0800 652 3371

Funding Legal Costs

During consultation with the judiciary and legal profession prior to the Government’s drastic cuts to family Legal Aid in 2013, many voiced concerns that the costs ‘saved’ on legal aid would simply be passed across to be borne by the Courts, directly and in practical terms, as they fought valiantly to deal with a deluge of unrepresented litigants.

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One party to fund the other party's legal costs

The Courts have adopted practices and systems for trying to help them without putting them at an unfair advantage over people paying for legal services, but there will always be situations where it is manifestly vital that a party has access to legal advice, even when they do not qualify for the very restricted Legal Aid still available, or do not have recourse to funds of their own.

In certain family law situations the courts can make orders where it is clear one party has the resources to fund their own representation and the other party does not, requiring one party to pay to fund the other party’s ongoing legal costs and, in some cases, costs they have already incurred.

The Courts will not treat such an application lightly and will need to be satisfied that the person seeking the Order has no reasonable access to other sources of funding such as credit cards, loans, savings or an asset against which borrowing could be secured.

Additionally their representative is expected to be very clear in the budget they present to the Court and the reasonableness of any intended course of action set out in that budget is likely to be scrutinised closely.

The Court does also have some powers to order the sale of assets prior to the final decision being made, to provide or free up future funds.

Lanyon Bowdler are very well-placed to assist clients in these circumstances.

We are one of a number of firms authorised by specialist and reputable litigation loan providers to carry out work funded by them. As such, we can assist a client to establish if they are eligible for the loan and, depending on the outcome, either work under the terms of the loan or provide firm evidence to the Court that a loan has been refused, as part of an application for an order for payment of their ongoing legal costs.

Likely to impress

Our unique pricing structure is likely to impress a judge faced with an application for such an order since the choice and flexibility of pricing options will give the Court a clear set of alternatives with which to work.

Our pricing is tailored to a clear breakdown of work likely to be required which also goes some way to assisting the Court to satisfy itself the proposed costs are reasonable to the needs of the case.

Planning Permission and Keeping Horses

In recent years development involving horses has become increasingly popular. Farm land and buildings are being sold or let to individuals hoping to use the land and buildings to keep their horses. What many individuals are unaware of is that this material change in use is likely to require planning permission.

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So what is development and what is a material change in use?

Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990), planning permission is required for any development (section 57[1], TCPA 1990). Development is defined as the “carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under the land or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land” (section 55[1], TCPA 1990). As such, there is a basic requirement for planning permission to be obtained if there is a material change of use of any buildings or land. However, the term ‘material’ is not defined by the TCPA 1990 and there is a substantial amount of case law on what constitutes a material change in use and what does not.

Some examples of what would constitute a material change of use are set out below:

  1. Use of land or buildings to keep horses for recreational use;

  2. Use of land or buildings to keep horses for commercial use;

  3. The erection of buildings to shelter horses or horsiculture equipment;

  4. The erection of buildings for the purpose of exercising horses.

Agricultural v Recreational

The Court has held that the term in the statutory definition of agriculture referring to the breeding and keeping of livestock does not apply to the breeding and keeping of horses (except in connection with any farming use). Therefore, unless the horses are simply turned out to the land with a view to feeding them from the land, it is likely that planning permission will be required.

Example

You purchase a plot of land from a local farmer intending to keep the family horses on, but the field is currently used by the farmer to graze sheep. If you use the field to house, graze and exercise the horses, will you need to seek planning permission?

Answer: Yes. As the horses will be exercised on the land planning permission is required.

What happens if you do not obtain planning permission?

Failure to obtain planning permission is commonly known as a ‘planning breach’.

It is likely that a retrospective planning application will have to be submitted if a planning breach has occurred. If this retrospective application fails then the Council can serve an enforcement notice which requires you to put things back to the way they were.

How can we help?

To avoid the risk of enforcement action you should always seek advice before carrying out any change of use or development. At Lanyon Bowdler we have a team of experienced planning solicitors who would be happy to discuss your proposals and advise on any planning queries you may have.

What is your Pet Hate?

We all have certain nuances in our lives that irk us to the extremes and no matter how we try to justify other people’s actions we fail to understand why they do what they do. Do they have no understanding that it is wrong or is it the usual attitude “it’s not my problem”.

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We could all adopt that philosophy and attitude to life but sadly it does not resolve the problem.

Convenient place to dump rubbish

I live in the heart of the countryside in an area of outstanding natural beauty and I feel blessed to have nature around me. Every morning I draw back my bedroom curtains and gaze in awe at the green and pleasant land before me.

I start my day with hope in my heart that everyone embraces the start of a new day as I do with excitement and expectation.

How delusional can I be? Within half a mile of leaving my delightful surroundings I suddenly realise that not everyone feels the same.

It is unfortunate that there are irresponsible, mindless individuals with a blatant disregard for our environment and for the welfare of wildlife and future generations as they regularly see a green space as a convenient place to ‘DUMP THEIR RUBBISH’.

Under the cover of darkness

Why do they do it? A question I ask myself every time I see a pile of rubble, bricks, plaster, a fridge, mattresses, old beds, settees etc. etc. on the side of the road, in a hedge, piled high in a layby, gateways, woodland anywhere and everywhere except the recycling sites strategically placed around the county with open access to all and at no charge to the general public.

