Sunday, 29 July 2012

Bargain hunters' joy

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, July 29, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Bargain hunters' joy 
A big day out! 
Author of the new book Sci-Fi Worlds - Doctor Who, Doomwatch, Battlestar Galactica And Other Cult TV Shows Richard Thomas heads to the Singleton Park Car Boot Sale. 
WHY? Car boot sales are a good way to save money and even make some extra cash and one of Wales’ five biggest is held every Saturday opposite Singleton Hospital in the car park of the Wales National Pool in Swansea.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? The Singleton Park Car Boot Sale is a well run car boot sale in the heart of Swansea which helps to raise funds for Singleton Hospital. Attendance barring bad weather is usually very good and there are lots of good deals to be grabbed.
ANY HISTORY? Father Harry Clarke a Catholic priest from Stockport first introduced the car boot sale to the UK after seeing a similar event being held in Canada while on holiday there in the early 1970s. Car boot sales now happen regularly across the UK every weekend of the year.
WHAT TO TAKE? Bring some carrier bags for your purchases. Food is for sale on the site. You can choose between burgers and hotdogs or a healthy option. There’s also an ice cream van and a bouncy castle to keep the kids busy. If you want to have a go at selling your unwanted clutter: cars cost £10, and vans and cars with trailers cost £15. Aim to get there before 6am if you want a good pitch to sell from as the car park fills up very quickly.
LOOK OUT FOR? There's something for all ages and tastes. The kind of items typically for sale include everything from ornaments and pictures to books and dvds, and toys and games. You might even find some old vinyl records or some new furniture to buy. Collectors of all sorts will enjoy scanning the tables for more items to add to their ever growing collections. A lifelong Doctor Who fan, I recently added a New Series twelve inch Cyberman figure to my collectors shelf bought from the car boot Sale. Sellers often don't know how much some of the items they are selling for 50p would go for on ebay.
WHEN TO GO? The car boot sale is open every Saturday between 7am and 1pm, but begins to close around 12pm. After 12pm prices start coming down if you want to look for some last minuet bargains.
TELL ME MORE: You can find the Singleton Park Car Boot Sale across the road from Singleton Hospital Car Park. For sat-nav users the postcode is SA2 8QA. Details for this car boot sale and others can be found at
Richard Thomas is the author of the new book Sci-Fi Worlds - Doctor Who, Doomwatch, Battlestar Galactica And Other Cult TV Shows, a collection of science fiction/TV focussed essays and interviews published by Bretwalda Books. Included are interviews with X-Files and Lone Gunmen star Dean Haglund, Lexx co-creator Lex Gigeroff, UFO investigator Nick Pope, and Doctor Who writer Lance Parkin. You can find the book by searching 'Sci-Fi Worlds by Richard Thomas' on Richard's next book Para-News: UFOs, Ghosts, Conspiracy, Cryptids And More is also available for pre-order from Amazon and all good book retailers. For more information about Richard Thomas's books go to or email

Saturday, 28 July 2012

South Wales Evening Post interview

Below is a "Heaven and Hell" feature about my favourite and least favourite holidays I did for the 28 July, 2012 issue of the South Wales Evening Post.

