Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Classic drive through

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, February 11, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Classic drive through
A big day out!
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Classics In The City.
WHY? Classics In The City is an open air display of classic vehicles visiting Swansea City Centre this weekend. Motorcycles, cars, buses and all manner of other vintage vehicles will be travelling from across Wales to take part in the big event, and they won’t be coming back to Swansea until the summer.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Classics In The City is part of the National Transport Festival of Wales. Past shows have been very successful and they’re lots of fun for anyone with an interest in the history of motoring and classic vesicles. People come from far and wide in all kinds of vehicles to take part in the displays, and in the last year the NTFW have helped to raise over £8,000 for charity with their fantastic displays of classic and modern vehicles.
ANY HISTORY? NTFW events are organised by Ashley Lovering, who did his first show back in 1994 at Swansea Airport. Originally called “Wings and Wheels” the show attracted some 80 vehicles and was successful enough that another show was held the following year at the Quadrant Bus Station. When the show moved to Singleton Hospital it changed its name to the Swansea Festival of Transport. The displays at the hospital were even more successful and helped to raise thousands of pounds for different charities. With the shows continuing to grow each year and much larger vehicles taking part, the festival moved to the County Hall and started using the name the National Transport Festival of Wales to help secure some grant money to help cover the soaring costs of putting on the events.
LOOK OUT FOR? Other National Transport Festival of Wales displays have included London buses, articulated lorries, minis, scooters, and even heavy haulage tractors all on display besides the more conventional classic cars and vans.
WHAT TO TAKE? It doesn’t cost anything to see the vehicles but it is an outdoors display so don’t forget to wrap up warm for the winter weather. Also, make sure you bring a camera to take some photos of you and the family with the classic cars and trucks.
WHEN TO GO? The Classics In The City display will be held tomorrow (Sunday February 12) on Princess Way and Oxford Street in Swansea City Centre. Visitors will be able to see the vehicles between 10.30am and 4.30pm.
TELL ME MORE: You can contact Ashley Lovering by phoning 07814 958379. More information can also be found on the National Transport Festival of Wales website at

Mining our history

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, February 18, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Mining our history
A big day out!
The South Wales Miners’ Museum in Afan Forest Park.
WHY? Around the country and throughout the world, South Wales was famous for its mining industry, which provided work for hundreds of families in the area and was vital to the economy of small South Wales communities like the Afan Valley. At the South Wales Miners’ Museum in Afan Forest Park visitors have the chance to take a step back in time and see what life was like for miners and their families through their eyes.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? The South Wales Miners’ Museum celebrates the coal mining industry and its workforce in the South Wales coalfield. The past is brought to life at the museum using a comprehensive collection of photographs, historical artefacts and even life sized models of miners dressed in original gear and equipment.
ANY HISTORY? After mining ceased in the Afan Valley in the 1970s the area faced widespread unemployment and an uncertain future. The original Welsh Miners’ Museum was officially opened in 1976 as part of the effort to rehabilitate the valley in the aftermath of this cataclysm. The first museum of its type in Wales, the main exhibit was a manikin display showing life in a traditional miner’s cottage. There were also document and photo displays showing what life was like for the miners. By the 1980s, however, the portable cabins housing the museum were deteriorating and a new permanent building was needed. Today’s South Wales Miner’s Museum was built in 2008 using funding from Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council, Welsh Assembly and other sources.
WHAT TO TAKE? There is a small charges to help with the costs of running the museum. Admissions costs are £2 for adults and just £1 for children. Senior Citizen’s can visit for £1.50 and children under five go free! Hot drinks are available in the café. And make sure you bring a camera so you can take some photographs.
LOOK OUT FOR? Situated close to the museum is a range of outdoor exhibits including a blacksmith shop and lamp room to check out.
WHEN TO GO? Until March you can visit the museum between Tuesday and Sunday from 10.30am to 3.30pm. From Easter and until the end of the summer the museum will be open daily between 10am and 4pm.
TELL ME MORE: The museum is located in the beautiful Afan Valley and is only six miles on the A4107 from the M4. For sat-nav users the address and postcode is: South Wales Miners' Museum, Afan Forest Park, Cynonville, Port Talbot, SA13 3HG. Pre booking is advisable. You can find out more by phoning 01639 851833 or you can go to

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Journey's so historic

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, February 4, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Journey's so historic
A big day out!
Swansea Civic Centre and Swansea Museum.