I fail to understand their logic as to why they take the time to load the offending objects onto a vehicle to travel miles, usually under the cover of darkness, to dump their rubbish instead of taking it to the recycling centre the next day.

I am tired of picking up fast food cartons, paper bags, empty bottles, cans and other unseemly objects from the grass verge fronting my property. How convenient it is to the offenders to just open the car window and throw it out!

Fly tipping is illegal

It doesn’t matter how small or how large it may be, a sweet wrapper to an unwanted kitchen cupboard, think responsibly and dispose of it thoughtfully and legally in the designated place…A REFUSE BIN OR A RECYCLING SITE.

Fly tipping is the illegal deposit of waste on land contrary to Section 33(1) (a) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Landowners/farmers are liable for any waste that is fly-tipped on their land and can be prosecuted if they do not clear it away, often at a huge cost to their business. The waste poses a risk to livestock, wildlife and the environment.

There is no definitive answer to the escalating problem apart from penalising the offenders, if you can catch them, unfortunately this will not deter them as they will just dump their rubbish somewhere else. We need to look to the future and continue to educate the younger generations, encourage them to take more responsibility, learn to respect their environment and help to preserve it as they are the ones who will be living in it.

New Redress Scheme Regarding Birth Injuries

It has been announced by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt that there is a new scheme out for consultation. The Rapid Resolution Redress Scheme’s purpose would be to investigate any complaints from families who consider that their child has suffered a severe injury at birth.

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Many parents may welcome the scheme

The aim of the scheme is apparently to settle complaints quickly and to step away from a blame culture.

As many birth injury cases take over ten years to settle, many parents may welcome such a scheme, as an alternative to the legal route which can add stress at an already difficult time.

Claims would be assessed by investigators who are independent of the NHS Trust. Their findings would be put before a panel of both medical and legal experts who would then decide whether compensation was due, and if so, arrange for payments to be made.

Promote transparency

Using the scheme as a first port of call would not stop parents pursing a legal route should they be unhappy with the result of the investigation. Although, this would prove more time consuming than having approached a solicitor in the first instance.

Mr Hunt believes the scheme would promote transparency and that NHS staff would be able to speak more openly about mistakes made, and lessons learnt. Mr Hunt has stated that there would be £8m to assist in the training of midwives to improve the safety of maternity care.

However, with the shortage of midwives in the UK, perhaps some of the money would be better spent on employing permanent staff?

Would it be more beneficial to recruit?

Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital in Oswestry closed its maternity ward for six months earlier this month as there was not enough staff to keep it operating safely. Hospital bosses say that there is a national shortage of trained nursing staff.

Earlier this month it was also reported by the Royal College of Midwives that the NHS in England spent £25m on agency midwives last year which is more than double the figure for 2013. It found the total spending in 2015 on agency midwives, overtime and the NHS's flexible "bank" midwives was £72.7m.

Rather than providing a quicker route for obtaining compensation when a mistake has been made, would it not be more beneficial to concentrate on recruiting the appropriate level of permanent well trained staff so that mistakes are kept to a minimum?

It is of course sensible to have transparency, and to share knowledge across the Hospital Trusts to try and stop the same mistakes being made, but I believe that having enough well trained midwives on duty, would go a long way to reducing the amount of birth injuries that we currently have in the UK.

Understanding Lasting Powers of Attorney

Have you thought about who would look after your affairs if you had an accident, illness, or were unable to make decisions when they need to be made, for example because you lack the mental capacity to do so?

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Many people aren’t aware that if they were to lose their mental capacity, their loved ones cannot automatically access their bank accounts, or deal with their property, should they need to do so. Even the co-owner of a joint account, or joint property, cannot automatically deal with that joint account or property if their co-owner loses capacity.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) enables you to appoint one or more attorneys to act for you, either in respect of your Property and Affairs, or your Health and Welfare, or both.

By making LPAs, you are in control of who you appoint to be your attorneys. It can make it easier for your chosen attorneys to be able to deal with your affairs for you in the future, if you need them to do so. You might consider appointing family, close friends, or professionals, such as solicitors, to be your attorneys.

You must be 18 and have mental capacity in order to make your LPA/s.

An LPA (whether for Property and Affairs or for Health and Welfare), must be registered at the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used.

LPA (Property and Affairs)

Your LPA (Property and Affairs) gives your chosen attorneys the power to make decisions for you regarding your property and affairs, such as managing your bank or building society account, paying bills, or dealing with your property.

An LPA (Property and Affairs) can be used straight away, should you wish to do so. It may be that you do not feel up to dealing with your finances, or you may be travelling abroad for an extended period and need your attorneys to deal with your finances or a property transaction whilst you are away. In this situation, your LPA (Property and Affairs) can be used as soon as it has been registered at the Office of the Public Guardian, and only with your permission.

Alternatively, your LPA can be stored away (and we recommend storage at a solicitors’ office!) for use by your attorneys in the future, should you lose mental capacity in the future.

LPA (Health and Welfare)

An LPA (Health and Welfare) can only be used if and when you have lost mental capacity.

It allows your attorneys to make your decisions for you in respect of your daily routine and medical care, decisions as to where you might live, and – should you specify this in your LPA – decisions regarding life-sustaining treatment.

