Saturday, 24 November 2012

A fresh fir for Christmas

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, November 24, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.


A fresh fir for Christmas
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Gower Fresh Christmas Trees at Three Crosses, Swansea. 
WHY? Forget your old plastic tree in your attic, at Gower Fresh Christmas Trees you can shop for the best fresh cut trees this Christmas and visit Wales’ largest reindeer herd.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? There are a huge selection of trees to choose from at Poundffald Farm this Christmas. This year's crop includes every type of tree from Norway Spruce to the Noble Fir. What really sets the farm apart from other Christmas tree retailers, though, is their outstanding Winter Wonderland exhibits where you can come and meet Santa and his reindeer as they prepare for Christmas Eve.
LOOK OUT FOR? In Winter Wonderland the farm's Arctic display includes penguins, polar bears and seals. There are also singing Santa's and you can even have your photo taken in Santa's sleigh or visit Father Christmas himself in his grotto. There is even a life size 12 piece nativity display with baby Jesus, Mary, the three wise men, and shepherds. They also have a shop full of all types of Christmas items to purchase.
ANY HISTORY? Gower Fresh Christmas Trees was set up nine years ago by Poundffald Farm owner and fifth generation farmer Robert Morgan. What began as a concrete slab and a small number of Christmas trees soon became the largest grower in South Wales with over 250,000 trees for sale. Robert added the Christmas grotto five years ago to add some more Christmas cheer to the farm and to give children something to enjoy while adults are busy scouting for this year’s Christmas tree.
WHAT TO TAKE? Tree prices start at £5. Trees that are eight foot plus are more expensive. Decorations, gifts and tree stands are all for sale in the Christmas Shop. To visit Winter Wonderland and see Santa in his grotto costs £5.50 per child but is just £2.50 each for adults.
WHEN TO GO? Gower Fresh Christmas Trees is open 9.30am to 7pm on weekdays and 9.30am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. Their Christmas attraction Winter Wonderland is open at the same times as the tree site. Children can visit Father Christmas in his grotto all day until 3pm on Christmas Eve.
TELL ME MORE: The tree site and Christmas grotto is located at Poundffald Farm in Three Crosses, Swansea, just five minutes from Junction 47. For sat nav users the postcode is SA4 3PB. For more information go to or phone 07811 949239.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Winter wonder is back

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, November 17, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Winter wonder is back
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Waterfront Winterland in Swansea.
WHY? This weekend Swansea’s premier winter attraction featuring two fantastic ice-skating rinks, a family funfair, Santa’s Grotto, and stalls selling delicious hot food and drinks returns, as the city starts to get into the Christmas spirit.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? For the seventh year running Museum Park in Swansea has been transformed into a Christmas playground and ice-skating park. There are two excellent ice rinks at Waterfront Winterland, the main Admiral Rink and the children friendly Rocky’s Rink, where little ones can get used to ice skating and gain in confidence before moving to the big rink. For non-skaters there’s lots more to see at the park, including their fantastic family funfair with rides like the Mad Mouse, Snow Storm ride and the nostalgic carousel to enjoy. It is the attraction’s gigantic Ferris wheel that steals the show, however. Standing at 44m, the Miles Hire Giant Wheel is largest touring attraction of its kind in the UK and offers spectacular views of the Swansea Bay area. There are also lots of festive treats, hot chocolate and lots more to warm you up during your visit, which you can enjoy in the undercover spectator area.
ANY HISTORY? The annual festive attraction first opened in 2006 and since then an impressive 536,000 people have visited the park.
WHAT TO TAKE? If you have young children that haven’t been on the ice before then you will need to book tickets for them to use the children’s Rocky's Rink. There is a charge to use both the children’s rink and main ice-skating rink. Monday to Friday until Thursday 20 December sessions starting before 5pm only cost £5.50 for all categories. From Friday 21 December, every weekend and all sessions after 5pm the rink prices are: £7.50 for adults (16 and over), £6.50 for OAPs and students, and £5.50 for children (15 and under) and skaters with a Swansea Passport to Leisure. There are also special promotions for lunchtime and evening skates, including money off a hot chocolate with every ticket purchased for skating sessions between 12pm and 2pm.
LOOK OUT FOR? Tomorrow Father Christmas himself will arrive in Swansea to switch on the city’s Christmas lights. After starring in Swansea's annual Christmas Parade, Santa will be at Waterfront Winterland in his Grotto. Children can meet Father Christmas for £4 and for an extra £1 have a photo taken with the big man.
WHEN TO GO? The Christmas attraction will be open daily until 6 January 2013. The opening hours are 12pm to 10pm on weekdays and 10am to 10pm on weekends. Santa’s Grotto is open until 23 December.
TELL ME MORE: Waterfront Winterland is located in Museum Park, Swansea, just outside the LC and Swansea Museum. For more information go to or call on 01792 637300.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

For a truly grand time

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, November 10, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.


