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Are you surviving or thriving?  That’s the question at the heart of this year’s national campaign organised by the Mental Health Foundation to raise awareness of the struggles many people face on a daily basis throughout the UK.

One of the key aspects of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is looking at what steps we can take to better look after our mental health, and at Aneurin Leisure, we have a broad range of services that are perfectly suited to help people to thrive.

Here are some useful tips on how to improve your mental health and help you to thrive rather than just survive, along with some suggestions on how Aneurin Leisure can help: -

  1. Be Active
The benefits of regular exercise are well known; not only does it improve your health and wellbeing and reduce your risk of major illnesses, but it also promotes all kinds of positive changes in the brain, including neural growth and new activity programmes that promote feelings of calm and wellbeing.

Regular exercise also releases a whole host of natural hormones that can improve the quality of your sleep, boost your mood, enhance your concentration and make you feel more motivated.

At Aneurin Leisure, our three Sports Centres offer a wide range of exercise possibilities for people of all ages and fitness levels; whether you’d like to enjoy a refreshing swim, join a group exercise class, take to the gym or even play a game of badminton or football with friends.

Find out more at

  1. Read a Book
It’s been scientifically proven that curling up with a good book is not only an enjoyable pastime, but it can also have a positive impact on your mental and emotional health.  According to a recent study by the University of Sussex, individuals who read for just six minutes exhibited slower heart rates, less muscle tension and reduced stress levels.

The benefits of reading to promote good mental health are so well known that doctors in the UK have adopted ‘Books on Prescription’ to aid patients with anxiety and depression.

If you’re looking for your next great read, our six Libraries throughout Blaenau Gwent provide a huge and varied range of free books, e-books and e-magazines suitable for people of all ages and interests.  Our Better with Books scheme also supports children and families, providing a range of titles which are available on a number of topics including behaviour problems, bullying, starting school, sadness, confidence and self-esteem etc.

Find out more at

  1. Take a Break
Something as simple as a change of scene or pace is good for your mental health, and the great outdoors is an excellent place to start since research has shown that time spent in natural habitats can improve your self-esteem and mood.

A report published last year by Natural England even demonstrated that taking part in nature based activities helps people who are suffering from mental health issues and can contribute to a reduction in levels of anxiety, stress and depression.

At Aneurin Leisure we have two country parks that provide a diverse choice of landscapes to explore, from the beautifully maintained lawns and flowerbeds of Bedwellty House & Park to the stunning lakeside views and woodland trails of Parc Bryn Bach.

But if you’re looking for more than just a scenic walk, there are also lots of hidden treasures to be found at our parks.  You can take your relaxation a little further at Bedwellty House and venture into our cosy Orchid House Tea Room for a spot of lunch or a delicious Afternoon Tea – find out more at  You can even embrace your wild side at Parc Bryn Bach and experience one of our thrilling Adventure Activities such as tandem paragliding, mountain biking, caving or watersports - find out more at
  1. Learn a New Skill
Not only is learning a new skill a great way to broaden your potential, but research shows that continuing to learn throughout your life can also improve your mental wellbeing. 

Learning can boost your self-confidence and self-esteem and help to build a sense of purpose, and since learning often involves interacting with other people it can also help us to make social connections and strengthen relationships.    

Learning doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go back to school as there are lots of ways to bring learning into your life, especially at Aneurin leisure.  Our Adult Community Learning service provides a wide range of courses to suit everyone, whether you’d like to improve your employment potential with some new qualifications, brush up on your IT skills or even learn a new hobby and get involved with a club.  Find out more at

If you’re looking for something a bit more active, you could even learn an exciting new skill such as kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, climbing or navigation with our fully qualified and experienced Parc Bryn Bach Adventure team.

  1. Do Something you Enjoy

What do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in?

It’s important to find time to do the fun things that you enjoy; not only does it allow you to invest some time in yourself, but it can provide balance to your life and a much needed distraction if things are getting on top of you.

Having fun is a great way to beat stress, and doing something you enjoy can help stop you from becoming unhappy and irritable.

So, why not enjoy a theatre show at The Met, invest some time into improving your fitness at our Sports Centres, go for a walk or get out for a spot of lunch with friends at one of our parks, maybe explore your interests and join a group at our Libraries or learn a new hobby at our Learning Action Centres - there’s lots to choose from!