Contact us on 0800 652 3371 if you would like to discuss LPAs or find out more about them.

Debate-Ed Year Two

The Launch

Year Two of the award winning Debate-Ed Programme officially launched last week at Lanyon Bowdler’s Shrewsbury office.

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The launch event celebrated the success of the programme during Year One and set out the plan for Year Two. Students from Meole Brace and Shrewsbury Sixth Form College were welcomed to the event by Mayor Jones and Brian Evans, Lanyon Bowdler’s Managing Partner. The students were then asked to debate a number of controversial topics, such as whether parents should be allowed to take their children on holiday during term time and whether animal testing for cosmetic or medical purposes could be justified.

Public Speaking

Both Brian and the Mayor spoke about the trepidation many people feel when faced with public speaking. Even those who have to do it often, such as solicitors and barristers, can still find it a daunting experience, particularly when they are speaking to an unfamiliar audience. People often worry they will make a mistake when speaking and, ironically, this fear often results in the speaker becoming more tense or self-conscious, making mistakes more likely.

This is a fear I can empathise with as I still remember the fear I used to feel when, as a student, I had to speak in front of the class. The nerves would make my hands shake and I had to be careful not to let my voice shake as well. One tactic I established was to ensure I put my notes on a table in front of me as holding them would make the shakes more obvious and pronounced. Once the notes were on the table, I would hold my hands behind my back so that I would at least appear confident. For a long time I was simply pretending to be confident, but over time and with repeated exposure to public speaking, the confidence became more natural and, eventually, my hands stopped shaking. I became comfortable and happy speaking in public, which has helped me greatly at university, at work and in my social life.

Bringing Debating to Shropshire

Helping students across Shropshire to overcome this fear and to become more confident, comfortable speakers is one of the principal goals of the Debate-Ed programme. This is achieved by engaging students in fun workshops where the students have the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics and to practice their speaking skills in a constructive and encouraging environment. These workshops will be led by students from Shrewsbury Sixth Form College, giving them the opportunity to develop their teaching and leadership skills.

This year, the workshops will be delivered as a part of certain classes at Prestfelde School, Priory School and Meole Brace School for students from Years 7 to 9. The workshops will be delivered over a number of weeks, leading up to a debating competition in March 2017 which will be open to schools across Shropshire.

By March 2017, over 200 students will have been involved in debating workshops as part of the Debate-Ed Programme. This should help the students to develop their critical thinking, speaking and listening skills and their awareness of a range of topics including human rights, freedom of speech and feminism.

Legal 500 Success for the Team at Lanyon Bowdler

We are celebrating after 16 of our lawyers have been recommended in a leading independent guide of the country’s top legal professionals.

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The Legal 500 UK is the leading independent guide to law firms across the country and ranks the best legal professionals in specialist areas of law based on independent research and interviews with solicitors and clients.

Independent endorsement is critical

The firm is recommended in 14 practice areas in the most recent guide including recognition for our sector specialisms in agriculture and education, our specialist business services including corporate and commercial, dispute resolution, employment and property, as well as retaining top tier rankings for our specialist clinical negligence and personal injury teams.

We view independent endorsement as critical in helping clients to place their trust in us to look after their legal needs, and to receive this level of recognition, not just locally but across the West Midlands, is testament to the experience, knowledge and skill of our lawyers and their application of that for the benefit of clients.

It is a clear indication that our clients can be assured of getting the very best legal expertise when they come to us for advice.

Recognised for education and planning

We were pleased to have 11 of our solicitors named in the Legal 500 last year, so to have 16 included in the list this year is a great indication that we are continuing to develop our expertise to suit clients’ needs.

It is particularly pleasing to be recognised for our specialisms in education and planning for the first time, as these are areas where we have developed strong niches over the last 12 months.

Top tier for personal injury and medical negligence

It is also pleasing to see both our business and personal teams recommended across the board.

And of course we are delighted that clinical negligence and personal injury are once again in the top tier, which is tremendous achievement and demonstrates just how strong their specialisms are in high value, complex cases.

Overall the results are outstanding and I would like to congratulate everyone for their hard work.

The NHS Fails to Learn from Their Mistakes

There is no system in place in the UK for our hospital trusts to learn from each others’ mistakes.

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Devastating consequences

As a solicitor specialising in the field of clinical negligence, I act on behalf of patients who have suffered serious injury as a result of mistakes or omissions in the management or treatment of their condition/illness. Negligence from our healthcare system is rare but it can have devastating consequences.

We are all aware of the lack of resources facing the NHS and although the number of claims reported has declined over the past two years, the amount paid out in damages and costs for successful clinical negligence claims has increased. It is logical to suggest that if we can decrease the legal costs more can be spent on medical staff, equipment, training etc.

I am aware of the statistics that many patients who are injured, potentially, as a result of medical mistakes do not go to solicitors. Most people feel very uncomfortable at complaining or even thinking of bringing a claim against the NHS, although sometimes they have to because their lives have been effectively devastated and they are unable to work again or live with chronic pain and disability. Some of my clients feel guilty they are pursuing a claim but I advise them that clinical negligence claims play a very important role in ensuring that standards in healthcare are maintained, and mistakes are brought to the notice of practitioners so that they are not repeated, and that there is a learning curve to improve care in the long run.

