Among the big summer stories - a race against time to find a boy a bone marrow match, a bridge renaming con- troversy, fire in the hills, and the end of a shopping era. ANDY RUTHERFORD reports IT IS a story that has touched the hearts of thousands of people way beyond Gwent and the UK - and more importantly has spurred many of them into action - but it still needs a happy ending.

When Marley Nicholls was diagnosed with the blood disease aplastic anaemia doctors feared his only chance of survival would be a bone marrow transplant.

The disease stops the body from producing enough blood cells, and thus began a race against time to find the six-year-old - from Newport - a bone marrow match.

Marley's four-year-old brother George was thought to be the best chance of a match, but unfortunately, he is not.

His devastated parents Joe and Shaney decided they had to give their son the very best chance of life, so they set up Marrow 4 Marley, a campaign with a dual and urgent aim - to raise awareness and to encourage people to become bone marrow donors.

"We are just an everyday family who really needs some help," said Mr Nicholls in a Facebook post highlighting the campaign.

"We need as many people as we possibly can to sign up to the Bone Marrow Register, so if you are between 17 and 31 I am begging you.

"Please help us and please go and sign up.

"We are desperately looking for a donor. Even if this is not for you, or you are over 31, please, please share this post because we are so hopeful that somebody out there will help us.

"It could literally save his life. Marley deserves a future just like any other six-year-old."

That plea has resulted in a series of sessions across Gwent and again, far beyond, at which people have come to sign up to the register and to get tested, in the hope of finding Marley a lifesaving match.

Hundreds signed up at an event at the Beaufort Centre in St Julians, Newport, soon after the Nicholls' call went out, and within days, around 3,000 had signed up through the charity Anthony Nolan.

Of the Beaufort Centre event, Mr Nicholls told the South Wales Argus - which is backing their campaign: "I hope today will show that it is a very simple task. You just do a swab and fill in a form.

"It is not just important for me and my family, but for the thousands of children out there who need help."

Marley's story has since enjoyed a national and international reach, with other newspapers in the UK making the call for people to sign up to the register, and celebrities have been urging them on.

TV presenter Vernon Kay, fictional comic character Keith Lemon - played by comedian Leigh Francis, supermodel and presenter Heidi Klum, and pop star Beyonce's mum Tina Knowles are among those who by September had voiced support for the Marrow for Marley campaign on social media.

By mid-September, it was announced that more than 20,000 people had joined the bone marrow register having heard of Marley's plight, and in October actor and wrestler The Rock - real name Dwayne Johnson - replied to a Twitter message from the youngster's family asking for his support, saying; "Pullin' for you Marley! DJ."

Marley helped Wales football team manager Ryan Giggs switch on the Newport Christmas lights last month, but he is still awaiting the match that will give him the best chance of a long term future.

For more information on the campaign, visit July 1: DESPITE much opposition to the idea, the Second Severn Crossing was renamed the Prince of Wales Bridge - by the Prince of Wales himself, and the Duchess of Cornwall - at a ceremony held in the M4 toll plaza office.

At the start of their summer tour, the Royal couple met staff who man the tolls before unveiling a plaque inscribed with the the new name of the bridge.

They then visited the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, meeting business representatives from both sides of the Severn, before a trip to Tintern, met voluntary workers as they marked the 90th anniversary of the Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations.

July 5: A PLAN to convert Newport's tallest building - Chartist Tower - into a 164-bed hotel was approved by the city council's planning committee.

The hotel, to be run by Mercure, will occupy most of the currently vacant 15-storey city centre building, with Garrison Barclay estates promising a £12 m illion mixed use development, including a top floor restaurant, a gym, conference facilities, 30,000 sq ft of office space, and 18,000 sq feet of shop space.

July 11: THE first person to be given a state-of-the-art form of cancer treatment - proton beam therapy - at a multi-million pound specialist centre in Newport, called it a "game-changer" for patients.

Simon Hardacre, from the Forest of Dean, received the therapy to treat prostate cancer at the Rutherford Cancer Centre at the Celtic Springs Business Park.

Previously, patients in the UK faced expensive trips abroad to undergo the treatment, but Proton Partners International is building several such centres across the UK, with that in Newport the first to start offering proton beam therapy.

The therapy targets treatment on the affected area of the body, to minimise damage to surrounding tissues, and Mr Hardacre said that having such a world class facility in the UK is "brilliant".

July 14-15: South Wales Argus: HUGE fires raged on Twmbarlwm mountain, the neighbouring Cwmcarn Forest Drive, and the Cock 'n' Chick mountain near Abertillery, with others breaking out in Wattsville, Pontnewynydd, and Ebbw Vale.

Firefighters worked around the clock in sweltering heat, battling a rapid spread on tinder-dry ground.

Huge damage was caused to hundreds of acres of grassland and woodland, destroying wildlife and the natural habitats in which many species live. Experts fear some sites will take years to recover.

The fires, particularly on Twmbarlwm and at the Forest Drive, could be seen from several miles away, and smoke drifted across a large area.

Residents of some of the affected areas supported the firefighters' efforts by supplying food and drink as efforts continued around the clock to bring the fires under control.

Some were found to have been started deliberately, including a second blaze on Twmbarlwm, on Friday July 19, five days after the mountain was initially affected.

Firefighters also reported being subjected to verbal abuse and anti-social behaviour from yobs as they fought the fires, and police imposed a 48-hour dispersal notice in the area of Risca near Twmbarlwm.

