In the 21st century what is meant by a “natural landscape”? What is it that makes a landscape special? How do the people who live, work and play in a particular area relate to It? What part do these landscapes play in the lives of those who live in more urban environments?

In the event of changes to the landscape brought about by significant climate change, how will people respond to any measures taken to help protect that landscape and its possible uses?

Thursday 17 March 2011

I have launched the You Tube video this week.

I now realise that you have to take pot luck about the quality of image that some people experience when trying to watch the film. A slow internet connection really has a detrimental effect on the way the film is experienced. Playback can be improved by viewers of YouTube by clicking on the "360" button and changing it to "240" (directly underneath the video). This reduces the frame rate.

Technical difficulties aside, I want to use this short format to juxtapose city life (Brussels) with a rural town (Brecon) in order to highlight the difference in material wealth and convenience against what often seems a hard and much more physical existence , what herman de vries calls our primary reality.

Policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy Reform are shaped and launched in the city. This policy encourages upland farmers to become environmental land managers rather than food producers, it also makes it more difficult for many small farming units to get any farming subsidies.

City dwellers depend on good air and water quality, increased biodiversity benefits us all. The high carbon life style of the city can “carry on as before” only if there are places in the world such as the uplands and particularly the peat bogs to help offset their activities.

The conundrum is that human beings all want.

The city dweller likes to dip into the “idea” of the country way of life whilst the country dweller, particularly the young, would like a little more of the bright lights and SHOPS!

……..and those who work the land? Well they are increasingly aware of a shifting balance between power and direction. For some farmers diversification now means turning from food production to energy production, filling fields with photo voltaic panels, wind turbines or hydro systems. Whilst others scratch their heads wondering who is going to feed the world. Like Knights of old, I suspect this is why the multi nationals step up to the mark with their genetically engineered factory style food production to “save the world” whilst keeping control of the profits.

City dwellers stay fit by visiting the gym, at weekends they may visit the “countryside.”

However we define the countryside, it has changed, it looks very different, but it’s central role remains the same… our primary reality and the Earth’s vital breath holes.

Friday 11 February 2011

Back to blogging

Back to blogging after a long period of quiet.

The project has progressed and I am about to launch a short You Tube video and three more postcards to complete the set of six . I will put these onto the blog in the near future.

I have been disappointed with the lack of response to the blog. I was hoping to raise some form of debate or wider conversation through this. However, fairly early on I became aware that farmers in particular, do not spend a lot of time on their computers. So I guess that’s one big bunch of interested people I am not talking to! I also discovered that many young people living in the Brecon area do not express much interest in their natural environment, and are more likely to use the internet for social networking.

Now I am trying to put together a short filmic essay. I want to use give voice to some of the different points of view and concerns I discovered during my conversations with farmers, graziers, towns people and tourists. I also think it is important to raise awareness of the plight of these areas, and why it is necessary to protect and nurture them for future generations. Not because they are rural idles, these are tough environments in which to live, but because these fragile landscapes help improve the air and water quality for those of us living more convenient urban lives, and in many cases more responsible for creating pollution in the first place.

I am also concerned that by running down or discouraging the small family farm, and the increasing imbalance between food requirement and production it would seem a good time to justify the use of GM seeds. Thus taking more control away from the individual and placing it firmly in the hands of the multinational companies.

Tuesday 19 October 2010


Industrial air pollution can travel many miles. As canaries once did, sphagnum and peat mosses can act as an early warning system, alerting humans to the poor quality of the air, at their own expense .

When looking back over the material I have collected either as images or conversations, there appears to be a marked difference between those people who live in rural communities and urban dwellers. On the surface lives and outlooks seem very different; opportunities and richness of choice are measured in very different ways.
I am aware that this project has focused on rural communities and therefore my last statement is a sweeping generalisation, but rural dwellers generally have to be much more proactive if they want anything to happen. There are many ways to categorise and compartmentalise the population of Great Britain, but the division between marginalised rural communities and large urban conurbations is vast. Yet they all share the same responsibilities.