Holiday Heaven and Hell

Author of the new book Sci-Fi Worlds - Doctor Who, Doomwatch, Battlestar Galactica And Other Cult TV Shows, Swansea's RICHARD THOMAS tells us about his holiday highs and lows. 
What was your best holiday? I haven't been on holiday for a couple years now, I've been too busy with my writing. The goal I set myself was to write my first book before I turned 26, so it feels great to have my second book out by that deadline. My last holiday was to Cyprus in 2007 and I loved it there, the beaches were beautiful and the locals were all very friendly. Outside my hotel was a statue of Alexandra the Great and inside there was a map of the famous Greek’s conquests before he died at the age of only 32. I didn't know very much about Cyprus when I arrived but I enjoyed reading in the books I bought there about how the island had passed between Greek, Turkish and British rule over the last 3,000 years.
I would have to say however the best holiday I've been on was when I went to Florida in 2000. Me, my sister and brothers were still just kids at the time, and the whole family, my parents, grandparents, and uncle Carl went together. We used to alternate between the amusement parks, MGM, Disneyland, Animal Planet and others, and the water parks each day to stop everyone getting too tired.
What was your most memorable holiday moment? In Florida there were lots of memorable moments. There was a restaurant in Disney's Animal Kingdom called the Rainforest Cafe where it would start raining inside, which came as a bit of a surprise to my grandparents when it started tipping down in the middle of desert. You wouldn’t actually get wet, though, so it was great fun. Another of my favourite places to eat was the Sci-Fi Café at MGM, where on a big screen they would play clips from some of the famous science fiction B pictures from the 1950's. Films like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and Plan 9 from Outer Space. Some of the films like The Quatermass Experiment are discussed in detail in my new book Sci-Fi Worlds published by Bretwalda Books. 
What was your worst holiday experience? I went back to Florida for another family holiday in 2001 after 9/11. I sill enjoyed it over there but going through the airport was a nightmare. My mother had a gun pulled on her when she smiled after being asked to take her shoes off, and I saw lots of other people being harassed like this. The same thing is happening in British airports now, when I went to Cyprus my brother had the cleaning fluid for his contact lenses confiscated which I thought was outlandish. How 9/11 and the War on Terror has been reflected in shows like Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica is a topic I tackle a lot in Sci-Fi Worlds. 
I would have to say my worst holiday experience, though, was when I went to Tenerife in 2003. My mum booked us all on a donkey trail up the volcano. This was fun and my sister who was still little loved it, but the food afterwards was all covered in flies, including  some dead ones floating in the vinegar. It was awful. After we got back to the hotel room we all fell over laughing about how bad it was. We all felt like we had just been on something organised by Trotters Independent Traders. 
What is your fantasy holiday? I would love to go back to the United States, but this time to my favourite state Texas. I have another book coming out in October called ‘Para-News: UFOs, Ghosts, Conspiracy, Cryptids - and More’ in which I interview some of America’s best known paranormal researchers and conspiracy theorists. It would be cool to meet up with JFK assassination researcher Jim Marrs outside the School Book Depository in Dallas, Texas where President Kennedy was shot in 1963. Jim wrote the best-selling book Crossfire which was the basis for Oliver Stone’s film JFK. Another Texas resident I interviewed is Nick Redfern, who has also written the foreword for Para-News. Nick is a full-time author of books about UFOs, mystery animals and conspiracies, and has been a big help to me.
How did your book Sci-Fi Worlds come about and where can readers find it? In 2008 I started writing a science fiction/TV related column for Alien Worlds magazine which led to me writing for some other magazines and blogs; and of course my Saturday columns for the Evening Post. Sci-Fi Worlds - Doctor Who, Doomwatch, Battlestar Galactica And Other Cult TV Shows is a collection of my favourite sci-fi related articles and interviews I've done over the past four years. Included are interviews with X-Files star Dean Haglund and Lexx co-creator Lex Gigeroff, as well as Doctor Who writer Lance Parkin. You can find the book by searching 'Sci-Fi Worlds by Richard Thomas' on My next book Para-News: UFOs, Ghosts, Conspiracy, Cryptids - and More is also available for pre-order from Amazon and all good book retailers. 
For more information about Richard Thomas's books go to or email

