Tag Archives: north east wales

Flintshire villagers unite behind community shop to support vulnerable and elderly

KIND-HEARTED volunteers and local producers helped a picturesque village through the first Coronavirus lockdown.

As the cold weather and dark nights descend – and tighter safety restrictions return – the team at Cilcain Community Shop hope residents continue to support the venture.

Treasurer Sarah Parr explained how everyone from school pupils to retirees came together to serve customers, prepare deliveries, and take orders from elderly and vulnerable householders when the pandemic took hold in March.

“During the first lockdown we were incredibly busy as there were a lot of people relying on us; there are quite a number of vulnerable and elderly in the village and we all look out for each other,” she said.

“The shop is open seven days a week, but the hours have been reduced and the delivery services continued throughout the summer.

“I’m sure they will be needed again in the months ahead as the nights grow darker and winter approaches, especially as we have seen more people going back into self-isolation and new travel restrictions.”

The store does have two permanent members of staff who coordinate the deliveries and orders, while volunteers carry out day to day tasks and serve the public from 8am until 1pm.

The post office provision has reopened, and there is a wider selection of food on sale to cope with increased demand.

“We use local produce to support those businesses, and the customers have stuck with them because they love the quality,” added Sarah.

“During lockdown we expanded our range quite radically because there were so many orders. We have bread from Henllan Bakery, Bellis Brothers Farm Shop in Buckley provided milk, Jones the Butcher in Denbigh all of our meat, and eggs were supplied by Ffrith Farm, based on Moel Famau.”

With more than 200 members, the shop has been pivotal in supporting families in Cilcain, and Sarah is confident they will not forget the service provided in the future.

“We experienced a big rise in custom during the Spring and even when restrictions were eased in the summer the sales were higher than in previous years,” said Sarah.

“As well as local trade we get a lot of walkers and cyclists passing through, which has been hit by travel restrictions, and we were forced to close the café, but given we now have a larger space in the village hall, thanks to our Village Hall Management Committee, people can come here and social distance quite easily while they shop.

“The team is amazing; we are so lucky to have a community like this who – when things became challenging – stepped up to help their neighbours.

“Everyone rallied around and supported one another when they needed it most, and the villagers won’t forget that.”

For more information, visit www.cilcaincommunityshop.co.uk

The second annual Taste North East Wales is taking place online this year after organisers Clwydian Range Food and Drink and Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, with the support of Cadwyn Clwyd, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and the local authorities of Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire, decided to host a virtual celebration to ensure the health and safety of participants.

This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

For more on Taste North East Wales, follow them on social media @taste_blasu or email taste.blas@gmail.com.  Alternatively, visit the website: www.tastenortheastwales.org.

Food festival goes online for taster sessions and events due to Covid

A SERIES of virtual events and tasting sessions will take place over the coming weeks to celebrate local food and drink producers.

Taste North East Wales is to be held online this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, with a second lockdown reinforcing the decision to conduct workshops, sampling and tours via Zoom, the video conferencing platform.

For some events participants will receive products in advance so they can experience the delights of the region’s many award-winning local businesses, and then connect with them live.

There will be six sessions, starting this Friday with a virtual gin tasting at the base of Clwydian Range Distillery on Halkyn Mountain in Flintshire, home of Cariad Gin.

Owner Fiona Lewis will explain and explore the stories behind four of their popular flavours and discuss which to enjoy with tonic, dehydrated fruit and more.

“We simply cannot wait to host our very first virtual event with Taste North East Wales and have been blown away by the positive response both locally and further afield,” said Fiona.

“Our business has gone through lots of changes and adaptions like so many others during the recent months.

“We are about to launch a new website, have expanded on our home delivery service from Cheshire to the Llyn Peninsula and decided to turn our skills to producing much needed hand sanitiser to help frontline workers and our community to continue to stay safe, for which we won a local Unsung Hero award.

“It’s been a busy time, and sales of sanitiser will continue on a non-profit basis which enables us to donate quantities from each batch produced to front line essential services.”

There will also be a virtual tasting with Richard Cattell from Ruthin-based Owen and Edwards Coffee; a Continental cooking demonstration and Q&A with Beatriz Albo, director of Sabor de Amor, Rhostyllen, and Marina Midolo from Marina’s Italian Cookery in Cyffylliog, near Ruthin.

