People living in small towns and villages don’t need telling that life is harder without a car. Disconnected, underfunded and unreliable, public transport doesn’t serve rural areas well in my experience.
My home county of Pembrokeshire typifies this picture, although there are efforts to address this. Welsh researchers found this year that some areas don’t even get one bus an hour! Bus stops (reduced by 3%), routes (15% less) and opportunities catch a bus (down 22%) all contracted during the pandemic across Wales.
My recent blog-writing efforts reflect my tired plod towards the end the year. I’ve been busier than ever in 2021 and have not written and published a full blog on this website for a couple of months. I’ve started a few, but not finished them all. Others were overtaken by events. But those I have written have performed better than they did last year.
It’s a fitting metaphor for a stop-start year: grinding, but ultimately good.
Manufactured storm clouds have gathered above Pembrokehire’s clifftops, at a place I know well.
They’re created by media interest in The Druidstone hotel’s membership scheme for non-guests who want an occasional drink in its popular bar. The Guardian sparked the interest on Friday, after a freelancer discovered the story whilst staying locally.
Explanations for its ‘fall from grace’ are varied. They range from being caught in a sector-wide pincer movement between Aldi and Lidl and Waitrose, to a rise in internet shopping. This feeds sense that shoppers have simply fallen out of love with Britain’s biggest retailer.
It’s still making hundreds of millions in profit each year. But the CEO Dave Lewis probably can’t afford too many hits like this, even though his response to the outbreak of the crisis was swift and impressive.
I’ve worked as a comms person for Tesco, supporting local consultations designed to inform its planning applications for new stores.
I was struck by the dedication and drive of those connected with the business; everyone bought into the vision. We’ve shopped there for years and been devotees of its Clubcard loyalty scheme, which we’ve used to ‘reward’ ourselves with meals at Pizza Express and trips to Longleat.
The freak conditions have claimed a surprise victim in Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire, down the road from where my parents live.
The hump back bridge at the foot of Haroldston Hill has disappeared, swept into the sea by the high tide on Wednesday last week. All that appears left is the wall running parallel to the beach, which now dangles precariously without support over the sea-front.
No more walking across that wall with the kids for a while now, it would seem. Those who live or stay at the bottom of the hill face the inconvenience of a detour around the back roads to get through the village or into town.
Pembrokeshire County Council appears unable to say when the road will be restored. I hope I am wrong, as the Haven can’t afford to have the road closed for long, but my money’s on it taking a while to fix.
Those who wish to make the case for a swift response to the council should drop a line to its transport unit in Haverfordwest, or to Cllr Keith Lewis, who chairs its Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
This is a personal post, which I’ve been thinking about for days following the death of someone very special last weekend. Jane Bell, owner of the Druidstone in Pembrokeshire, wife, mother, grandmother and friend to so many (including me) died on 12 August after a battle against pancreatic cancer.
Hundreds of people came to the hotel yesterday from all across the world to celebrate a lady who has spent the last 40 years creating the most remarkable place many of us have known.