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■ Farming News ■ Book reviews ■ Homes and Gardens ■ Holidays ■ Local Events ■ Call the Local Experts ... and much more ...

How’s the bunny connected to Easter? Egg-delivering rabbit's origins traced back to 13th century There's no story in the Bible about a long-eared, cotton-tailed creature known as the Easter Bunny. Neither is there a passage about young children painting eggs or hunting for baskets overflowing with scrumptious Easter goodies. And real rabbits certainly don't lay eggs. So why are these traditions so ingrained in Easter Sunday? And what do they have to do with the resurrection of Jesus?

Well, nothing. Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots. They were incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the Christian tradition of honoring the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead. According to University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture, the origin of the celebration — and the Easter bunny — can be traced back to 13th century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses. The

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By Lauren Effron

Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility, and feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate. Spring also symbolized new life and rebirth; eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility. According to, Easter eggs represent Jesus' resurrection. However, this association came much later when Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion in Germany in the 15th century and merged with already ingrained pagan beliefs. The first Easter bunny legends were documented in the 1500s. By 1680, the first story about a rabbit

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laying eggs and hiding them in a garden was published. These legends were brought to the United States in the 1700s when German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania Dutch country, according to the University of Florida's Center for Children. The tradition of making nests for the rabbit to lay its eggs soon followed. Eventually, nests became decorated baskets and colorful eggs were swapped for candy, treats and other small gifts. So while you're scarfing down chocolate bunnies (hey, I hear chocolate is good for you!) and marshmallow chicks this Easter Sunday, think fondly of this holiday's origins and maybe even impress your friends at your local Easter egg hunt.

Happy Easter!

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The Abergavenny Chronicle DESIGNERS: Dave Simkiss

to the April edition of the Gazette and Diary magazine. As ever this month's G&D is packed with exciting articles, features and suggestions of how to make the most of the light nights, with our very special extended feature on farming and the agricultural industry offering an extra insight into life in rural Monmouthshire. We hope you enjoy what we have to offer this month...and that we can all look forward to reading the Gazette and Diary while basking in the Abergavenny sunshine.

John Gaulton ADVERTISING: Jenna Hopkins ext 35 For information on how to advertise in our next issue, contact: or telephone 01873 852187 ext 35 GENERAL MANAGER - Mary Purcell When you have finished reading the Gazette & Diary Magazine - please recycle it.

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At NWN Media we are committed to addressing the key environmental impacts of printing and the production process, and preserving the environment for future generations. Our environmental policy is achieved through continuous monitoring, annual targets and action plans. The sourcing of newsprint is a major environmental concern for publishers and we at NWN Media source our newsprint from UPM Kymmene in Deeside, utilising their 100% recycled paper, which is produced as a natural, renewable and recyclable fibre from sustainable, responsibly managed forests. UPM is committed to forest management and forest harvesting practices based on the internationally accepted principles of sustainable forest management. UPM Kymmene is just a mile from the press site, which also keeps carbon footprint to a minimum in the obtaining of our paper. All newsprint waste is taken back to UPMʼs site and fully recycled.

Nick Ramsay AM Assembly Member for Monmouth Hospitals - Schools - Transport Environment - Housing Write to: Nick Ramsay AM, Constituency Office, 16 Maryport Street, Usk, Monmouthshire, NP15 1AB E-mail:

For further information call: 01291 674 898 or 029 2089 8735

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Book Review - Slings and Arrows can’t halt Archer

By Hannah Stephenson

Walking past the Monet and other fine art adorning his entrance hall into a grand open-plan main room, there's a huge arrangement of flowers on a marble table in the centre with plush sofas with plumped-up cushions either side. It reminds me of a five-star hotel rather than a home. It's clear that scandals, political downfall and even a stint in prison have done nothing to hinder either the lifestyle or confidence of the Tory peer, who continues to make a mint out of his novels, the latest of which, Best Kept Secret, is the third in his five-book series of Clifton Chronicles. He's now 72 and it seems that age hasn't mellowed the former Tory deputy chairman, novelist, playwright and prisoner, who speaks in clipped tones, rather like a schoolmaster who's about to tell you off, but with a twinkle in his eye which hints that his bark is worse than his bite.

other way round. I pay all the bills.

"I don't want to discuss this. I'm here to discuss a book and you're heading in the wrong direction. The press are still fascinated about it but the public are bored out of their minds," he says curtly.

"Mary has always said, very generously, that the reason she's been able to conduct the life she has, as chairman of a great hospital (she has just retired from the post), is that she never had any financial problems."