No system in place to learn from each other

Imagine my shock when I discovered recently from a leading Civil Servant, who is involved in introducing the fixed costs scheme for clinical negligence claims, that there is no system whatsoever in the United Kingdom for the various NHS Trusts to learn from each others’ mistakes and so prevent further injury to patients.

This information appalled me because we see the same incidents of negligence repeated again and again followed by the same defences and yet resulting in an award for damages for the injured patient. Legal costs are effectively driven up by the NHS fighting cases which they have lost in the past. Some examples are failures to carry out the mandatory triple assessment when a woman presents with a breast lump, leading to a long delay in diagnosis and treatment, failures to check blood test results after a patient has been discharged from hospital and ensure that abnormalities are investigated, failures to err on the side of caution and proceed to emergency caesarean section in labour when there are signs of maternal infection and baby in distress, and failures in surgery to check that nicked internal organs are repaired before closing.

Apparently lessons learned from clinical negligence cases may be communicated within a hospital trust but are not shared amongst the other hospital trusts in the UK. So if a mistake injures a patient in Bournemouth the circumstances will not be communicated to Shrewsbury.

The NHS is surely fundamentally failing the public here

We all make mistakes all the time and the important thing is learning from them. This is something we tell our children from the age of infancy. The National Aviation Authority has mandatory occurrence reporting when something goes wrong. Learning from accidents and incidents is part of every safety professional’s toolkit and yet our own National Health System has no provision for this learning. It is the way we all improve. Mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before. If there are less mistakes there will be less claims and therefore legal costs will be reduced.

Instead the government is trying to reduce its legal costs bill by introducing fixed costs so that regardless of the amount of work undertaken, a solicitor will only be only entitled to a finite sum for their efforts to win a case, and maximise damages for the injured patient.

Many cases we abandon

In order to maintain profitability and remain in business, solicitors will have to ensure they work within the costs limits allowed rather than be paid for the work necessary on a case. I am afraid this will mean that it is not likely to be commercial for us to investigate and scrutinise the case in detail and question both lay and expert witnesses thoroughly, in order to obtain the best evidence. My department has been approaching cases like this for many years and consequently we win far more cases than the national average; we have a reputation for maximising damages and ‘going the extra mile’ for our clients. There are many cases that we abandon following investigation, because we discover the patient has been injured as a result of bad luck rather than negligence. Usually we are acting under a ‘no win no fee’ agreement and do not get paid for the work we have done in investigating the unsuccessful case.

Dropping cases due to lack of expert evidence is part of our work because although we are Law Society and AvMA panel specialist clinical negligence lawyers, we are not specialised doctors and we really only know whether a case is likely to be successful once we have instructed the correct medical expert who has the specific intrinsic knowledge to provide an opinion upon what went wrong in a particular case. For example, if a patient suffers paralysis because red flag symptoms were missed indicating urgent spinal surgery, you need to go to a Consultant Neurosurgeon with significant experience in operating in these circumstances.

The fact the government is putting its energy into effectively cutting legal fees available to injured patients, rather than firstly ensuring they learn lessons from the mistakes that are made time and time again, strikes me as a complete misunderstanding of the key issue causing the injuries in the first place.

Safety is a cheap and effective insurance policy

I have acted for a 40 year old mother of four children who was running a family business with her husband and was erroneously prescribed a huge overdose of high dose steroids which effectively left her disabled and in chronic pain for life, and requiring care and therapies for the remainder of her life.

I have acted for children who have sustained permanent brain injury because their deliveries were not managed properly and practitioners did not err on the side of safety.

I have acted for the families of many patients who have died due to negligent surgery, failure to recognise and treat sepsis, long delays in diagnosing cancer and even IV overdose of paracetamol in hospital leading to liver and multi organ failure.

Proud of our NHS

These claimants and their families were not after a “fast buck” by being litigious but their lives had been devastated by the injuries they shouldn’t have sustained.

As proud as we are of our NHS, we all know improvements can be made, but that will be far more difficult if we take away the opportunity of injured patients bringing claims which will compensate them for their injuries and at the same time, try and ensure the same mistakes are not made again.

This shocking fact is obviously not publicised but I feel strongly that the general public should know about the failure of the NHS to learn from their mistakes between hospital trusts. Real change could be achieved if a system is put in place so that medical staff, throughout the country, are made aware of what can go wrong so that it doesn’t happen again.

Solicitors are not popular and our grumbles are easily dismissed. However, this information affects everybody. I personally could live with losing my job if care in the NHS is improved.

Bank Holiday Weekend with the SARDA Wales Dogs

Back in July I inherited a cat (a long story). In recent years I have spent hours on Facebook with friends, sharing memes about cats, their odd behaviour and, inevitably, giggling at posts about the cruelly-labelled Crazy Cat Ladies (although I understand they do tend to wear it as a badge of honour….)

I really like all animals but have never been particularly attached to cats – sure, I’d stroke one if I met it in the street and I would always smile indulgently as friends’ cats dug their claws into my lap whilst my friends assured me it was a sign of how much Tibbles / George / Mr Socks liked me – but essentially they were just another animal in my world. Worthy of love and protection by those who had the inclination for it and leave me to my dogs, thank you very much.

