Saturday, 27 October 2012

Get in a spin on track

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, October 13, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Get in a spin on track
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Skidz Karting in Swansea. 
WHY? Skidz Karting is Swansea’s only indoor go karting track. With karts and tracks suitable for all ages and abilities, drivers young and old will have a great time trying to beat each others best lap time on the tracks.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Measuring 330 meters in length and consisting of an exciting mix of tight bends, sweeping curves and great long straights, the 6 meter wide main track allows for plenty of overtaking opportunities and provides plenty of challenges for even the most experienced go karter. There’s also a great track for younger drivers, providing plenty of fun but still nice and safe with a secure pit lane area for safe pit stops. Children as young as three can take part. There are three types of kart available: electric KIDZ KARTZ that travel up to 6 miles per hour for three to eight year olds, SODI FUN KID petrol karts for eight to twelve year olds, and the worlds most popular kart the SODI GT4 for adults. LOOK OUT FOR? Along with two great tracks there is also a games room with driving simulators where you can get some practice before you go on the track, a pool table, air hockey table, and a cafe serving light refreshments to check out. ANY HISTORY? Skidz Karting opened last year. Although a popular sport in Europe today, go karting first began on the other side of the Atlantic. Art Ingels is thought to have built the world's first go kart in 1956 in California. Go karting quickly caught on with tracks built in many towns and cities across the United States.
WHAT TO TAKE? Drivers will have to make a one time purchase of a balaclava for hygiene reasons, but these only cost £1.50 each and are yours to keep and bring back next time. All the other kit, including a helmet, overalls, gloves and a detailed safety briefing are provided for. Prices are £20 for 25 minuets during off peak times and £25 for the same during peak times, Monday to Friday after 4pm, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays.
WHEN TO GO? During the school term the go karting tracks are open daily between 12pm and 8pm, except Mondays when the tracks are closed. During school holidays Skids Karting is open seven days a week from 10am to 12pm. TELL ME MORE: For sat-nav users the full address and postcode is: Unit 1, Rear of Queensway, Swansea West Business Park, Fforest-Fach, Swansea, SA5 4DJ. To book a place call 01792 580927. More information about opening times, prices and the go karting tracks can be found on the Skidz Karting website at
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Centre full of history

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, October 20, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Centre full of history 
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Swansea Museum’s Collections Centre at Landore. 
WHY? Swansea Museum operates over four locations. The Collections Centre is a fascinating place to visit because it houses the museum's reserve collection which include some extraordinary exhibits from Swansea’s industrial and maritime past.
WHAT'S THE BUZZ? The Collections Centre is housed in an historically important building on the former Hafod/Morfa Copper Works site in Landore, parts of which date back to 1830. The former copper rolling shed and warehouse building has been transformed into a public-access store and collections centre. The building is now home to the reserve collections of both Swansea Museum and the Maritime and Industrial Museum, providing more opportunities for the public to see some wonderful gems from history.
ANY HISTORY? In the mid-19th century the Hafod/Morfa copper-smelting complex was the centre of world copper smelting activity. Little evidence remains of this industrial past, however, save for the buildings on the site.
QUIRKY HISTORY? Considering the age of the building and the exhibits inside, ghost hunters won’t be surprised to learn that staff have even reported hearing “loud whistling” when nobody else should have been in the building.
WHAT TO TAKE? Admission is free but don’t forget to bring a camera with you.
LOOK OUT FOR? Some of the most popular items in the collection at Landore are the old vehicles like a traveller's van, lorries, a fire engine and also boats. There are even two lifeboats; the Naomi Beatty and the William Gammon. Gifted to the museum in 1992, the William Gammon was named in memory of the coxswain of the Mumbles lifeboat, who lost his life along with the other seven crew members on April 23, 1947, whilst attempting to rescue the crew of the Samtampa. The collection from the former Maritime and Industrial Museum in Swansea is also at the Landore site.
WHEN TO GO? Swansea Museum Collections Centre opens to visitors every Wednesday between 10am to 4pm.
TELL ME MORE: The Collections Centre can be found next to the Park and Ride car park, opposite the Liberty Stadium, on the Cross Valley Link Road, Landore, Swansea, SA1 2JT. For more information about exhibitions and events at Swansea Museum you can visit their website at or phone 01792 653763.
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Spooky tour of caste

Below is my “Big Day Out” column from the Saturday, October 27, 2012, Swansea edition of the South Wales Evening Post.

Spooky tour of caste 
A big day out! 
RICHARD THOMAS heads to Swansea Castle. 

WHY? What better way to spend Halloween than to take a tour of a haunted castle?
WHAT’S THE BUZZ? Following the success of last year’s tours, Swansea Castle is again opening to the public for Halloween. Several vaulted rooms of the medieval fortress, cells of the 18th century prison and the whole of the first floor will be open to the public as part of Swansea’s Spooks in the City event. Other activities too, including lantern making, apple bobbing, face painting and workshops in Oxford Street, as well as Halloween crafts and Big Cook Little Cook sessions in Swansea Market will also be taking place as part of the event.
ANY HISTORY? Swansea Castle dates back to around 1106 when it was founded by Henry de Beaumont, the first Earl of Warwick. De Beaumont is said to have accompanied William the Conqueror on his campaign in the Midlands in 1068 and was later given the Lordship of Gower by his friend and ally Henry I. The original castle consisted of earthworks and timber defences. After various unsuccessful attacks made by the Welsh, first in 1116, then again in 1192, the castle finally fell in 1217 when it was razed to the ground. It was later restored to the English control in 1220 as part of the settlement between Llywelyn ap Iorwerth and Henry III of England. Today’s stone castle was built in the late 13th and early 14th centuries by the de Braose lords of Gower William II and his son William III as a set of private apartments for the de Braose family. One of their victims was the Welsh warrior William Cragh, who was executed within sight of the castle in 1290 for killing 13 men. By this time the castle had lost much of its military importance and has since served many other purposes. In the 16th century a town hall was located in the area to the front of the castle and in the 18th and 19th centuries parts of the castle were variously used as a town market, a police station, a drill hall and a debtors’ prison. In 1941 the castle was damaged during the “Three Night Blitz”. After decades of being closed to the public, tours of the castle began last year following funding from the Welsh Government.
LOOK OUT FOR? According to local legend an undersea tunnel connects Swansea Castle to Oystermouth Castle in Mumbles, famous for its White Lady. A similar sceptre dressed in blue robes is said to haunt Swansea Castle.
WHAT TO TAKE? There is no charge but there is a maximum of 20 places on each tour. To book a place phone 01792 637300.
WHEN TO GO? Spooks in the City is being held in Swansea City Centre on Wednesday 31 October between 10am and 4pm. The start times of the castle tours are: 10am, 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm. TELL ME MORE: For more information go to
Richard Thomas is the author of Para-News: UFOs, Ghosts, Conspiracy, Cryptids And More, available from and all good book retailers. Visit