Those registering can watch a chef academy demonstration with Adam Gaunt-Evans of The Three Eagles bar and grill in Llangollen, a masterclass with chef Grant Mulholland of the The Hand at Llanarmon, and a tasting and tour with Debbie and Phil Handley of Mostyn Kitchen Garden.

Viewers can see how their fruit and vegetables are grown via a pre-recorded journey around the Victorian Walled Kitchen Garden, and later partake in a chutney and cheese tasting with Debbie, and Gemma Williams, owner of The Little Cheesemonger in Rhuddlan.

“We’ll be showcasing three of our chutneys and three of Gemma’s top cheeses, though we will have to do it from two separate sites due to the lockdown,” said Debbie.

“It’s been a difficult period but the response from customers has been positive, we have continued to supply farm shops and independent outlets as before and sales have been very good.

“The only real difficulty for us was not being able to have volunteers onsite, so we had to harvest absolutely everything ourselves, but we managed it and are now in a strong position having picked and frozen for the autumn and winter months.”

She added: “We are thinking ahead and looking to produce a range of vinegars, so the apples currently growing are going to be important.

“We’ve tried to be pragmatic about the circumstances and, like other local businesses have been so grateful for the backing of our community. We hope to see as many as possible on the night and are really looking forward to it.”

For Adam at the Three Eagles, the event is both about showcasing Welsh seafood and also inspiring future chefs from across the region.

“I will be working with two Chef Academy recruits, both from north east Wales, introducing them to ways of selecting, preparing and cooking seafood to maximise our regional flavour,” he said.

“And am delighted that our customers at home will be able to join in.”

The Chef Academy is a partnership between the Three Eagles and Coleg Cambria and will be expanded over coming years to reach up and coming chefs from across the region.

Taste North East Wales organisers Clwydian Range Food and Drink and Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, with the support of Cadwyn Clwyd, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and the local authorities of Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire, decided to host a virtual programme of events to ensure the health and safety of all involved.

The project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Coordinator Jane Clough said the events have been well-received and tickets are selling well, with people who would usually visit the food and drink festivals keen to show their support.

“This year has been unlike any other, but the way our local businesses have reacted to the pandemic, adapted the way they work and been there for their communities has been truly inspiring,” said Jane.

“We cannot be together to celebrate the incredible food and drink produced across this region, but doing so online is the next best thing, and the safest way forward at the present time.

“I’m sure these sessions will be a lot of fun, we have some fantastic venues and local companies involved and there has been a real buzz about it so be sure to get in quick and book your place – thanks to everyone who has done so already.”

For more information and to register for the virtual events, visit www.tastenortheastwales.org and follow @taste-blasu on social media or email taste.blas@gmail.com.

ENDS

First lockdown and heatwave led to a surge in sports activities and outdoor hospitality

THE initial Coronavirus lockdown and a Spring heatwave led to many people taking up new sports and adrenaline-fuelled activities.

And that in turn sparked support of local venues and destinations combining food and drink with the delights of the great outdoors.

Taste North East Wales is being held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic but social distancing is less of an issue for those businesses who benefit from the beauty of their surroundings.

Among them is One Planet Adventure, the café, shop and mountain biking hub in Llandegla forest.

The series of walking and cycling trails – which attract visitors from across the UK – have continued to be busy throughout the summer, though director Jim Gaffney says they too have faced challenges and were forced to close for several months.

They have introduced new events – including regular barbecues using local produce – so people can still enjoy a hearty meal and socialise safely after completing their exercise.

“Things are steadily getting back to normal, though we were forced to close for three months and missed out on that incredible Spring weather,” said Jim.

“We’ve increased the space outside, changed the layout of the car park and are starting to think long term about how we move forward in the wake of the Coronavirus.

“Business picked up, especially in August, but of course we have to remain focused because our success this winter is weather dependent.”

He added: “One positive is the number of first-time visitors, those people who took up cycling during lockdown and want to keep active.

“Because the café is still closed we are doing take-outs and also regular barbecues with fabulous meat from our local butcher, so they’re able to stop and have something to eat with us, either on the decking, picnic benches or under the marquee, with social distancing in place – that has proven to be popular.”

Colleen Tou, owner of Honey’s Riverside Bakery and Cafe in Caergwrle, near Wrexham, says they have also seen more people combining visits to their premises and sporting pastimes since lockdown ended.

“We have the river here and since July get a lot of cyclists and people visiting us before and after taking part in water sports and kayaking at Park in the Past and Hope lake – it’s been a hive of activity,” said Colleen.

