Thursday, 22 June 2017

Tribute to a remarkable woman

Dinas Oleu - a shining beacon to lovers of the 'good, the beautiful and the true'
It's a hundred years ago today that Mrs Fanny Talbot, of Ty'n Ffynnon, Barmouth died. 

What's remarkable about this, I hear you ask? Well, Fanny Talbot played a key role in the founding of the National Trust and was one of a band of radical thinkers - many of them women - who were at the forefront of the conservation movement in the 19th century.

She was the first person to appreciate the potential of the newly formed National Trust for Places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty to take ownership of special places and hold them 'in trust, for the nation'.  Raised in the first meeting of the newly-formed National Trust's Executive Committee was the gift of a hillside at Barmouth in North Wales, Dinas Oleu.

The rest, as they say is history.  And, as I never tire of saying when showing people around Dinas Oleu, "from this tiny acorn, the mighty oak of the National Trust has grown".

Fanny Talbot was one of a group of far-sighted people who led the way for the conservation movement

So it was right and proper that we recognized this woman's seminal gesture by gathering for a memorial service in her honour at the beautiful church of St Mary's and St Bodfan at Llanaber on the outskirts of Barmouth. 

At the service, the Lord Lieutenant of Gwynedd, Edmund Bailey, spoke of her many gifts to Barmouth and the contribution that the National Trust continues to make to upland farming and conservation.  (To read the text of his address, click here).  A tribute was also made by our Director of Land, Landscapes and Nature, Peter Nixon, which mentioned her links with our founders and her relevance to today's priorities.  (To read this address, click here).

We then gathered at the newly restored graveside for a blessing by the Revd. Miriam Beecroft.  Flowers were laid on her grave, including a posy of wildflowers and sprigs of gorse and oak from her beloved Dinas Oleu.


At the graveside (L-R): Peter Nixon (NT Director of Land, Landscapes and Nature), Edmund Bailey (Lord Lieutenant of Gwynedd), Eirwen Owen (Meirionnydd Association of NT Members), Rhodri Wigley ( NT Meirionnydd Ranger), Revd. Miriam Beecroft.
Later, following a guided walk led by our Lead Ranger for Meirionnydd, Rhodri Wigley, we were treated to fascinating talks by Peter Nixon and Fanny Talbot's biographer, Dr Astrid Swenson of Brunel University, London.

After the walk, we gathered at Barmouth's Dragon Theatre to hear lectures about Fanny Talbot and her legacy.  Here's Dr Swenson, speaking on Mrs Talbot's links with some of the greatest thinkers of her time.

To read more about this influential and intriguing person, click here for my recent article about her in Welsh Coastal Life magazine.

Address at Fanny Talbot's memorial service by Edmund Bailey, HM Lord Lieutenant of Gwynedd


Edmund S Bailey CStJ. FRAgS.
H.M. Lord Lieutenant of Gwynedd


Bonheddigion a Fonheddigesau prynhawn da. 
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen.


Ga'i i ddeud mod i’n falch iawn o gael y cyfle i fod yn eich cwmni yma yn yr hen eglwys hardd ac hanesydol hon eglwys Santes Fair.


I’m delighted to have an opportunity to be part of this memorable occasion here in this beautiful church of St Mary’s to commemorate a very special lady who unconsciously sowed a few seeds of a fledgling movement that would develop into one of the most appreciated organisations in Great Britain today.


It is also an organisation that in its time has seen an immense amount of social change and has in some ways been a pillar of solidarity through some troubled times.


Mae wedi bod yn dasg diddorol drost ben i ymchwilio i fywyd Fanny Talbot a thrwy hwnnw dod I  ddeall y pwysau sosialaidd a  arweiniodd at  holl newidiadau’r  ganrif a hanner diwethaf.


I have a lifelong interest in the old hundred of Ardudwy, as it is the place of my birth, my education and my working life and I am convinced where the people are the friendliest and the most honest in the country, although not every one has agreed with that sentiment as we’ll hear.


Er mwyn ddeall a gwerthfawrogi rhodd Fanny Talbot i’r genedl, ei hetifeddiaeth a’i statws fel prif dinesydd Bermo, mae’n rhaid I ni gymryd ei bod yn caru’r ardal hon cymaint a llawer ohonom ni sydd yma heddiw.