I love you Ginger

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Then along came Ginger – fast forward eight weeks and he has insinuated himself into my world and onto my lap in a way that is best described by my catching myself kissing him on the head the other morning as I left for work and saying “I’ll see you later Ginger – I love you!”

Why am I telling you all this? Has the woman who usually writes the dog-blogs gone on holiday / left the firm / left the country / lost her mind?!

Back with the search dogs

Colleagues on the search dog team were smilingly voicing concerns about me and whether I had gone over to “the other side”, never to return, so it was a relief at the end of August to get back and hands-on with the search dogs again, all of whom were very understanding and forgiving when I turned up covered in ginger fur from that morning’s cuddle!

August Bank Holiday has always been a big weekend in the calendar of SARDA Wales and we go along to Llanberis, the summit of Snowdon and to Beddgelert Dog Show from early Saturday morning through to late Monday evening to highlight our existence and the fact we are a voluntary rescue service, the public can meet our dogs who pose patiently in photographs for hours and are treated to endless cuddles and admiration and, if all goes well, we leave with our collection buckets straining at the handles with coins (sometimes even notes).

Snowdonia on a Bank Holiday weekend

As ever Kevin Thomas, my long-suffering other half and a partner in Lanyon Bowdler’s private client department, came along with me to Snowdonia on Bank Holiday Saturday where, fortified by a superb cafe breakfast, we delivered buckets and tablecloths and merchandise to the crew covering Llanberis at 9am, before heading back over the pass to Beddgelert for the dog show where we are kindly donated stand space.

Kevin and I were with search dog Nop and Gaynor, a former dog handler who had a very successful search career with her collie Pero (now sadly no longer with us), Geraint and his trainee search dog Wil, a handsome black Labrador. Merched Y Wawr kept us well topped-up with cake and brownies from their stand and Nop and Wil were true ambassadors to the cause.

This picture of me with a dog handler’s personal equipment and all the equipment needed for the dog on a callout (including favourite dog toy to reward them if they make a find) shows how much is involved in a real callout and why handlers also work hard to keep up their own fitness.

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Terrier racing chaos

The dog show was very much at the heart of the farming community and there were handsome hounds and gundogs on display and enjoying the day out with their owners. Wil and I came second in the egg & spoon race (YOU try running with a potato on a spoon, with an energetic Labrador on the end of a lead who just wants to eat the potato when it drops off your spoon!) and Nop did very respectably on the obstacle course although he wasn’t too keen on the tunnel, and Gaynor only just stopped short of wriggling into it herself to coax him to follow her, before remembering there was an audience with cameras on their smartphones and a lot of people there who knew her!

However, for me the highlight of the day had to be the terrier racing which involved a stuffed piece of material on a piece of string, wound round a bicycle wheel on top of a bale of hay. As someone wound the bicycle wheel the string, which was metres long, would rotate and so the stuffed bag would be dragged along the ground and could be reeled in backwards and forwards and made to disappear under the hay bale – absolute heaven for a terrier! Hilarious chaos ensued as terriers were let loose in groups to chase the rag and equally funny was watching the efforts of their owners to free it from their mouths when they caught it and tried to shake it to death, or when they disappeared under the hay bale in pursuit. Of course, the collies and Labradors looked on disdainfully…………….

Meanwhile on the mountains

Our groups on Snowdon and in Llanberis had equally long and successful days – and not in the greatest of weather on Sunday.

Having got back into the canine groove I then set off for Gelli Iago for search training on Saturday. We use the Nantmor Mountain Centre in Cwm Croesor, a stunning spot near Beddgelert, which is off-grid and has no mobile signal or Wi-Fi, great for winding down, refocusing and actually talking to each other.

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The heavy weather on Friday night meant the rivers were tumbling and magnificent but the rain gave way to glorious sunshine on Saturday, perfect for hiding from dogs and enjoying the views.

Adorable puppy

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Jim, a handler from the Isle of Man team, had come over with his adorable 11-week old wire-haired pointer, Ruby, who charmed everyone with her manners, liveliness and cheeky spirit and she proved herself to be confident and well-behaved even at such a young age. His plan is to train her as his next search dog as his current dog, Star, approaches retirement and I think she will be a very welcome addition to our weekends – and possibly the first search dog with a pink diamante collar!

Provide distractions

Damian and his trainee trailing dog Skye are coming on in leaps and bounds so I walked a trail with about four junctions in it, to ensure the dog can follow scent when there is a choice of directions, along the road (beside the river which can provide distractions and do odd things to scent) then up a track across the mountain to a gorgeous spot with uninterrupted views of the Snowdon range. Skye is at the point where her handler is trying to introduce the unexpected into her search exercises so we decided I would take another handler’s dog Maya (one of my favourite little friends!) with me to mimic a common situation where a dog-walker goes missing. This is helpful in assessing how the search dog reacts when it comes across a scene with another dog and would be the first time she had encountered this.

Maya and I had a lovely time, she enjoyed her walk in with me and then we spent about six hours in the sunshine, looking up to Snowdon. At first she didn’t want to settle but she’s very receptive to mood so as soon as she realised that I wanted to read she settled with her head on my lap and snoozed.

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Mad women and their dogs go out in the midday sun and as it warmed up I dropped off too, only to be woken by a paw on my stomach and this view,

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a face clearly saying “It’s time to play now!”

