Saturday, 31 May 2008

From Coast to Coast Lynne talks to Brychan

Top Talk

Freelance entity and horseman (and newly married) Brychan Jones is busy organising a 240 mile sponsored ride from the coast of north Wales to the coast of South Wales, which will start on the 25th August. The presenter of Ar Garlam (At a Gallop), currently showing on S4C, explains why. “We have set up a new Charity to raise money and awareness of pancreatic cancer. Good friend and fellow rider, Shan Cothi lost her husband, Justin, to the disease recently and we wanted to do something in his memory and to help others. Can you believe there has been no progress or developments in treating this type of cancer? The same number of people die from it now as did in the 1950’s and earlier. We are heading the Charity because we want the money to stay in Wales and to know how it is being used. You can see more at”

There is no doubt that plain speaking Brychan is very much an outdoor man. “I’m a farmer’s son and am in tune with nature,” he agrees. “I had a proper job for 5 years and hated my time being owned by someone else and being in an office. I’m a horseman, a countryman I love hunting (legally) and a big fan of point to pointing. I would like to see the Hunt’s promote it more – it’s a great sport that more people should be enjoying. The first time I jumped a fence was two weeks before my first race and I came 2nd” he laughs. “That was the second best day of my life he confides, marrying Sian was the best. We both rode to the Church, it was fabulous.”
“You get to see so much more of the countryside from horseback. We are blessed to have such a beautiful country and to be able to enjoy it thanks to the kindness or farmers and landowners.”

“I feel sad for City people who don’t realise the beauty of the countryside. I have Tipi’s on the farm in West Wales and people come to stay from London. They see real stars for the first time and hear the silence. Some of the kids have never even seen sheep. It’s tremendous to see the youngsters interacting with animals for the first time, it makes them realise life isn’t all about human beings, animals have needs and rights too. It’s emancipating.”

Back to Nature

Brychan’s Tipi’s are based in the beautiful countryside of Cardigan and are certainly an excellent way to get in tune with Nature. Where else could you lie in bed listening to the crackle of the open indoor campfire whilst watching the stars twinkle overhead? Cooking is easily done on the open fire and bbq’s are also available. The site is secure and overlooks Aber-porth with it’s sheltered beaches and all for only £20.00 per adult per night. The photos alone are worth checking out – visit or call 07813672336

Did You Know?

This week is Wildlife Week – running from the 31st May to the 21st June, this year hosts a Triple Bill (three weeks) of events offering everyone the opportunity to get involved in an activity or project to raise the awareness of conservation issues. Run by the Wildlife Trust there is an extensive programme of local events designed to encourage everyone to interact with wildlife, from Bat mornings, owl encounters and rockpool rambles. To find out more visit or call 01636677711 to find out what’s happening near you.

Tipi or not Tipi ...

Fancy having your own tipi? What better way to observe Nature and local wildlife? Although described as temporary structures, the Tipi’s are strong and durable enough to be lived in year round. If that seems a bit too ‘green’ for you, they also make excellent garden rooms, retreats and can provide extra sleeping accommodation. Available in sizes from 30’ to 10’, all tipi’s can be made to measure and to your specific requirements and even the largest can be dismantled and re erected in less than 3 hours. An 18’ Tipi will entertain 8 people comfortably, sleep 4 and cost £2,400; a 14’ Tipi will sleep 2 and cost £1,600.00 and children’s Tipi’s are available at around £900.00 The Bedouin tents are also beautiful and have separate indoor sections for a little more privacy. All these are available for hire too. Have a look at or telephone Bob on 01654761720. Offering friendly and down to earth advice the company are based in Machynlleth, North Wales and have an 18 acre site that you can visit. And make sure you ask about the light shows, where Tipi’s are used as projection screens – brilliant!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Lynne talks to Alex Jones about Hip and Skip

Top Talk

TV presenter Alex Jones was almost as quick as I was to change back into jeans after a glamorous photo shoot to promote the George Thomas Hospice Celebrity Ladies Day Ascot Dinner. ‘”I’m working with kids at the moment on a series called Hip neu Skip (Hip or Skip) and it’s bliss going to work in jeans,” she admits. Sounds fun. “It is. It’s a sort of Changing Rooms for kids. Apart from a tree house that we did, all the makeovers have been indoors so far but we are planning to branch out to the garden. The kids love being outdoors. I’m sure being in the fresh air gives them even more energy.”

Is Alex keen to move the show outdoors too? “Definitely, I love being out. My boyfriend Matt and I walk a lot. We walked up Snowdon and I had new boots on. It was so painful; I had to peel them off at the end. I still enjoyed it though. I love living in town but we get out to the country to walk as often as we can. It’s so good for you. I work a lot in North Wales and it’s beautiful in the summer, I love the scenery there.”

