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Quadriplegic Adventurer Receives Warm Pembrokeshire Welcome

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A QUADRIPLEGIC adventurer received a warm Pembrokeshire welcome this weekend after stopping off in the county as part of a record-breaking first-of-its-kind challenge.

Geoff Holt MBE DL set sail from St Katherine’s Dock, London on 13 May, circumnavigating the UK coastline in a specially adapted Wetwheels boat in just over a month. Yesterday, Geoff and his team stopped off at Milford Haven, one of 17 accessible ports to be visited during the challenge.

This marks the first time a Wetwheels boat has ever been to Wales. The aim of Geoff’s “Finishing The Dream” challenge is to raise enough funds to house a permanent Wetwheels boat in Wales.

Geoff was paralysed in a swimming accident in 1984 and has spent 40 years in a wheelchair, facing and overcoming often unimaginable challenges. His adventurous spirit and determination have seen him achieve feats most people would consider impossible. In 2007, he became the first severely disabled person to sail single-handed around Great Britain. In 2009, he was the first quadriplegic to sail across the Atlantic Ocean unassisted.

He was awarded an MBE for Services to Sailing in 2010 and named ‘Yachtsman of the Year’ shortly after. In 2011, Geoff set up his own charity, The Wetwheels Foundation, to enable disabled people to access the sea barrier-free in purpose-built, state-of-the-art motor boats.

This is Geoff’s final adventure in his quest to raise £1.2 million for the Wetwheels Foundation to purchase four new specially adapted Wetwheels boats. These boats would offer life-changing experiences to over 5,000 of the most profoundly disabled people each year.

In Milford Haven, his team paired up with South Pembrokeshire’s Blue Horizons, an adaptive surf school that also runs accessible boat trips for people with additional needs.

Some of the CIC’s projects have included rehabilitation surf therapy for patients recovering from brain injuries in conjunction with Hywel Dda health board, taking a 96-year-old with dementia from a local nursing home out to sea, and offering surfing experiences for all through its community projects for people with disabilities.

“Last year we were fortunate enough to win the Inclusive Tourism Award at the Croeso Awards,” said Blue Horizons’ Ollie Bird. “We also made contact with a fantastic charity called The Wetwheels Foundation and Geoff Holt MBE, its founder.”

That contact resulted in a day of collaboration as Wetwheels and Blue Horizons ran boat trips out of the marina together, showing and inspiring the community with what can be possible.

“Our layover day at Milford Haven was filled with so much fun and laughter with the guys from Blue Horizons CIC Surf Club and Port of Milford Haven,” said Geoff and his team. “We ran two boat trips, full of memories that will last a lifetime,” added the Blue Horizons team.

Geoff said that for the past 40 years, the sea had been his salvation. “The freedom and independence I get when I am afloat, I can forget about my disability. I have devoted most of my life to promoting the opportunities and benefits sailing offers disabled people and now this is my opportunity to spread that message throughout the United Kingdom.”

“My biggest hope is we can inspire more disabled people to join us for an experience on Wetwheels. Hopefully, this will also inspire people to raise money to achieve my dream of acquiring another four Wetwheels boats, making a total of 12 around the UK.”

To find out more about Geoff’s Finishing the Dream mission, the Wetwheels charity, and to make a donation, visit finishingthedream.co.uk.

Community

New health concerns over Withyhedge Landfill site emissions

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LEVELS of a potentially harmful gas emitted by the Withyhedge Landfill Site have been recorded above World Health Organization (WHO) guideline levels, according to a recent report. Public Health Wales (PHW) conducted a health risk assessment on air quality data collected between 1 March and 3 April 2024 in the surrounding area.

The data indicates that during March and April, hydrogen sulphide, a colourless gas with a distinctive “eggy” smell, exceeded the WHO’s odour annoyance guideline. PHW warns that exposure to such odours can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, dizziness, watery eyes, stuffy nose, irritated throat, cough or wheeze, sleep disturbances, and stress.

PHW stresses the importance of addressing the source of these offsite odours to mitigate potential health impacts on the local community. Despite an enforcement deadline passing last month, residents continue to report gas and odour issues in their homes daily.

“These are common reactions to unpleasant smells, and these effects should usually pass once the odour has dissipated,” PHW stated. “The long-term health risk is low.”