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Bringing history to life

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



Bringing history to life
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Oystermouth Castle in Swansea. 
WHY? Sitting magically on a hill overlooking Mumbles Bay, there's lots taking place at Oystermouth Castle this summer. Today (July 21) children can get involved with a mock archaeological dig at the castle and next Sunday (July 29) there is a Living History Day where Ostreme Theatre Players will be dressed in medieveal costumes and visitors will be able to meet historical characters like Lord William de Braos III and his daughter Alina.
WHATS THE BUZZ? Last year the battlement was given a facelift and the castle hasn't looked better since the 14th century. A whole maze of rooms have been made safe and accessible for the public to see and explore this summer.
ANY HISTORY? Oystermouth Castle was built around 1100 by William de Londres and later rebuilt in the 13th century by the infamous de Breos family, after being burnt down by the Welsh twice. There is also a ghost story attached to the old battlement. Known as The White Lady of Oystermouth Castle the apparition of a woman dressed all in white has been experienced many times by visitors to the battlement. The White Lady is usually seen weeping, with the back of her dress ripped away and a series of bloody welts on her back. The woman then abruptly vanishes before confused onlookers can offer her any assistance. Reports of the woman in white go back centuries, leading some paranormal investigators to believe she might have died after being tortured on the medieval whipping post which still stands in the castle’s dungeon.
WHAT TO TAKE? There is a small charge of £2.50 for admission into the castle. Family tickets for two adults and two children are available for £6 and children under five visit for free. Rememer to bring cash with you as there are no credit/debit card facilities on the castle site. Also wear suitable footwear for the uneven terrain.
LOOK OUT FOR? Last Summer a new 30-foot-high glass bridge opened allowing access to the part of the castle called Alina's Chapel for the first time in hundreds of years. The chapel was added to the castle in the 14th century and marks the attraction’s highest medieval point. If visitors look close enough graffiti art from the 14th century can be spotted thanks to the improved view.
WHEN TO GO? The castle will be open daily all summer between 11am and 5pm until 30 September. Last admissions are 30 minutes before closing.
TELL ME MORE: Oystermouth Castle is located in a beautiful location on the hill in Mumbles overlooking Swansea Bay. Follow the A4067 into Mumbles and then turn right up Newton Road at the mini-roundabout by the White Rose. The castle is halfway up Newton Road on the right hand side. For sat nav users the castle’s postcode is SA3 5TA. Phone 01792 635075 or visit for more information.
Visit Richard Thomas's website at

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Go ape in the park

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


Go ape in the park
A big day out!
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Go Ape Tree Top Adventure at Margam Park in Port Talbot.
WHY? At Go Ape thrill seekers can enjoy up to three hours in the tree tops tackling zip wires, Tarzan swings, rope ladders and hire-wire crossings, but you don't have to be adrenalin addict to have fun in Margam Park. Steeped in history, wildlife and natural beauty, there’s something for everyone inside the park. The 850 acre estate boasts a magnificent 18th century orangery, an impressive and picturesque Tudor-Gothic style Victorian mansion house, a 12th century chapter house, ornamental gardens and one of the best deer herds in Wales. Children will enjoy the narrow gauge railway, adventure playground, farm trail and Fairytale Land.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Go Ape is the UK's number one Tree Top Adventure. At the course in Margam participants are first given a saftey talk and fitted with a harnesss by the friendly instructors. This is followed by a demonstation and practice run on solid ground to get to grips with how to use the climbing equitment correctly. There's no rush, and the staff are happy to answer any questions and give you all the encouragement you need before climbing up the first rope ladder into the tree tops to begin the adventure. The course is divided into five parts, each a bit higher and more challenging than the last. Once you get into the swing of it, it's great fun and after you complete the course your given a certficate to show that you've joined the Go Ape Tribe.
ANY HISTORY? The history of Margam can be traced back to the Bronze and Iron Age, and it is even believed that the park’s deer herd was first introduced by the Romans some time after their conquest of Britain in the 1st century CE. Adjacent to the Go Ape Tree Tops Adventure site is Margam Abbey built in 1147 and the magnificent Margam Castle, a Gothic-Tudor mansion house commissioned by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot in 1830. Today Margam Castle has become a popular filming location for TV shows. On July 6 when I visited the park, the production team for the new drama series the Da Vinci's Demons written by David S Goyer, who also penned the scripts for Batman Begins and Blade, were busy setting up camp at the castle.
LOOK OUT FOR? The tree tops at Go Ape offer fantastic views of some of the other places you can visit inside Margam Park after you've completed your tree top adventure. Borrow an mp3 player free of charge from the kiosk and you'll be able to eavesdrop on voices from the past when you visit eight different spots inside the park. Written by David Hughes and recorded by local actors, these echoes from the past offer a fascinating insight into the lives of people who have worked, visited or lived on the estate over the centuries.
WHAT TO TAKE? Entry to Margam Park is free but there is a parking charge of £3.90. The Go Ape! Tree Top Adventure trail costs £20 for 10-17 year olds and £30 for the over 18s. To go on the course you must be at least 1.4 metres tall and no more than 20.5 stone. Wear suitable footwear with good grip and something you don't mind getting a bit gruby in, and bring gloves if you have them. Cameras are welcome.
WHEN TO GO? Until 4 September Margam Park will be open daily between 10am and 8pm. Go Ape! is closed Tuesday and Thursday, the rest of the week the Tree Top Adventure is available for bookings at 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm. To make a booking go to
TELL ME MORE: For sat-nav users the postcode is SA13 2TJ. More information about all of the activities at Margam Park can be found at, or you can phone 01639 881635.
Vist Richard Thomas's website at