Is her own garden in line for a makeover? “No, there wouldn’t be room for all the kids,” she laughs. “I call it a courtyard garden but Dad, Alun, calls it a path! I have room for a table and what I lovingly refer to as ‘the forest’, which consists of a pear tree, another tree but I don’t know what it is, and a few tulips. The pear tree is lovely but when you’re eating outside late in the summer the pears drop on your head. Dads good, he helps out – when he was over last time he said something about a plant and mumbled, ‘broom’ , so I went to get the brush! I’ve just added three stone-shaped solar lights too. They don’t give much light but they look pretty.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing what we can recycle in the gardens with the kids. They’re great and always find a use for things the adults would throw in the skip. They don’t know any different having been brought up not to throw things away. There are even places where you can take old furniture and they sell it for Charity, there’s one near Pontypridd. The trend seems to be for ‘shabby chic’ now so that lends itself to recycling and using older pieces. We recently turned an old bath panel into a piece of art for the wall. You have to be creative – it’s great to stretch the imagination. We are going to be turning an old caravan into a den for a 15 year old so he can have his own space. I think that’s probably the ultimate in recycling.”

For more information on the George Thomas Hospice Celebrity Ladies Day Ascot Dinner and other events that the Charity organise, contact Sharon Owen on 02920524150 or visit

These Boots are made for Walking

As Alex says, walking is very good for you and what could be better than raising money and awareness whilst you walk. The British Heart Foundation is holding the Brecon Beacons Challenge on Midsummer’s Day, 21st June. The event challenges you to complete a three peak, 12 mile course in the beautiful National Park. Not only is it a great way to keep your own heart healthy but also an opportunity to help the thousands of children and adults living with heart disease. I was horrified to learn that every 2 minutes someone has a heart attack in the UK and half of those will be fatal. So make a note in your diary, stretch your legs, enjoy the fresh air and make a difference.
Contact Delyth Lloyd on 02920 382406 or 07885 435655 or email her at

Recycle the Recognised and the Random

For ideas on how to reuse and recycle familiar and more bizarre items visit Suggestions include using old dustbins for storing compost, animal food or tools, as a rain water butt or planting potatoes and other veg. Old tyres can be made into a swing, a mini propagator or a wormery and even old branches could become beautiful decorative candle holders. Ahead of his time maybe, I remember my Granddad making me a hamster house from an old TV set, though I don’t think today’s ultra-thin sets would have the same ‘kerb appeal’.

Did You Know?
Described as the Gardening Catwalk, Chelsea Flower Show is in its 85th year and is attended by over 157,000 people – that’s about half the population of Cardiff. This year the trend was considered to be ‘green’, hmmm – no kidding?

Saturday, 17 May 2008


Top Talk

I’m not sure how to introduce Adele Nozedar. “Put me as an author,” she laughs, “it’s great to have something legit at last to put on my passport.” Indeed this multi-talented lady could be ‘titled’ many things – the musician and photographer,(to name but a few) runs a popular (but remote)recording studio at the foot of the Brecon Beacons with her husband, and is currently researching for her third book.

The first, The Secret Language of Birds, launched Adele into a new career and lead directly to the the commissioning of her recent release, The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols – The Ultimate A-Z Guide from Alchemy to the Zodiac.
“It is a bit of a mouthful,” she admits, “ and it is a big book – it’s a huge subject. Harper Collins have described it as the biggest A-Z reference book on symbolic objects you’ll ever find.”

“It’s weird realising I have such little routine in my life these days. I quit the corporate life years ago when a serious illness made me reassess my life. Nature is very important to me and I respect it hugely. I love to be out walking with the dogs; with the studio, we often work right through the nights so I can be out walking at any time of the day or night really.”

“I love trees. They always look as though they are waiting for something but are always doing something while they wait. Whether it’s quietly forming new buds or unfurling leaves and getting their solar-powered system going. I love the way they age; their innate spirit and wisdom. Also they’re just beautiful. Every tree I’ve planted here has grown,” she tells me proudly,” which is strange when you think we are virtually on rock. When we first came, we brought in loads of topsoil and I imagined my garden looking like something out of Arabian Nights, full of scented roses and exotic climbers with funny names. Now my gardening mantra is ‘if it doesn’t die, buy a few more.’ Interestingly, we have a lot of St John’s Wort that grows wild and a naturopathic doctor friend who uses plant remedies insists that everything you need is within 50 yards of you. Nature sees to that. St John’s Wort helps alleviate depression and if you spent a winter up here you would understand why Nature provides it for the locals. I’ve just planted up a couple of pots with Calendula as I fuse the leaves and petals with melted Vaseline to make a wonderful soothing and healing ointment.”

