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Volunteers’ struggle to maintain park

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'Children have been wonderful'

‘Children have been wonderful’

TWO volunteers from Burry Port who have been instrumental in taking over one of the County Council’s assets in the town say that they have been on a steep learning curve and have been left with uncertainty as to the long term future for the town’s remaining play areas.

Sharon Evans and Debbie Edwards form part of the Park’s Appeal Committee and have been working tirelessly for a number of years to ensure the town’s children have a place to play.

The Herald asked the two volunteers how they got involved with the asset transfer.

Debbie told The Herald: “We have taken over a small area of the main memorial park. It is the children’s play area and the Multi Use Games Area (MUGA).

“We signed a 21-year lease with the County Council. It was done with the view that the Town Council would take over the responsibility. It was in a terrible condition when we took it over. It was a huge task to take on. It would have been nice to have it handed over in A1 condition but we went ahead because it was the only chance we had as parents to save a play area.

We asked how the committee had raised the money to make good the play areas. Sharon answered: “We did a lot of fund raising and the children themselves told us what they wanted. There was a community consultation. We applied for a number of grants and got 4 grants. Two were from the Welsh Government, one was from the council and one was from an environmental company.”

Debbie explained the amount of paperwork and effort concerned: “Each of the grant applications I sent away filled two lever arch files; it took a long time to put them together. We had to do a lot of community consultations. We had plans that the children looked at.

“It is a massive ask to do this. We had support from the County Council in grant applications but it takes people with time and skills to do the work.”

The Herald asked the volunteers if they thought that people in other communities would follow suit and do as County Councillor Pam Palmer had asked and not take what they had for granted.

Debbie told us: “I don’t see many people coming forward to do this. It is a huge project to undertake. We did have a boundary we were working within and that was quite small. Some of the assets are much bigger.

“We normally go down and check the equipment but the children and the community of Burry Port actually look after it very well. There is wear and tear and sometimes there is rubbish and glass we have to clean up. We are working with the Town Council regarding the maintenance. People see us as being responsible for the park and the maintenance. If we had not done anything it would have all vanished.”

The Herald asked the volunteers how important the areas were in keeping communities healthy. Sharon was eager to stress the facilities’ importance to the community: “The play areas are so important and this is why we started up the group. My own children were just being pushed around from area to area by the police. There is a community link to petty crime. If the kids have nowhere to go they will get into trouble. The initial meeting we had highlighted the state of the park. Some people said it was a waste of time and that the park would be vandalised. It has been open now for three years and there has been no vandalism. When we have put on events the children have been wonderful.” The Herald asked the volunteers what lessons they had learned from taking over the asset and if they would now do things differently. With the benefit of hindsight, Debbie said: “We would have liked more insight into what we were taking on. We did not get support around the financial aspects. We had an issue in relation to VAT. We were led to believe we would not have to pay VAT and we ended up paying VAT. That was a big chunk of additional cash we had to raise. I would have liked the County Council to have worked closer with the Town Council to make sure their commitment to take it over was there.”

She continued: “It would be in the county’s interest to appoint someone to unify the county and town council and people wishing to take over the assets.

“We started off with one group of councillors who were supportive and then we had an election in between and the next group of people had different interests. We would like the council to sign up to a charter for communities where they guarantee that people are helped to take over the assets and that the work is recognised, and sustainable.”

Across Carmarthenshire, town and community councils have taken responsibility for facilities by raising their Council Tax precept, we asked whether the volunteers saw much appetite for the same thing in Burry Port.

Sharon was sceptical: “I am not sure if people in Burry Port would want to put £1 or £2 on the precept if that was put towards play areas. We are a very small handful of volunteers trying our best to keep this asset as it is. We don’t have a voice to do anything regarding the precept. The Town Council are paying the insurance and undertaking the maintenance but we do get called on and we continue to fundraise.”

She concluded: “The playing areas are central to the health and wellbeing of the children in Carmarthenshire and there should be a unified approach from the councils and organisations to ensure they remain. The youth need the spaces to be out playing in a safe environment and not on the streets.”

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Tip off leads to pensioner’s drug stash

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A BRIEFCASE full of drugs has been recovered during a raid in Swansea suburb.
Police acting on information provided by a member of the public executed a warrant in Gorseinon and recovered a large quantity of cannabis.
A man was arrested on suspicion of possession of the class B drug, with intent to supply.
A South Wales Police spokesman said: “At around 5.40pm on Wednesday, January 6, following an intelligence led operation, a 68 year-old man from Gorseinon was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply cannabis.
“He was taken to Swansea central police station for questioning. He has been released under investigation”.

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New Year – new start – for two seals released back into the wild

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Two grey seal pups have been returned to the wild for the New Year following months of RSPCA rehabilitation.

They were released at Port Eynon, Gower, Swansea, on 3 January as the sun rose – just days into 2021 – by  RSPCA animal rescue officer Ellie West and RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben – who caught the beautiful event on camera. One seal had been originally rescued from Abereiddy in Pembrokeshire – the other from Trevone in Cornwall. They were both found in distress, underweight and with injuries.