Time to change the subject, then. Moving swiftly along, I ask him about a career and indeed a life surrounded by strong women - his mother, Margaret Thatcher and his 'fragrant' wife, Dame Mary. "My mother was a tremendously strong woman. Became a local councillor. Wrote her own column, did a degree at the age of 50. My wife became a Dame in her own right. And of course I did 11 years with Margaret Thatcher. I like strong women. "They know what they want, they don't mess about and they are very good at being led. Then she (Thatcher) would come into the leadership role and you got trodden on, eaten up, killed, thrown out," he adds, chuckling. Without strong women in his life, you imagine Archer's world would have been a much less colourful place. He dismisses claims that he and his wife have lived

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Lord Archer, however, survived near bankruptcy following a bad investment in the 1970s which prompted him to write his first novel, Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less, in 1975, followed four years later by the phenomenally successful Kane And Abel.

separate lives over the years. "Most people who've been married 46 years do spend a lot of time doing their own things," he points out. "Our respect is the key. I have such respect and admiration for Mary. I'm so proud of what she has done." Indeed, one of the most fraught times in his life was when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer two years ago. "I really thought she would die," he says gravely, the booming voice softening for a moment. "The doctor had told me there really was no need for an operation and then two weeks later he said, 'I'm very sorry, she's going to have to have a seven-hour operation'. I thought she was going to die that night." He says that he coped with the situation very badly. "I'm not good on my own," he states solemnly, before trying to lighten the conversation. "The deal is she has to die after me. Husbands are not good when wives die first. I had a strong word with her about it."

Her near-death experience probably brought them closer together, he agrees. "I certainly realised that I depended on her and how I took her for granted at one level. It was a 'She's always going to be there' attitude. I suspect she takes things for granted the

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"It makes you realise that some of the things you worry about really aren't worth the trouble. Get things in perspective."

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"I've always been like that. I'm not sure everybody can do that. People are psychologically different. There are millions of people who go through massive problems every day of their lives."

Archer looked after her while she convalesced in Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge (she was then chairwoman of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust), which gave him time to reflect.

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But then he has always had a gift for picking himself up and making positives out of every disaster that strikes.

He may be a spectacularly successful storyteller but

His tone sharpens with irritation when you bring up subjects he doesn't want to discuss such as perjury and why he wasn't stripped of his life peerage.

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Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare welcomes me into his sumptuous penthouse overlooking the River Thames, the floor-to-ceiling windows allowing a magnificent view of London, from the Shard to the Houses of Parliament.

in his time he has been the story itself, firstly as a politician and close friend of Margaret Thatcher, onetime mayoral candidate for London, charity auctioneer and, more darkly, a perjurer who served two years at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

He has faced prison, near-bankruptcy and highprofile political resignations - but it was his wife Mary's recent fight with potentially lethal bladder cancer which proved Lord Archer's most challenging time, he tells Hannah Stephenson. As the third in his five-book Clifton Chronicles series is published, the best-selling author reveals how he struggled to cope with the experience.

Solution on page 18

April 2013 Don’t forget to pick up your copy of the Abergavenny Chronicle

Crickhowell Craft Fair 10-3.30pm at The Clarence Hall, Crickhowell. Enquiries 01873 811618 An Evening with Ricky Valance, “My life my Music”, Bethesda Chapel, Llangattock. 7.30pm.Prize Draw, Admission £6, Tel: 01873 812040. Little Mill Village Hall, 7pm, music, dance and pizza. Admission £6. Tel:01873 840308

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of the Abergavenny Chronicle

Table Top Sale, Clarence Hall, Crickhowell, start 9.30am.To book a table please telephone 01873 852752

"If I'm going to be struck down this morning, so be it. I've had a damn good life, no complaints. But I go to the gym twice a week, I eat fairly carefully and I don't drink. I used to run 100 years ago. I've always been pretty fit.

"It happened to me in the election I was involved in which I won by 10,000. One of the other parties accidentally put the wrong name on to the top of one of my piles. That's where I got the idea. Poor fellow went as red as a beetroot."

"That doesn't mean you won't die tomorrow morning. But I'm not planning to because I've got other books to write."

He goes to the theatre twice a week, does three art galleries a week and his energy levels show no sign of abating.

And then it's back to business, to the new novel, the third in the Clifton Chronicle series charting the trials and tribulations of the Cliftons and the Barringtons.

Revealingly, he tells me that he never knows how his books are going to turn out: the twists and turns, the downfalls and the triumphs.

He constantly throws figures into his conversation like how many books he's selling and how much he's made from his main hobby, charity auctioneering: "Raised £3.3 million last year and have raised £41 million in my lifetime." Writing has been his salvation, he knows. Critics may pan his books but his novels sell in their millions between 250 and 400 million to date, depending on which paper you read.

"I know three pages ahead if I'm lucky. I haven't got a clue how it's going to end." Sounds rather like his life, doesn't it? ■ Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer is published by Macmillan, priced £20. Available March 14

Is he still ambitious? "To be the most successful author on Earth, yes. Captain of the England cricket team? Seems unlikely now." He goes to the House of Lords once a week but doesn't miss the cut and thrust of politics.