So how are the recycling facilities in such a remote area? “During the foot and mouth crisis the dustbin men weren’t allowed up here, so we literally recycled everything during that time. It wasn’t difficult. I did ask for a refund on our council tax but they said no.”

“I think children are leading the recycling revolution but slowly, slowly it’s becoming the norm. Babyshambles were recording here recently (yes, Kate Moss came too) and their security guard growled that it was a waste of time putting recycling bins out for them. They were the best though, they recycled everything and loved it. In general, it’s too easy to penalise people, it’s far better to use reward than punishment. I remember when you could get 10p back on an empty bottle of pop, you didn’t see any of them discarded in hedgerows then!”

Nice Nettles

Monday sees the end of ‘Be Nice to Nettles Week, so there is still time to spoil your stingers! Nettles are still used in a wide variety of ways with the very young leaves being used like spinach in cooking, and roots and leaves are boiled to produce green and yellow dyes that are used extensively in Russia. They were even used as a substitute for cotton to make German Army uniforms in the First World War. In the garden they attract butterflies and if you really can’t bring yourself to be ‘nice to nettles,’ then they are an excellent addition to the compost heap as the nitrogen they contain fuels the bacteria that breaks down the waste into compost.
The stinging structure of a nettle is similar to a hypodermic needle, though of far earlier origin obviously. Each sting is a hollow hair with a little pocket of venom at the base.
The tip of the hair is so brittle that even the gentlest of touches will break it exposing the sharp needle-type point that delivers the actual sting. As kids, we were always told that docks always grow near nettles so they can be rubbed onto the sting and the dock leaf does indeed contain a chemical that neutralises the sting and eases the itching.

Water Wonder

It’s the time of year for grow bags, hanging baskets, tubs, flower pouches and containerised displays in general. We all love to look at them and pick from them but watering them can be a chore. Compost needs to be kept damp to be able to absorb water, when dried out, water will just run off leaving dehydrated plants and frustrated gardeners. A nifty little device promises to change all that. The Bottle-Top Water Spike is a plastic nozzle that screws onto a litre plastic drinks bottle. Simply fill the bottle with water – adding liquid feed if necessary – screw on the spike and place vertically in the compost in the container. The flow can be regulated through the nozzle and the ‘fill-it and leave-it’ system keeps the compost moist and frees you up to do other things. It’s also a clever way to recycle those plastic bottles. 6 spikes cost just £6.50 and can be bought from tel: 0845 2579123 and I have also seen them at garden centres.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Dowsing -what does it mean?

Top Talk

Mention the word ‘dowsing’ and most people will assume you mean looking for hidden water with two sticks or rods. “That is exactly what attracted me to it” laughs John Flavell M Sc. “I was an academic, a computer scientist and the Vice Principal of a College and then one hot summer the spring that feeds our cottage dried up. We had a geologist come out to see if he could find a well or a new source of water for us. He walked over the field with two brass ‘L’ rods and they kept crossing in certain spots. As a scientist, I was very sceptical so he invited me to try it myself. It worked for me too and I was immediately ‘hooked’.”
“I went on a few courses and found I was actually quite good at it so went on to become a registered tutor for the British Society of Dowsers.”

John’s own dowsing courses are very popular. “It is something most people can do, all you need is an open mind” he explains “and you can dowse for all sorts of things including health and wellbeing. Although no one really knows how it works, I think it’s very much a case of tapping into a natural energy field. You can’t do it for someone, they do it for themselves. It’s all about personal responsibility and harnessing your own power.”

John’s experience with dowsing led him to investigate other avenues and (with a little nudge from wife Beth), he qualified as a hypnotherapist and also teaches NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and TPM (Thought Pattern Management). He is quick to tell me, “I’m not keen on the titles of these disciplines, I just see it as common sense. We should want to take responsibility for our behaviour and lifestyles.”

He makes reference to environmental issues. “We know there is a serious problem but there is still more talk than action. We need to work in harmony – with Nature and each other. See Nature as a friend not just a provider to take advantage of.”

“I often play Bach to my plants. I read about a wonderful experiment that showed plants prefer classical music to hard rock. They actually grew away from the speakers that played the rock and toward the ones playing classical music. Plants know what they need to be the best they can be – we can learn a lot from them.”

Learn to Dowse

John taught me to dowse last year and I have been a huge fan ever since. The results speak for themselves, for even the most sceptical. Merging my own passion for Nature and John’s expertise we have put together a day’s course on Dowsing in the Garden. Held in the beautiful Brecon Beacons the courses are friendly and informal. As well as learning about the basic tools and ethics for dowsing, we will show you how to work with Nature and get to most out of your space; how to energise and increase the fertility of the soil; how to deal with pests and disease naturally; holistic design and even how to improve your own energy levels and motivation.
For more details contact me at or John at or visit or

Did You Know?

