Saturday, 30 June 2012

More than a wild time

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, June 30, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.


More than a wild time
A big day out!
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Folly Farm near Tenby in Pembrokeshire.
WHY? Folly Farm is much more than just a zoo, the 200 acre park is also home to Europe's largest undercover vintage funfair with a huge collection of working rides and stalls including a vintage big wheel and giant helter skelter ride lovingly restored to their 20th century glory.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Located near the tourist town of Tenby in the beautiful Pembrokeshire countryside, Folly Farm offers affordable fun days out for the whole family. In total there are six fun-filled amusement and activity zones, some of which are undercover. So there's plenty to do even if the weather continues to be bad.
ANY HISTORY? Folly Farm opened in 1988 following the decision by the owners, the Williams and Ebsworth families, to diversify from dairy farming into the leisure industry. In 1997 Pets Corner opened and in 2002 the first zoo animals arrived. In 2009 Folly Farm welcomed Wales' only giraffe to their zoo, a move that coincided with Folly Farm winning Premier Family Day Out at the Pembrokeshire Tourism Awards that year. Today Folly Farm attracts 400,000 visitors each year, making it Wales' top paid-for tourist attraction. WHAT TO TAKE? Tickets cost £9.00 for adults and £8.50 for seniors and children (3-15 year olds). Toddlers two years old and under visit Folly Farm for free! Food and drink are available at Folly Farm’s Ploughman's Restaurant. And don’t forget to bring a camera with you.
LOOK OUT FOR? Folly Farm's Jolly Barn is home to a huge variety of farmyard animals, including sheep, pigs, donkeys, horses, chickens and other farm animals. There's also loads of opportunities for children to get hands-on during the Pet Handling sessions in the nearby Pets' Centre which is home to rabbits, guinea pigs, tortoises, parrots and lots more. But with over 50 different species and more than 250 animals, Folly Farm’s zoo is the big highlight. As well as giraffe Folly Zoo has zebra, Bactrian camels, pythons and other animals to see. And with zoo keeper talks, the chance to watch the animals during feeding times, and a whole host of fascinating facts on Folly Zoo’s animal enclosure signs, you’ll go home knowing a lot more about the different species. And if all that isn’t enough there’s even a go-kart racetrack! WHEN TO GO? Folly Farm will be open 10am to 5pm daily throughout the summer months.
TELL ME MORE: For sat-nav users the address is and postcode is: Folly Farm, Begelly, Kilgetty, Pembrokeshire, SA68 0XA. Go to the Folly Farm website at or call 01834 812731 for more information.
Visit Richard Thomas’s website at

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Snap up your popcorn

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, June 23, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.