Crickhowell & District History Society talk by Brian Davies ‘John Nixon and the Welsh Coal Trade to France’ at The Dragon Hotel, Crickhowell at £7.30pm. Tel: 01873 812184

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of the Abergavenny Chronicle

Crickhowell Vintage Antique & Collectors Fair, Clarence Hall 10am – 4 pm. £1 Children free. Tel: 07977 846509. Gwent Bach Society Mozart Mass in C, Hummel Te Deum and Schutz Psalms 7.30pm at St Mary’s Priory Church Abergavenny Tickets £10 Abergavenny Music / 01873 890259 Pandy Village Hall carboot tabletop sale. 10am – 2pm, Refreshments available. Tel: 01873 890691

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"I keep an interest in politics, but my generation's gone. A younger generation's in charge. Ten number ones in a row [presumably talking about his books now] - are you asking me to swap that for sitting on the back benches?" He says he takes his ideas for novels from life - the latest features a best-selling author on tour and an election which incorporates vote-rigging.



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Delicious Dishes to look forward to every day... Our brand new Spring & Summer Brochure 2013 contains over 260 delicious frozen meals and desserts. After the cold and dark of the winter months, spring brings the anticipation of warmer weather and lighter evenings, but more importantly it’s the sight of things starting to grow again and for us that means food. We’ve created 17 new dishes, including a Roast Chicken with Lemon & Herb Stuffing, Breaded Cod Topped with Tartare Sauce and some delicious additions to our Hearty and Mini Meals. We cover all mealtimes and offer main meals, mini meals, hearty meals, breakfasts, afternoon tea and desserts. Our chefs have also developed a new Extra Tender range which offers you delicious dishes containing melt-in-the-mouth, bite-size pieces of meat, fish and vegetables perfect for those times when you just fancy something easier to eat. Just ask us for more details. We cater for a range of specialist diets. In fact, you’ll find that all our meals are clearly labelled with dietary codes, so finding tasty and nutritious meals is easy.


The Spring Issue

Wiltshire Farm Foods is 100% committed to producing high quality, nutritious, safe and correctly labelled food in which our customers can have complete confidence. We take great pride in the quality of all our ingredients. We make all of our own meals in Wiltshire where we have achieved a Grade A Food Safety accreditation – the highest possible level. Your peace of mind is important to us, which is why we believe in going the extra mile for our customers. You’ll enjoy FREE delivery from your local, friendly delivery drivers, all carefully selected to ensure you receive great customer service. Enjoy our commitment free ordering service, which means you can order regularly, or just now and again, whenever you need us. Simply call your local Award Winning team at Monmouth on 01600 892855 to place an order or to request a copy of our new full colour brochure. Looking forward to helping you take care of mealtimes...

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Farm Life FREE

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■ Farming News and advice ●

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Forge Garage, Llanvetherine Abergavenny. T: 01873 821388 F: 01873821389

Agricultural store now open Garden Machinery: Sales, Service & Parts Suppliers of new lawnmowers, hedge cutters and machinery accessories

Cold snap will put 26th March 2013: The Prince’s Countryside Fund has warned that the current cold snap and late arrival of spring will add to the economic woes of farmers already under pressure from a year of bad weather. The charity has authorised £219,000 from its emergency relief fund to go to farming help organisations during the Easter period. Snow and cold weather is contributing to a shortage of forage and forcing farmers to buy in expensive feed to see their livestock through. Victoria Harris, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, said farmers already under pressure from 12 months of poor conditions

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now faced more weeks of misery while they wait for warmer weather. “The snow and blizzards are creating real hazards for upland farmers as they come into lambing season, but livestock farmers across the board are facing the prospect of paying for more feed, with prices already astronomically high,” she said. “We are hearing reports of farmers having to go cap in hand to the banks to see them through the latest episode of poor weather. With the last 12 months of adverse conditions, expectations had been high for a good spring. We are still waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

more farmers in distress, says charity Her views echoed those of NFU President Peter Kendall, who said the weather was “knocking the stuffing out of the farming industry”. “This time last year it was 20 degrees and grass was growing well. Instead it feels more like January. The grass isn’t growing and farmers are faced with yet another month of paying for expensive winter cattle feed,” he said. Last month, the Prince’s Countryside Fund

announced that it was more than halfway towards its target of raising £1 million for the charity’s emergency relief fund. 2012 was the second wettest year on record, which contributed to low weight on livestock and high forage prices. In December last year, the fund provided £150,000 in emergency cash for rural charities which were reporting a sharp rise in casework. The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution reported that it had paid out two-anda-half times as much

Protected fats to protect butterfats a no-cost option this spring

money to two-thirds more working farmers than in the same period last year. “We anticipate the demand for emergency relief funding is going to be high in the coming weeks, as farmers struggle to make ends meet. We have had some extremely generous donations to the fund from corporate and private donors, but demand is always there. “I would appeal to the public to help out as much as they can. Emergency funding well placed can mean the difference between a farm going under or continuing as a viable business, contributing to the rural economy and the nation as a whole,” Victoria Harris said.


The public can make a donation at the Post Office or by Text. Text PCF to 70300 and a £3 donation will be made to The Prince’s Countryside Fund.



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SAPEY CROSS COUNTRY Celebrating our 10th Anniversary 2002 - 2012 Welcome to Cockshutts Farm at Wolferlow - the proud home of the Sapey Cross Country Course which was established in 2002 by Alan and Audrey Thacker to provide a quality venue in the West Midlands for horse trials. This renowned course is among the best eventing courses for horses and riders in the Welsh Border Counties, providing riders from Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, Shropshire and Wales with first rate eventing facilities. Our aim is to provide Top Level Facilities with Horse and Rider Safety paramount - an enjoyable experience.

