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‘Seen a red squirrel in Mid Wales lately?’

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Seen near Llanddewi Brefi: Is this the only squirrel in the village?

Seen near Llanddewi Brefi: Is this the only squirrel in the village?

THAT’S the question that Wildlife Trust Red Squirrel Officer, Becky Hulme is asking; and reports of sightings are coming in – many from the Llanfair Clydogau and Llanddwei Brefi areas.

Becky remarked: “People love seeing red squirrels in Wales; this native mammal really does make an impact with its striking russet coat and graceful movements. Many of the older generation remember seeing reds in on a regular basis; but that was back in the 1950s and early 60s before grey squirrels had really got a hold in mid Wales.”

Since the grey squirrel colonised, red squirrels have largely vanished from Wales. Until the late 1950s, the red squirrel was a common sight in mid Wales and an integral part of the Welsh landscape.

In 1958, a schoolteacher from Rhandirmwyn stated that a child had come into school with a report of a grey squirrel, one of the first in the area!

From then onwards it was downhill for the red squirrel, as the larger and more robust grey squirrel quickly moved into local woodlands, eating much of the available food and spreading squirrelpox virus, which the greys are immune to, but which is fatal to red squirrels.

A law was passed in 1938 banning further importation of grey squirrels, but the damage had been done; inadvertently heralding the demise of the red squirrel in Britain.

We now have only a little over a thousand red squirrels hanging on in Wales, in Anglesey, in the north east of the country, and here in mid Wales.

Anglesey is the real success-story in Wales; as part of a restoration project, they have cleared greys from the island and boosted the population of reds, thought to be as low as 40 individuals less than 20 years ago; Anglesey is now home to as many as 700 red squirrels.

The Mid Wales Red Squirrel Project (MWRSP) is a much younger project than its northern counterpart, but with the help of funding, originally through Environment Wales, a former Welsh Government funded initiative, work is getting underway to save the population of reds in mid Wales too.

“We know that we have a much reduced population of reds in mid Wales, but we’re keen to get a better idea of where and when red squirrels are active, so that we can help to protect them, and that’s where local people come in.” Becky explained, “It is locals, both working and living in the mid Wales red squirrel focal site that are most likely to spot red squirrels, usually as they a cross a road or open ground.”

The area centred round Llyn Brianne reservoir, bordered by Pontrhydfendigaid, Tregaron, Lampeter, Llandovery and Llanwrtyd Wells, was approved as a focal site for red squirrel conservation in 2009. Welsh Ministers agreed that urgent strategic action needed to be taken in order to conserve the population of reds in this area.

“As one of only three significant populations of red squirrels in Wales, our reds in mid Wales really do deserve some attention.” Becky explained, “we hope to restore the population by reducing the population of grey squirrels and by working with Natural Resources Wales and private forest managers to encourage appropriate forest management.”

The red squirrel project on Anglesey is an extremely successful conservation project and is direct evidence that removing grey squirrels leads to red squirrel population recovery.

However, Becky points out that this ambition can only be achieved with the support of local people: “Over the past year we’ve had over 80 people volunteer their time to help in the fight to save the red squirrel in mid Wales. Activities have ranged from help with publicity at shows and events to grey squirrel control to monitoring local red squirrel populations.”

A series of delightful photos from a trail camera located above Llanddewi Brefi show reds visiting a feeding station: “These photos really do illustrate the playful nature of these iconic mammals. It would be a real shame if we allowed our red squirrels become yet another extinction story.”

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Have you seen this rainbow coloured AA van around the coast?

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DRIVERS who break down along the Ceredigion coast may well find the gold (or yellow) at the end of the rainbow as a distinctly colourful AA van has been spotted driving around the area.

Cardigan-based Russ Williams, who has been an AA patrol for eight years, has won an AA-wide competition to emblazon his van with an eye-catching rainbow livery in support of Pride in London.

He is one of eight AA patrols across the UK who will be rescuing members in these special vans throughout the summer. In addition, two AA Signs vans will also be sporting the vibrant design. The vans will also feature in the Pride in London event on Saturday, July 7.

Russ, 39, said: “I’m really excited to have been chosen to support Pride with the colourful rainbow livery.