WHY? “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” A special exhibition in the foyer at Swansea Civic Centre tells the story of Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe who came to live in South Wales before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Jewish Refugees in South Wales 1933 to 1945 has been organised by the West Glamorgan Archive Service as part of Swansea Council's commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day. Part of the display is dedicated to the history of the Kindertransport, the government-sanctioned mission to rescue Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. The exhibition also demonstrates the contribution adult refugees made to the South Wales economy after escaping the Third Reich.
Thankfully history isn’t all so sombre. Swansea Museum has just opened a new exhibition celebrating 100th anniversary of Roald Amundsen's historic journey to become the first explorer to reach the South Pole. Cold Recall is a photo exhibit featuring actual images from the lantern slides used by the Norwegian explorer in his talks and public lectures. The exhibit shows visitors the extreme challenges of arctic exploration between 1910 to 1912 when Roald Amundsen led the much talked about expedition to end of the world.
A second South Pole explorer exhibition dedicated to Captain Robert Falcon Scott's 1912 ill-fated journey to the South Pole opened on January 22.
ANY HISTORY? Approximately 10,000 children were helped by concerned groups in the UK to flee Hitler’s Germany and occupied Europe before the outbreak of war in 1939. After their arrival at reception camps on the east coast of England, the children were then sent to homes across the UK where they were placed with foster parents. Many of these children were sent to live in South Wales.
There is also a South Wales connection to Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Antarctic expedition. Five members of Scott's historic expedition perished on the desolate Antarctic ice-cap, marching back from their fateful visit to the South Pole. The first of which was Swansea man Petty Officer Edgar Evans.
WHAT TO TAKE? Admission is free at both Swansea Museum and the exhibition at Swansea Civic Centre.
LOOK OUT FOR? After you’ve checked out the Cold Recall exhibition there is much more to see at Swansea Museum. The museum’s six galleries contain all kinds of unusual objects from Swansea’s past and the rest of the world, including a collection of Victorian antiques and even an Egyptian mummy.
WHEN TO GO? Swansea Museum is open from 10am to 5pm every Tuesday to Sunday. Last admissions are at 4pm. The museum is closed Mondays and bank holidays. The museum’s Antarctic explorer exhibitions will be open until April 22.
The Jewish Refugees in South Wales exhibition is open all day at Swansea Civic Centre until February 5. So tomorrow is your last chance to visit this exhibition at the Civic Centre before it closes.
WHERE TO GO? You can find Swansea Museum’s main building next door to the LC2 on Victoria Road. For sat-nav users the postcode is SA1 1SN. Swansea Civic Centre is only a short drive away from the museum on Oystermouth Road, the postcode is SA1 3SN.
TELL ME MORE: You can find out more about the exhibits at Swansea Museum by phoning 01792 653763 or by visiting the museum’s webpage at More information about Swansea Civic Centre’s Jewish Refugees in South Wales exhibition is also available on the website.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Enjoy a spot of peace

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, January 28, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Enjoy a spot of peace
A big day out!
RICHARD THOMAS heads to ….
the Botanical Gardens at Singleton Park in Swansea.
WHY? Although the gardens are at their most stunning in August there is still lots to see even in the winter months, with up to 200 different plants having been seen in flower during this time of the year. Set within the tranquil surroundings of Singleton main park, it is a very relaxing place to sit, relax and maybe seek some inspiration for your own garden.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? The beautiful Botanical Gardens are based in the old Walled Garden which was used as the kitchen and flower garden by the Vivian family from 1853. Today the gardens contain fine specimens of rare and exotic plants from across the world. There’s plenty to take in, the Botanical Gardens house one of Wales' premier collections of florae, with spectacular herbaceous borders and large glasshouses packed full of displays. The gardens are also home to Ty'r Blodau, an educational and visitor centre available for school visits, workshops and meetings.
ANY HISTORY? In 1847 John Henry Vivian purchased Veranda House for his son Henry Vivian and his wife Jessie. Less than a year later, sadly, Jessie died giving birth to their son. Distraught by his wife’s death, the rich industrialist resolved never to live in the house and by 1853 only the estate lodge remained, the principal part of Veranda House
having been dismantled. St Paul's Church in Sketty was built as a memorial to Jessie and a bronze and red granite statue of Henry Vivian still stands near St. Mary’s Church in the city centre.

By 1919 the Singleton Estate as it had become had amalgamated some 12 farms to amass 250 acres. That year the Swansea County Borough Council decided to purchase the land

from the Vivian family for use as a public park. Daniel Bliss, who was trained at Kew Gardens, was chiefly responsible for the purchase of the estate and in 1920 began to oversee its transformation into a public park and garden. Today’s Botanical Gardens is largely the result of his vision.

WHAT TO TAKE? Singleton Botanical Gardens are free for the public to visit. Parking can be found on Sketty Road outside Singleton Park. Inside the park is the fabulous Pub On The Pond serving great value food everyday of the week for the whole family. With their Squire Deal you can enjoy two main meals for just £10! There’s even a children’s adventure playground just outside, so dress warmly.
LOOK OUT FOR? The glasshouses simulate a variety of different climates from around the world: in the hot Desert House environment you'll find cacti and succulent plants, while in the Tropical House you can see plants found in the rain forest and tropical jungles. These include the comprehensive collection of orchids and epiphytes such as bromeliads and tillandsias. In the Economics glasshouse you’ll find plants that come from mostly sub-tropical regions and some Mediterranean countries, and that are of economic importance, including sugar cane, coconuts, olives and coffee. This glasshouse also contains a colourful collection of begonias.
WHEN TO GO? The gardens are open everyday until 4.30pm. Regular plant sales take place in the gardens every Saturday.
TELL ME MORE: You can find them at Singleton Park in Swansea. For sat nav users the postcode is SA2 8QD. Phone 01792 298637.

