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OF OUR VALLEY

Why this branch of Greggs in Merthyr has been named the best in Wales and the West

They beat more than 400 other branches

Sheltered in a shopping precinct in the Valleys, one of Merthyr Tydfil ’s Greggs shops has beat more than 400 branches of the bakery chain’s stores to be crowned “Best in the West”.

Under cover in St Tydfil Shopping Centre – the town’s shopping precinct in the town centre – customers who were after a warm bite to eat, a sweet treat or a cup of something hot to take the edge off the chilly temperatures were almost queuing out of the door just hours before Wales took on England in the Six Nations.

With around a dozen happy customers sitting inside and having a natter and a catch-up, there was certainly plenty of noise in the cosy shop, with the sound of tongues wagging, coins tinkering as customers paid for their goods and the sound of the team working to get hot food out as fast as possible.

Chatting, stirring, crunching, sipping – it was all going on as men, women, children, friends and family popped in to pick up something to keep them going, or something to save for later.

Certainly reminiscent to scenes at countless Greggs shops up and down Wales, no doubt – this one has claimed bragging rights for being at the top of their game, being crowned by the food-on-the-go retailer, beating 435 other shops in the region.

The shop at New Market Walk received the accolade based on their excellent all-round performance during the past year, including outstanding customer service, excellent shop sales and profit controls, as well as great teamwork.

Now in its seventh year, the competition saw 1,700 Greggs shops across the country compete for the title of Best in the UK.

Shops were awarded points on a weekly basis across a number of categories, and those entering the final rounds of the competition received up to six unannounced visits by regional management teams, as well as head of central retail operations, Mike Kavanagh, and retail director Raymond Reynolds, to assess their standards.

Paula Wooldridge, manager of Greggs in St Tydfil Shopping Centre, has worked for the bakery chain for 12 years.

First starting in Abergavenny, she moved to one of Merthyr’s branches around 10 years ago – and saw the shop relocate from a unit in the shopping centre to its current space three years ago.

Paula sums up the reaction to the award by saying they just aim to be the best – and credits teamwork and happy customers to being part of their success.

She said: “I think we work really, really well as a team. We do try our hardest to get 100% for our mystery shopper visits – it’s our jobs.

“It’s really, really hard and I just think they want to be the best.

“I’m absolutely delighted we’ve won! This is a great accomplishment for our team and we’ll continue to do our best in providing an excellent service for our customers.”

On the people they serve day in, day out, she said: “They are so nice and so friendly. I love chatting to our customers, and we’ve got an amazing team.”

The team at the shop is made up of 12 members of staff – ranging from part-time to full-time and Saturday staff.

“I’m so grateful for my team. We all do work really well as a team.”

On why Greggs appeals to so many people in the area, she said: “The value for money, the food, the freshness.

“We make it on our premises – you can’t get much fresher!

“We’re just amazed we’ve come so far. We have fantastic customers that come to our shop.”

Caroline Binks, who’s worked for Greggs for around 17 years, added: “They’ve got really good benefits, good rewards. We can have a laugh and joke with our customers, they’re marvellous.”

After the team were crowned on Monday, January 23, at a ceremony in Newcastle, they’ve since received praise from local customers and various managers across Greggs.
Their bosses think they're the best thing since sliced bread

Raymond Reynolds, retail director at Greggs, said: “This is an incredible achievement by Paula and all of her colleagues.

“It’s obvious how much they enjoy serving their local community and how committed they are to delivering the highest operational standards consistently.

“This award celebrates the excellent retail standards the team have created, they should all be extremely proud of themselves, just as we are to have them in our business.”

 

Google Street View brings stunning Merthyr Tydfil beauty spots to the entire world

You can now view places like Cyfarthfa Castle and park, Taf Fechan Nature Reserve and Morlais Quarry online in 360 degree beauty

You can now see stunning views from around Merthyr Tydfil, including Pontsticill Reservoir, on Google Streetview

Stunning Merthyr Tydfil scenery is now no longer a secret, and can be explored online by the entire world.

That’s thanks to teams from Google, who have spent hours carrying their Trekker device around local beauty spots capturing scenes such as Cyfarthfa Castle and park, Taf Fechan Nature Reserve and Morlais Quarry in 360 degrees.

It means as well as using Google Streetview to familiarise yourself with somewhere in Merthyr Tydfil before getting there, you can now bask in the beauty of these amazing, picturesque spots at any time.

It comes after the Google Trekker Loan Programme accepted Merthyr Tydfil council ’s bid to highlight the local scenery and heritage online.

And the locations in the winning bid also include the Ironworks and Viaduct, Gurnos Tramroad and Leat, Taff Trail, Parc Taf Bargoed, Pontsticill and Brecon Mountain Railway.