“It looks great on the van and I’m looking forward to chatting about it to members as they get out and about this summer.”

To celebrate Pride, the AA is also launching a competition* for both members and non-members from June 18.

Anybody who spots one of the 10 rainbow vans can enter by safely snapping a picture and sharing it on the AA’s Facebook page with hashtag #SpotThePrideVan, as well as the location and time they saw it. There are 10 prizes up for grabs, ranging from a VIP shopping experience to theme park tickets and restaurant vouchers.

Edmund King, AA president, said: “Visibility of our vans is always important as they need to stand out and be seen. These limited edition rainbow vans are a welcome addition to our fleet and certainly make a positive statement.

“We’re honoured to be adding a big splash of colour and all things rainbow to our summer this year by supporting Pride. It is an uplifting celebration of diversity and our support underlines our fundamental commitment to ensuring equality is embedded within the AA.”

The vans have already begun to cause a stir on social media, with TheGayUK Magazine tweeting: ‘The motoring section of @TheGayUK is loving the @TheAA_UK new livery to commemorate London #Pride 2018’.

The annual Pride in London event will take place on Saturday, July 7, this year. In addition to supporting, the AA will also be taking part in the parade with an army of AA volunteers walking alongside an inspirational float.

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65 ‘never events’ in Welsh hospitals over three years

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A TOTAL of 65 ‘never events’ have occurred in Welsh hospitals over the last three years, including: surgery on the wrong eye, foreign objects left in patients after surgery, and a hip replacement on the incorrect hip.

So-called ‘never events’ are incidents which should never happen in a clinical environment, and a worrying 21 were recorded in 2017/18.

It follows 21 in 2016/17 and 23 in 2015/16.

Almost a third of all ‘never events’ over the last three years (20 of 65) were recorded as a result of foreign objects being left in patients after surgical procedures, and there have been a shocking 16 incidences of surgery having been carried out on the wrong site – including an incorrect hip replacement, and surgery in the wrong part of a patient’s spine. There was also an incident in 2015/16 where a patient fell out of a ‘poorly constructed’ window.

The annual reports show that over the last three years Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and Cardiff and Vale health boards recorded the most never events – 18 and 16, respectively.

They were followed by Betsi Cadwaladr (11), Cwm Taf (8), Aneurin Bevan (7), and Hywel Dda (4) health boards. Last year, Public Health Wales also had once never event. Powys have had none.

Shadow Health Secretary, Angela Burns, said: “There’s always the potential for human error, but when NHS staff are under immense pressure – dealing with more patients than ever whilst being under-resourced – that margin for error widens.

“Fortunately, the vast majority of patients receive extremely high levels of compassionate care when encountering the NHS. But these figures remain stubbornly high, and patient safety has been seriously jeopardised on occasions.

“These are ‘never events’ – incidents that should never have occurred. But they are continuing to happen, leaving lasting, potentially life changing consequences on individuals. This is unacceptable and we need to greater instil a culture of learning, responsibility and accountability in to our NHS as we transform our services for the future.”

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Drone crash lands near West Wales Airport

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THE FIRE and rescue service was called to West Wales Airport after an unmanned aircraft crashed this week.

A spokesman for the MoD said: “We are aware of an incident involving a Watchkeeper aircraft which did not result in any injuries,” said a spokesperson.

“The aircraft has been secured and there is no risk to the public. An investigation is underway.”

Police and firefighters were called to the scene near Cyttir Mawr farmhouse after the drone came down in some trees close to the airstrip, near Aberporth, Ceredigion, at about 5pm on Wednesday (Jun 13).

A fire service spokesperson told The Herald that one crew used foam to clean up the resulting fuel spill from a pilot-less plane, which also known as a UAV

Opened in 2002, West Wales Airport is used by the military and civil aviators. The airport’s unmanned aircraft centre is the only type of facility of its kind in Europe according to Wikipedia. The Ministry of Defence used the Airport to test the Watchkeeper drone.

Jill Gough, of CND Cymru, said: “By my reckoning, this is the fourth drone they’ve lost – and these UAVs cost £6m apiece – it’s an absolute scandal, really.”
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