Snap up your popcorn 
A big day out! 
 RICHARD THOMAS heads to The Vue in Swansea to see Ridey Scott’s new film Prometheus. 
ON LOCATION: The Vue is a new state-of-the-art cinema located on York Street in the centre of Swansea. For sat-nav users the full address and postcode is: Vue Cinema Swansea, York Street, Swansea, SA1 3LZ.
CROWD SCENE: Mostly under 30s, many of them students, but depends what time you go. With 12 screens there's always something suitable for all ages.
HISTORY: The Vue opened in 2006, but there is a much longer histroy of film going in Swansea. In 1914 Wales’ first purpose built cinema, the Carlton Cinema de Luxe, opened on Oxford Street. The Carlton was closed in 1977, and is now home to Swansea's Waterstones branch. Nearby on the Kingway was Swansea's Plaza cinema designed by Cardiff architect Howard Williams, which was Wales' largest cinema from when it opened in 1931 until it was pulled down in 1964.
SHOW BUSINESS: Ridley Scott's new film Prometheus is now showing at the Vue. Set in the same fictional universe as Scott's 1979 genre classic Alien, but about 30 years earlier, Prometheus breaths new life into the franchise by focusing in on how the famous xenomorphs were first created. Alien fans will remember the "Space Jockey" seen in the 1979 film, in Prometheus this species make a return as the "engineers" of both the human race and the alien species. Throw in dynamite 3D and Ridley Scott's trademark attention to detail, and the end result is an exciting voyage to LV-223.
PARENTAL GUIDELINES: Kids and accompanying adults can get in from just £1.50 with special family screenings each Saturday and Sunday morning, and even weekdays during the school holidays. 
SENIOR SERVICE: Senior tickets cost £5.85 on weekends. There are also special screenings for the over 60s every Thursday at 11.30pm, tickets cost £3.05 and includes a free tea or coffee and biscuits. TICKETS: During the weekend tickets cost £7.85 for adults (19 and over). For younger film goers the prices are slightly cheaper, £5.85 for children (2-12) and £6.25 for teenagers (13-18). Tickets for students with a valid photo ID only cost £6.65. Family tickets for 4 cost £23.40. There is an extra charge of for 3D tickets of £2 for adults and £1.50 for everyone else. If you buy a family ticket this is £6. 
SWEETS: Completing your cinema experience a wide variety of snacks including popcorn, hot dogs, nachos, sweets and soft drinks are all available at the cinema’s snacks counter. Combos are available to save a little money. 
DRINKS: The Vue also benefits from a speed bar where you can kick back with a beer before your film starts. 
AUDITORIUM: With an impressive 12 screens, the cinema can seat up to 1,762 people and has all the latest facilities you would expect of a modern cinema. 
PROJECTION: The Vue is equipped with wall-to-wall screens and digital projectors, enabling film fans to experience all the latest blockbusters in ever better 3D animation! 
DISABLED ACCESS: There is a wheelchair bay available at the rear of some of the screens (1, 2, 3, 8 or 9) and a lift from the foyer to the upper level. 
TOILETS: There is an accessible toilet by the entrance to screens 4 and 9. Further accessible toilets are available on the second floor by the rear of screens 2 and 3. 
STAFF: Dedicated and happy to help costumers, be it finding the best money saving combo deal or holding your popcorn while you find your ticket. 
PROS: Film goers can save at least 25% by visiting the Vue Monday, Tuesday and Thursday before 5pm. CONS: Unlike the Odeon in Parc Tawe, 3D glasses are included in the price of a 3D ticket. However, this does mean you can't save money by keeping your glasses and bringing them back with you on your next visit. 
TOP TIP: If you’re an Orange mobile or broadband customer, you can enjoy 2 for 1 cinema tickets every Wednesday at the Vue. All you need to do is text the word Film to 241 from your mobile phone, or register your Orange broadband account. Visit TELL ME MORE: Monday to Saturday the Vue is open 9am to 5pm. On Sundays the cinema is open from 10am to 4pm. For film start times and to book tickets you can phone on 08712240240, or go to
Visit Richard Thomas’s website at

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

No better way to see bay

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, June 16, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