A Merthyr council spokeswoman said: “Staff carried the Google Trekker, a specialist off-road rucksack camera used to capture images on foot, around paths and trails in relays because of the awkward shape and heavy weight, which made for some interesting and curious looks from passers-by!”

To see the locations, click onto Google Maps and drag and drop the yellow peg man on to the required paths.

 

Merthyr Half Marathon 2017: Everything you need to know about this year's run

More than 1,000 runners - including Shane Williams - are expected at the starting line

Wales rugby legend Shane Williams will dust off his running shoes to take part in the Merthyr Half Marathon this spring.

The event, in its third year in this format and set to take place on March 26, again hopes to see more than 1,000 people take part, and promises this year to be bigger and better than ever.

In 2015, Julien MacDonald opened proceedings , while last year the race boasted Andy Powell and Lee Selby and the charitable event has so far donated £1,600 to Velindre Cancer Centre.

Before 2015's race, no events of this type had been held in more than 20 years, and organiser Sarah Draper said: "Each year we are blown away with the support at the race. So many local people come out to cheer the runners on, its always an electric atmosphere."

When is the deadline for applying?

March 20, 2017. Entries can be made in advance only, and organisers have urged people to sign up as soon as possible, because places are going quickly.

What is the route?

It will take runners from Merthyr College down the Trevithick Trail then on to the Taff trail and back up to Merthyr, a "scenic trail" route around the area.

It's a 13.1 mile route, and there will be a water stop around every three miles.

Is there anyone who will help me train for it?

What extras are on offer this year?

Those taking part will get a medal, t-shirt and goody bag.

How much does it cost?

For affiliated runners, it's £23 and for unaffiliated, it's £25.

What is the schedule for the day?

The main race will begin from outside Merthyr College at 10am. Before that, kids' races will get underway with the start times staggered for each age group. Children running can enter the race on the day.

How Merthyr Half Marathon winning teacher Matthew Jacklin inspired his school to get running

What did the organisers say?

Sarah Draper said: "We are so looking forward to this years race and think it will be the best one yet. We have many new running entering plus those that are aiming to do a hat trick. It’s a very proud day for Merthyr with so many spectators attending to support the runners.

"Our aim has always been to make it affordable and fun to attract those that wouldn’t necessarily enter a half marathon. Its such a great achievement to be proud of."

Like last year, she expects a good welcome from local people and will try to attract a large crowd of spectators with a number of other attractions for those not running.

And about landing Shane Williams?

It's not Williams' first long distance run, and has in the past taken part in the London Marathon, Cardiff Half Marathon as well as IronMan Wales.

Ms Draper added: "We’re absolutely thrilled that Shane Williams MBE has agreed to attend and also run the race. He was really impressed with our Merthyr Girls Can campaign we offer so was happy to help out. Hes bringing some friends along to run it too and they very much looking forward to trying out the route along our beautiful trails. Its going to be a great day!"

 

Music & NightlifeMerthyr Tydfil

A major new punk exhibition is to be held in Merthyr.

Celebrating 40 years of anarchy and chaos, Punk Forever will see Merthyr artist and punk collector Gerrion Jones stage an exhibition of original artwork by Jamie Reid, James Cauty and Billy Childish at the Redhouse arts centre in the town centre.

The exhibition, which runs from January 21 to February 21, features some of the most iconic imagery associated with the first wave of Punk in 1977, with original Jamie Reid artwork and posters for the Sex Pistols, The Clash and others who were shaking up the music and fashion establishment 40 years ago.

The exhibition expands into the present day with more recent work by James Cauty and Billy Childish, displaying the same sharp wit and vitriolic political commentary that made punk rock so appealing.

Anarchy in the UK: It's 40 years since a single heralded the arrival of the punk revolution

Gus Payne, Arts Officer at Redhouse, Merthyr said he was hugely excited at the prospect of the forthcoming Punk Forever exhibition.

“As a celebration of 40 years of punk, we’re thrilled at the Redhouse to be able to show local art collector, Gerrion Jones exhibition Punk Forever.

“The Punk Rock spirit spoke directly to the young people living in communities up and down the valleys, so its great to be able to show this

unique collection of work at the Redhouse.

“The exhibition is made up of just some of Gerrion’s collection, featuring some of the most iconic imagery associated with the first wave of punk in 1977, with original Jamie Reid artwork and posters for the Sex Pistols, The Clash and others who were storming the music and fashion scene 40 years ago.”

Punk Forever will be held at the Redhouse from January 21, 2017 to February 21, 2017. To find out more about the exhibition visit: www.redhousecymru.com/events/punk-forever

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