Make sure you register to vote

This is it! 20th April is your last chance to make sure you can vote at the UK general election

Time has almost run out to register to vote ahead of May’s polls, warns the Electoral Commission. The deadline to register to vote is midnight on Monday 20th April. Anyone who submits an application after that date will not be eligible to vote at the 2015 general election.

There have been more than 1.7 million applications to register to vote in the past five weeks. More than 1.5 million (1,563,176) have been made online at and approximately 170,000 have been paper applications. Almost 470,000 online applications (469,871) have come from 16-24 year olds.

Commission research indicates, however, that millions of people remain unregistered.

Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said:

“This is your last chance to register to vote if you want to make your voice heard on 7th May. It takes just a few minutes to apply to register online, so do it now.

“We don’t want anyone to miss out, but if you miss the deadline on 20th April and then try to vote you will be turned away from the polling station on election day. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you.”

Data taken from the Government’s Digital Service shows that since 16th March:

  • The day with the highest number of online applications so far was yesterday (16th April) with 110,000 applications, the same day the BBC aired the debate with opposition leaders.
  • The day with the next highest number of online applications was Monday 30th March. That coincided with the start of the official General Election campaign period and the dissolution of parliament.
  • Following a request by the Commission for Broadcasters to include registration information in key election programming, visits to during yesterday’s debate on the BBC were averaging around 2,000 before increasing to almost 25,000 after the host gave information on how to register. During the leaders’ debate on ITV on 2 April, visits increased to 12,500 after the host provided registration information.

The deadline to register to vote is midnight, Monday 20 April.

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Carrot and beetroot fritters with Greek cheese and chive salad, by Michael Rowland

I thought the winter would never end. I have been itching to get in the garden and I’m looking far too pale for my liking. It is with great pleasure therefore that spring has appeared to have sprung off rather quickly and has landed in summer. Happy days. While it might not quite be warm enough for barbecues and beer gardens, it is certainly time for sunny salads.

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One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns… pudding

It was once thought that keeping a crossed bun from one Good Friday to the next would bring you good luck. But if, like me, you don’t flinch when a black cat crosses your path then this super simple recipe using left over crossed buns may be for you. As Stevie Wonder says ‘Superstition ain’t the way’…

By Michael Rowland

You will need:

A little bit of butter for lubrication

4 crossed buns that are past their best

3 large free range eggs

300ml double cream

300ml of milk (full fat if you’re crazy, semi if you’re sane, skimmed if you’re crazy)

½ tea spoon of vanilla extract

Caster Sugar (as much as you like)

The zest of an orange

This will serve two normal people or 3 to 4 polite people…

Find an oven proof dish that will fit your slightly stale crossed buns snugly and grease with your butter. Slice each bun in 2 and arrange the bottom half of your buns in the dish.

Whisk the eggs, cream and milk until it resembles a thin custard and then mix in the vanilla extract and orange zest. Pour over half of the mixture, pop the top half of the bun on top and cover with the remaining custard. Leave to stand at room temperature for 20-25 minutes (30 if you aren’t in a rush) allowing your buns to absorb the mixture.

Heat your oven to 170C / 150C fan / Gas 3. Sprinkle a liberal amount of caster sugar and add a little more orange zest according to taste to the top of your buns and you’re ready to bake. 30-40 minutes should do it. Stand for a few minutes once out of the oven and serve (with ice cream if you’re feeling frivolous).

Happy Easter

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INDIA: The Tropical South  

India 1

Journalist Nigel Heath of Mitchel Troy overcame initial doubts to enjoy a fabulous holiday in South India

Don’t let the fear of ‘Delhi Belly’  or any other vague concerns ever put you off visiting India.

This huge and exotic subcontinent, once the jewel in the crown of the British Empire and the subject of so many romantic tales, may be somewhere you have often thought one really should visit.

If so then overcome those initial concerns and treat yourself to one of the best cultural experiences you are ever likely to enjoy.

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‘There will be some healthy dishes, and some not so healthy…’

Michael Rowland

Hello. Welcome to my blog. My name is Michael Rowland, nice to meet you.
I’m 32 and living in Worcester. I am a self confessed ‘foodie’ and this is probably all you need to know. However, if you really are interested, I present a weekly local radio show, enjoy music and cinema, long walks and I am a massive rugby fan. By which I mean I really really like rugby, not that I am some kind of humongous 60 stone giant. I could probably do with losing a few pounds but then couldn’t we all…

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My Work Was Love Made Visible – a book review by Laura Watkins

Before reading John Hanner’s novel, I was confused as to how a tale about a tree surgeon’s career could warrant the above title.

It was only after I read the book that I understood. Mr Hanner’s work didn’t just involve caring for trees but actively loving his family, a job in itself.

Mr Hanner’s commitment to his wife and three daughters, while balancing his dangerous career, is a poignant reflection point, especially in the modern hustle and bustle of our own lives.

His work, where he very often risked his life to protect and preserve trees, really was love made visible.

Mr Hanner’s book takes us on a journey from his humble beginnings at Tynycae farm, Llanbadoc to countries around the world.