In response to the health risk assessment, PHW advises residents to keep doors and windows closed when the odours are present and seek medical advice if they feel unwell. However, they caution against blocking windows or vents completely, as these are crucial for ventilation and controlling dampness. Once the outdoor smell subsides, opening windows and doors can help eliminate any remaining odours inside.

Work to cap the landfill site has been completed, and PHW has welcomed plans to install static air monitoring equipment around the site to capture more detailed data. Dr. Sarah Jones, a consultant in environmental public health for PHW, acknowledged the stress and anxiety local residents are experiencing due to the odours. She emphasised the importance of resolving the issue swiftly and assured that the health risk assessment would be updated as new data becomes available.

Gaynor Toft, Chair of the Air Quality Group for the Multi-Agency Incident Management team, noted that the risk assessment from PHW is being used to refine and develop the air quality monitoring programme. Suitable locations for static monitoring equipment are being identified to ensure robust data collection for future assessments.

Huwel Manley of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) confirmed that NRW would continue to use its regulatory powers to drive improvements at the site and address the causes of the odour affecting the community. NRW had given RML, the company operating the landfill, until mid-May to undertake several remedial actions to control gas emissions.

The Pembrokeshire Herald has reached out to NRW for a detailed update on the current situation at the site. The community remains hopeful for a swift resolution to these ongoing health and environmental concerns.

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Community

Local projects benefit from Sustainable Development Fund grants

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SEVEN local projects have benefited from over £70,000 of funding through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund (SDF).

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund supports community-led projects in and around the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park that contribute towards a reduction in carbon and help respond to the climate emergency.

In the latest round of funding, grants were awarded to Southern Roots Organics, Narberth Museum, and the Crymych Arms Community Pub to install Solar PV systems. Additionally, the Narberth and District Community and Sports Association received funding to upgrade their existing Solar PV system and improve the energy efficiency of their squash court lighting. As well as generating new low-carbon electricity and offsetting higher carbon grid electricity consumption, these projects will reduce ongoing electricity costs for these organisations.

Cosheston Community Hall was another beneficiary, receiving support from the Fund to construct a bike shed. This project aims to encourage more people to cycle to the Hall, promoting sustainable travel within the community.

In Marloes, SDF funding has paved the way for the village clock to be retrofitted with low-energy and Dark-Skies-friendly illumination, which will reduce both energy consumption and light pollution in the area.

The VC Gallery also received funding to upgrade to more energy-efficient windows and doors, which will create a warmer community space and contribute to lower carbon emissions.

Jamie Leatham from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority said: “These grants represent our continued commitment to addressing the Climate Emergency, supporting community-led projects that improve sustainability and reduce carbon emissions.”

“By funding initiatives like Solar PV installations, energy-efficiency upgrades, and sustainable transportation solutions, we are helping our communities to reduce emissions, generate their own low-carbon energy, and raise awareness to promote a greener, more resilient future for the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.”

The Sustainable Development Fund consists of money allocated from the Welsh Government Sustainable Landscapes Sustainable Places Fund.

Further information can be found at www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/sustainable-development-fund.

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Community

Teenage town crier rings in a new era for Tenby

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TENBY has ushered in a new era with the appointment of its first female town crier, Erin Morgan. At just 17, Erin is not only making history in the resort town but is also carrying on a family tradition, standing beside her father, Dai Morgan, who serves as the town mayor.

Erin, a student at Pembrokeshire College, is fulfilling a vision long held by the late John ‘Yobbler’ Thomas, one of Tenby’s most esteemed town criers, who believed that a young person should take up the iconic bell.

Erin’s inaugural engagement as town crier was a poignant one, accompanying her father to Tenby’s D-Day procession to Castle Hill. There, she opened the beacon lighting ceremony by reading the official D-Day International Tribute, marking a proud and memorable start to her tenure.

Adding to the occasion, former Yeoman of the Guard Spike Abbott made his debut as Sergeant at Arms, joining the mayoral party for the first time.

Erin’s appointment was confirmed at the recent town council meeting, where she spoke passionately about her love for Tenby and the significance of the town crier role in preserving local traditions.

Erin, who is also a young leader with Tenby Guides, expressed her desire to see greater youth involvement in the town’s activities. She hopes that her position will help foster a stronger sense of community and bring people together through the town council’s initiatives.

(Image: Gareth Davies Photography)

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