Upcoming Events Dairy producers forced to combine highconcentrate buffer feeds with low-fibre spring grass, as winter forage stocks run out, are being urged to keep a close watch on butterfats this spring. “The quickest way to stop falling butterfats is through strategic use of high-C16 rumenprotected fats,” highlights Trident’s Andrew Howie. “And the price of these fats is not only lower than a year ago, but is also usually covered by a yield response of around a litre/cow/day.” Feeding 300g/cow/day of Butterfat Extra, for example, will typically boost butterfat levels by 0.3 percentage points, for a net cost of just 24p/cow/day. Even without considering butterfat penalties, an extra litre of milk worth 30p gives a 6p/cow/day additional margin. “But if butterfat levels are prevented from

dropping even 0.2% below threshold, the loss avoided at a typical 3p per % penalty could easily be worth another 18p/cow/day. That could add up to a total benefit of 24p/cow/day, equivalent to £1,440/month for a 200 cow herd.”

Calculations based on: Cost of feeding 300g Butterfat Extra = 30p/cow/day Less 300g of displaced ration @ £150/t = 6p/cow/day Net Cost = 24p/cow/day 30 litres @ 0.2% below threshold* x 3p/% BF penalty = 18p/cow/day x 30 days x 200 cows = £1,080/month +1litre of milk = 30p/cow/day Total Benefit = 48p/cow/day Net Benefit = 24p/cow/day, equal to £1,440/month for a 200 cow herd. * 0.3% butterfat response typical, but example based on a herd dipping 0.2% below threshold.

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Farm Life

Early Easter provides a spring in lamb prices crisis in the Euro-zone and increased imports of cheaper foreign meat.

Farmers in Wales have received a timely boost in the prices they have received for their lambs.

John Richards, Industry Information Officer with Welsh red meat promotion agency Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), said “Lamb prices normally receive a boost around Easter as demand for lamb from the UK market grows. “While prices this year haven’t quite reached the same levels of 2012, this is still a welcome boost for Welsh farmers who have been hit by rising production costs.”

Figures from the week ending the 23rd March 2013 showed that prices for old season lambs at Welsh auction markets increased by 40 pence per kilogramme during the last month 193p/kg, but are still 20 pence per kilogramme down on the same week last year.

Meanwhile the prices for this year’s lamb crop have also been strong, with farmers recently receiving an average 303 pence per kilogramme for new season lamb (week ending 23rd March 2013).

Market returns for lamb have been steadily rising since the beginning of the year after difficult conditions in the second half of 2012 saw prices drop significantly due to factors such as the weather, the

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“These prices are a result of strong demand and tight supply of new season lamb to the market due to the early Easter, reduced lamb crops due to last year’s poor weather and the impact of diseases such as Liver Fluke and the Schmallenberg virus” added Mr Richards. Other factors have also caused lamb prices to rise in the last few weeks. An increased demand for Welsh Lamb abroad as well as a more favourable exchange rate has also provided a boost for producers. “Since the turn of the year the Euro-Sterling exchange rate has fluctuated greatly and in the last month the Euro has strengthened against the pound. “This strengthening of the Euro has encouraged exports and is a contributory factor for the improved market prices and the exchange rate will continue to have an impact on prices in the coming weeks as the final lambs from the 2012 crop come onto the market” said Mr Richards.

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Defra announces third round of rural broadband fund Businesses and homes in England’s remotest spots could benefit from superfast internet as the third round of the £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund opens today. The fund is part of the joint Defra/Broadband Delivery UK Fund and aims to help hard to reach rural communities with limited or no internet to access superfast broadband, giving rural businesses a greater opportunity to profit and grow. Environment Minister Richard Benyon said: “People living and working in remote areas face a range of challenges. Having access to superfast broadband will help people overcome these issues and tap into new opportunities to help grow their businesses. By getting people better connected, the Government’s £20m broadband fund will give businesses and a boost and benefit the local economy.” Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “Communities in the remotest parts of England are just as keen to have superfast broadband as those in urban areas. This funding is available to help deliver all the benefits that come with superfast broadband to those businesses and homes that may otherwise have struggled for access to these levels of speed.” The announcement comes as Environment Secretary Owen Paterson addresses the annual conference of the Federation of Small Businesses in Leicester, to outline how he is supporting growth in the rural economy. Mr Paterson’s plans to boost the rural economy include getting more rural communities online, investing in rural tourism and funding to protect homes and businesses from flooding. The fund is targeted at the 10% hard to reach areas which would not otherwise receive superfast broadband under the Government’s main broadband rollout programme. Communities in these areas can seek funding for projects where they can demonstrate a need for superfast broadband. Communities can now apply for a grant of more than 50% of the project costs where a need and value for money can be demonstrated. To apply for Rural Community Broadband Fund visit



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Gardening Tips Fast Fuel Ltd What to do this week ■ Sow and plant out vegetables including beetroot, broad beans, carrots, celeriac, kohlrabi, onions, peas, spinach, swedes and turnips. ■ Sow seeds of tomatoes in a heated propagator or on a warm windowsill to grow on outdoors when all danger of frost is over. ■ Deadhead daffodils as they fade. ■ Apply a spring fertiliser to established lawns once they are actively growing and cut grass when it is about 8cm (3in) high. ■ Prune young tree heathers.

