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IRONMAN WALES 2023: Midway Progress Report



THIS MORNING, North Beach in Tenby witnessed over 3,000 determined athletes as they launched into the gruelling Ironman triathlon, touted as one of the harshest endurance tests humanity has devised.

These undaunted souls set out to conquer a challenging 2.4-mile sea swim, navigate the formidable elevations of a 112-mile bike ride across Pembrokeshire, and finally, run a full marathon, all within a daunting 17-hour window. Tenby’s course has earned a reputation, not just for its challenging terrain but its sheer beauty – captivating yet ruthless, enticing many a seasoned athlete only to break their spirit against the undulating hills of Pembrokeshire.

Photo by Huw Fairclough for IRONMAN UK/HERALD

Yet, what truly sets Ironman Wales apart is not the demanding course or even the breathtaking vistas. It’s the unyielding spirit of the local community. Long gone are Tenby’s days as a mere stag and hen party haven; the Ironman event has reshaped its image, a transformation you can delve into in our special feature.

Regrettably, the day did not unfold without its share of heartbreak. Former Wales rugby champion, Alix Popham, endured a tragic twist of fate. After months of arduous training to raise awareness for concussion education, Popham was forced to withdraw early due to a suspected concussion – the result of an inadvertent kick to his head during the swim. Lobby group Progressive Rugby later confirmed his hospitalisation.

However, amidst the challenges, tales of resilience abound. Notably, Michael McAleavey, who after a 2017 Ironman attempt was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, has made a triumphant return this year. Likewise, Michael Lane, a survivor of both a heart attack and thyroid cancer in 2021, is here to make a mark, having already completed three IRONMAN 70.3 races last year.

Photo by Huw Fairclough for IRONMAN UK/HERALD

The spirit of the event was vividly captured in photographs, from the exhilarating beginning at North Beach to the fervour of the crowds. The competition has seen overwhelming local participation, with scenes from the bike ride showcasing unmatched support from the sidelines. Social media, too, has been abuzz, reflecting the anticipation and passion associated with the event.

As the day unfolds, we continue to monitor the progress of these awe-inspiring athletes and wish them the best. From the scenic streets of Tenby, for now, it’s a blend of anticipation, courage, and indomitable spirit that rules the day.

Photo by Huw Fairclough for IRONMAN UK


Redhill’s Pembrokeshire Primary Chess Tournament hailed a success



THIS WEEK the first Redhill Pembrokeshire Primary Chess Tournament took place at Redhill Prep School in Haverfordwest.

We have this report from the school: “Well what an incredible day!

“The points were so close that we had to play an extra round to determine the winner! We are very proud to announce that our very own Redhill pupil, Henry Burton, won the tournament, closely followed three second place awards which went to Genula Wickramaarachchi from Prendergast CP school, Huw Holliday (Redhill) and Harry Hayden (Redhill) The ‘David Pinch Award’ for excellent sportsmanship went to Ellie Dean from Saundersfoot CP school!

“Congratulations to all the schools that attended.

“We very much look forward to inviting you all back on Saturday 23rd March!

The school added: “Lastly a huge thank you to all the parents who helped out, Ian Eustis (Junior Director of the Welsh Chess Union), Fide Master Alexis Harakis, Scott Hammett and Gwyn.”

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Fantastic Lanterns light up Cardigan for a Giant Christmas Celebration



THOUSANDS gathered for the revival of this year’s major event created by Cardigan-based Small World Theatre to mark the start of the festive season. Cardigan’s mayor Sian Maehrlein and the mayor’s escort David Maehrlein were in attendance. Musicians and giant lanterns led hundreds of people through the town and into Cardigan Castle to the delight of thousands of spectators.

This year ‘upmarket’ Cardigan was named by The Times as one of the prettiest towns for Christmas shopping. Last weekend saw the switch-on of the Christmas lights and Cardigan’s independent cafes, shops and galleries transformed their windows into winter wonderlands to welcome shoppers.

“We’re all delighted to see the Cardigan Giant Lantern Parade return.’ said Councillor Elaine Evans. “It is the cherry on the cake for this bustling town, and for a lot of people this will be the highlight of their Christmas. Congratulations to Small World Theatre and the community.”

Fifteen giant paper and willow lanterns were inspired by the ‘Fantastical Beast’ theme including a minotaur, griffin, boar, phoenix, rainbow, dove, and a life-size baby elephant puppet made by Small World Theatre. With Space to Create artists lending a hand at the event and creating a beautiful swan and a unicorn. Other large lantern creatures were made by Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi’s sixth formers as well as a beautiful show of pyramid lanterns by pupils from Ysgol Gynradd Aberteifi.

