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?

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.

Monday, 12 July 2010

As I got near to the farm I was visiting at Talybont-on-Usk, I stopped at a pink corrugated chapel struck by its quiet beauty and maintained dignity.

A woman walking a small dog approached who told me the building had been used as a school for children who were evacuated from London during the 2nd World War. Her sister had been placed with a family in the area, attended the school and learnt the Welsh National Anthem. Being in the countryside had not really left a mark on her sister, but she had had a happy stay, and held happy memories. 70 years later the younger sister who had not been so fortunate had been placed with a different family in another place, with no happy memories, returns every year to visit the family home of the “aunt” and “uncle” who had looked after her older sister. She loves the place even though it has changed, as there is more traffic and strangers.

PwllyrhwyaidI is a farm where keeping abreast of new ideas and new thinking is encouraged and nurtured. Where working with others, allowing new approaches to be considered rather than dismissed out of hand is the order of the day. Inviting people in from other cultures and farming communities has allowed this farm to grow and remain healthy. The importance of soil and the need to give back as well as take is clearly understood.

However this is still a family farm with family values and a clear understanding of the importance of lineage and the privilege of being able to pass things on.



Sunday, 4 July 2010

sheep sheering

sheering shed


returning to the field

I think sheering sheep may be the reason the phrase "backbreaking work" came into being, Last week I filmed three men who worked for a whole morning dragging sheep from the pens,calmly turning them onto their backs to sheer them before moving onto the next. In a morning they sheered 300 animals, they had another 300 to do in the afternoon. This was their third day on the farm; they were paid approximately 70p per sheep. I was struck by the shear physical qualities of their work, in a time when it is quite rare to see such hard labour being carried out with such purpose. The dogs were also incredible, they managed to be with the sheep without causing panic or distress, but at the same time to keep the sheep moving in the right direction. The large barn was arranged so that the sheep were coming in from the field driven by one woman and her dog, two men got the sheep into a large pen before driving them into two smaller pens that served the sheep shearers. After sheering the sheep they were released back into the yard to be collected by the woman and her dog to return to the field. Two other women collected rolled and packed the fleeces into big canvas sacks. The barn was noisy but calm and the sheep did not seem at all distressed, but as they went from the sheerer to return to the flock they all gave a leap that seemed to be both of joy and relief.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

This week I attended the DDNPA Agricultural Stakeholders Meeting held at the National Park Visitor Centre , Libanus. If I was not already aware that all issues connected with this particular landscape where nothing but complex, this meeting re-enforced the point most succinctly. The farmers attending the meeting were treated to a power point presentation of the new land management scheme. Glastir replaces the existing agri-environment scheme, and will try to encourage more bio diversity on farms , whilst at the same time make farms seem more viable and attractive as a career (life style) choice of occupation.
It was obvious from the many farmers who contributed to the discussion, that they had serious concerns about their ability to fulfil these tasks, working with an ageing and diminishing population(within the farming community).

On Friday I spent time with groups of young people who live , work or study in the area around Brecon. These young people were learning useful trades such as building and carpentry. I also spoke to young car mechanics and hair and beauty therapists ,all from Coleg Powys. Australia was a frequently mentioned destination to emigrate to once they had qualified. Many of these young people had never walked on the hills, for many the natural landscape that surrounds them is irrelevant.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Large areas of bracken push grazing animals into smaller more concentrated areas to feed , this can lead to land poaching. Nardus and Molinea grass also have the same effect on grazing stock, these grasses are also very flamable. Common fires cause soil erosion allowing heavy rain fall to wash unprotected top soil away. Bracken, molinea and Nardus grass establish themselves in these burnt areas, thus reducing the biodiversity of the area.
On Thursday I met someone from the Welsh Water Drinking Water Safety Plan. We talked about particular difficulties that have been highlighted over the past 2 to 3 years, concerning the area of land around the Cantref Reservoir and its feeder rivers. An increase in the occurrence of very high rain fall over comparative short periods of time  since 2008, have resulted in the filtration systems at Cantref shutting down as they struggle to cope with the increased sedimentation in the water arriving at the plant. The Nant Crew and the Afon Taff Fawr are significant contributors to the high colour and sediment content of the reservoir. Land slippage has also occurred resulting in the loss of farmland. Farming practice and land management will play an important role if these problems are to be at least limited if not completely eradicated.