To find out more about our full range of services at Aneurin Leisure visit our website at

If you’d like to know more about the Mental Health Foundation, the work they do or how you can get more involved in activities for Mental Health Awareness Week, please visit

Mental Health Awareness Week with AL

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Bank Holiday logo 2017
Here are the opening times for all our Aneurin Leisure venues on Monday 1st May 2017

Sunday 30th April

Monday 1st May

Abertillery Sports Centre


Adults 8.15am - 9am

Public 9am - 1pm

Swimming Lessons

8:30am - 9.30am

& 1pm - 4pm


8.30am – 4pm


Bedwellty House & Park

Open as normal

Open as normal

Ebbw Vale Sports Centre

Open as normal

Fitness Suite

8am - 4pm

Health Suite

8am - 3.30pm

Outdoor Pitches

8am - 4pm

Swimming Pool

10am - 3pm

Learning Action Centres






Parc Bryn Bach

Open as normal

Open as normal

The Met



Tredegar Sports Centre

Open as normal


All our venues will re-open as normal on Tuesday 2nd May 2017

For more information please contact:

Abertillery Sports Centre: 01495 357779      

Bedwellty House & Park: 01495 353370

Ebbw Vale Sports Centre: 01495 357777      

Parc Bryn Bach: 01495 355920          

Tredegar Sports Centre: 01495 353395
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Digital library banner

Blaenau Gwent Libraries have just launched an exciting new eBook service which enables library members to borrow a wide range of eBooks from the comfort of their own home, courtesy of a fantastic new free download service that’s available 24/7.

There are lots of eBooks to choose from, ranging from current best sellers to self-help books, classic fiction to travel guides.  You don't even have to worry about paying any late fees as the titles will automatically be removed from your device at the end of the loan period. 

The new service allows library members to borrow up to four eBooks at any one time for a period of three weeks, with downloads available for most devices, although not yet for Kindle e-book readers.

Did you know that as a library member you can also access over 250 top magazine titles which are available to download FREE to your e-reader, tablet, Smartphone, PC or Mac?

The E-zines service has hundreds of top magazine titles, available for you to download onto your computer or most mobile devices, enabling you to choose from titles covering health, fitness, sports, crafts, gardens, music, computers and many more topics.

If you’re not currently a member of your local library, joining couldn’t be easier as you can now register on-line at

Once you’ve become a library member, you will be issued with a PIN number by the library staff, which will enable you to access the eBook and e-zines service.

For more information pop into your local library or contact them on: -

Abertillery Library 01495 355646                  Cwm Library 01495 370454

Blaina Library 01495 290312                         Ebbw Vale Library 01495 355055

Brynmawr Library 01495 357743                   Tredegar Library 01495 357869

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If you ever needed an excuse to try the incredible sport of SUP (stand up paddle boarding) which we have been developing at Parc Bryn Bach as part of our exciting Adventure Activity programme, then read on!
I have been in search of a winter SUP location for some time; looking for a chance to leave the grey damp and cold UK weather behind to paddle with some warmth on my back during the winter.  
Ibiza has never really registered with me as an adventure location, but a few months ago I was delivering a 3 Star BCU Kayaking Course and met a representative of Kayak Ibiza.  Over the 3 day course Lauren, one of the Ibiza Guides, persuaded me that I needed to visit the island to discover what it has to offer as a SUP adventure location. 
I decided to take the plunge and started to investigate flight and car hire options and was amazed at the low cost deals on offer; the return flight with my board cost just £45 and I booked 5 days car rental for £23.
After a two hour flight from Bristol, we made our final approach to the island and were flying so low that you could get a real picture of what Ibiza has to offer, I found myself already scouting out routes before the plane had even landed.
Stepping outside the airport was like stepping into another world after the cold of our British Winter, I had the sun on my back and quickly got rid of my winter skin, changing into my shorts, T shirt, flip flops and shades ready for the drive to the accommodation.
I had booked an apartment in Portinatx, which is situated on the north west tip of the island; I was initially worried that this would be too far north, as I was anticipating paddling in the south but I soon realized that you are only ever a 40 minute drive from any part of the island, which gives you 360 degree access to the stunning Ibiza coast line.  The accommodation was great and directly overlooked the bay of Portinatx, again at this time of year I only paid £65 for 4 night’s accommodation.
A short drive from Portinatx is Sant Jaun, a small village which dates back to the 16 century and has a church at its focal point, with a few cafés and restaurants where I had arranged to meet Lauren. We discussed the followings days paddling over a few ‘Café con leche’ (coffee with milk) which I grew very fond of during the trip.
That evening I was so excited about the thought of the next few days paddling that I decided to try and get a cheeky little hour at one of the bays I had spotted on my way to St Jaun.  Logistics on Ibiza is extremely easy with all the bays being well sign posted and providing easy access to the water’s edge.
Xyclar Bay is situated near to Portinatx and faces west with beautiful turquoise waters and a small cluster of islands which make for some interesting exploring. 
On this trip I had taken a Jobe 11 6" Expedition SUP board, which is ideal for coastal touring with storage on the back and front, it’s light and extremely maneuverable and able to cut through any chop for a smooth glide. 
The first thing I noticed on launching into the calm Mediterranean Sea was the clarity of the water; I had full visibility straight down for over 50 feet in some parts, which gave an incredible view of the sea life below.  It was literally like flying over another world, I had limited time to spend in the bay as the sun was starting to set, providing more amazing views, so as I paddled back to the beach I felt like the luckiest person on the island and was completely psyched for the next few days. 