Fetching my spork

Without a dog toy I improvised with my spork (a case containing an camping implement that can be used as a spoon or fork, shaped conveniently like a bone) and we spent 20 minutes or so playing fetch with it, Maya bounding through the peat and wet grass with joyful abandon and sharing some of that muck and water with me every time she brought the spork back and dropped it on my legs!

Detect scent over a kilometre away

Maya also developed a taste for tea and we shared the contents of my flask, she lapped it eagerly out of my empty salad container but only after I blew on it first to cool it down for madam! Around 3.30pm Maya suddenly sat up and stared into the distance, ears pricked up and eyes intent and I knew someone was coming. However, I was pretty sure it was her nose that had given her the first hint of someone approaching, we know that when the wind is right a dog can detect the scent of humans well over a kilometre away. Sure enough, within a few minutes Skye came bounding across and her response to seeing another dog by the person with the scent she had been following, was superb - Maya barked at her and whilst Skye backed away a couple of feet at first, she was undeterred and recovered her composure within a few seconds to approach me once again and indicate to her handler that she had found me.

Rewarding Skye

At that point Maya was called by the other people in the search party so that I could focus my attention on rewarding Skye with her favourite toy, a tennis ball on a rope. She is utterly fearless and has endless reserves of energy and would happily have played for longer than the eight minutes or so I had with her, as she scampered off across the hillside after the ball, into gorse bushes, puddles, up rocks. Discussing it with her handler I learned that she had trailed me along the road and had gone up a farm track where the wind had blown my scent earlier in the day. However, when that scent ran out she quickly detected that was the case and lost interest in that track, instead returning to the spot where she had turned off and she carried on following the stronger scent trail along the road to the correct junction where she struck out over the hill and successfully negotiated a couple more junctions to find me.

Hard work and dedication

It's always an endless source of joy to see the progress made by each dog and handler in the month between each training session and demonstrates just how much hard work and dedication they put into it every day, not just on our training weekends. If I ever had the misfortune to go missing in Wales, I'd feel pretty confident that I wouldn't be gone for long with our dogs in the area!

Ginger, in the meantime, was delighted to see me that night even though I smelt of dog............ He'll need to get used to it, more training in October and another dog blog to come!

As ever, please do visit www.sardawales.org.uk for more dog pictures and information about our voluntary work.

Five Reasons You Should Make a Will

One of the first things I do to organise my day is prepare a list of all the tasks I need to complete that day. In fact, I like to apply the art of list making as broadly as possible - grocery lists, odd-jobs, travel itineraries, it all gets itemized. With that in mind, for this week’s blog I have prepared a list of five reasons why you should consider making your Will.

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  1. Removes Uncertainty – making a Will means you decide what happens to your assets after you die. Without a Will, your estate is subject to the intestacy rules and the way in which your estate would be distributed may not be in accordance with your wishes.

  2. Tax Planning – a Will may help reduce the amount of inheritance tax that would be payable on your estate.

  3. Protecting your Partner – at Present, The inheritance law does not automatically recognise cohabitees who are neither married nor in a civil partnership. If you live with your partner but you do not have a Will, then they may not inherit anything from your estate.

  4. Funeral Wishes – including details of your funeral wishes in your Will lets your executors know whether you would prefer to be buried or cremated and whether you have any particular requests, such as a green burial.

  5. Executors – you decide who you would like to carry out the administration of your death.

Rio 2016 Paralympic Champion Professor Guttmann

I was privileged to run in the Spitfire 10k Commemoration of the Battle of Britain race on Sunday at RAF Cosford.

Each runner had the name of one of the servicemen killed in action pinned to their back. It was a humbling experience, to be running in the memory of so many ex-service men and women who had given their lives.

Whilst running I had time to reflect on this. As a solicitor with a special interest in both spinal injuries and military claims, it made me think how closely sport, injury and the Military Services are interrelated.

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Innovative approach to treatment

In June this year, Lanyon Bowdler sponsored the 50th anniversary of the Guttmann lecture, hosted by the Midlands Spinal Injuries centre at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital. I was honoured to be an attending delegate sitting amidst the country’s leading spinal and rehabilitation experts.

Whilst running it had poignantly reminded me of those war veterans who were not commemorated, those that had returned, but had done so with shattered lives, either from devastating physical injuries or emotionally scarred from Post-Traumatic Stress disorder. How, thanks to the innovative approach to treatment and rehabilitation through sport advocated by Professor “Poppa” Guttmann; he had given hope, inspiration and direction to spinal patients recovering from war injuries by way of physio and rehabilitation, and more inspiringly had been the instrumental founder and pioneer of today’s Paralympics Games.

60 patients were saved

By way of background, Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a German born Jew, was an internally renowned neurologist but was forced to flee Nazi Germany just before the second world war. Following violent attacks on Jewish people and properties, he had been banned from practicing medicine professionally. During Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938, Guttmann ordered his staff to admit anyone into the hospital without question. The following day he justified his decision on a case-by-case basis with the Gestapo. Out of 64 admissions, 60 patients were saved from arrest and deportation to concentration camps.

National Spinal Injuries Clinic at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

After coming to Britain with his family, he continued his spinal injury research at the Radcliffe Infirmary. In September 1943 the British government asked Dr Guttmann to establish the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Initially he hated what he found at the Spinal Unit.