To understand and appreciate Fanny Talbot’s gift to the nation, her legacy and her status as Barmouth’s premier citizen, we have to assume she was as much in love with this area as many of us here are today.

She was fairly wealthy, that is obvious. She was a widow, she moved in very learned circles and became friends with Ruskin the social thinker and philanthropist and founder of the educational Guild of St George to which she donated 12 or 13 cottages in 1874. Later on of course in 1895, making the Dinas Olau,  “Fortress of light”, donation to the founding of the National Trust.


Dinas Oleu, what a wonderful name, an almost unassailable piece of land above the old town, covered in gorse which when in flower must have shone like a beacon for the sea farers coming into the harbour.

Yn ddi-os, ei chymhelliant oedd ei chariad at yr ardal ac yn eironig ddigon, mae’n debyg iddi cael y weithred yn haws i’w gyflawni wedi iddi colli mab Quartus, arlunydd dawnus yn 1888, pan oedd ond pymtheg a’r hugain mwlydd oed.


Her motivation was undoubtedly her love for the area and her action, ironically probably made easier by  losing her son Quartus, a gifted artist,, in 1888 when he was only 35years old.


It could be argued that this gift overshadowed her other contributions to the town of Barmouth and I suppose the on going development of the trust strengthens that point. However the wider benefit to the town, through her generosity must not be overlooked. She was described as the greatest benefactress the town had and her support for the Seaman’s Mission in Barmouth, in memory of her son, scholarship’s to Barmouth school when an education was really important and the distribution of food and coal to the poor in the winter are examples of this. Perhaps most importantly was the founding, along with her friend, Frances Power Cobb, of the free Library leading quite rightly to the square being named after her.


Not everyone however has held this area in such high regard: Giraldus Cambrensis or Gerallt Cymro described the area when he visited here in 1182 as the rudest and roughest of all Wales. He was from Pembrokeshire though where the land is a lot kinder and I won’t mention the manners of the people there. He had however a fairly rough crossing of the Mawddach in a poor boat which might have tainted his view of Gods own country.


The history of this area is fascinating and has undoubtedly led to the landscape we all appreciate. The earliest farmers were tilling the thin soil around their huts over 4000 years ago, Lead copper and manganese has been  mined over the centuries and left it’s scars or, if you like it’s character  on the landscape.


Mae waliau cerrig yn nodwedd amlwg iawn yma yn dilyn y Deddfau Cau Tiroedd a disodlodd sawl system cae Neolithig bychan. Mae nhw’n darparu ffiniau defnyddiol, angen ychydig iawn o gynnal a chadw, yn cysgod da, ond mae nhw hefyd yn arwydd o dyddodion carreg yn y pridd.


Stone walls are very much a feature here following the Enclosure acts and they replaced in many cases the small Neolithic field systems. They provide useful boundaries, minimal maintenance, good shelter but are an indicator of the stone deposits within the soil.


Landed estates were established, by force or favour and wealth created by wool and shipping. Fixed marriages enlarged these estates and the disparity between the wealthy and the poor was immense. The unfair division of the land asset became a way of life. The masters and their servants. So one could understand the developments of taxes, death duty and the like which sought a more even distribution of the land and wealth.


Cors y Gedol, the principal estate in this area was over 12,000 acres in the 1850’s and had land interests from Harlech to Barmouth. A hundred years later the farm had been reduced to 2800 acres - 2000 of that being a mountain enclosure. There were however many more proud independent, albeit small farms following this “revolution”.

The irony here is that many of these small farms became unviable as farming methods and farmers expectations changed. Smaller farms were subsumed by the larger ones and many homesteads  left abandoned. There are several valleys hereabouts where now only one or two families remain.
Yn drist ac yn eironig mae adfeilion ysgolion bychain yn rhai o’r cymoedd hyn, sy’n tystio i’r cymunedau ffynianus a fu.

Sadly and ironically some of these valleys have small ruined schools in them. A testament to thriving communities.

