PHOTOS showing the ground outside the main entrance to Wrexham Maelor Hospital, littered with hundreds of discarded cigarette ends like some huge overflowing ashtray, should make those responsible take a good hard look at themselves, I think.

By all accounts the place stinks of tobacco smoke too - and it will. I’d been a heavy smoker for decades until a spell in hospital forced me to break the habit.

Like all NHS facilities the Maelor has a ‘no smoking’ policy but employees are finding it difficult to enforce outside.

A spokesman for Betsi Cadwaladr said: “We share the frustrations of visitors and staff that some members of the public do not follow our request not to smoke on our premises.

“Our staff routinely clean the entrances and clear discarded cigarettes, but we need the support of visitors to maintain the site’s cleanliness.”

However, a regular visitor, Wrexham Cllr Nigel Williams, who took the photos, said: “I see patients outside the main entrance in their pyjamas smoking [too]. The hospital does try and encourage people to stop, but that’s not going to happen overnight.

“I frequently pick up cigarette butts, but the next day hundreds more appear.”

I have some sympathy with nicotine addicts who are in-patients for conditions not obviously related to smoking, but visitors? No.

If they can’t do without a cigarette for just an hour or so out of consideration for staff, patients and other visitors, they have a different problem.

The Leader:

Modern facilities are key to making most of the past

IT doesn't feel like 10 years to me since the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct became the centrepiece of a World Heritage Site - although I doubt there's much dispute that the older one gets the faster time seems to fly.

What there's no doubt about is the date of that formal Unesco designation - June 27, 2009 - by which time the aqueduct was already almost 204-years-old, having been opened to canal traffic in November 1805 after a 10-year build.

Nor should there be any doubt that the longest aqueduct in Britain and tallest canal aqueduct in the world thoroughly deserves every bit of its status and new-found international acclaim.

Finally, there is no doubt the award was - or at least should be - potentially very important and valuable to us.

The questions are whether we can make the most of what we've been gifted by history, and how we can best cope with the number of people both it and we deserve to attract now and in future.

It's easy to take such structures for granted when they're virtually on one's doorstep and still in everyday use, but the aqueduct along with 11 miles of local canal system is, I'm quite sure, a genuine wonder of the world and, in engineering terms, on a par with any of the better-known (and generally gargantuan) sites such as the Egyptian pyramids.

What Pontcysyllte might lack in awe-inspiring immensity, it more than makes up for in its near-perfect proportions and harmony with its setting.

The 'Stream in the Sky' is more than just the engineering marvel of its day, it visually complements and enhances the valley and river it spans when viewed from almost every angle.

I believe we'd be quite justified in referring to it as a work of art, but we still occasionally need to be reminded of how fortunate and privileged we are.

This coming Saturday afternoon the Canal & River Trust is doing just that, when it hosts a party to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the award, and there's a wide range of mainly free family-friendly attractions and activities on offer, as well as the chance just to stroll along the canal and across the valley for the views, or to effectively float through the sky on a boat.

Other celebrations are planned which continue throughout the summer.

At the same time these will also be a reminder, perhaps, that in the length of time we've had a World Heritage gem in our midst - the same amount of time it took Telford and his team to build it, in fact - we haven't achieved much at all.

There have been, of course, many problems outside our control, with money and the prioritising of scarce resources, and topography. There's no need to feel too bad.

But chief among the challenges we face is ease of access to the site, and adequate parking - and these are urgent if we're to make as much as we can of what we have.

Because, while the starting point might have been comparatively modest, in the past 10 years visitor numbers have quadrupled at least, and are set to grow more. Last year nearly half a million people came to the Trevor Basin to view Telford's masterpiece.

The more facilities are developed to entice tourists, the more parking will be needed - and space is limited.

"Visitors come from all over the world, with Australians and Japanese heading the international league table," says Lynda Slater, the Basin's visitor centre manager.

"Signing the visitor book last year were tourists from 52 countries from places such as Zambia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the Philippines, as well as most European nations."

Earlier this month Wrexham Council approved a management plan for the site for the next 10 years, which will now be submitted to both Welsh and UK governments.

However, when challenged about the rate of progress in finding solutions to issues affecting local residents, in particular traffic management and parking, deputy leader Hugh Jones felt bound to point out the council currently only had a budget of about £12,000 earmarked.