■ Don't let pots and seed trays in the greenhouse dry out. ■ Clip ivy growing on walls to tidy it up. ■ Clear crops of leeks and celery which are still remaining, so that the ground can be prepared for new crops. ■ Sow a few sunflower seeds under glass to encourage the children to become interested in gardening. ■ Prune dogwoods and shrubby willows grown for their ornamental stems. ■ Get rid of seedheads and stems to make way for new growth, and dress the soil with a fertiliser so it is ready for a layer of mulch.

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Farm Life

Out and About in a purple haze

By: Joanne Shone

Head to the hills this time of year and witness the vast purple expanse of our heather moorlands in full bloom.

of rural life - used for bedding, rope, dye and even as an ingredient for beer.

High up on the tops, the landscape is blushing with a purple bloom. For most of the year this sparse, barren land has hunkered down against the cold and the rain, dressed in sombre browns and faded mustards.

The heather bloom is a floral spectacle with little parallel in the UK. The brief flowering transforms one of the UK's harshest landscapes into hypnotic carpet of colour - perfumed with the faint scent of honey.

As enclosure and changes in land management gathered pace, our heathlands (literally heatherlands) and moors were grubbed up to make way for trees and farmland.

But as high-summer melts into early autumn, our uplands, moors and heaths are transformed into a shimmering purple wonderland.

Heather, or ling as the plant was known for generations, covered huge tracts of the UK's uplands and was a key component

Heather moorlands continue to remain one of the most threatened habitats in Europe but fragments can still be found from southern England to the wild northern expanse of the Highlands. Ling, or Calluna vulgaris, with its pinkish flowers, makes up the majority of our moorland heather, but bell heather, with its large flowers and varieties such as Dorset heath and cross-leaved heath, can also be found on Britain's moors. Ling provides the basis of a habitat which harbours some of the UK's most dramatic wildlife, and key among the moorland's star species is the red grouse. The bird is one of the main reasons why more of our moorland hasn't been lost forever. But the reason behind this may not please the grouse. The multimillion-pound industry of grouse shooting ensures that thousands of the birds are shot each year. The fortunes of the bird are intrinsically linked to the heather which represents the grouse's main

source of food. As a result, moors have been specifically managed to maintain perfect grouse habitat. But rather than dispatching the birds with a shotgun, there are other ways to enjoy the red grouse spectacle. This prize-fighter of a bird struts and poses, semi-hidden amid the ling. Dressed in mottled brown finery, grouse are difficult to see and even harder to approach, exploding from the heather at high speed, emitting their distinctive "go-back, go-back" call. Grouse make good eating and this, combined with their agility and flying prowess, has made them much sought-after by the hunter. That the bird was favoured above all else on grouse moors led to our uplands becoming a battle ground for conservation. Traditionally, gamekeepers killed anything that they believed could pose harm to their precious birds - apart from, of course, the hunters ritually descending upon the moors on the "Glorious Twelfth" - the date in August signifying the start of the hunting season. Otters, wild cat, badgers, fox, pine marten, golden eagle, harriers, goshawk, even the diminutive merlin were slaughtered in their thousands to protect the grouse.


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The situation has improved but tensions remain.

Home-grown and sown in Herefordshire

The RSPB believes some gamekeepers are still illegally killing birds of prey wandering on to grouse moors, including the hen harrier, a bird teetering on the brink of extinction in England.

A unique Herefordshire business has turned to local home-grown talent for its brand new website which launched earlier this month.

But there's more to our uplands than just heather and grouse. Insects abound, from rare bumblebees to the UK's highest-flying butterflies, such as the mountain ringlet and the Scotch argus.

Farmer’s wife, Heather Gorringe, started her successful on-line business, Wiggly Wigglers, from her rural Herefordshire farmhouse kitchen table in Blakemere over 20 years ago. It quickly moved to occupy refurbished farm buildings which were converted for life in the twenty-first century and provides jobs for numerous local employees.

Curlew sing the song of the moors with their mournful call, while the harsh retorts of stonechat and ring ouzel heighten the sense of wilderness to an already wild land. But this fragile landscape is under threat. Atmospheric pollution, severe overgrazing, rampant bracken growth and depopulation have conspired to present our uplands with a fragile future. And this future needs securing. As well as providing one of the UK's most compelling landscapes, our heather moorlands play a vital role in tackling climate change.

“The majority of what we sell is homegrown here on the farm or sourced locally and from other British farmers in order to encourage diversity.” Said Heather. This includes bokashi, barley straw, bird feed and seeds and even flowers for their floristry.

There is more carbon stored in the peat in our uplands than in the combined forests of Britain and France. For a brief moment each year, our heather moorlands are at their enchanting best, now is the time to embrace the purple haze.