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Just pitch up and play

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, July 7, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.


Just pitch up and play
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Ashleigh Road Pitch & Putt golf course.
WHY? With the summer returning, the Ashleigh Road golf course, Swansea's only 10 hole golf course, is a great way to spend a Saturday. 
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Running along the promenade, and situated opposite the road it is named after, is Ashleigh Road Pitch & Putt golf course. The course has no handicap requirements so it is ideal for beginners of all ages and those who just want to have some fun. It is also a great course for more experienced players to brush up on their pitching and putting skills. 
ANY HISTORY? The game of golf has a long history in Wales. The years 1850-1900 were a time of dramatic changes in Wales. The population virtually doubled in this period. The Industrial Revolution hit the country and the people moved from the countryside to the towns. Suddenly, Welsh men and women had more time on their hands, especially the rich, and they began looking around for something to do with their leisure time. Tenby Golf Club is officially the oldest club in Wales, having been set up in the autumn of 1888. Many more Welsh courses came into being before the turn of the century. Borth and Ynyslas, Ceredigion, was in use from 1885, while Baron Hill, on Anglesey, was created in either 1889 or 1890. Most of the early courses were initially designed to have only nine holes and sometimes ten like the golf course at Ashleigh Road, half of today’s standard 18.
WHAT TO TAKE? Equipment can be hired for a minimal fee. Just turn up, and “pay and play” a round of golf. The prices are:
Pay and Play
Standard £4.70, Concession £3.45, PTL £2.10
Club Hire
Standard £2.25, Concession £1.90, PTL £1.00
Golf Ball Purchase
Family Ticket
Standard £14.00, Concession £12.00
LOOK OUT FOR? Asides from the golf course there’s lots of other family activities to check out nearby. You'll find plenty of family fun for free at Blackpill Lido. The Lido is a must when the weather is good with its superb paddling pool, children's play area, climbing rock and picnic facilities. There’s also the award winning Clyne Gardens and the Bay Rider, a land train that runs between Blackpill and Mumbles, to see.
WHEN TO GO? Ashleigh Road Golf Course is open daily from 9am to 6pm. The last admission is at 4pm.
TELL ME MORE: Heading towards Mumbles on Mumbles Road, Ashleigh Road golf hut is opposite Ashleigh Road on the left hand side, before you get to Blackpill Lido. For sat nav users the postcode is SA3 5AU. For further information phone 01792 207544 or visit
Visit Richard Thomas's website at