“We closed for a couple of weeks at the start of lockdown but have been very busy in past weeks with people coming here and home deliveries. Afternoon tea has been especially popular and all our baked goods are homemade and appreciated so much after some serious exercise.”

Taste North East Wales is organised by Clwydian Range Food and Drink and Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, with the support of Cadwyn Clwyd, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and the local authorities of Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire.

This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Donna Hughes, Business Partnerships Officer at Cadwyn Clwyd, said the initial burst of sunshine and hot weather provided a welcome distraction from the first weeks of Coronavirus in the UK.

“Being stuck at home with few options but to exercise and explore new interests led to many people in the region running, walking, cycling and lots of other physical activities,” said Donna.

“Our local businesses capitalised on that and coupled their services with that surge in demand for food and drink outdoors.

“It is great to see that continued when the cafes, pubs, restaurants and hospitality businesses reopened in July, and we hope it will carry on over the months ahead, when they need it most.”

For more on Taste North East Wales, follow them on social media @taste_blasu or email taste.blas@gmail.com.  Alternatively, visit the website: www.tastenortheastwales.org.

For more information on Cadwyn Clwyd, email admin@cadwynclwyd.co.uk, call 01490 340500 or visit the website: www.cadwynclwyd.co.uk

Taste North East Wales has united with local businesses to record a series of short films to promote the best of the region’s food, drink and hospitality. Watch here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnYDulvwaKJST5tLWZEFdpg

Local food and drink producers adapt business models to survive COVID-19 pandemic

TRANSFORMING their business models ensured local food and drink producers and hospitality venues survived the Coronavirus lockdown.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most challenging periods in the country’s history, but it has also led to a sea change in attitudes and innovation.

Driven by community concern and health and safety requirements, firms across rural towns and villages adapted their normal working hours and processes to meet demand and support customers when they needed it most.

From home deliveries to takeaway services and e-commerce, there have been myriad approaches to supplying the public with fresh, artisan and homegrown items.

Supported by Taste North East Wales – which takes place virtually this year – these companies hope people will continue to support them in the months ahead and centre their weekly shop around local shops and farm stores.

Among them is Aballu Artisan Chocolatier, based in Rossett, near Wrexham, whose owner Jo Edwards (pictured) was able to continue producing truffles and other sweet treats behind closed doors at a crucial time.

“When lockdown was first announced I wondered whether I could work at all,” said Jo.

“But because I can operate alone and live close to the unit where the chocolate is produced, I was able to keep going, which was a huge relief.

“The response from customers was amazing, they’ve been so supportive and continued to buy our chocolate; we started carrying out free deliveries locally, sending via mail order and people came to collect – it helped us to survive.

She added: “I only really had to cancel one order due to lockdown, which was for around 300 truffles. To ensure they didn’t go to waste I donated them to staff at our local grocers, to thank those on the frontline for everything they’ve done.”

And one of the key points in the calendar for Aballu was more hectic than ever.

“It was coming up to Easter when the Coronavirus outbreak took hold in the UK so that was a tough time,” said Jo.

“I had to enlist the help of family and was even out on Easter Sunday myself delivering chocolate eggs because I didn’t want to let anyone down.

“In past weeks the mail order and deliveries have slowed down but our suppliers have increased their orders, particularly the farm shops who say our chocolate has become part of people’s weekly shopping list, which is just brilliant and provides a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Jo now has her sights set on the Christmas period, which she expects to predominately consist of online sales.

Another looking ahead to the festive season is Janet Costidell, who runs the Cross Foxes in Nannerch with husband Tim.

She admits to the unrealistic chances of them having a traditional pub Christmas because of the Coronavirus and hopes the ‘new normal’ will enable them to reopen fully in the months ahead.

“The pandemic and subsequent lockdown came as a complete shock to all of us,” she said.

“We quickly formed a team to deliver meals and provide a takeaway service so we could remain operational, and as the Cross Foxes is central to the community, we collected prescriptions for the vulnerable and elderly.

“We reopened at the end of July but only outside, and also set up a little village shop with milk and all of the essentials for local residents, which was open for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon every day.

“It kept us busy at what was a challenging time. We all really came together, and the support has been amazing – one morning we even came out to find people had put bunting up for us to say how much they love us! They have been incredible.”

The second annual Taste North East Wales is taking place online this year after organisers Clwydian Range Food and Drink and Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, with the support of Cadwyn Clwyd, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and the local authorities of Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire, decided to host a virtual celebration to ensure the health and safety of participants.