“Our website is our virtual shop front so it’s vitally important that it looks great, is easy to use by our customers and easy to update by ourselves.” Said Heather. “It all sounds very simple, but selling as many different items as we do it can be a bit of a logistics nightmare and we searched country-wide to find a website company that could do what we needed.” Wiggly Wigglers eventually found that what they were looking for was actually

right here on their doorstep - a digital agency called iResources, owned and run by Herefordshire born and bred Jon Leighton.

▲ Jon Leighton from i-Resources shows Heather Gorringe the new Wiggly Wigglers website in Hereford’s High Town

“What a find.” Said Heather. “Such a pleasure to find a home-grown website company with Herefordshire roots; we are absolutely delighted with the results,” Wiggly Wigglers specialise in sustainable living supplies, feeds, seeds and British flowers on their website at

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The Spring Issue

April / May

Go wild for flowers By Hannah Stephenson

Tips to gardeners on how to sow their own mini-wildflower meadow, perfect for attracting birds and bugs of all types - plus, find out what else needs doing in the garden this week. He offers the following tips to those who want to follow the wildflower fashion:

■ Ian LeGros, curator at RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex

Wildflowers are back in fashion, according to reports on their sales. In the past year, sales of UK wildflower seeds have increased by 60%, thanks partly to renewed interest fuelled by the stunning wildflower meadows at the Olympic Park in 2012. The combined elements of eye-catching visual impact, ecological awareness and wildlife value have fuelled sales of wildflower seeds among many of the main seed companies, including Thompson & Morgan, Suttons and Mr Fothergill's. With this in mind, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is playing its part during National Gardening Week (April 15-21) as its gardens across the country host talks, demonstrations and events to get gardeners growing wildflowers. Young gardeners will be encouraged to get their hands dirty and learn how to sow their own miniwildflower meadow, perfect for attracting birds, bugs and creepy crawlies of all types. More experienced gardeners can find out how to support the wildlife in their gardens through a range of talks and interactive workshops on beekeeping, managing meadows and more. Ian LeGros, curator at RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Essex, explains: "Wildflowers are currently going through a massive boom in popularity and are set to be one of the big trends for amateur gardening in 2013. "They are easy to plant and maintain, provide much needed habitats for wildlife and are valuable sources of nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinators. "Encouraging wildlife and pollinators is particularly important in urban areas, so if you've a sunny patch of dry ground that won't support much else in your front garden, it's time to convert it into a wildflower meadow."

❋ Choose seed carefully. Wildflowers are easy to grow but, like all plants, need the right conditions if they are going to thrive. Check your soil type and find a mix that will work for it. ❋ Poor soil? Look to perennials. If you have poor soil perennial wildflowers will do very well as there will be fewer grasses for them to compete with. Buy seed mixes that contain oxeye daisies, yarrow, harebells, birdsfoot trefoil, cowslips, lady's bedstraw, betony, yellow rattle and others for waving drifts of colour. ❋ Go mad with colour. If you have well-cultivated soil, annuals such as cornflowers, corn poppies, corn marigolds and corncockles will do well. Toss in a few barley and wheat seeds for an authentic feel. Annuals are a good choice if you are converting an existing border. ❋ Time of sowing a meadow is important. An annual seed mix containing cornflowers and poppies will do better if sown in the autumn, while corn marigolds prefer a spring sowing. If you have sandy or well-drained soils, wildflowers can be sown during the autumn, but if you have wetter, colder soils, you're better off sowing in the spring to avoid seed rotting off. ❋ Prepare your ground. Wildflowers are easy but do take a bit more work than just opening a packet of seeds over the ground. Prepare your soil first, making sure it is weed free and has been well dug or rotovated. If you are growing wildflowers, keep fertility low in most cases, so avoid using manures or fertilisers as this will just give grasses and weeds the advantage they need to crowd out your wildflowers.

Good enough to eat Hosta greens If you think that only slugs can eat your hostas, think again, because if you like sushi, you'll probably like to add a few hosta leaves to it.

Best of the bunch Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

The growing tips are slightly salty and succulent and are better known in Japan as urui, a springtime addition to your kitchen table, and can be blanched and served with goat's cheese and crispy fried onions, or simmered in stock and rolled to make vegetable sushi, or even fried as tempura. Hostas like moist, fertile soil in shade, but when you plant them, put eggshells or sharp grit around the plants to seal in the moisture and deter the slugs and snails.

They may seem a fairly insignificant sight in a border but their fragrance is unparalleled, wafting through the air on a warm spring day. I have them in drifts in a shady spot around a garden seat, to enable visitors to experience the sweet scent first hand.

They can be planted at any time of year, while overgrown clumps can be lifted, separated with a sharp knife and then replanted into smaller offsets.

You can also cut the stems of the small, neat, white bell-shaped flowers to put in a small vase and bring inside.

The best flavour comes from the newly emerging shoot tips, when they reach around 20cm and are still closed.

Planted singly, they only span 10cm x 5cm (4in x 2in) but they soon spread sideways to make a loose carpet, and be careful if you're planting them in a border among other plants because they can become invasive.