For a truly grand time
A big day out!
RICHARD THOMAS heads to The Grand Theatre in Swansea.
WHY? The Grand Theatre in Swansea has a 1,000-seat auditorium and hosts a wide variety of shows and exhibitions for everyone to enjoy.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? There's lots to see at The Grand this month. Tonight audiences can catch the last performances of the number one musical of all time, Grease, at the theatre, and later in the month Francis Hardy's stage adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, performed by the wonderful Fluellen Theatre Company, is coming to the The Grand. Information about ticket prices and start times can be found in the Winter Brochure, which can be downloaded at
ANY HISTORY? Since 1897, Swansea's Grand Theatre has been providing the public with a broad range of cultural, artistic and general entertainment events. The Grand Theatre was designed by the architect William Hope of Newcastle in 1897. It was built by D. Jenkins and was opened by Madam Adelina Patti - an Opera Diva of her day - under the original proprietors Morell and Mouillot. The Swansea Corporation leased the building in May 1969 and bought it outright in 1979. The Theatre was then refurbished and updated during the period 1983 - 1987 at a cost of £6.5 million. A further £1 million was spent for the Arts Wing to open its doors for the first time in 1999. Over the last twenty years, the fabric of the theatre has been improved and enhanced considerably, thanks to the support of the former Swansea Corporation, Swansea City Council and more recently the City and County of Swansea. However, none of the theatre's unique identity has suffered as a result of this improvement and today's Grand is as full of charm and atmosphere as was the case when the theatre first opened its doors all those years ago.
WHAT TO TAKE? Morning tea and coffee, lunchtime specials and pre-show dinners are available in the theatre’s Footlights Café Bar. Located in the theatre’s delightful garden area it's the perfect setting to meet with friends for a drink or a light meal. The menu includes fresh Italian coffees, a variety of teas, sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, pasties, cold drinks and fresh pastries.
LOOK OUT FOR? The Arts Wing is the most recent development at The Grand and adds almost 2000 square metres of extra space to the theatre. The contemporary space holds exhibitions, conferences and smaller-scale music and drama performances including lunchtime theatre on the last Saturday of each month and a regular comedy club featuring acts on the comedy circuit. On the top floor there is also the Rooftop Café, Restaurant and Bar with it's own terrace, affording unique views of Swansea.
WHEN TO GO? The Grand is open Monday to Saturday between 9.30am to 8pm, on non performance days they close at 6pm. On Sundays the theatre is open for one hour before performances.
TELL ME MORE: The Grand is situated in the heart of Swansea’s city centre on Singleton Street. For sat nav users their postcode is SA1 3QJ. To book your tickets call the Box Office on 01792 475715. Visit

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Vue, Swansea

My column for the November 2012 issue of Swansea Life magazine.


I went to...
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: Now showing at The Vue is Dredd 3D. In this visually spectacular take on the legendary Judge Dredd from the 2000AD comics, Dredd (Karl Urban) is an extreme law enforcer operating in the nightmarish conditions of Mega-City One, a sprawling future metropolis, which is dangerously over-populated and where violent crime is soaring. With other judges being murdered, Dredd has the ultimate power to execute wrong-doers. Joined by a young trainee, Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), he is targeting a drugs gang warping minds with a narcotic known as SLO-MO. And he's taking no prisoners. Another sci-fi blockbuster now showing at The Vue is Total Recall, a remake of Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1990 film based on a short story by Blade Runner author Philip K.Dick. Set at the end of the century, a factory worker, Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), begins to suspect that he is a spy after buying memory implants of a life he wishes he had goes wrong and he finds himself on the run. There are also lots of other films to choose from if your not a sci-fi fanatic, including TED, a  laugh-out-loud-funny film about a man whose life is being ruined by his childhood teddy bear coming to life.
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 for 3D tickets of £2 for adults and £1.50 for everyone else. A 3D family ticket costs an extra £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: 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 
Richard Thomas is the author of Sci-Fi Worlds - Doctor Who, Doomwatch, Battlestar Galactica And Other Cult TV Shows available from Amazom and all good ebook retailers. Visit

Light up the night

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, November 3, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.


Light up the night 
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Swansea's Fireworks Display at St Helen's Ground. 
WHY? Sparks In The Dark is Swansea's largest fireworks display. Thousands of people turn up to enjoy the annual fireworks extravaganza at St Helen's Rugby Ground in Swansea every year.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? This year the spectacular show includes entertainment from Nation 80s before the display including dynamic dance from Nu Sxool, music from local band Where’s Wally and former X Factor winner Joe McElderry, who rose to fame in 2009 when he beat Ollie Murs and Stacey Solomon to win the title. The event also includes a large circus skills workshop, where people have the opportunity to have a go at juggling, stilt-walking and unicycling.
ANY HISTORY? On November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was caught guarding explosives placed beneath the House of Lords and arrested. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot's failure. WHAT TO TAKE? Advanced tickets are priced at £15 for families (2 adults and up to 3 children), £4.50 standard, £3.50 concessions and £3 Passport to Leisure. Tickets purchased on the night are £20 for families (2 adults and up to 3 children), £5.50 standard, £4.50 concessions and £3.50 Passport to Leisure. Accompanied Under 3s go free. Candy floss, hotdogs, burgers as well as glow sticks and other glow in the dark toys will all be available to buy on the night. Spectators should dress appropriately for the time of year as this is an outdoor event.
LOOK OUT FOR? The show will see Swansea Bay light up with a spectacular fireworks display and The Wave and Swansea Sound will be on stage with live music, special guests and entertainment throughout the night. Fire jugglers and children's entertainers will also be at St Helen's to provide pre-fireworks fun on the night.
WHEN TO GO? Gates for fireworks extravaganza open on Monday November 5 at 5.30pm with entertainment starting at 6pm. The evening will finish with a spectacular fireworks display choreographed to music at 7.30pm.
TELL ME MORE: The fireworks display will be held at St Helen's Rugby and Cricket Ground in Swansea. For sat nav users the address and postcode is: 1 Bryn Road, Brynmill, Swansea, SA2 0AR. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling Swansea Tourist Information Centre on 01792 468321. Alternatively, tickets can be purchased in person from a number of venues including Swansea Tourist Information Centre, Mumbles Tourist Information Centre, Swansea Civic Centre and any Active Swansea Leisure Centre. Tickets can also be purchased in person on the night on the gates at St Helen's Ground.
Visit Richard Thomas's website at