Patients care in those days was merely palliative. Most prognoses were terminal. Paralyzed patients, including many of the returning ex-service men suffering from horrific injuries, were consigned to their beds and incarcerated in plaster. Eighty per cent of patients died within three years, from bed sores, urinary tract infections and other complications. Morale amongst staff was low.

Left able to walk after 26 years

Dr Guttman transformed the place. He would not accept a fatalistic care regime, challenged the negativity in both staff and encouraged patients to fight back. Crucially he introduced the idea of physiotherapy as a medical treatment. He was a huge advocate of using sport as a way of building muscle strength and combatting depression. He turned to the military and hired an Army physical trainer to come in encouraging/insisting the patients train using weights, play table tennis and take up archery. By making them move, providing encouragement, giving hope and support through singled dogged determination, it transformed patients.

One World War one veteran, who had been lying flat on his back for 26 years, came to the Unit to try one of their new wheelchairs. Six months later, he left able to walk with the aid of just a stick.

First Stoke Mandeville Games

Dr Guttmann organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games for disabled persons on 28 July 1948, there were just 15 ex-servicemen competing in a wheelchair archery competition, coincidentally the same day saw the start of the London 1948 Summer Olympics.

Dr Guttmann used the term “paraplegic games” for national games he held in order to encourage his patients to take part. This came to be known as the "Paralympics." By 1952, more than 130 international competitors had entered the Stoke Mandeville Games.

Rio 2016

Today, Equestrian rider Lee Pearson is Great Britain's flag bearer for the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. This is a proudly fitting testament to the inspiration and foresight of one individual, carried on by the dreams and determination of others, namely the 264 team GB participants, international representatives from all over the world, as well as the innumerable other patients who, over the decades have, and continue to benefit from his innovative treatment philosophies and practises.

The Women's Land Army

I feel extremely privileged and honoured to be meeting with Mrs Nita Millington at her home in Staffordshire to talk about her early years as a member of the Women’s Land Army during the 1940s. Jan Graham, Mrs Millington’s daughter is also present.

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The main reason for the interview with Mrs Millington is to compare her time in the early 1940s working in the agricultural industry as a land army girl and the role of women in agriculture in the 21st Century. The interview takes the form of questions, which were sent to Mrs Millington prior to the interview.

1  Do you come from a farming background?

No. I was born in Salford Manchester on 25 January 1925, the youngest of five daughters. My father worked for the Co-Op as a saddle and harness maker. At that time all their deliveries were made by horse drawn drays, his main job was to maintain the harnesses. My father died at the start of the war in 1939, I was 14 years old. I had passed a scholarship to go to the Girls’ High School with a view to further education at a secretarial college. The school was then closed and the children were evacuated to the country. My mother did not want me to leave even though Manchester and the surrounding areas were being heavily bombed, so I stayed at home with her. They were frightening times with too many near misses.

At 15 I went to work in a factory sewing raincoats, which was hard work. Then when I was 17 my mother died and I went to live with my married sister. I then started work in another factory sewing mine-sweepers’ coats and sou’westers. There were many occasions when I machined over my fingers and finger-nails. The work was very hard. The most arduous work was the waterproofing; this was mainly done by the biggest and strongest women in a basement cellar. The work entailed painting thick black dope, which was kept in huge tubs, onto the clothing.

2  How did you become part of the Women’s Land Army?

It became compulsory at the age of 18 and over for all girls without commitments (children or retained occupations) to join one of the services. I decided to join the Women’s Land Army as I liked the idea of working and living in the country. I had seen lovely smiling faces on the many posters and in the films at the cinema. Everything about the WLA looked happy and cheerful.

3  What year did you join and how long were you with the WLA?

I joined in 1943 at the age of 18 and stayed until I married in April 1947.
In 1946 I met my husband to be Alf when he came to the farm to work. He had served in the Army during the six years of the war.

4  Where were you based?

When I joined I was given a uniform and then sent to a farm on the outskirts of Manchester for a few Saturdays for training. I was then sent to work on Lord Chomondeley’s estate at a farm at Harmer Hill in rural Shropshire. I worked there until after the war ended. When the men started to return from the war to work the land they replaced the women and girls.

I was the only land army girl on the farm. I had lodgings at a house in the village. The farm was a few miles from the village so I cycled daily. There were hostels where a number of WLA girls stayed together or some even lived at home, this wasn’t an option for me due to the location of the farm where I was posted.

The lodgings were clean and reasonably comfortable, but quite basic. I was used to more modern conveniences, plumbing and electricity. In Shropshire it was quite different, no bathroom and an outside toilet. The only light was from oil lamps and the heating was a coal fire downstairs. It was very cold, so cold in the winter that the water in the wash jug in my room used to freeze. I kept my work clothes in my bed at night during the winter months to keep them warm so I didn’t have to put cold clothes on the next morning. The family I lived with were kind and I was well fed. As I worked on the land I had extra rations of cheese, sugar and butter which I shared with my host family.

I cannot remember how much I was paid but after paying my lodgings I had enough money to go out to the dance and cinema, whenever I could.