You can snip around a third of them off without damaging the plant's health. Suitable varieties include H. sieboldii and H. montana.

They prefer rich, fertile soil with lots of added organic matter, in a shady spot. They are great ground cover plants for shady, damp situations, spreading by means of creeping roots. Other varieties include 'Albostriata', which has gold striped leaves, and 'Fortin's Giant', a slightly taller type, growing to a height of 30cm (12in).

■ For full details of the events at RHS Gardens during National Gardening Week, visit

Three ways to... Disguise a boundary 1. Create a mixed border directly in front of the back fence, making sure some of the plants are as tall as, or taller than, the fence, to blur the edges of your plot. 2. If you have a short garden, make your borders running down the sides of the plot taper outwards so that they are wider at the far end, making the garden appear longer. 3. Divide the garden using plant screens to shift emphasis away from the boundaries. Even a small plot can be divided, using trellis or woven willow as supports for climbing plants.

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Money news, advice and predictions for savers and spenders

By Kathryn Gaw

Financial dictionary: Dovish What is it? Although not technically a financial term, 'dovish' is a word increasingly used by market commentators to describe market sentiment. The opposite of 'hawkish', it is intended to express caution in a complex situation. More and more, industry speculators have been searching for 'dovish' tones in central bank statements as a way of gauging the level of confidence in the underlying economy.

Well, that wasn't too bad, was it? Despite coming during the worst non-wartime economy Britain has ever seen, Chancellor George Osborne managed to offer new tax breaks to most lower and middle-income earners, invest in new housing, freeze fuel tax and even knock a penny of the cost of a pint of beer. Yes, the economic forecast has been halved, and yes, borrowing is still going up, but Osborne's "aspiration nation" message suggested an optimism that we haven't seen in a while. But it's what Osborne didn't say that really matters. Forget cheap beer and petrol, if things don't get better at a fundamental level, we will all be feeling the pinch for many years to come.

Triple dip The papers have been buzzing with the news that Osborne has rejected the idea of a tripledip recession. Except he didn't actually say this. Instead, in carefully chosen words, he quoted a report by the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), stating that "the OBR's central forecast today is that we avoid a second quarter of negative growth here in the UK." In fact, a triple-dip recession is still very much a possibility. Earlier this month, the respected think-tank National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimated that the economy shrank by 0.1% in the three months to February and by 0.2% in the three months to January, suggesting that we'd need an exceptionally good March to avoid triple-dip status. While better-than-expected retail figures may go some way towards lifting the economy, other key economic indicators such as industry, unemployment, mortgage lending, construction and manufacturing have been less than encouraging. Investors seem to have picked up on this, staying off the London stock market on Budget day and causing the FTSE 100 to dip for the fourth day in a row.

No one knows what would happen if we entered a triple-dip recession, simply because we've never experienced it before. If we do manage to avoid it this time, it will be by the smallest of margins, and the pressure will really be on to show we can do better.

While the Chancellor did abolish stamp duty from AIM investments, this represents a relatively small saving for the sort of sophisticated investors who were already trading actively on the market.

AAA credit

The inclusion of AIM companies in Stocks and Shares Isas is apparently being discussed, but for the majority of savers seeing their money eroded by the rising rate of inflation (currently 2.8%), any opportunity to see better returns cannot come along quickly enough.

In his Autumn Statement, Osborne spoke with pride about Britain's top credit rating, but just a few months later, Moody's removed our AAA status. In the five months since the Autumn Statement, Britain's 2013 growth forecast has gone from 1.2% to 0.6% - a huge reduction, which the other major credit rating agencies (Standard & Poor's and Fitch) surely can't ignore. Losing our AAA status won't necessarily have a big impact on our day-to-day finances, but the lower our credit rating, the less attractive we look to lenders and investors, and without new loans and investment, the economy will slow down even more, keeping us in austerity for years to come.

Alternative savings Another notable omission in the Budget was the lack of support for the 'alternatives' sector. This can mean anything from hedge funds, to private equity, to small or start-up companies. Since its launch in 1995, the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) has become the most successful growth market in the world, yet AIM stocks and shares are still excluded from the Stocks and Shares Isa remit, so the average saver can't benefit from tax-free interest on some of the country's top-performing stocks.

Should you invest in... Construction?

Bank of England The Bank of England has been authorised to use "new unconventional monetary instruments" in order to get the

The slightest hint of perceived caution can have big repercussions on an economy, for instance, HSBC analysts recently pointed out that the yen and the sterling are among the weakest currencies in the world, "as their central banks are among the most dovish".

economy back on track. This could include weakening the pound to encourage international trade, increasing or decreasing the target 2% rate of inflation, or even imposing negative interest rates. We know all of these things have been discussed, and with this new carte blanche remit, anything could happen. Of course, this is all speculation, but in times of extreme economic uncertainty, no one can afford to be too optimistic. So enjoy the cheap beer while it lasts - you may need an extra drink or two before too long.

