the swan had a fractured spine and ribs – and vets decided he had to be put to sleep. However, the RSPCA take “some solace” in the fact that interventions – including from the member of the public who found the bird – meant the swan’s pain and suffering was not prolonged.

The swan was wearing an Icelandic metal ring. These are identifying rings placed around the legs of swans which help build a picture of the lives lived by these animals.

ARO West contacted the Icelandic Bird Ringing Centre, which uses ringing to study birds and their migrations, who confirmed that the swan was “very close to the oldest Icelandic whooper”; having first been ringed in 1996 at the age of only three.

The oldest Icelandic whooper on record is believed to be 30 years old – so only a year or so older than the veteran bird found in Pembrokeshire. 

The British Trust of Ornithology states the typical lifespan of a whooper swan is only nine years; but do have records of one living more than 28 years after first being ringed.

ARO West said: “When I rushed to the aid of this swan, I was expecting a mute wwan, which we commonly deal with – but was instead surprised to see a whooper swan, which is a much rarer sight for our inspectorate.

“Sadly, the poor thing was in quite a bad way after a collision with some power lines. Vets later found his injuries were so severe – including a fractured spine and ribs – that he had to be put to sleep; which was such a shame – but at least we can take some solace that we were able to bring his suffering to an end.

“I noticed the bird was wearing a metal Icelandic ring, and was fascinated about his story. I reached out to the Icelandic Bird Ringing Centre, who confirmed the bird had been ringed at the age of three back in 1996 – making him, in their words, ‘very close to the oldest Icelandic whooper’ – who we believe to have been 30. 

“It’s so amazing to think this beautiful bird  – one of the oldest Icelandic whooper swans on record – has been potentially migrating between Iceland and West Wales for decades.”

Whooper swans usually visit the UK in Winter. The RSPB say its “small breeding numbers make it an Amber List species”, and say the swan’s” honking voice … can sound like an old-fashioned car horn!”

Population estimates – confirmed by the Icelandic Bird Ringing Centre – suggest there are approximately 40,000 whooper swans wintering in the UK.

Svenja Auhage, from the Icelandic Bird Ringing Centre, added: “Ringing swans helps identify the lives these amazing animals lead.

“While it’s so sad this whooper swan has now died, the sighting history shows that since the mid-1990s, this bird was very well travelled!

“Sightings have been made in both County Londonderry and County Antrim in Northern Ireland, in Skagafjordur in Iceland, in parts of the Republic of Ireland and in Orkney in Scotland; before he was found in Pembrokeshire – 18 years on from the last logged sighting, in Ballyscullion in 2003! We suspect he must have lost his darvic ring shortly after 2003, since there were no sightings after that.”


Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre celebrates the building of the iconic Star Wars starship



A MILLENNIUM FALCON exhibition is opening to the public in the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre in West Wales on Monday, May 23, thanks to £8,000 funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The permanent installation tells the story of the building of a life-sized model of the iconic Star Wars starship in the town in 1979 for the Oscar-winning film The Empire Strikes Back.

“The worst kept secret in Pembroke Dock.” 

Craftsmen from a local engineering firm built the model – the first of its type ever constructed, in the Western Hangar – a former RAF aircraft hangar in the town’s dockyard.

“It was the worst kept secret in Pembroke Dock – everybody in the town knew they were building a UFO in the hangar and that period of time and that story is an important part of the town’s living memory” remembers Gareth Mills, a trustee of the Pembroke Dock Heritage Trust.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, we are now able to tell the story of the building of the Millennium Falcon in Pembroke Dock – an iconic event to fans across the globe, in a new and permanent exhibition. The exhibition will provide a significant boost for Pembroke Dock with increased visitor numbers helping with the economic regeneration of our town and will also have major benefits for Pembrokeshire.”

“One of the most iconic starships in science fiction history”

Work on the Millennium Falcon exhibition at the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre has been going on for some time under the watchful eye of local Star Wars expert and enthusiast Mark Williams.

“George Lucas set a new standard in both storytelling and film making with Star Wars and the story of the Millennium Falcon being built in Pembroke Dock was big news at the time. The whole world knew about it, then the story faded into legend.”

“The idea of a town in West Wales making a significant contribution to this incredible story by being the place where one of the most iconic starships in science fiction history was built, creates a mixture of disbelief, awe and pride.”

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded towards creating a permanent display in the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre about the building of the Millennium Falcon model.

A walk-through display will tell the story with photographs, film, models and costumes.

“Pembroke Dock – the birthplace of the first-ever life-sized model of the Millennium Falcon – now has a permanent exhibition for an often overlooked and largely unknown but major Welsh contribution to film and cinema history and popular culture,” said Andrew White, Director of the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales.

“The funding for the Pembroke Dock Heritage Trust has been made possible by National Lottery players who raise more than £30 million every week for good causes in the UK. It is just one of the more than 635,000 good causes in the UK that has received a share of over £41 billion raised by National Lottery players since 1994.”

The Millennium Falcon isn’t Pembrokeshire’s only connection to Star Wars. Lynwen Brennan, Lucasfilm EVP and General Manager, is a Pembrokeshire native. “I am so delighted that this wonderful moment and place in Star Wars history will be preserved,” said Lynwen Brennan. 

