What the locals really think of Ruthin

Clwyd Street

Clwyd Street - Credit: Archant

Whether it’s an award-winning skincare brand, rare bats or beautiful ruins, there’s plenty to talk about in Ruthin. Words by Rebekka O’Grady

George Jones of Bathing Beauty

George Jones of Bathing Beauty - Credit: Archant

For someone who has travelled to the glamorous capital cities of Europe and modelled in campaigns for high profile designers such as Burberry and Emporio Armani, the peaceful hills of Ruthin are a stark contrast to the bright lights of Milan.

However, George Jones is still very much involved in the world of beauty, but in a very different way. ‘From the age of 18 to 26 I modelled. I was scouted at the BBC’s Clothes Show in London in 1989 and ended up being signed to Models One.

Throughout my career, I was constantly travelling and had to ensure my skin was in the best condition. This was where the essence of Bathing Beauty may have started.’

George, 44, would mix up her own beauty products when she was abroad, for herself and model friends. ‘When I retired, this was put on the backburner for four years while I did a degree in osteopathy.

Through this, I had a detailed insight into the body and it was only until I had my third child, Titus, I thought what could I do more?’

George Jones of Bathing Beauty

George Jones of Bathing Beauty - Credit: Archant

Mother to Scarlett, 14, Fuchsia, 12, and Titus, 11, George lives a busy life as a practising osteopath at her business, The Well Street Clinic, in Ruthin town centre, as well as working at her blossoming skincare company, Bathing Beauty. When Titus was born, he suffered with terrible skin and eczema.

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The desire to help soothe her son was the driving force behind George launching the skincare company once and for all.

‘Everything we had been given just seemed to make his skin worse. It’s even harder as a one-year-old can’t tell you if it hurts. I then went back to basics to create a natural product that had no harsh chemicals or synthetic fragrances, and was able to work on a therapeutic level.’

Initially starting in the kitchen as a hobby, the business soon exploded from market stalls to international trade shows and receiving recognition in national magazines. George now works from The Source, a converted Victorian cart shed located in nearby Llangynhafal, and her products, created using organically grown, wild harvested or fair trade ingredients, are proving to be a hit. She’s even won a variety of awards, including ten FreeFrom Skincare Awards.

‘It’s almost fantastical that we can fly the flag for micro productions and be a successful ethical and organic business. The drive is to produce something pure, potent and effective. It’s all about the product.’

Despite the enterprise being deep rooted in the welsh countryside; George has her sight set firmly on global success. ‘I want to go all the way, to outgrow this and get larger premises - hopefully a farm. I would love to combine Well Street Clinic with Bathing Beauty where people could come as a destination. However, it will always be my intention to manufacture in-house, having absolute control over everything is important.’

Wendy Jones (Nantclywd team leader) and Lizzy Webster (Biodiversity officer) check the main roost on

Wendy Jones (Nantclywd team leader) and Lizzy Webster (Biodiversity officer) check the main roost on the screen at Nantclywd y Dre - Credit: Archant

Visitors in the attic

When the renovation of Wales’ oldest timbered town house took place in 2005, those working at Nantclywd y Dre got a little more than they bargained for. The Grade I listed building on Castle Street had become home to a variety of three bats: Lesser Horseshoe, Pipistrelle and Brown Long Eared bats. The discovery of the Lesser Horseshoe bats was important, as numbers of this type have been decreasing and the native bat, which is one of the smallest British mammals, is now rare across the UK.

‘Incorporating the bats into the restoration was a challenge,’ said Lizzy Webster, biodiversity officer at Denbighshire County Council. ‘We installed a special window in the attic to allow them to fly in and out without letting the burglar alarm off!’

Nantclwyd y Dre had already been a key tourist attraction in the town for a number of years without the added interest of the bats. The construction of historic property began in 1435 and reflects seven periods of history. Now along with informing visitors about the history of the building and its past inhabitants, they can talk about their current ones too – especially with the help of five new cameras which were installed in partnership with Chester Zoo in the spring.

‘We always had a camera in places back when the bats were first discovered, but it was really out of date’ said Wendy Jones, team leader at Nantclwyd Y Dre. ‘However thanks to Chester Zoo, there are so many more opportunities to learn about the bats and raise much more awareness.’

One webcam, placed in the attic, not only allows members of the public to watch the fascinating creatures, but also enables specialists to gather information on the bats. ‘This camera also live streams on the zoo website,’ added Lizzy. ‘The partnership with Chester Zoo captures a bigger audience and opens up the door of something people wouldn’t normally see or know about.’

Anthony Saint Claire in the grounds of Ruthin Castle

Anthony Saint Claire in the grounds of Ruthin Castle - Credit: Archant

Ruthin’s secret castle

Ruthin Castle has been awarded over £19,600 in grants from the Welsh government to assist in restoring and protecting the buildings for years to come. For the director of Ruthin Castle, Anthony Saint Claire, this funding is only the start of his conservation plans.

‘I am particularly involved in the conservation side, as it that was my original vision when I bought the company in 2004. From very early on it has been my intention to set up a conservation project here.’

There are three different elements that make up Ruthin Castle: the gardens and grounds, the 13th century castle ruins and the 19th century castle mansion – which is the hotel.

‘At the moment we have been treating the castle mansion as one element,’ explained Anthony, who lives in Llangollen. ‘Most people only think about this part but it is in fact a newer building. I would like to move on and restore the 13th century castle remains and create a tourist attraction, operating as an entity in its own right. This grant covers emergency works for that.’

Anthony would like the castle walls to become a living project, with stone masons and apprentices working to repair them and visitors’ walking by to observe what is going on. ‘There are tunnels running underneath the gardens which would be great for visitors to go into and explore. The revenue from all of this would go into a charity for the conservation of the properties, but I think it would take up to ten years for it all to be fully running as there are a lot of repairs to be done.’

Miss Frencham with pupils Xiao Ma, Elin Wynne, Caitlin Pierce

Miss Frencham with pupils Xiao Ma, Elin Wynne, Caitlin Pierce - Credit: Archant


Chemistry success

Having won their regional heat at Bangor University, three Ruthin School pupils, Xiao Ma, Elin Wynne and Caitlin Pierce, flew to Aberdeen to compete in the national final of the School’s Young Analyst Competition run by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Held at the Robert Gordon University, the students spent the day before the competition exploring Glasgow and playing Tenpin bowling during the evening with the other regional winners. Then it was time for the serious stuff.

‘There were twenty other schools competing. We all had four experiments to complete and a tie breaker question which was a comprehension task,’ said Elin Wynne. ‘During the four experiments we encountered new equipment, such as a Gilson pipette - which we had no idea how to use!’

All the experiments the students participated in were linked to calculating the aspirin concentration in tablet form. This involved: a backwards titration, UV-spectrometry, infrared spectrometry and HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography).

‘We were informed that the tie breaker had to be marked, from then on the tension increased as we sat patiently awaiting the results with Miss Frencham,’ said Elin. ‘As first place was announced we were stunned to hear the adjudicator say Ruthin School! Our delight and excitement could not be contained.’