SUP Ibiza 1 copy

Struggling to sleep that evening, I woke early and packed my paddling gear into the hire car and headed towards Ibiza town to meet up with Lauren for a coffee at Talamanca Bay, where my first taste of sea touring on Ibiza would begin. 
In season, Talamanca Bay is packed with tourists, but at this time of year its quiet with a few locals exercising and enjoying the early season sunshine.  The bay looks onto Ibiza Old Town, which is a stunning settlement from 654B.C.  The Carthaginians discovered Ibiza and founded Ibiza Town, making this one of the earliest towns in Europe.  They christened the town Ibossim, quite similar to its present day name, the town is encapsulated within city walls with narrow cobbled streets, a must to visit if you’re in Ibiza!
The journey we had planned was from Talamanca Bay to Sestanyol Bay, stopping there for lunch to enjoy a swim and a bite to eat.  I tagged onto an organized trip lead by Paulo, the owner of Kayak Ibiza, and Lauren who were accompanied by 10 Americans in sea kayaks; I was the only SUP on this trip and had a few strange looks when I was inflating my green machine on the beach. 
We headed out from the beach and I paddled out with Paulo, as this was my first opportunity to chat to him about the area, sea conditions and safety.  Paulo is originally from South America but has lived in Ibiza for many years and is extremely experienced with a wealth of knowledge on sea touring around the island and an in-depth knowledge from a geological and ecological perspective, and also happens to be a great guy!
The paddling was amazing, with rugged limestone cliffs revealing a mixture of limestone and igneous rock folding to form some amazing rock structures.  There were some small caves to play in and as expected, amazing visibility levels down to the sea bed.  The temperature was perfect for paddling with a warm 18-20 degrees with a gentle breeze, sea conditions were flat and calm in the bays with a little chop further afield, but nothing to affect the SUP. 

SUP Ibiza 2 copy

On returning to Talamanca Bay after a 4 hour adventure, I was treated to a sea food feast at one of the bay restaurants which was amazing and consisted of fresh fish caught that day!

At lunch we discussed the best plan of attack for the rest of the day as the wind had picked up slightly, owing to the thermic sea breeze which generally happens between 1pm and 4pm on the island.  One of the amazing things about this island is that there is always somewhere to shelter from prevailing conditions, which means you can always paddle.  We decided to head further south and paddle from Salinas, which is quite possibly one of the most iconic of all Ibiza beaches. 

Las Salinas is a long expanse of soft golden sand surrounded by a nature reserve including sand dunes, pine forests and spectacular salt flats.  The sea is particularly salty here, which makes it incredibly easy to stay afloat when swimming, with an old pirate look out point perched on the peninsular guarding the bay.  We headed out from the bay following the coastline south, this journey felt a little more remote as the height of the cliffs started to increase, which gave a real sense of remoteness and adventure.  Every turn brought breathtaking scenery and as the sun started to set I was treated to more spectacular views.

SUP Ibiza 3 copySUP Ibiza 4 copy

Over the next couple of days I was treated to some of the best touring routes that Ibiza has to offer courtesy of help and advice from Kayak Ibiza. I think one of the trip highlights for me was from Cala Salada out and around Ses Margalides Island.  This was a real treat for me, paddling solo with no sight of anyone or anything accept a multitude of cormorants diving around me and even sightings of dolphins in the distance.  
The clarity of the water is amazing and I was told by Paulo that this is due to the Sea Grass that surrounds the island, "Posidonia Oceanica" (commonly known as Neptune Grass) is a species that is endemic to the Mediterranean Sea and filtrates the salt water, producing crystal blue and turquoise seas around the island, a SUP dream!
After a 6 hour paddle I arrived back at the beach to sit in the shade and enjoy some fresh bread, olives and cheese, which I had purchased in one of the many Spanish villages that exist around the island. 