“I love that such an iconic, beloved ship was built in the town where my Mum was born and in the county where I grew up, and I’m hopeful this exhibit will become a new destination for fans around the world.”

Andrew White,Director of the National Lottery heritage Fund in Wales said “Wales has a proud tradition of myths and legends to which we can now add the little-know story of Wales’ contribution to the Star Wars films.This new exhibition showcases Pembroke Dock as the birthplace of the first life-sized model of the Millenium Falcon. It’s a great example of one of our small grants going a long way , in this case to a galaxy, far away and back again”.

The funding for the Pembroke Dock Heritage Trust has been made possible by National Lottery players who raise more than £30 million every week for good causes in the UK. It is just one of the more 635,000 good causes in the UK that has received a share of over £41 billion raised by National Lottery players since 1984.

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Housing Provider picks two Important Causes as its Charities of the Year



Wales Air Ambulance

WALES & WEST HOUSING ASSOCIATION has chosen the Wales Air Ambulance and Blood Bikes as its charities of the year.

The two important causes will benefit from funds raised by staff during a two-year period after over 850 staff were invited to nominate charities that were close to their hearts.

A shortlist was drawn up of the most popular suggestions and staff voted for their preferred charity.

Diane Barnes, Senior Administrator at Wales & West Housing said: “The Wales Air Ambulance and Blood Bikes Wales had the most support.

“One of the staff members who nominated Wales Air Ambulance had personal experience of the service when one of the older residents living at the housing scheme she manages was taken ill. Wales Air Ambulance flew the resident to hospital and our staff member was in no doubt that the speed of the service was critical in saving the person’s life, so we are delighted to be able to support the Charity’s vital work.”

This will not be the first time that Wales & West Housing has raised funds for the Wales Air Ambulance, they raised more than £6,000 in 2006.

Some of the other charities they have supported in recent years include Cancer Research Wales, Stroke Association, Help For Heroes, Alzheimer’s Society, NSPCC, Tenovus and Guide Dogs.

Wales Air Ambulance offers advanced critical care and is often described as a ‘Flying ED’. 

The on-board consultants and critical care practitioners are highly skilled and carry some of the most pioneering medical equipment in the world. They can deliver blood transfusions, administer anaesthesia, and undertake emergency operations at the scene of the incident, before flying the patient directly to specialist care.

Now operational 24/7, the Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep the helicopters flying.

Speaking on how valuable the company thinks the lifesaving service is, Diane added: “Wales Air Ambulance is hugely important. It saves lives every single day of the year. When we learned that the service relies entirely on public donations to keep their emergency helicopters flying to all parts of Wales, our staff were keen to help support the Charity and make a difference to its fundraising for the next two years.”

The staff kicked off its fundraising with an Easter egg raffle which raised more than £400.

Diane said: “We also have people running marathons, doing sponsored challenges and baking cakes over the coming months and are looking forward to many other innovative and fun fundraising ideas and suggestions that we can take part in and support over the next two years. We also asked staff to donate the odd number of pennies from their pay to our charity. This way we can raise thousands of pounds every year without having to do anything!

“In the past we have held regular raffles in our offices, bake sales, dress down days and special events such as a Ride the Nation charity cycling challenge from North to South Wales and a rugby tournament, which helped to raise money for a previous staff charity Age Cymru.”

Katie Macro, Campaigns Manager for the Wales Air Ambulance said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have been chosen as one of Wales & West Housing’s charities of the year for the next two years. Support from businesses like Wales & West Housing is vital in helping us to be there for the people of Wales when they need us most.

“It sounds like Wales & West Housing have some exciting fundraising plans coming up and we wish them well. Their support of our lifesaving charity is much appreciated.”

There are several ways that the public can continue to support the Wales Air Ambulance. These include online donations, signing up to the Charity’s Lifesaving Lottery or by coming up with their own innovative ways to fundraise at home. Further information can be found via

Alternatively, a £5 text-message donation can be made by texting the word HELI to 70711. For more information on Wales & West Housing visit

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Get Active with Pembrokeshire Leisure!



Haverfordwest Leisure Centre

PEMBROKESHIRE Leisure have launched their new streamlined membership and pricing structure.

Membership options on offer to new customers have been reduced to make joining easier.

If you are a current member with a live membership, you will not be affected by the change. The new Active Memberships include Active Individual, Active Junior and Active Household. They will replace the previous Gold, Silver and Bronze memberships.

The pricing will also be made simpler by removing loyalty options. If you’re an existing loyalty subscription user you will continue to benefit from the loyalty price until the current subscription expires.

Gary Nicholas, Leisure Services Manager for Pembrokeshire said; “In order to simplify our pricing structure and as a reflection of current cost of living challenges, we have reviewed and changed our charges to provide excellent value to all our users.

He continued: “Pembrokeshire Leisure continues to offer our Passport to Leisure scheme to support those most in need, as well as offering the Welsh Government funded Free Swimming for the 60+ and 16 & under, Active for Life Programme and the National Exercise Referral scheme.

“Our facilities and services are here to provide active and social opportunities to everyone in our communities as we aim to promote and support a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle.”

If you would like more information, please visit

You can now buy Active Memberships online or in any of our leisure centres.

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