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Optimists would argue that there is no time like a recession to pick up a bargain investment. Using this logic, the woeful construction sector should be viewed with interest. The stagnating property market at home and abroad has seen construction projects draw to a standstill. As a result, the UK construction industry lost 7.9% of its value over the 12 months to January, while in the eurozone, production rates fell to their lowest level since 1996 in January. Over the year, construction was down 7.3% across the region, with Slovenia, Portugal, Poland and Slovakia the worse hit. The Chancellor is taking some steps to remedy the situation, by announcing a £15 billion investment in infrastructure in this week's Budget, and a £130 billion 'mortgage guarantee' scheme to encourage people to buy new build properties. After the Budget, home-building firms rose on the FTSE All-Share Index, but commercial construction companies such as Balfour Beatty continued to falter. Investors looking to get access to the Government-sponsored property boom may prefer to focus on the housing sector, but for the more adventurous bargain-hunters, there is plenty to explore in the construction sector.

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The world’s at your feet in 2013 Whether you're looking to book a family break or an adventure of a lifetime, take a look at these hotly-tipped spots for the year ahead.

This year, a new airport opens on the outskirts of capital city Quito, offering a safer alternative to the current city centre terminal, often described as one of the most dangerous airports in the world. The world's highest capital - it sits at 2,800m above sea level in the Andes - is home to some of South America's finest colonial architecture and several new luxury hotel openings.

Thanks to low levels of light pollution, it's possible to see the Milky Way, gas clouds, globular clusters, Saturn's rings and even satellites that orbit Jupiter.

The resurrection of Ecuador's railway network also offers a pleasant solution for exploring one of South America's smallest countries.

AMSTERDAM ▲ Art fans should head to Amsterdam's Museumplein in April when the city's national art gallery, The Rijksmuseum, opens after an epic 10year renovation, with works including Rembrandt's Night Watch. The creative theme continues with the reopening of the Van Gogh Museum, which also celebrates its 40th birthday, and special musical performances to mark the 125th anniversary of the Concertgebouw. In addition, contemporary art museum Stedelijk reopened at the end of last year after a renovation. And the anniversaries don't end there - 2013 also marks 400 years of Amsterdam's Canal Ring, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

SRI LANKA ▲ ECUADOR ▲ Brazil may be hogging the limelight for the next few years, but the spotlight will be shining on Ecuador in 2013. No longer simply a gateway to the Galapagos Islands, the impressively diverse country offers visitors wildlife, cultural heritage and historical sights.

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TENERIFE ▲ Very soon, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic will launch the first passenger flights into space, with tickets costing 200,000 US dollars. But you don't have to travel so far, or spend as much money, to admire the beauty of the sky at night. Better known as a beach destination, Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, is home to one of the best locations for year-round stargazing. The rugged volcanic landscape of Teide National Park, dominated by Spain's highest mountain, Mount Teide (3,718m), is considered one of the most important solar observation sites in the world.

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CROATIA In 2012, the number of visitors to Croatia increased by 20% and figures look set to continue as the Eastern European country prepares to join the EU. There are more than 1,244 islands to explore along the Adriatic coast, making a cruise a great way to discover the region.

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Improved infrastructure will also make the island easier to explore; in April British Airways launches new flights to Colombo and a new highway linking the capital to the south has cut road journeys to southern beaches and wildlife in Yala National park by half.

The pretty town of Dubrovnik, where Venetian influence is felt in the picturesque old town, is an essential port of call. Norwegian Air will be launching a new route to the city from London Gatwick, while easyJet are introducing a route from Edinburgh.

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When Sri Lanka's Civil War ended in 2009, tourists began to flood back to the country. Last year, it was named best-value long haul destination by the Post Office, and its popularity looks set to continue.

From page 04

MOZAMBIQUE ▲ The east African country has recently emerged as one of the world's fastest growing economies, but the tourist industry is yet to explode. Fantastic beaches, great dive sites and idyllic islands are all key attractions. For the ultimate desert island castaway experience, venture to the Quirimbas Archipelago. Some of the world's finest coral reefs can be found off the coast of Ibo Island, where local women still wear painted faces.

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For great wildlife viewing, head to the uninhabited Mogundula Island, where many species of bird live in the mangroves.

BRAZIL With the World Cup scheduled for 2014 and the Olympics two years later, South America's party destination has even more to shout about. Visit now before prices go up, and take advantage of improving facilities and new hotel openings. Rio de Janeiro is still the jewel in Brazil's crown offering culture, beach, and natural beauty in one place - and is now much safer to visit thanks to government programmes in the favelas. For an indulgent treat, head to the mountainous region of Campos do Jordao, where boutique hotel Botanique Hotel and Spa opened last year.

MADAGASCAR ▲ Presidential elections in 2013 are the beginnings of democracy in this "lost continent" in the Indian Ocean, which has been troubled by political instability for many years. More than 80% of wildlife on the world's fourth largest island is endemic, with lemurs and chameleons being the highlights.

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National parks are well looked after, with many locals trained as guides. Visit Mantadia to hear the eerie call of the Indri (the largest lemur), and continue to Ranomafana to find the highly endangered Greater Bamboo lemur.

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The Spring Issue

April / May


Gazette April 2013  

Gazette and Diary monthly magazine published by The Abergavenny Chronicle