July 19: A £12 million redevelopment scheme was announced for Newport's market hall, with the city council's cabinet approving in principle a plan that would see the Garde Two listed building brought back to life as a 24-hour working/living space, with a tech hub, apartments and a performance space, while retaining market units and a food hall.

The company behind the project is Loft Co, responsible for the transformation of Cardiff's Tramshed, Barry's Pumphouse, and a the Jennings Building in Porthcawl.

The announcement came just days after a £1.1m National Lottery grant was approved to transform another Grade Two listed city centre site, the neighbouring Market Arcade.

July 25: The Argus launched a 'War on Litter' campaign, to highlight the scourge of dumped rubbish affecting streets, parks, woodland, and waterways in Gwent.

While highlighted the affects that litter and fly-tipping can have on the areas that are affected, we have been keen to highlight the sterling work being carried out by individuals, voluntary groups, councils and others, to combat the problems - and to encourage others to follow the examples of groups such as Newport's Pride in Pill and those who help clear the streets of Usk, and the approaches to the town, linked to the Usk in Bloom group.

Tony Kear, chairman of Usk in Bloom, summed up the feelings of many, including the Argus, on the issue.

"Ultimately, it's about pride in where you live. Some of the litter you see is an an embarrassment to communities," he said.

"I absolutely hate seeing litter dropped. It's just pure laziness."

August 4: THE graves of two children murdered in Abertillery in 1921 were re-dedicated following their restoration, in a ceremony at Brynithel Cemetery.

Freda Burnell, eight, went missing on February 5 1921,, her body being found in an alley in Abertillery the following day. Fifteen-year-old shop assistant Harold Jones was arrested and later tried for her murder, but was acquitted and released. Less than three weeks later he lured 11-year-old Florence Little into his Abertillery home, where he killed her. Being under 16, he escaped the hangman's noose, but served 20 years in prison.

The girls' graves had fallen into disrepair over the years, but a campaign to restore them - run by councillors Gill Clark and Julie Holt, and Abertillery author Neil Milkins - raised £4,000 in just eight months.

August 6: THIRTEEN-year-old Ethan Jolosa was aiming to compete in an international surfing competition in the USA, after having endured years of treatment for problems caused by the spastic diplegic cerebral palsy with which he was born.

The Cwmbran youngster - featured in the Argus in 2012, when a campaign was launched to raise £40,000 for pioneering treatment to help him walk - set his sights on representing Wales in the International Surfing Association Adapted Surf Open in California.

The sports mad teenager took up surfing only last year, through |DSurfability UK in Caswell Bay in ther Gower Peninsula, and was shocked but delighted to finish second in two competitons against adults with a range of disabilities and learning difficulties, many of them farm roee experienced.

"It's given me a lot of confidence to go on. I love the excitement of the waves and the adrenaline of trying to catch them," he said.

August 9: NEWPORT'S oldest department store - Wildings - announced that it would be closing shortly before Christmas, after 144 years in the city.

Shoppers and staff expressed their shock and disappointment at the closure, but managing director Peter James said that "the economics of trading in Newport no longer work for us".

"This is a very sad moment for the business, but the losses we have been experiencing in recent years have been too great to sustain.

"Wildings has a rich and long history, and for most of that history it was a very successful Newport business which was run by local people."

August 10: PONTYPOOL teenager Brandon Jones described how he save his mum Hayley Jones' life when she suffered an epileptic fit at their home.

The 16-year-old gave Miss Jones, 33, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) after she had a stress-induced fit during which her heart stopped for two-and-a-half minutes.

Brandon called the experience "absolutely terrifying". "I was so scared in case I did something wrong. But it just happened and I kicked myself into mode," he said.

Miss Jones said: "I'm so porud of him. I was worrying the whole time I was in hospital. It must have been so difficult."

August 18: THE Wales National Velodrome in Newport was to be named after the recent Tour De France winner Geraint Thomas, it was announced.

The city council and Newport Live said that Wales' first Tour De France winner had accepted their invitation to rename the venue the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome of Wales in his honour.

Thomas, who trained at the velodrome regularly in the past, said: It is a huge honour. I can't quite believe it, if I'm honest!"

He said the "fantastic facility" had played a "pivotal" role in his career, and does so too in inspiring future generations of cyclists.

August 27: THE annual Pill Carnival in Newport brought thousands onto the streets and the carnival field, and acted as a colourful celebration of, and memorial to, two community stalwarts - Billy Coughlan and Lynette Webb.

Mr Coughlan, who died in October last year, spent thousands of hours across more than 40 years working a floats for the event, using his talents as an artist to create many striking designs.

Ms Webbe, who died in May, was involved in a range of community groups in Pill, including Pride in Pill, and had been a Community First champion for women.

August 29: A MAN who set fire to two buildings in Newport city centre - later telling a judge "I like fire. I ain't going to stop" - was jailed for eight years.

Sam Price 23, of Cwmbran, set fire to 17-18 Upper Dock Street in August 2017 with Justin Lewis, of Newport, who was jailed for six years, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and disrupting several businesses.

The following month Price set fire to 170 Commercial Street, later telling police he had been "bored".

He made his fire comments to Judge Daniel Williams, also repeating threats to kill his partner, her teenage daughter and another man as a "promise".

Sentencing Price, Judge Williams said his risk of reoffending was "very high" and that the Upper Dock Street fire had "brought a smile to your face"