Last week was Compost Aware Week when public and business communities were encouraged to get composting. I’m all for raising awareness but remember to compost for life not just a week!

Happy Anniversary

The British Society of Dowsers celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and is the leading organisation in the UK for dowsers. To find out more about this fascinating discipline, buy products or become a member, visit or telephone 01684 576969. You can also visit the National Dowsing Centre in Malvern but do call to check opening times.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Top Talk with only Welsh Olympic Gold

Top Talk

The only Welshman to ever win Olympic gold in a track and field event, long jumper Lynn ‘The Leap’ Davies likens winning to developing a garden. “You have to have that end goal in sight, or a vision and then you continually work toward it. And whether its gardening or sport, it helps to have some expert advice and to be nurtured on that journey.” He explains.

“As a kid I was very competitive and athletic and was always jumping over rivers and climbing trees. Later, when I met up with Coach Ron Pickering, he was then able to channel and develop my talent and ambition which was a winning formula.”

“My wife, Meriel and I have created our own garden from nothing and in the early days, when I was teaching physical education, I wasn’t really interested in the garden but as the garden developed so did my interest and I enjoyed planting trees and laying lawns. I planted a row of trees just before leaving to compete in the Mexico Olympics. When we were there, Ron rang my wife and said ‘tell me something that will really anger Lynn so we can get him fired up for the competition.’ Meriel replied ‘tell him some of the trees died!’ It didn’t work though as that was the year Bob Beamon famously jumped 29.2 ft (8m 90) which was a World Record for 23 years. I couldn’t be angry enough to beat that.” (Lynn modestly omits to tell me he held the Welsh record for 34 years).

“I wish someone had told me how important regular pruning is.” He continues, “ I have trees now that have gone past their best because I didn’t manage them correctly. I hate seeing conifers that have been cut back to bare wood.”

“My own garden is a corner plot and is sort of divided into sections. I’ve got an area of gravel, boulders and low growing shrubs that resemble a Japanese garden. That’s the structured look that I love and it’s low maintenance. I first saw that style at the Tokyo Olympics; travelling the World inspires you. Even if you don’t realise it, I think you are always noticing different styles of garden. I love seeing what people do with their gardens and always enjoy watching the garden makeover programmes. They motivate you. My wife likes a lawn so I have to compromise. She’s an art teacher and the garden is full of little sculptures and figures that the students have created and don’t want. It’s like an art gallery. There’s a headless, topless woman with an arm missing just outside the back door,” he laughs.

Currently President of UK Athletics, Lynn returns to the similarities between gardening and sport. “It’s all about motivation and action. Focus on what you want and you’ll move toward it. Never underestimate the power of the mind. As Ron used to say ‘a good coach needs to give you roots so you can grow and wings so you can fly.’”
Turning Japanese
The wonderful philosophy associated with Japanese gardening is that one shouldn’t create anything that Nature wouldn’t, so no square ponds or fountains for example. The apparent ‘emptiness’ - a sharp contrast to our ‘busy’ and ‘full’ Western gardens - creates a feeling of ‘space’, promoting peace and stillness. Boulders are used to represent mountains, and raked gravel donates the continual flow of water. It is also important for the space to be enclosed as the garden is perceived as being a separate World that one can visit leaving behind their worries and concerns.

Winter Wonderland

The Japanese consider it important to be able to visit a garden in all seasons and Winter is as important as any other season. Architectural planting, such as Acers and bonsai trees, boast a beautiful framework of branches in the absence of leaves and a dusting of snow on trees is called ‘sekku’, or ‘snow blossom’.
Get Stoned
Rocks are the ‘bones’ of a Japanese garden. Try to include a tall vertical stone, a low vertical stone and a horizontal stone. Stones are best placed as a group of three but can be in two’s to represent male and female. There are also stones to avoid – the diseased stone, one with a misshapen or disfigured top; the dead stone, a stone with a horizontal grain that is propped upright, like a dead body and the pauper stone, which is a stone that bears no relation to any other stone in the garden.
Similarly, rockeries should be constructed with natural stone set well into the soil to resemble a natural outcrop. Avoid ‘the current bun’ – a rockery with stones placed on the soil surface and the ‘dog’s grave’ using single, isolated stones.
Oriental Delights
For a wide range of Oriental products including screening, statues, drilled stones and furniture for your Japanese style garden (and even a kimono to wear whilst gardening) visit They also offer great advice on planning and constructing relevant projects.

Did You Know?

In Japan, Santa Claus is a woman!