I later moved to another farm in Harmer Hill as I was no longer needed on that particular farm. I still wanted to stay in the Land Army and I was courting Alf at the time I therefore, found employment on another farm in Harmer Hill.

5  Did you work alone on the farm or were there other WLAs?

I was the only WLA on the farm; however there were two or three older women from the local village who worked on the farm. The older women did not have to join one of the forces or the war effort as they were all married, with families.

6  What were your working hours?

The basic working day was 8am to 5pm. The hours differed during harvest 8am until dusk or until it got dark. It was during war time that double summertime was introduced, which meant a longer working day as the evenings were lighter.

7  What type of farm was it?

The farm was a mixed farm so work was varied. I did not do the milking but often mucked out the cowsheds and fed the calves.

8  What were your daily duties or were they more specific?

Depending on the season the work was varied. The holding grew sugar beet, mangle wurzels, potatoes and arable crops.

Beet was grown to produce sugar, the rows of plants needed to be weeded by hand using a long handled beet hoe. The beets were singled out by hand. When the crop was fully grown the beet was dug up and I had to go along cutting the green tops off the beet with a large knife (dangerous work). The root was then taken to the processing factory.

We used to have to spread manure on the fields; this was done by hand as there were no muck spreaders or machinery to assist with the process.

During the winter one of my jobs was sorting potatoes. The potatoes were stored in a big hod covered in straw and soil layer on layer. This was to protect the potatoes as they were stored outside. The hod was 30ft wide and 300ft long. I worked with the other women kneeling on sacks in the field sorting the good potatoes from the bad ones. Sometimes we wore gloves, but these soon got wet and muddy so quite often the work was done using bare hands.

I was sorting potatoes when I first set eyes on my husband to be when he came to work as a wagoner on the farm in January 1946. He was a natural horseman and very good with the horses.

I think hay making at harvest time was one of my favourite jobs, turning hay in the warm sunshine. When the hay was dry it was loaded onto the horse drawn carts using pitch forks. The hay was later stacked into hay stacks by hand.

The corn grown during the 1940s was much longer than the varieties grown today. The wheat grew to a height of five foot and the barley even higher at six foot, which was much taller than me.

When the corn was cut it was bundled into stooks and tied together with a long blade of corn. The stooks were then gathered and tied together with string. When they had dried they were fed into the threshing machine. The farm did not have a threshing machine of its own so one was brought to the farm once a year. As I was only short, it was my job to stand on the top of the threshing machine with a knife to quickly cut the string as the corn was fed into the machine. It was dangerous work, hot and tiring. The box were the corn was fed into was open and the sharp rotating blades could be seen below. The blades cut the corn into pieces separating the chaff from the grain. There was no guard on the box to prevent anyone from falling in to their death, which was not uncommon.

9  What did you find the most difficult?

My least favourite job was cutting curly kale with a knife in winter. The kale was often frozen and as it was cut the ice used to fall into my wellies. It was a cold laborious job.

10  Was it a family run farm?

The farm belonged to the estate of the very elderly Lord Cholmondeley, whom I rarely saw as when he visited the farm he only spoke to the farmer/Farm Manager Mr Jones. When the war ended I went to another farm at Harmer Hill. The farm was family run and belonged to the Mayalls which was run by Hugh & Richard Mayall. The Mayall family still farm in Shropshire at Pimhill Farm.

Mrs Millington says that she liked working for the Mayalls. Mrs Mayalls was fond of her and sometimes took her out, outings included going to the theatre.

11  When you finished with the land army did you stay in farming or did you pursue a different career?

My husband and I moved to Quarry Farm in Newport where he was offered a job as a farm labourer and wagoner. When Quarry Farm was sold we moved to Befcote to work for Mr Tomkinson.

12  Do you think the experience and time spent as a WLA helped to make you the person you are today?

As a naïve 17 year old girl I had no idea how my life would change. The work was challenging but provided me with a great independence which I have carried with me all my life. It also confirmed to me that I am and will always be a country girl at heart.

13  How do you think your time as a WLA girl would compare to the role of women in farming today?

There can be no comparison, in the 1940s safety was not an issue as it is today, and the work I did was dangerous. It was very hands on heavy work whereas today there is a piece of machinery to do all the back breaking work.

My work during the war was a big part of the government incentive ‘growing to feed a nation at war’. Farming today is more of a business.

14   Do you think agriculture has changed since your time as a WLA?

Yes, it has changed considerably, now it is a livelihood and business.

15  Do you see a future in farming for subsequent generations?

Yes very family orientated and more as a commercial business.

16  If you had your time over again would you still join the WLA?

Yes I would as I loved working and living in the countryside.

17  Do you still have contact with the Women’s Land Army?

Yes. In addition to attending the Armed Veterans Day Parade in Weymouth for quite a few years, health permitting, I have also attended, with my daughters Barbara and Jan, the annual WLA reunion and service at the Cenotaph in London each autumn for several years until the final gathering a couple of years ago. The service was followed by a most enjoyable lunch at Westminster School Hall for all Land girls who attended the reunion.

Barbara, Jan and I have also attended the WLA annual reunion near Brighton on a few occasions where we met and made friends with several former Land Girls.

I would like to thank Mrs Millington for a most enjoyable morning, sharing her memories with me. I would also like to thank her daughter Jan for providing a great deal of the back ground information.

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