SUP Ibiza 5 copySUP Ibiza 6 copySUP Ibiza 7 copy

The Island is rich in history and has a plethora of hidden beaches which are only accessible by boat or SUP, and there are many hidden gems such as Moon Beach.

SUP Ibiza 8 copy

I also visited the infamous Benirras Beach, famous for its hippy colony and the magnificent drumming parties which take place there. Just around the corner from this beach is the impressive S'Orenga Caves which are completely inaccessible from the land, they provide a spectacular backdrop treating you to a blast of multi coloured reef which really stands out in the calm waters.
SUP Ibiza 9 copy
I was really impressed by Ibiza, not only the spectacular SUP options and the cleanliness of the island, but the extreme friendliness of the locals with nothing being too much trouble.  The Island is far more than a party island and during March and April it provides an excellent winter get away with warm weather and isolated paddling that gives a real sense of adventure. 
Every corner you turn on this amazing coastline gives breathtaking scenery, crystal clear waters and solitude.  The island has a very multi-cultural feel to it, with a definite hint of South America and Polynesia.  There are some great places to eat and the food I experienced was truly amazing. 
I would like to thank Lauren and Paulo from Kayak Ibiza for their kind hospitality; making me feel at home on the island and treating me to some of the best SUP touring I have ever experienced.  I will be returning to the island later this month for more paddling adventures and look forward to catching up with these guys. 
Parc Bryn Bach will be running some SUP adventures to Ibiza next year; dates and prices will be available shortly on our faceook page and website.  As well as SUP, there will also be additional guided activities on offer such as sea kayaking and walking, as the island has some amazing scenic walks. 
For more information visit our website at or our facebook page at

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Tree Planting Montage

The last couple of months have seen some very environmentally friendly changes taking place to the landscape at Parc Bryn Bach thanks to a grant from the Postcode Lottery.

Working in partnership with Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, Groundwork Wales and Western Power, Aneurin Leisure have embarked on an ambitious tree planting project at Parc Bryn Bach to improve the biodiversity at the park, and provide sustainable habitats for a variety of local wildlife.

So far, the planting teams have braved all manner of weather conditions and worked with children from local schools at Bryn Bach Primary School and St Joseph R.C. Primary School as well as members of the public and a community group organised by Tai Calon.

In total 2000 native trees, consisting of a mixture of Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Hazel, Dog Rose, Holly, Field Maple and Crab Apple will be planted at various sites throughout Parc Bryn Bach’s 340 acres of parkland.  This mix was chosen as it will provide valuable shelter and nesting areas for birds and hedgehogs, along with sources of food for the birds and pollinating insects.

The grant from the Postcode Lottery has also enabled staff at Parc Bryn Bach to work with Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council to install two bee hives on one of the island’s at the centre of the lake, as well as a variety of bat and bird boxes, which will all contribute to improving the biodiversity of the country park and aid with local conservation efforts.

Anthony Hughes, Managing Director of Aneurin Leisure said of the project: “We are very grateful to the Postcode Lottery for the generous funding that we have received for this project and to Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and Groundwork Wales for their invaluable support.”

Nadine Morgan, Biodiversity Officer for Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council said: I am thrilled to be part of the project which is striving to further enhance the biodiversity value of the park through activities such as installing bee hives, planting native trees and installing bird and bat boxes. The project has been fantastic at engaging the local schools in the tree planting, creating a valuable unique learning experience whilst also raising awareness about the importance of the local biodiversity and encouraging them to be more active outside.”

Hywel Tanner-Jones of Groundwork Wales added: "Groundwork Wales is excited to be a part of this partnership which has seen the planting of 2000 native trees at Parc Bryn Bach this winter.  Groundwork Wales has received a grant from Western Power to replant native trees in the communities of South Wales where we work, helping to make them Vibrant and Viable Places to live.

It has been great to work with so many young people from schools and the surrounding area who braved some very wet and windy conditions to get the trees planted.  Parc Bryn Bach is also an ideal location for a planting project of this scale as we know that the trees will be well maintained in the future."

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