Ellie said: “This was such a lovely release – to see them both enter the sea happily where they belong with the sun rising in the distance was just glorious. It was a lovely way to start the new year.”

The seals had been transferred to the Welsh coast from RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre in Hastings the previous day and had spent the night at the RSPCA Llys Nini Branch seal unit.

“These two pups – nicknamed BB8 and Luke Skywaker – have been in the fantastic care of RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre who have given them the best rehabilitation over the past few months. It’s always fantastic to hear when they have put on the appropriate weight and can be released back into the wild,” added Ellie.

Ellie had been involved in the initial care of the seal rescued from Abereiddy Beach back in October.

“He was a weaned pup that had pretty much moulted out all his baby white lanugo coat, so he was fully weaned, but he was found quite underweight, lethargic and had the snotty face of a sickly pup,” she said. “He also had a lump on the top of his neck.

“He was reported to myself and Keith and we asked Welsh Marine Life Rescue (WMLR) to attend who very kindly collected him and cared for him for a few days until we were able to transfer him to the wildlife centre.

“Once again we want to thank WMLR for all their assistance, expertise and all their hard work this past season. We could not do what we do without them.”

At RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre the seal had the lump removed under anaesthetic by the vet team.

The second seal from Cornwall came into RSPCA care in November and weighed just 16.3kg. The seal had suffered a few small wounds and was a bit wheezy, with centre staff treating him for lungworm and administering antibiotics. When he left the centre the seal – who was named Luke Skywalker – weighed a healthy 40kg.

Before release, the seals were given identification tags in their hind flippers for ID purposes. The RSPCA often receives good feedback from sightings – and the scientific results received reveal that seals that go on from rehabilitation survive in the wild.

The RSPCA advises that if members of the public spot a seal on a beach that they think might need help, the best thing is to observe them from a distance and do not approach them.

Seals are wild animals and have a nasty bite. Never try to return a seal to water yourself, as you may put yourselves and the seal at risk by doing this. It is also advised they keep dogs away from any seal and keep them on leads on beaches that have seal colonies too.

It’s not unusual for a seal pup to be alone, as seal mums leave their pups very early on in life. So if the seal pup looks fit and healthy and shows no signs of distress, it should firstly be monitored from a safe distance for 24 hours.

If you see a pup whose mother hasn’t returned within 24 hours, is on a busy public beach, or if you think the seal may be sick or injured, please stay at a safe distance and call the RSPCA’s advice and cruelty line on 0300 1234 999. An unhealthy seal pup looks thin (but not bony) with a visible neck, like a dog.

There is more information on the RSPCA website about what to do if you see a seal or pup on the beach alone.

If you have an animal welfare concern or find an animal in distress please call 0300 1234 999.

This winter, the RSPCA expects to rescue thousands of animals from neglect, cruelty and suffering. Already this Christmas we received more than 44,000 calls to our cruelty line but the calls to our rescue line are not stopping so neither will we. To help our rescue teams continue to reach the animals who desperately need us this winter, visit www.rspca.org.uk/xmas and Join the Winter Rescue #JoinTheRescue

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Community Midwife home for Christmas after 85 day battle with COVID-19

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SHARON GEGGUS, a community midwife from Llanelli is home for the holidays after a three month battle with coronavirus.
Sharon began to feel unwell in September, experiencing shortness of breath and a high temperature.
As these symptoms persisted and her condition began to worsen, she was admitted to Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli on 16 September, with a temperature of 41°C.During her stay, she credits the support of her family and the staff at Prince Philip Hospital for helping her get through the ordeal. Speaking of her experience in hospital, Sharon says: “I was sedated for about five weeks, but I was told that the staff were playing music for me. They had contacted my family to find out what my favourite songs were, and they would play those.
“It was really hard but the hardest times I didn’t really know about – my family were the people going through it. I can’t stress how well the staff looked after me. I used the iPads provided through the hospital to keep in contact with my family and the staff would also help me phone and communicate with my family.  
“The ITU staff and the staff on Ward 9 where I went for rehabilitation were amazing. I’m a community midwife myself and I would obviously treat someone how I wanted to be treated – but they really went above and beyond.
They would sit and chat with me when I was feeling down and they made sure I was in contact with my family all the time, even letting me hang up pictures of my family on my wall.”
Sharon was clapped out of the hospital on 10 December, 85 days after being admitted. Even though she is home, the road to recovery isn’t over.
She says: “There’s still a long way to go but I’m getting there. I can get around using a walking frame and only need oxygen when I’m really moving about. It’s so nice to be home, I think you just sort of relax a bit and move around more and just feel better for being back with your family.”
Reflecting on her experience, Sharon offered this advice to others with COVID-19: “Keep in touch with your family as much as you possibly can, it’s what got me through. I wouldn’t really know what else to say, just keep positive and keep in touch with your loved ones, that’s what really helps.”
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