Monday, 30 June 2008


Top Talk
Chief Constable of South Wales Police, Barbara Wilding, first got a taste for gardening during maternity leave, 20 years ago. “I thoroughly enjoyed having time to work in the garden even though I couldn’t do too much as I was heavily pregnant but I promised myself that when I retired I would do more.”
“Having just renovated two barns, I’ve started work on the garden a little earlier than anticipated. It’s been terrific having a brand new garden to develop. I’ve planted bulbs, hedges, a camomile lawn and a wildflower meadow. I get stuck in and get dirty, I love it. It’s so therapeutic, though I do have aches and pains every weekend as a result.”
Where does she get the inspiration from? “Dad always said ‘spend your money on the soil rather than plants’ so I had to do a lot of ground preparation and then did lots of research,” she tells me. “ I visited lots of National Trust Gardens, bought some great books, like the Garden of Highgrove (Prince Charles’ garden)and made lots of notes. I’m having to take my garden in pieces and do a bit at a time. I have always wanted an old fashioned greenhouse so maybe that’ll be next year’s project. I also want to keep the garden quite low maintenance as I want to travel more when I retire.”
No qualms about her carbon footprint then? Barbara snorts indignantly. “I think I have already offset my carbon footprint,” she explains, “I planted 400 trees last year and will be planting a lot more before I retire, so I’ll be able take flights with an easy conscience.”
“In fact,” she continues,” the Force had its Carbon Footprint calculated by the Carbon Trust and we have a programme to follow to reduce it. Obviously we have a huge fleet of vehicles and we can’t double up on people using them so we have to look at vehicles with low emissions and fuel consumption. I actually bought one of the first hybrid cars and it’s certainly created conversations. We need to make sure the fleet, and the Force, are environmentally friendly; I am highly committed and believe that any small improvements that can be made in their working environment will be advantageous in their personal lives too. The Organisation consists of nearly 6,000 people who all have families, so we are reaching between 18,000 and 24,000 people in Wales which is not inconsiderable. And I will not have bottled water any more,” she adds adamantly. “At all of our meetings, we have water from the tap like the old days.”
I’m curious to know how that has change has been received? As direct as ever, Barbara replies, “Well, let’s just say if anyone has a problem with it, I haven’t heard about it.”

Gardening Greats

Barbara also told me she knew that a lot of ‘troubled’ young people were ‘finding themselves through gardening. One school in particular had offered an alternative curriculum to kids from dysfunctional backgrounds and who were in danger of dropping out of school. The first new subject to be oversubscribed was horticulture and the school’s team has gone on to win awards and have built several sensory gardens for the disabled. “They realise there are people less well off then themselves,” explained Barbara, “they also feel appreciated and of course they are tired at the end of the day so less inclined to create trouble. Gardening can be fun and hugely rewarding, for anyone.”

Tread Softly

Visit for a fabulous method of calculating your own carbon footprint. Based on your home, appliances and travel information, it is quick and simple to use . The average Welshman contributes around 8.5 tons per year and my own steel toe-capped footprint worked out at 7 tons.
It has been suggested that biggest carbon footprint ever is that of a football boot. David Beckham’s carbon emissions are estimated at a whopping 165 tons per year. That obviously contributes to him and wife Victoria having the unfortunate title of the ‘Worlds Most Eco-Unfriendly Celebrity Couple’.

Did You Know?

It takes three times as much water to make a plastic bottle than to fill it.
It took over 12 million barrels of oil to make the plastic water bottles used in the UK last year.
Over 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water.


A friend was horrified to catch her toddler about to put a slug in his mouth. “Don’t do that” she screamed , “it won’t taste nice.” she added by way of explanation. “Tastes just like worms” her toddler replied casually.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Talking about the Weather

Top Talk

It was the heat wave of 1976 that first sparked Derek Brockway’s interest in the weather. The BBC Wales weatherman recalls, “I was only 8 but I was reading all the newspapers and drove my parents bonkers by channel hopping to get all the weather reports and information that I could. I was fascinated and went on to do science as A levels – maths being the most important of course. I joined the Met office when I was 19, starting at the bottom. Then I did all the internal Met office courses to become a forecaster. I’m not just a presenter.” He adds quickly.

Derek admits, “It’s always a challenge forecasting the Welsh weather. Being positioned next to the Atlantic, we get plenty of rain and the close continental landmass supplies the SW winds. Geographically, we can get it all.”

Does he ever get blamed for bad weather? “Sometimes. He shrugs, “people like to shoot the messenger. Unfortunately, they only remember the times I’m wrong not the times I’m right. Computers make forecasting more accurate these days. It’s a mix of art and science - with a lot of experience,” he explains.

How accurate are the Old Wives Tales and Folklore? “There are over 3,000 proverbs used in connection with the weather – some are good. Most methods are reactive rather than predictive. Seaweed and pinecones, for example, react to the atmosphere rather than predict the weather.”

Derek is well known for his love of walking but what about gardening? “I went through a fad as a teenager” he confesses. “I did the borders, planted bulbs and spent all Dads money in the Garden Centre buying trees. I remember buying a beautiful Prunus ‘Amanogawa’ (Japanese Cherry). My own garden now is low maintenance because my job keeps me so busy and the weekends are always full. Perhaps I’ll get stuck in again when I retire.”

Does the ‘walking weatherman’ put changes in weather patterns down to global warming? “We don’t get snow like we used to when I was a boy. The last bad snowfall was 1982. Some changes are natural, some are due to Man’s influence. I try to do my bit for the environment, though there’s always room for improvement. I wash my own car now instead of using the carwash and I’m investigating solar energy. A lot of the new solar products use radiation through clouds, you don’t need direct sunlight.”

I have to ask – how much sunshine can we expect this summer? “The trends are for the summers to get hotter and drier with more extremes, more storms. There will always be natural variations but I don’t think this summer will be as bad as last which was the wettest on record . I think it’ll be pretty mixed, a typical Welsh summer; a bit of sun, a bit of rain. Who needs heat waves anyway? They’re no good for anyone or anything. 25 degrees is great.

Flower Power

Flower colours have more effect on our moods and feelings than we perhaps realise. Yellow blooms are associated with sunshine and happiness, orange flowers will increase feelings of vibrancy and energy and reds evoke passion and sensuality. White flowers are very healing and calming whilst blue and purple are thought to be inspiring. Pinks and lilacs are associated with romance and nostalgia and creams and greens (foliage) with nurturing and compassion. What do your floral displays say about you?

Forecasting Fun

Why not have a go at predicting the weather yourself? There are a wide range of home weather stations, instruments and barometers available for the ‘want-to-be-weatherman’ (or woman). From simple rain gauges to technical data loggers and suitable for the enthusiast or educational purposes find out more at or call 08456800868