No better way to see bay
A big day out!
This week RICHARD THOMAS takes a ride on the Swansea Seafront Open Top Bus.
WHY? Travelling by open top bus is one of the best ways to see Swansea Bay in style. Travelling on Service 1, also called the "Beach Bus", sightseers get to feel the wind blow through their hair as they take in some spectacular views of Swansea Bay. When the the sun is out, there really is no better way to travel around Swansea. The famous pink and white buses are waved on by children wherever they go, and are a great way to get to your destination and kick start any day out.
WHAT'S THE BUZZ? Linking Swansea City Bus Station with a number of key destinations, including Blackpill Lido, the shops and pubs of Oystermouth and popular Mumbles and Bracelet Bay, the Service 1 open top "Beach Bus" offers both locals and tourists alike an ideal way to get around Swansea in the summer weather.
ANY HISTORY? The open top bus service returned on June 2, after a very successful summer last year. The service is most popular among young children, who are not old enough to remember Swansea's original open top buses that replaced the Mumbles Train in the 1960s and stopped running in the 1980s. Oddly enough, although a bit of a summertime novelty today, until the 1920s most double-decker buses were constructed with no roof on the upper deck.
LOOK OUT FOR? On the journey between the bus station in the city centre and Mumbles there's some spectacular views of Swansea Bay and the lighthouse to photograph. So don’t forget to bring a camera with you to get the perfect cover for your Facebook timeline. Check out mine at
WHAT TO TAKE? Passengers can enjoy unlimited travel on the open top bus for just £4.20 a day, using the First Day Swansea City ticket, which also allows travel on the same day in the area bounded by the following places: Jersey Marine Village, Bowen Arms, Birchgrove, Ynysforgan Roundabout, Morriston Hospital , Penllergaer Roundabout, Gorseinon Bus Station and Loughor (Ship & Castle). Once you get to Bracelet Bay, in the famous Big Apple shop there's buckets and spades and everything else children will need to keep themselves busy on the beach. There are also restaurants and bars nearby for the adults. WHEN TO GO? The Swansea Seafront Open Top Bus will be running from Swansea City Centre to Oystermouth and Bracelet Bay throughout the summer. You can take a ride on the bus every day, except for Wednesdays, until September 1. The buses run on an hourly basis, but will not be running on days when there is bad weather, so make sure you check the weather forecast before you choose a day to go.
TELL ME MORE: For more information go to
Visit Richard Thomas’s website at

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Feel the need for speed

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, June 9, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post


Feel the need for speed
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Oakwood Theme Park in Pembrokeshire. 
WHY? With over 30 rides and attractions including three roller coasters and four water rides, Oakwood Theme Park in Pembrokeshire attracts 400,000 visitors each year, making it one of the UK's top ten theme parks. So with Oakwood re-open for the new season in early April, why not check it out?
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Located off the A40 motorway at Canaston Bridge, 8 miles east of the town of Haverfordwest, Oakwood park provides fun for all the family, from white knuckle rides to dazzling firework displays and other special events Oakwood has it all. Also other family attractions including Fully Farm and Scolton Museum can be found near Oakwood Theme Park, just six miles away.
ANY HISTORY? Oakwood Theme Park first opened in 1987 as “Oakwood Leisure Park”, a very small family park with BMXs, a wooden fort, a 3D-style cinema experience show, go-karts and a water chute ride. In 1996 Oakwood’s status as a small-scale regional attraction was completely transformed when the park opened “Megafobia” to the public. At that time Europe's largest wooden roller coaster ride. Since then the park has acquired a worldwide reputation for innovation and has since incorporated four more large thrill rides: Vertigo, Bounce, Hydro and the park’s newest roller coaster Speed opened in 2006.
WHAT TO TAKE? Standard tickets for visitors over 13 years old cost £21, while junior tickets for children 3-12 years old cost £15 each. Children two years old and younger visit the park for free and by booking online you can save £2 per person! Food and drink are available in the park’s restaurants, the Southern-fried chicken at Dixie's Chicken Diner is good. There are also gift shops with t-shirts, mugs and other Oakwood Theme Park merchandise available to buy. You can also purchase photos of yourself on Megafobia and the other rides, but don’t forget to bring a camera with you to take your own snaps.
LOOK OUT FOR? Oakwood has a good variety of rides to suit all people and ages. Megafobia and Speed are the park's two most exciting roller coasters. In the Detailed Wood Roller Coaster Poll 2010 the 85-foot-tall Megafobia ranked number 30 in the world. Speed is an exhilarating ride, twisting and turning at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. Bounce is a vertical ride, shooting you up into the air at more than 40mph. Together with the Hydro water ride, these four attractions form Oakwood’s “Big Four”, the ultimate adrenaline rush for thrill seekers! For the more wary and younger children there are also more family orientated rides, including The Pirate Ship and Snake River Falls.
WHEN TO GO? Oakwood is open 10am to 5pm daily. For more information about opening times go to
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