So we have witnessed an immense social change in land holding in the last century and a half. It would be, I’m sure one that Ruskin and Fanny Talbot would have been well aware of and one they hoped to influence. She subsequently supported Cannon Rawnsley and Octavia Hill and other public minded citizens in the work of founding the National Trust.

Farming in particular has changed immeasurably over the last century too. We’ve been caught out in two World wars where through our lack of self sufficiency in food  we’ve been  at the mercy of our enemies.  Starvation would have been likely without the courage of the Royal and Merchant navies.


Consequently and through the introduction of farming subsidies, production has been encouraged and food probably is now cheaper and more available than we have ever known, since those Neolithic farmers first tilled the soil 4000 years ago.

However the downside of the last century has  been the abandonment of the great houses and the exploitation of the land. The over use of chemicals and fertilizer,  of drainage, wall and hedge clearance which has impacted on very many habitats and on wildlife too.

This is where an old fashioned and traditional farmer like myself starts to appreciate the work and the commitment of the National Trust. They, through their expert staff and indeed their “mission statement”  has a balanced attitude to the problems we face today. They look after our national treasures and our natural heritage too.

I am aware that within Snowdonia, the National Trust own 58, 000 acres but I’m also aware that much of this is tenanted. They provide opportunities for young farmers to obtain tenancies when it is nigh on impossible in the commercial world to do so. Within Hafod y Llan on Snowdon they are farming in traditional ways and looking to diversified opportunities such as hydroelectricity to add value to their efforts.

They are doing similar work in Plas Newydd with seaborne heat exchangers which all helps to maintain the fabric of that great house, the former seat of Lord Anglesey.

Interestingly in Llyndy Isaf near Beddgelert they have an agreement with the Young Farmers Association whereby a young man or woman has the opportunity to run the farm for a year. The experience they gain is invaluable and is tremendous on their CV’s.

Very much closer to home is of course Egryn , the earliest part of the house at about 1460. It has now been restored beautifully and innovatively with a heating app! It is available to rent. This in its turn,  bringing work and income to the area and best of all the Trusst have a young farming tenant who makes his living and raises his children here. It is massively important to keep good people on the land and children in the schools.

Wrth gwrs, rwy’n cofio Rodney Bryne oedd ai deulu yn berchen Egryn a Mr Brookes oedd yn rhedeg Egryn drosto. Rhaid eu cofio hwythau hefyd fel pawb sydd wedi cyfrannu’n sylweddol i’r Ymddiriedolaeth.

Of course I remember Rodney Bryne whose family owned Egryn and Mr Brookes who ran it for him. They too must be remembered as are all those who have made substantial donations to the Trust.


Some of you will know that Beatrix Potter holidayed in Llanbedr in 1905. Sadly it was at the time she discovered her fiancé,  Norman Warne had died. She certainly did some painting here, one of a cottage  where my son now lives with his family. I wonder is it possible that it was here she heard of Fanny Talbot’s legacy. I like to think so.

Two ladies with sadness in their lives but when we consider Fanny Talbot and compare her to so many others whether they be warring chieftains, landed gentry, wealthy industrialists politicians, those who were famous in their lifetime.

What was their legacy? Did it live on?. Fanny Talbot, a quiet intellectual philanthropic lady with bright black eyes. Set into motion through her generosity and her vision, the National Trust.  What a legacy.

Mae dirwedd hon, ei hanes a’i phobl, hyd yn oed os mai dyma’r dirwedd fwyaf ddigwylydd a garw yng Nghymru gyfan, yn fy ngweud i’n falch o fodd yn Gymro ac yn fy ngweud i’n falch o’r gwaith mae’r Ymddiriedolaeth Genedlaethol yn ei wneud i’w ddiogelu.

This landscape, it’s history and it’s people ,even if it’s the rudest and roughest in all Wales,  makes me proud to be  Welsh and makes me proud of the work the National Trust do to protect it.


Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Thankyou.

Woman of Action

An elderly woman sat down at her desk in a solidly-built stone cottage high above Cardigan Bay and took out a small black-edged pad of writing paper.  She dipped her pen into the pot of ink, gazed for a moment through the window at the far horizon and then wrote these words.  “Dear Canon Rawnsley, I write to you as secretary of the ‘National Trust for places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty’ to say that I am anxious to hand over to the Trust the face of the cliff above the town of Barmouth, that it may be preserved in its natural state for the enjoyment of future generations.” 