His career has taken him to Rome, Nepal, Finland, Japan, Ethopia and even to Iraq and Iran at war time.

The book is poetically written and Mr Hanner often makes references to the love of his precious Wales.

A perfect little read for those interested in a local man’s adventures.

The book can be purchased from Lindwalls newsagents, Usk and Raglan post office.

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Best Volunteer Award Vote NOW!

Donna Saunders

Markel UK, the specialist charity insurer and Small Charities Coalition, the support organisation for small charities, have announced the return of Britain’s Best Volunteer award for 2015, to reward those who volunteer their time to help small, local charities, community groups and not-for-profit organisations.

The nominations for Britain’s Best Volunteer have now closed, and the voting stage has begun, with a set very deserving finalists who have gone above and beyond the call of duty this year to make a difference in people’s lives. Continue reading

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Monmouthshire’s schools celebrate St David’s Day

Schools across Monmouthshire celebrated St David’s Day with competitions, Eisteddfods and crafts.

At the Dell Primary School, Chepstow, pupils dressed up in Welsh costume on Monday (2nd March), with Year 5 pupil Curtis Warburton winning the title of bard for his winning poem.

Monmouth Comprehensive School pupil, Katy Mather, was chaired as best poet from Years 7, 8 and 9 at their St David’s Day Eisteddfod. Katy’s chosen poem was entitled Fy Arwr (My Her0), in which she discussed how authors were her heroes.

The Eisteddfod at Monmouth Comprehensive School hosted the first chairing ceremony using the school’s new, handmade chair donated by Mr and Mrs Clarke (pictured with Katy).

Over at Usk Primary School pupils enjoyed their celebrations dressed up in traditional Welsh costume on Monday 2nd March.

Cross Ash School was filled with exquisite food and amazing crafts for their St David’s Day celebrations. The corridor walls were decked with beautiful artwork, sketches, handwriting and stories. Children were informed of the outcome of their hard work at a special assembly with certificates for those who achieved first, second and third places.

Historical sites including Raglan Castle and Tintern Abbey opened their doors to visitors free of charge on Sunday.

“The day went absolutely brilliantly,” said Pascal Bidois, manager of Tintern Abbey.

“There were 800 plus visitors to the site and it couldn’t have been better.”

Secretary of State Stephen Crabb, in his official St David’s Day message, said: “St David’s Day is a time for us to celebrate all that is great about Wales – from our entrepreneurial spirit and rich culture to our historic landmarks and warm welcome.

“Many will be celebrating our national day by embracing the traditions that make Wales the ambitious, confident and outward-looking nation that it is today.”

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Could you help Riley find love this Valentine’s?

STAFF at Dogs Trust Bridgend are hoping this Valentine’s Day will bring a lifelong female companion for 11-year-old Riley who is on the hunt for a family home which he can share with a gentle female dog.
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Try to drink responsibly during Six Nations

Tonight sees the start of the 2015 Six Nations Tournament which is widely followed throughout Wales and the UK, and is a time where people come together in pubs and clubs to watch the matches.

Gwent Police is reminding fans to think about their behaviour and the consequences of drinking too much on a Friday, Saturday or even Sunday night during the Six Nations tournament.

During the tournament weekends, Gwent Police will be working with partners to tackle and prevent alcohol-related crime and disorder in town centres. Officers have been contacting licensees to remind them of their role and responsibilities in serving alcohol responsibly. Licensees are also being encouraged to check that their CCTV systems are working correctly.

During the tournament, Police and Trading Standards will also be visiting licensed premises to check that all door staff are SIA (Security Industry Authority) approved, the premises are safe and adhering to the licensing conditions.

Local officers will be working to provide an increased presence in the town centres to deter any crime and disorder on match days. They will also be joined by partner agencies and volunteers such as Street Pastors, a group of volunteers who offer care and support to people on nights out.

Gwent Police will be also be working closely with Council CCTV operators to monitor town centres and look out for any incidents of disorder.

Officers are also reminding those out in bars and clubs to take extra care when out and keep personal possessions safe and secure. This can include: not leaving bags over the back of a chair and keeping wallets and purses close to your body when in pubs, to be discreet when using mobile phones and put them away as soon as you have finished using them and don’t carry more money than you need. Those out enjoying the Six Nations are also reminded to ensure that they have plans in place to get home safely at the end of the evening.

Assistant Chief Constable Lorraine Bottomley said: “We want those going out to enjoy the Six National Tournament to do so safely and without causing problems for themselves or others. We will be out across Gwent keeping people safe and making sure people are able to enjoy their evenings.

“As always our advice is clear, if you are drinking during the Six nations weekends period do so responsibly, look after your friends, and ensure you have a safe way planned for getting home.

“Additional officers will be deployed to help deal with the increased numbers of people who are out. Whilst we are clear that our role will be to help people have a safe and enjoyable evening, I would remind anyone who is out and intent on causing any problems for others we won’t tolerate any anti-social or threatening behaviour. Anyone who misbehaves or seeks to spoil things for others can expect to be dealt with by the Police.”

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