In the run up to the event, the parade received funding from Cardigan Town Council, Ceredigion County Council, Leafed Through community bookshop and a public fundraising campaign.

“Let’s hope that the resounding success of this year’s Parade is recognised, and we get the support we need to make this an annual event” said Small World Theatre’s director Ann Shrobree. “Thanks to everyone who helped; stewards from Cardigan Show and Barley Saturday Committees, Cardigan Castle, Cardigan Town Council, Cardigan’s traders, musicians, performers, volunteers, St John’s Ambulance and so many more.’ “Well done everyone – you were all stars!”

(Photos: Jennie Caldwell)

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Economic forum discusses regional development success



SUPPORTING rural businesses remains one of the most important challenges in realising the potential of Mid and West Wales, Senedd Member Eluned Morgan told a group of industry leaders who gathered in Pembrokeshire recently.

The meeting updated on the progress made since the publication of Senedd Member Eluned Morgan’s influential Time to Meet the Challenge rural development strategy. Published in 2017, the document set several priorities to propel the economy of rural Mid and West Wales, whilst meeting the unique challenges that impact our coastal and rural communities.

The 2017 report set out a 6-point plan addressing a number of issues:


Over the last 6 months, Eluned Morgan and her team have reviewed progress against the proposals of the original report. The meeting held at Blackpool Mill near Pembrokeshire’s Bluestone resort was attended by some of the prime contributors to the original report, including William McNamara (Bluestone), Eirwen Williams (Menter a Busnes), Elinor Williams (Ofcom) and Stephen Thornton (Milford Haven Enterprise Zone) to take stock of delivery and assess where the next focus for delivery needs to be set.

Significantly, economic and political factors such as the upheaval of leaving the European Union, the shift in resourcing to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, more recent higher interest rates and massive inflationary pressures have had a detrimental impact on making as much economic headway, as hoped.

However, against a backdrop of economic uncertainty, Eluned Morgan MS reported that in spite of these challenges, the delivery review showcased substantial achievements in infrastructure, skills and productivity improvement, business nurturing, agricultural promotion, and harnessing the potential of the foundational economy and tourism.

Eluned Morgan said “Despite the fact that the economy of rural Wales has been battered by strong economic headwinds, it is heartening to find that there are countless examples in the updated document, which set out how economic transformation is underway in rural Wales.”

In 2017, there were hardly any Electric Vehicle chargers, but today, thanks to a multi-million pound investment by Welsh Government, there now 670 in the Mid and West Wales region. The development of a uniquely Welsh free port in south west Wales, underpinned by a £26 million investment by Welsh Government will create new jobs and investment opportunities at an important time for securing Wales’ position in offshore renewable energy generation.

William McNamara, CEO of Bluestone National Park Resort, said: “We were very pleased to welcome the committee to Black Pool Mill for such an important meeting. Businesses in rural Wales are a crucial part of Wales’ overall economy. They not only support jobs, they are the backbone of the rural economy and communities.

“Quite often our voice is lost amidst the urban areas of South Wales and so having a chance to highlight our views and discuss the economic matters that affect businesses and communities in rural Wales is vitally important.”

Since 2019, the Rural Bursary has helped to nurture young entrepreneurs in rural Wales. Mentoring support enables young people to find their feet in establishing their own business, ensuring that we retain next generation in our villages and small towns. For those seeking to study, financial assistance is in place to support students for their degree-related expenses, this year £100,000 has been awarded to students from rural areas.

The Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns programme is providing flexibility to local authorities to prioritise support for towns in need, leading to significant benefits for seaside towns. Moreover, the Welsh Government’s response to the discontinuation of the UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund involved allocating £6 million over two financial years (2021-23) to bolster economic development and regeneration in coastal areas, focusing on job creation, protection, and high street rejuvenation.

In 2022, the Welsh Government announced a £1million investment in the Food and Drink Development Centre to support the development of the hydroponics industry in Wales with backing for projects in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire.

The Welsh Government has also offered funding for the development of extra care facilities and care hubs in rural areas. As an example, the Tŷ Gwyn Extra Care Facility in Ceredigion. Community housing organisations receive support and funding from the Welsh Government to take a lead role in developing these facilities.

The 2017 document laid the foundations for Welsh Labour’s Rural Manifesto published in the lead up to the 2021 election which placed a focus on supporting the rural economy across all departments and which has formed part of the current programme for government.

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