The date was the 23rd of October 1894 and the woman was Fanny Talbot, the wealthy widow of Somerset surgeon George Talbot.  With these few words, written in a neat but vigorously purposeful hand that belies her 70 years, she established her place in history as the donor of the National Trust’s first property, Dinas Oleu at Barmouth.  This year marks the centenary of this remarkable woman’s death and we celebrated her life with a service and blessing of her newly-restored gravestone at the ancient church of St Mary’s Llanaber on the 21st of June. 


A photo of Fanny Talbot's offer letter, held at the NT archives.
But who was Mrs Talbot, and what inspired her generosity to an embryonic organisation, then going through the final stages of its founding in faraway London? 

The daughter of a wealthy Bridgewater merchant, the young Fanny Browne had the sort of middle class upbringing that enabled her to occupy her considerable intellect in the finer things in life.  But until her husband’s untimely death she seems to have lived a relatively quiet and conventional life as wife and mother. All this changed when she moved to Barmouth following George’s death and she reinvented herself as an independent and strong-willed philanthropist.  She made friends with some of the leading thinkers of her time and played an active role in the life of the town at a critical period in its development. From her eyrie high above the sand dunes at the mouth of the Mawddach she witnessed the rapid transformation of the small but industrious Welsh seafaring village of Abermaw into the modern English Midlands tourist resort of Barmouth. 


Perhaps it was the shocking rapidity of this change, with virtually every piece of the once wild dunes being built upon – and a lack of public amenities for the townspeople – that inspired her gift.  An impression of her inquisitive personality can be seen in this cameo of her in the writings of the great Victorian art critic and social thinker, John Ruskin.  She [is]…curious beyond any magpie that ever was, but always giving her spoons away instead of stealing them. Practically clever beyond most women; but if you answer one question she'll ask you six!  Such was her admiration for Ruskin’s ideas that she gifted a dozen cottages to his Guild of St George, which she then ran on his behalf as a sort of experiment, combining social housing with an artists’ commune.


Dinas Oleu, of course, remains in our care and we still manage it according to the wishes she set out when she made her seminal gift.  She stated that, “I have no objection to grassy paths or stone seats in proper places but I wish to avoid the abomination of asphalt paths and cast-iron seats of serpent design”. 


So if you’re thinking of taking a walk on the Welsh coast this summer why not follow the winding lanes up from Barmouth’s High Street and follow in the footsteps of this remarkable woman.


This column first appeared in Welsh Coastal Life, May 2017.

Address at the memorial service of Fanny Talbot, by Peter Nixon, Director of Land, Landscapes and Nature at the National Trust


