Thursday, 30 August 2012

Relax and be inspired

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, August 25, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Relax and be inspired
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Singleton Botanical Gardens in Swansea. 
WHY? The gardens are at their most stunning in August. Set within the tranquil surroundings of Singleton main park, it is a very relaxing place to sit and relax, as well as 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.
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 8pm in August. 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.
Richard Thomas's new book Sci-Fi Worlds - Doctor Who, Doomwatch, Battlestar Galactica And Other Cult TV Shows is available from Amazon. Visit

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Strike it lucky in city

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


Strike it lucky in city
A big day out!
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Tenpin Bowling in Swansea.
WHY? Tenpin Swansea, formerly Megabowl, is the only ten pin bowling alley in Swansea, located in the Parc Tawe shopping and leisure complex near the city centre.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Tenpin Swansea offers a host of family friendly activities for people of all abilities, from first time players right up to veteran bowlers. The alley boasts 26 bowling lanes, three American pool tables, an amusements arcade and cosmic bowling nights.
ANY HISTORY? Bowling is one of the oldest sports still played today. The earliest forms of bowling can be traced back to Ancient Egypt. In 1930 when the Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie excavated the grave of an Egyptian boy dating to 3200 BC he found artefacts resembling the pins used in tenpin bowling today.
WHAT TO TAKE? Bowling shoes are provided. One game costs £6.75 per adult and £5.25 each for juniors. You can also play two games for £11.75 (adults) and £9.25 (juniors), and three games for £12.75 (adults) and £10.25 (juniors). There’s also special family deals available. Four people can play a game for £21 or two games for £36.99.  Add £3 per person for a burger meal in the Beach Road Cafe Bar inspired by the sun bleached, chilled-out beach vibe of Bondi.
LOOK OUT FOR? As well as normal ten pin bowling on some nights you can play cosmic bowling, a hybrid of glow-in-the-dark ten pin bowling with dance club music and lights. Up to date information about cosmic bowling times can be found on the Tenpin website listed below. At Tenpin Swansea there’s also an amusements arcade where you can try to win a prise on the claw machines, or, if you like, you can just chill out watching Sky Sports in the fully licensed bar or playing pool on the three American pool tables.
WHEN TO GO? The bowling alley is open 11am to 12am on weekdays and 10am to 12am on weekends. During the school holidays they are open 10am to 12am seven days a week. The bar closes at 11.30pm. 
TELL ME MORE: For sat nav users the address and postcode is Parc Tawe, The Strand, Swansea, SA1 2AX. You can phone on 0871 873 3150 or book online at
Richard Thomas's new book Sci-Fi Worlds - Doctor Who, Doomwatch, Battlestar Galactica And Other Cult TV Shows is available from Amazon. Visit

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Tower is real highlight

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


Tower is real highlight
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to the top floor of the Meridian Tower on Swansea's Marina. 
WHY? Towering over Swansea at 107 metres tall the Meridian Tower is the tallest building in Wales. With 29 floors it is twice as tall as former tallest building in Swansea, the BT Tower completed in 1970. On the top floor of the Tower is the Grape and Olive restaurant, offering diners first class Mediterranean cuisine and spectacular views of Swansea. The elliptical design of the Tower means that from the top floor you can see the whole of the city, from Kilvey Hill and St Thomas, to the city centre and Mumbles. People who are a little afraid of heights might feel a bit dizzy sitting next to the enormous windows, but the views are hypnotic and most people will just want to stare out at them for hours.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? The Tower is located in the heart of the Marina and only 50 metres from the promenade that borders the bay from the Marina to Mumbles Pier. The city centre and all of it's activities and attractions is only a ten minuet walk away. There are several museums including the National Waterfront Museum across the basin and the newly refurbished LC leisure centre and water park is also only a five minute walk away.
ANY HISTORY? Construction work on the Tower was begun in 2006 and completed in 2009 at a a cost of £40million. Sadly, on 26 January 2008, one of the construction workers died after falling three storeys from the Tower.
WHAT TO TAKE? There are some special offers available on the menu at the Grape and Olive. Monday to Friday between 12pm and 5pm they offer two courses for £11.95. Hot drinks and delicious Tu Vita muffins, cookies and home made cakes are also on offer. Don't forget parking in the car park by the LC is free on Sundays but there is a minimum charge of £2 for two hours the rest of the week.
LOOK OUT FOR? The Marina has several shops, cafes and restaurants. There is an amusement arcade where you can try your luck on the slot machines and nearby is the Dylan Thomas Centre where just outside you can have your photo taken with a statue of Swansea's greatest poet. Swansea Museum also keeps three floating exhibits at the Marina: the lightship Helwick; a tug boat called Canning; and the Olga, a Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter built in 1909.
WHEN TO GO? On a sunny day the view alone is well worth the journey up the lift to the top floor of the Tower, even if you're only having coffee and cake. The The Grape and Olive is open Sunday to Thursday, 10am to 11pm. Friday and Saturday the restaurant is open 10am to 12am. They are open for coffee from 9am daily.
TELL ME MORE: The Grape and Olive can be found on the 28th floor of the Meridian Tower by Swansea Marina. For sat nav users the postcode is SA1 1JW. Go to or phone 01792 462617.

Richard Thomas's new book Sci-Fi Worlds - Doctor Who, Doomwatch, Battlestar Galactica And Other Cult TV Shows is available from Amazon. Visit