This project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Coordinator Jane Clough said loyalty to the local businesses that supported concerned communities in their hours of need has never been more apparent.

“The way producers, hospitality businesses and local shops adapted to survive and help people, especially those shielding and self-isolating, will hopefully not be forgotten,” she said.

“We are already hearing how people are planning their weekly shop to continue supporting local businesses by maintaining home deliveries, pick-ups and a socially-distanced visit to their nearby farm shop or delicatessen.

“It’s wonderful to see and highlights the unity displayed in so many of our towns and villages in north east Wales. Long may that continue.”

For more on Taste North East Wales, follow them on social media @taste_blasu or email taste.blas@gmail.com.  Alternatively, visit the website: www.tastenortheastwales.org.

For more information on Cadwyn Clwyd, email admin@cadwynclwyd.co.uk, call 01490 340500 or visit the website: www.cadwynclwyd.co.uk

Welsh firms step up to the plate to meet lockdown surge for fresh food and drink

FOOD and drink businesses have stepped up to the plate and met a surge in demand for fresh produce during lockdown.

Taste North East Wales praised local food, drink and hospitality firms for diversifying and changing business models to better serve their communities since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic.

From home deliveries to online platforms, stocking new lines and dramatic increases in production, they have supported customers who needed it most, including the vulnerable and elderly in towns and rural areas.

Among the outlets to have continued trading throughout the past few months is Porters Delicatessen in Llangollen, whose owner Tracey Hughes said demand for their products helped the business stave off the threat of COVID-19.

“Lockdown would have potentially devasted our business, but we quickly adapted when it became apparent from customers in self-isolation they would still be enjoying their favourite foods, especially cheese,” said Tracey.

“We have always offered a free home delivery service within a local radius but were able to greatly expand this with the help of our local greengrocer, Dee Valley Fruit and Veg.

“Working together we covered a much greater area and supplied many more of our customers. When people became aware that they could telephone an order and get it delivered the next day the service really took off and is still being used now.”

She added: “Whilst we were never closed to customers, now things are a lot busier we are controlling numbers in the shop and have installed screens and a hand sanitiser station to help keep everyone safe.”

Another to have seen a huge rise in sales is Swans Farm Shop in Treuddyn, near Mold.

Gail Swan runs it with butcher husband Clive, assistant butcher and son, Edward, and daughter Becca, who is also a midwife.

“We have a farm and the farm shop so when the shop is busier it means the farm is busier, but the priority has always been safety,” said Gail.

“Barely a day has gone by where we have not introduced something new, which has been challenging but also rewarding as we have been able to support more local producers.

“We have stepped up production of our own items and businesses locally have done the same; the product range of everyday essentials we now have is incredible because people have been coming in and asking for things we didn’t previously stock.

“We’ve been living and breathing the business but are just glad to have been of service to our community during what has undoubtedly been the most hectic period in the 17 years since we opened.”

The second annual Blasu/Taste North East Wales is taking place virtually this year after organisers Clwydian Range Food and Drink and Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, with the support of Cadwyn Clwyd, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and the local authorities of Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire, decided to host an online celebration to ensure the health and safety of participants.

This will include of a series of short films featuring local food and drink businesses, to be followed by virtual events in the Autumn.

The project is funded by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, via the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government

Robyn Lovelock, Taste Project Coordinator and Secretary of Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, praised businesses for the innovative and immediate ways in which they met the uncertainty of the pandemic head-on.

“This was completely unchartered territory for all of them, yet they stepped up when their communities – especially people shielding in rural areas – were in lockdown at home and unable to get out to the shops or access supermarket deliveries,” she said.

“Like never before we have seen the best of the food and drink industry in this region over the past few months. It makes us proud to be able to showcase the huge efforts local businesses have made.”

Her key message to customers now is to keep shopping locally.

“We’ve all appreciated how local businesses went above and beyond during the crisis. The biggest thank you to them is to maintain that support as lockdown eases – to plan which items you want to buy locally and make a plan on when you’ll do that each week,” added Robyn.

For more on Taste North East Wales, follow them on social media @taste_blasu or email taste.blas@gmail.com. Alternatively, visit the website: www.tastenortheastwales.org.

For more information on Cadwyn Clwyd, email admin@cadwynclwyd.co.uk, call 01490 340500 or visit the website: www.cadwynclwyd.co.uk.