Friday, 9 March 2012

Park has rich history

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


Park has rich history
A big day out!
Margam Country Park.

WHY? Steeped in history, wildlife and natural beauty, there’s something for everyone at Margam Park on the slopes of Mynydd Margam, two miles from Port Talbot.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Since Margam Park was officially opened in 1977 approximately four million people have visited the park to enjoy the facilities and events hosted inside. 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.
ANY HISTORY? The history of the site can be traced back to pre-historic times, Bronze and Iron Age relics abound the area and point to Celtic and Roman occupation at the site. It is even believed that the park’s deer herd was first introduced by the Italian invaders some time after the Roman conquest of Britain in the 1st century CE.
LOOK OUT FOR? The park is best known for being the home to Margam Abbey built in 1147 and Margam Castle, a Tudor mansion house commissioned by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot in 1830. Although a relatively modern building, the castle was built on the site of an Iron Age hill fort, and during the ten years it took to complete the castle there were several deaths of masons involved in the contraction work. The Gothic building’s troubled beginning combined with the 4000 year history of the site has attracted many paranormal investigators to the castle, including visits by the TV series Most Haunted in 2006.
FUN FACTS? Margam Castle doesn’t only attract TV shows about ghosts and the supernatural, scenes for episodes of Doctor Who, Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures have also been filmed at the castle.
WHAT TO TAKE? Entry to the park is free but there is a parking charge of £3.70 for cars, £6.40 for minibuses and £12.70 for coaches. Season tickets cover parking charges for a single vehicle for a whole year and are available from the car park kiosk or at the main office just off the Castle Courtyard. These cost £16 each but don’t cover the costs of some of the events hosted by the park, for which there is a separate charge.
WHEN TO GO? Margam Park is open all year round. Until the end of March the park gates will be open between 1pm and 4.30pm on Mondays and Tuesdays. The rest of the week (Wednesday to Sunday) the park will be open 10am to 4.30pm.
TELL ME MORE: Throughout the year the park hosts various events from Living History Weekends to clown festivals and charity walks the next of which is “Lets Walk Cymru” and will be held on March 9. Up to date information about these and other events and attractions at Margam Park can be found on the park’s website at, or you can phone 01639 881635. For sat-nav users the postcode is SA13 2TJ.

Enjoy tastes of Wales

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


Enjoy tastes of Wales
A big day out!
RICHARD THOMAS heads to ….
Swansea Castle Square.

WHY? As part of Swansea’s St David’s Week celebrations a Get Welsh Food Festival is being held in Castle Square this weekend. At this family event patriotic locals and visitors will have the chance to sample traditional Welsh cuisine and take a rare tour of Swansea Caste, while in Swansea Market little ones in Welsh costume can have a free 7" x 5" photo taken!
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? This is the sixth St David's Week held in Swansea, the week long festival is the only one of its type in Wales and showcases the very best of what Wales has to offer. As well as cooking demonstrations on how to get the best results using local produce, people will have the chance to sample the delicious meats, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, and quality wines. On top of this, there will be entertainment going on throughout the day.
ANY HISTORY? The festival has become an established part of the city centre’s events calendar, however, from an historical viewpoint it is a bit ironic that a celebration of Welsh cuisine is being held in Castle Square. Swansea Castle was a Norman castle first mentioned in 1116 as being attacked by the Welsh!
LOOK OUT FOR? After the food festival stage entertainment finishes at 4pm crowds will be able to watch England vs. Wales in the Six Nations on the Big Screen in Castle Square.
WHAT TO TAKE? All the events held for St David’s Week are free. Today in Swansea Market from 10am to 4pm children in traditional Welsh costume will be able to have their photo taken by a professional photographer. This doesn’t cost anything, but don’t forget to bring a camera to take some photos yourself.
WHEN TO GO? The Get Welsh Food Festival will be open today and tomorrow from 9am to 5pm. The tours of Swansea Castle will be between 10am and 4pm, however, you will have to phone 01792 637300 to book a place. Also, if you can’t make it to Swansea Market today between 10am and 4pm to have your child’s photo taken in Welsh dress don’t panic, there’s another chance to get a free photo on March 1.
TELL ME MORE: More information about the St David’s Week celebrations can be found at