Peter Nixon, Director of Land, Landscapes and Nature at the National Trust

Mrs Fanny Talbot: 1824 – 1917
An appreciation of her contribution to the nation and The National Trust
Catalysed by threats of railways and quarrying in the Lake District the founders of the National Trust, Octavia Hill, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley and Sir Robert Hunter held its inaugural meeting on July 16th 1894.
Octavia Hill moved the initial resolution on that day: “That it is desirable to provide means by which landowners may be enabled to dedicate to the nation places of historic interest or natural beauty, and for this purpose it is expedient to form a corporate body, capable of holding land, and representative of national institutions and interests”.
The very first landowner so enabled was Fanny Talbot. At the first meeting of the fledgling National Trust’s Executive Committee the principal item on the agenda was the offer of a property, Dinas Oleu, on the Merioneth coast of Wales, as a gift to the National Trust by Mrs Fanny Talbot.
Mrs Talbot had long been a generous supporter of John Ruskin, who had an important influence on Octavia Hill’s life. At one stage Mrs Talbot had been considering gifting Dinas Oleu to a guild established by Ruskin, but had lost confidence in its financial stability. So instead she turned towards Ruskin’s one time protégé, Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, who had visited Dinas Oleu and had his imagination stirred when told its name meant “Fortress of Light”.
During the 1890s Mrs Talbot had assisted Rawnsley in the founding of the National Trust, so was familiar with its purpose.  She explained her intentions in offering the gift of Dinas Oleu to the Trust: “I am so grateful for this chance, for I perceive your National Trust will be of greatest use to me. I have long wanted to secure for the public for ever the enjoyment of Dinas Oleu, but I wish it to be put into the custody of some society that will never vulgarise it, or prevent wild Nature from having its own way … I wish to avoid the abomination of asphalt paths and the cast iron seats of serpent design.”
The Executive Committee agreed to accept the gift – a moment of huge symbolic and very real importance in the history of the National Trust. Octavia Hill at the time said: “We have got our first piece of property, I wonder if it will be our last”. She need not have worried.
Since those early days the Trust has quietly grown, from the small seedling of the acorn planted by Mrs Talbot into a substantial oak. Over one thousand properties throughout Wales, Northern Island and England are now held in permanent stewardship for all the nation.  775 miles of coastline. And continuing acquisitions – with one of our most recent being Great Orme – another of the jewels in Wales’ crown that shines so brightly.  Within sight is the milestone of the National Trust providing permanent stewardship for the nation of 1000 square miles of land.
Equally important is the huge public enjoyment and recreation, a cause so dear to Mrs Talbot, that these properties provide. Over 200 million visits a year to National Trust coast and countryside properties like Dinas Oleu. Each one an opportunity for re-creation of body and mind, of spiritual refreshment provided by beautiful places and the revitalising touch of wilderness, of reconnecting with nature  in our hectic, all too often digitally-dominated  lives.
Mrs Talbot was prescient in her determination “never to prevent wild Nature – spelled by her with a capital N – from having its own way”. Nature has alas too often been tamed, constrained and fragmented by the needs of modern society – by the pressure all of us are putting on our so precious a resource, the land.  Which is why the National Trust has as a principal strategic objective the restoration of nature – of a healthy and beautiful natural environment.  I like to think that Mrs Talbot is looking down with strong approval.
So, we are all greatly in Fanny Talbot’s debt. It is very right that we should celebrate her life at this point, one hundred years after her death, reflecting on what she achieved. And above all that we say afresh to her, thank you. 
Thank you, Mrs Talbot.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Come rain or shine - volunteering on Gower

Ollie and Alys - two of our Gower volunteers

 “Event cancelled due to wind and rain”. 

The sign seemed to sum up our summer in a sentence.  Facing the prospect of their Wildlife Fun Day turning into more of a no-wildlife misery day, our rangers had taken the sensible decision to call it off. 

But I wasn’t too disappointed, as I’d travelled down to Gower to join their annual volunteer end-of-summer barbeque, which was still going ahead whatever the weather.  Whiteford Burrows, on the peninsula’s remoter north coast is the venue for both these popular annual events, which are based at the Cwm Ivy Lodge bunkhouse.

So with a couple of hours to go before the volunteers were due to arrive, I headed off to indulge in a bit of wildlife fun of my own.  And you can see why this place is chosen for the annual celebration of Gower’s biodiversity.  The newly restored Cwm Ivy salt marsh felt more like the Everglades than the Loughor estuary, with tidal creeks filled with teeming small fish and scuttling crabs, and exotic-looking egrets roosting in the nearby trees.

Sea lavender, amongst creeks teeming with fish and scuttling crabs
 After strolling through verdant woodland resounding to the call of woodpeckers, I climbed the limestone outcrop of Cwm Ivy Tor and sat amongst a floral kaleidoscope of lemon-yellow common rockrose, deep-purple greater knapweed and electric-blue viper’s bugloss to take in the vast breathtaking sweep of beach, dunes and marsh.  I know of nowhere else on the Welsh coast where you can find such a diversity of well-managed top-notch habitats in such a compact area.
Cwm Ivy marsh - an amazing assemblage of wildlife habitats
Snatches of laughter and wisps of barbeque smoke drifted through the conifers that surround the Lodge as I approached, and I soon found myself amongst the forty or so jovial volunteers, busying with preparations for the evening’s repast. 

