THIS year has been like no other.

What started as any ordinary year quickly changed as the Coronavirus pandemic engulfed the world and changed everything.

The streets became empty and employees were urged to work from home as Covid-19 began to spread across North Wales. There was one confirmed case in Conwy and two people tested positive on Anglesey. A woman in her 60s became the first person in Wales to die from coronavirus, at Wrexham Maelor Hospital the day before the Journal went to print.

Residents were advised to avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other social venues while Venue Cymru and Theatre Colwyn postponed their shows for the foreseeable future. GPs introduced strict rules on booking appointments and pubs and restaurants adopted robust cleaning and sanitation as they debated whether to remain open.

The Welsh Government began to contact people in at-risk groups to be shielded from social contact for 12 weeks.

The Journal appealed to its readership for togetherness. None of us had seen anything like it, with schools shut, parents struggling to juggle work and home life, jobs lost as businesses tried to stay afloat, while pubs, theatres and shops faced months without trade.

We clapped for the NHS each Thursday.

In one of many stories of outstanding courage during the pandemic, a Rhyl dad with bowel cancer returned home after a three-week fight against sepsis and Covid-19 .

Eric Edwards, of Rhyl, was diagnosed with cancer more than two years ago and developed secondary liver cancer last year.

The biggest loss of income was from Denbighshire Leisure Ltd, which manages council facilities such as SC2, Rhyl’s Pavilion Theatre, Prestatyn Nova Centre and leisure centres.

After schools returned after the summer break, hundreds of Rhyl pupils were told to self-isolate as the number of confirmed Covid cases continued to rise in Denbighshire . About 240 year nine pupils at Rhyl High School and 240 pupils at Ysgol Glan Clwyd in St Asaph had to follow social isolation rules.

This has been an unprecedented year.

A look back at some of the top and stand out stories from 2020:

Rhyl Journal:

I'm A Celeb campmates 2020. Picture: ITV

November / December 2020

I’M A CELEBRITY... come back here!

The 20th series of the hit ITV reality TV show was aired from our very own Gwrych Castle in Abergele on November 15.

Over 12 million viewers tuned in to see Ant & Dec and the celebrity camp mates in the first episode.

It was the highlight of a difficult year for many people and brought excitement to the town.

I’m A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! fever saw Abergele traders decorate their shops with posters of television presenters Ant & Dec and local pubs even offer I’m A Celeb themed menus . The Geordie presenters were spotted at various nearby locations including Ant when he called at The Mulberry in Conwy.

It also brought 500 jobs to the area while over 50 local businesses ranging from coach firms to printing companies and recruitment agencies helped out in the production of the show.

The spooky medieval castle theme saw changes including Castle Coins in place of Dingo Dollars but old favourites such as the Bushtucker Trials returned - although not without controversy as the show was criticised by animal campaigners and faced a police investigation over importing non-native species.

Many had tipped Jordan North to win following his transformative journey from throwing up on a cliff top on Anglesey on the first day to braving the various food-winning challenges he was voted for by the public.

However it was the final three outsider and CBeebies presenter Giovanni Fletcher that won viewers’ hearts to become the ‘first Queen of the castle’.

This prompted hopes that there may be a second queen should I’m a Celeb return to Gwrych Castle again next year.

January, February and March 2020

WHILE many were looking to start the New Year on a high, charity shop workers were left devastated after being targeted by thieves and vandals in a spate of overnight incidents (January 8, ‘Despair as shops raided’). Five shops were targeted during overnight break-ins which included £400 damage to the RSPCA Clwyd & Colwyn Charity Shop and £40 in donations stolen. The Shelter Charity Shop in Prestatyn and the British Heart Foundation and Mind in Rhyl were also targeted. “We are just shocked and horrified that this awful incident has happened,” one volunteer said.

In a show of great community spirit to come later this year, friends and family of Rhyl mum-of-eight Sharon Owens gave her the “send-off she truly deserves” (January 15, ‘Fundraising to celebrate Sharon’s life’). Despite receiving the all-clear in October around a year after her cancer diagnosis, 53-year-old Sharon died in the early hours of Sunday. A Crowdfunding campaign raised more than £500 to cover the cost of her funeral. Louise Grace, Sharon’s daughter-in-law, said: “As a strong woman who has raised eight children, she deserves the world and much more than we are able to give her.”

This seems like a tale from many moons ago but it was in fact this year – thousands of music fans gathered at Venue Cymru for an “emotional rollercoaster ride” as Mike Peters and The Alarm held their 28th annual Gathering (February 5, ‘Gathering in their 1,000s’). The sold-out show featured a newly composed theatre production based on the two classic Alarm albums that was performed live by the band and a 10-person cast. Dave Jones, long-term fan, said: “What audiences were then exposed to was a ground-breaking piece of immersive rock theatre”.

Disaster struck the next week, however, as the heavy rainfall and strong winds of Storm Ciara overwhelmed the flood defences of St Asaph and Llanfair TH (Wednesday, February 12, ‘Homes and businesses hit by Ciara’). More than 50 residents were evacuated from Llys y Felin, Mill Street and Spring Gardens caravan park in St Asaph as the River Elwy burst its banks. Further up the river, rural communities in Llansannan and Llangernyw were affected., sparking concerns that existing flood precautions were not fit for purpose.

Weeks later, residents of Towyn and Kinmel Bay gathered to remember the devastating floods that forced 5,000 to leave their homes in 1990 (February 26, ‘Memories of 1990 floods’). About 2,800 houses were evacuated when high tides and extreme weather broke down sea defences and caused flooding to many low-lying coastal homes in the area. The event had a lasting impact on the towns. Prince Charles visited at the time of the disaster, and Princess Diana later that year. To commemorate the 30th anniversary, residents and dignitaries including AMs, MPS and mayors from across North Wales met at the St Mary’s Church in Towyn on St David’s Day on Sunday.

In brighter news, a solar energy farm the size of 150 football fields was proposed for St Asaph to “fight against climate chaos” (March 4, ‘Huge solar farm for city’). The development on farmland north-east of St Asaph would cover 117 hectares and generate nearly 60 gigawatt hours of electricity per year – enough to power over 20,000 homes. Cllr Peter Scott, mayor of St Asaph, said: “It is taking one of the best fields we have got but it is a balancing act. It is going to look quite obtrusive, the size of it, but there is a need to do this – green energy, especially with the floods and the fight against climate change.”