Recent news items have demonstrated the increasing awareness Heads of State and government officials have regarding the importance of biodiversity, and the growing acceptance of the interconnected nature of human plant and animal welfare to that of the health and well being of the earth itself.

Thursday 30 September 2010

The Beacons of Brecon store large amounts of carbon in the peat, concerns about the health of the uplands have been raised both at a National and International level.

In simple terms when the uplands are not healthy, peat gets eroded by rainfall that washes the soil down into the rivers, often turning the rivers red. This makes the rivers more acidic and not good for fish; it also clogs the water filtration systems, cutting the water supply to its customers. The wrong type of grasses start to grow, and these mat forming grasses increase the risk of fire. Hill fires release a lot of carbon into the atmosphere, this is not helpful at a time when we are all trying to reduce our carbon emissions, it also increases the loss of soil from the hills through wind and rain erosion.


It is generally agreed that to keep the uplands healthy and to continue to function as carbon stores they need well functioning sustainable communities living within them. This means rich diverse communities of plants, animals and humans. I have talked to people who work with the land, the farmers, commoners and park authorities. The general consensus is that farmers are getting older and not many young people want to stay and work on the land any more. How can young people be encouraged to stay and build their lives in the area without feeling that they are not “missing out”?  Rural life can be hard and isolating, and very different from the world that gets portrayed to them through the films, music, books and magazines they read. If you have experience of, or opinions on any of these issues mentioned above, I would really like to hear from you via the blog or my email address

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Hello to all those who read this blog, I hope you had a good summer. I am now looking back at all the film footage and listening to the fascinating recorded conversations I have had over the past few months.
I would like to hear from anyone who walked or holidayed in the Brecon area this summer.  What was the weather like, did anyone get caught in a monsoon like downfall?  Were you camping, staying in a hotel or mobile home, or touring and staying in B & B accomodation? Did anyone visit a fair or festival?  If you are a young person living in the area, how did you spend your holidays? Did you feel there was enough to occupy you and keep you entertained? 
I would like to hear from people of all ages, has anyone got an interesting story to tell?

Wednesday 28 July 2010

things to do

One of the things that struck me whilst talking to holidaymakers as they visited the Tourist Information Centre in Brecon this week, was how many of them were returning to the area, in some cases after several years.

The Australian couple who had just arrived after a gap of thirty years wanted to recapture their memory of a place that was beautiful and unspoilt by lots of development. Others too found the ‘shabby chic’ qualities of the town somehow “more real “than more showy and face lifted shopping areas. The high numbers of independent establishments that have kept their personal identities intact mean that the town is not dominated by chain stores. I wondered how this aspect,whilst valued by the visitor, was seen by the local inhabitants especially the young people of Brecon.

The majority of the people I spoke to had come for the hills and the chance to be outside. Using the landscape as a recreational facility, one family said more could be done to give ease of access from camp site to biking or trekking facilities would be a great improvement.

from Industry to amenity

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Talking to the National Park’s ecologist about the poor state of the peat bogs and the uplands in general, the acid rains that came with the onslaught of the industrialisation of South Wales; air pollution and periods of overgrazing, a result of a past misguided agricultural policy, have all helped bring about the current state of affairs. We discussed the importance of the farming and grazing communities, their state of decline and the fragile balance between the activities of the farmers and the health of the hills.
This enmeshed conundrum continues, the human impact on the land and wider environment driven by human needs and concerns, and the slow but emphatic responses of the land and wider environment to these activities.

On Waun Figen Felen gorse and heather bails delivered to the peat bog, lay like bandages on the surface of this scared landscape. Unfurled they are used as a lint dressing that try to stem the flow of erosion leaking through the deep gullies, the slashed surface of the peat beds.

Trying to walk lightly over the land is difficult and is not what everyone is trying to do, but it might be something we all need to consider seriously.