The Cwm Ivy Lodge - the ideal place for a gathering

Part of my role is to encourage more volunteering at our coastal places, so I was curious to find out what motivates this loyal and dedicated band of unpaid workers.  I found that it varied greatly from person to person.  Some, like retired academic and coastodian Gordon, are fairly independent folks driven by a desire to adopt a particular place, helping to look after it and act as our rangers’ eyes and ears. 

Others, like retired husband and wife Dave and Margaret, come for camaraderie, being long-standing members of the lively ‘Tuesday group’. Swansea University ecology master’s student, Alys, calls her volunteering ‘sanity days’, as they give her a chance to clear her head of her studies and get out of the bubble of student life.  But the one thing they all have in common is a love of Gower and a desire to put something back for the joy the area gives them.

A dozen of us stayed the night and, as we breakfasted, the forecasted storm arrived.  The wind roared in the trees; the rain rattled on the Lodge’s tin roof and streamed down the windows.  We gathered under the veranda and shivered as we watched rain squalls sweeping across the marsh.  Even the usually-abundant birdlife had deserted the site.  

Gower volunteers - in action helping to create wildlife habitats at Cwm Ivy Marsh

 But soon we saw a few figures emerging out of the gloom.  I was amazed to find that they were members of the Saturday group, ready to join the task for the day.

As I got ready to leave for the long drive north, they were donning waterproofs and were being briefed by ranger Claire before heading off into the maelstrom to clear plastic off the beach. 

I was left with a profound respect for these hardy souls.  Such people demonstrate some of humanity’s greatest virtues: love of place, respect for nature and care for our environment.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Cemlyn's Changing Coastline

Cemlyn: A place of big skies, seabirds and storms. (c) NT/Joe Cornish
Cemlyn is a place of big skies; a refuge for wildlife and a sanctuary for those wishing to escape everyday life and find solace in breathtakingly beautiful scenery. 

But we face a big challenge keeping it that way…

Climate Change: Challenge or Opportunity?


This two-mile stretch of National Trust land, half a mile from the village of Cemaes on the North Anglesey coast, is of exceptional environmental and cultural value.  It is home to an internationally important breeding colony of Sandwich terns, includes a historic mill and church and was the site of Anglesey’s first lifeboat.

The estate includes two family-run farms, two smallholdings and is a popular destination for walkers, bird-watchers and kayakers.

But Cemlyn faces an uncertain future.  Much of the estate is low-lying and is already affected by coastal flooding and erosion.  Wildlife, historic features and the farming way of life are all threatened by climate change, raising serious questions about the future of the estate. 


Sea-level rise projections require a radical re-think about land use and access routes on the estate (1m sea level rise marked in light blue).
Ordnance Survey data (c) Crown Copyright and database
The land also sits right next door to the site of the proposed Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station which, if it goes ahead, will be one of Europe’s biggest construction sites.

If ever there was a need for a clear conservation vision, this is it.

Take a look at Cemlyn’s breathtakingly beautiful coastline from the air


Storms over-top the shingle ridge, lowering its height and flooding farmland (Photo: Jane Rees)
Parking problems?  The main car park is frequently flooded by the tide, making it necessary to plan for its relocation.

Stormy Waters


Sea levels are rising.  Since records began at nearby Holyhead in 1965, there’s already been a 17.8 cm rise in mean high water.

By the end of the century, land currently being used for silage, crops and grazing at Cemlyn will be underwater at the highest tides.  The shingle ridge that protects the islands which support 20% of the UK Sandwich terns may be breached and access roads, car parks and footpaths will be unusable.

"The 12 highest recorded high tides [at nearby Holyhead] have all occurred since 1997"
 Prof. Ken Pye, Environmental Scientist and advisor to the Cemlyn vision project


Seeking a shared vision


We’ve recently started to share our ideas for Cemlyn’s future with our farming tenants, conservation partners and the local community.  This follows two years of detailed research, which has involved studies of the hydrology, geomorphology, soils and farming practices of the estate. 

A picture is emerging of threatened habitats, livelihoods and farming traditions that stretch back for generations.


Sharing our vision



We’ve taken our stand to the Anglesey Show and held a Cemlyn Open Day to share our vision and gather feedback from locals and visitors.