Game on at centre

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, January 21, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.


Game on at centre
A big day out!
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Crossfire in Swansea.
WHY? With a total of 53 computers spread over two floors, all with all with 17-inch TFT monitors and fast response times, Crossfire is Swansea's best Internet and LAN multiplayer gaming centre.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? The first-floor gaming room holds 25 computers, laid out in banks of five for ideal team play. Their gaming PCs run on Intel Core 2 Duo processors with 2GB RAM, and Radeon HD4870 or GeForce 8800GTS graphics cards. Every gaming computer has a wide range of games totalling over 400GB, all with their own speakers and headset, for you to use according to preference. Each computer also has a high-quality optical wheel mouse, although, hardcore gamers may prefer to bring their own mouse that they are more used to using. And all computers are networked together so you can play against any number of other players in the building at once.
ANY HISTORY? The history of video games goes as far back as the 1940s, when in 1947 Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr. and Estle Ray Mann filed a US patent request for an invention they described as a "cathode ray tube amusement device."
WHAT TO TAKE? There is a small charge to use the computers and play the games. Basic internet access, including web browsing, using web mail and instant messengers only costs £2 per hour for members and £2.40 per hour for non-members. Full games access including all the games, plus internet access is £3 per hour or £15 all day for members. For non-members this is £3.60 per hour or £20 all day. Membership is only £10 for a full year and only costs £5 to renew for each subsequent year.
LOOK OUT FOR? There are lots of games, the most popular are the World of Warcraft and Modern Warfare 3.
WHEN TO GO? Crossfire is open all week but in the evenings between 5pm and 9pm and again on Sundays between 10am and 2pm you can enjoy a four-hour session for only £5! Also approximately once a month, Crossfire run an all-night gaming session, from 9:30pm until 9:30am for £15 per head, or you can go for 24 hours for only £25 total. For any all-nighter, you will need to reserve your place by paying either in full or just a £5 deposit. You can pay this using Paypal or a credit card via the Crossfire website, where you can also find information about the next all-nighter.
TELL ME MORE: You can find Crossfire in Swansea’s city centre opposite the Dragon Hotel. For sat users the full address and postcode is: Crossfire, 46 Princess Way, Swansea, SA1 5HE. You phone on 01792 461144 or email them at More information can be found on the Crossfire website at

Bingo! A top day out

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, January 14, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.


Bingo! A top day out
A big dat out!
Castle Bingo in Morriston. 
WHY? There are lots of big cash prizes to be won at Castle Bingo in Morriston including prizes of £4,000 and more!
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Castle Bingo has bingo halls scattered across South Wales with eight purpose built bingo halls in locations including Swansea, Bridgend, Cardiff and Newport.
Castle Bingo in Morriston was first opened in March 1993 and is renowned for its friendly and social atmosphere, as well as being lucky for its members, who have won to date over £4 million on the National Bingo Game. Many of Castle Bingo’s visitors travel from as far as West Wales to play at their favourite bingo club.

ANY HISTORY? Castle Leisure which operates the Castle Bingo chain is one of the oldest private companies in South Wales and has been based in the same Cardiff office continuously since 1856. The history of the game is much older, however.
Bingo or Housey-Housey, as it used to be called in Britain, began in Italy with the Italian lottery in the 1500s. From Italy, the popular pastime is believed to have migrated to Britain and other parts of Europe including France, where Le Lotto as it was known was played by the French aristocracy in the 1700s. Bingo as we know it today was used in 19
th century Germany as an educational tool to teach children the multiplication tables.
In the early 1990s a misconception about the Gaming Act was that if bingo was played using playing cards instead of numbers this would allow public houses to get around the law, which prevented bingo being played for cash prizes in a public place, however, since the Gaming Act has no description of how bingo is played this was to prove false. Despite the law a large number of public houses continued to play the game and still do so today. The government has since legalised all forms of small stakes bingo in public houses.

WHAT TO TAKE? On Saturdays prices start from as little as £4 for an eight page book during morning sessions and £8.50 for afternoon and evening sessions but these prices are different on other days. Hot drinks are available in the club’s coffee bar and just across the road is a McDonalds drive through.
LOOK OUT FOR? The Castle Jackpot where you can win £4,000. All you have to do to win is shout “house” on 45.
WHEN TO GO? Castle Bingo is open seven days a week with sessions starting as early as 12pm and as late as 9.35pm. Monday evenings is the biggest value session of the week, however, with all your bingo for just £10, and with five big £500 second half houses.
TELL ME MORE: For sat nav users the address and postcode is: 41 Clase Road,
Morriston, Swansea, SA6 8DS. You can phone on 01792 772211.

For more information about game prices and start times visit the Castle Bingo website at