We are sharing what we know about the challenges of climate change with those who depend on Cemlyn for their livelihood

The North Wales Wildlife Trust has been managing the Cemlyn Lagoon, with its thriving tern colony, for over 40 years.  Their expertise has been crucial to developing the vision, and we have also been in discussion with the Isle of Anglesey County Council and the RSPB.  Thanks to Jane Rees/NWWT for this 1970s archive photo, showing volunteers repairing the damaged weir.


Our role is to defend the beauty and wildlife of this amazing stretch of coast.  If the timeless habitats and farming heritage are to survive at this special place, we must prepare now to overcome the challenges of climate change by working with our farming tenants, the community and conservation partners. 

To help visualise the likely changes we commissioned an artist's impression of how the landscape will look in our grandchildren's time

Did you know?

Cemlyn has a fascinating nature conservation history dating back nearly a century.  Download our timeline to find out more.

 We would like to hear from you


If you would like to contribute to our vision, or just want to let us know what you think, please feel free to use the comment facility on this blog, or contact me

To find out more, download our bilingual vision document
 

You may need to download the Dropbox app to view the above link.  Contact me if you'd like me to email you a copy.


Gwerthfawrogaf eich sylwadau ar ddyfodol Cemlyn.

 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Fancy being a COASTodian?



Imagine taking a walk to your favourite place on the Welsh coast. Everyday worries fade away as you leave the road and stroll towards the shore. Your spirits lift as you take in the clean sea air and the invigorating sounds of seabirds and crashing waves. Then imagine how you’d feel when you arrive at your cherished beach to find it resembling a rubbish tip. Everywhere you look litter is scattered about; tatters of plastic festoon the gorse and thorn bushes and flap forlornly in the breeze; old campfires are surrounded by discarded empty drink cans.

Now imagine how you’d feel if you found out that this was a National Trust property. You’d probably tell all your friends about how awful it is that an organisation dedicated to public enjoyment of beautiful places hasn’t done something about it. You’d also consider bringing it to the attention of your local council. You may even write a strongly-worded letter to your local paper and MP.

Well, this is precisely what recently happened at one of our most beautiful South Wales beaches. Truth be told, with 157 miles of coast to look after, we don’t always have the resources to adequately look after all our places. In this particular case, it’s a half-day round trip for our rangers to check this beach and they were busy with a backlog of work elsewhere. Anxious to repair the rather dented relations with this community, the lead ranger phoned me up to ask if I was able to help.

COASTodian Kits - ready to go
As luck would have it, I’ve been working on an initiative which aims to remedy exactly this sort of situation. The COASTodian initiative (MORLINofalwr in Welsh) is a way for residents and visitors to get more involved with conserving beautiful places around the Welsh coast. The goal is to have a sort of human chain of Community COASTodians around our coast; each one of them dedicating some of their time to adopt a particular stretch of coast and check it regularly. As well as being our rangers’ ‘eyes and ears’ they can also carry out light maintenance tasks, make observations on wildlife sightings and help other people enjoy their visit or get involved.

Launching the COASTodian Initiative in Carmarthenshire
A few days later, I met the local ranger team at the aforementioned desecrated beach and with the help of the local Member of Parliament we removed a skip-full of rubbish, returning the beach to its pristine condition. But the challenge now is to keep it that way. So before I left, I handed over a couple of Community COASTodian kits to the rangers, who are now on the lookout for some benevolent resident to take up one of these new voluntary roles.

Peter Hill, COASTodian Number One
Buoyed up by this mini success story, I returned home and contacted one of the people who are leading the way with the initiative in North Wales. Three years ago, local resident Peter Hill noticed that we were struggling to keep up with the maintenance of Tywyn y Fach, an unspoilt stretch of sand dunes near Abersoch. Instead of complaining, he decided to do something practical. With our local rangers’ support, Peter began checking the site regularly; picking litter, inspecting the gates and signs and letting us know if he needed help with anything. As a result, he has single-handedly turned this popular location from a source of frustration to a source of pride.

The place is remarkable not only for its clean and tidy appearance, but also as a shining example of how local people can help us better care for their coast.



Click the link in the menu bar above to find out how to get involved.