A Catchment Management Strategy is being put forward to try and build a unified approach to tackling the problem. I would like to hear from anyone who has anecdotal evidence of land loss due to slippage. Or have you been caught up on the hills walking or working, during one of these heavy rainfall events? Maybe you lost your water supply or received discoloured water over several days? Simply click the comments button to add you contribution to this blog.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Today, Sunday I went out with the Honddu Dippers, a group of people who give freely their own time to clear up the litter and rubbish of others. This group focuses on the canal and the Rivers Usk and Honddu that run through the town of Brecon. In two hours the group collected 6 bags of rubbish, consisting mostly of drinks containers and take away food packaging. They also collected a skate board, a bike, a 5 litre plastic container full of paint and a range of metal objects. Asked if they felt the community at large were either shamed by their activities, of at least showed some level of gratitude, the group consensus was no. The general public where more likely to see them as people carrying out some sort of community service, or simply council workers who were, after all, paid to clear up after them.

Last Friday I met Susan, a farmer living and working a small farm just outside of Brecon. Susan is at the beginning of her 8th  decade and now only runs a small flock of sheep, each of whom has a name and a character known and understood by Susan. Her oldest ewe Daisy May is still enjoying life at 17 years of age. Alongside this small flock of sheep are ducks, geese, dogs, cats and horses. In addition there is a garden area containing a very wide variety of trees and shrubs including two red woods and Panda quality Bamboo . At the top of her farm land is a mixed wood containing some very fine Oaks, Water Alder, and Silver Birch. Susan has rights to run her sheep on the hills but says lack of grass means that the sheep ware down their teeth and this shortens there life expectancy to around 7 years of age.

Susan has applied for a preservation order to be placed on her barns and oak trees but this request has been declined because amongst other things, she is there to look after them. Susan is 80 and wants to know that after she has gone the trees won’t be grubbed up and the barns turned into a holiday home complex. She wants some form of assurance that the fine oaks will be allowed to stay and the, barns will be allowed to stay keeping their welsh barn -ness, something that is rapidly disappearing from the countryside.

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Thursday, 27 May 2010

Scientific look at the landscape:

Waun Figen Felen (SN823178) contains a large expanse of exposed peat. There are different theories to explain how the erosion started. However none of these account for the way in which almost all the vegetation has been stripped or fatally damaged in a single event, such as fire, and then subsequently exacerbated by causes such as grazing, wind and rain erosion. A peat bog operates like a living organism. A healthy blanket bog has a symbiotic relationship with the rich and diverse flora and fauna that inhabit it and help to keep it operating efficiently. A healthy peat bog stores carbon.

In contrast a weak and sickly peat bog is not in balance and invasive species take up the space once occupied by the sphagnum moss, cotton grass and other rich and diverse species. Molinia is a golden grass that in some areas is so dominant; it now seems to give large areas of the hills their colour and texture. This grass is also a highly inflammable material. A peat bog on fire releases masses of carbon back into the atmosphere and so the damage is doubled.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Elan Valley

Elan Village

The sun was shining as I left Worcester, but by the time I arrived at Llanwrthwl Church the cloud was down and there was a steady light drizzle. I had arranged to meet a National Park Warden in order to find out a little about the job of a warden and what the work entailed.

As we started to climb up along the side of the Elan valley and out onto the top, the cloud rolled in and out and on and off the tops of the hills until gradually lifting to reveal patches of blue sky and warm sun.

We visited a blanket bog where work was underway to try to slow down the deterioration of the site. This was on a much smaller scale to the work being undertaken at Craig-y-nos. Whilst the bog was still holding water, and contained large patches of healthy bright green sphagnum moss, there was also evidence of dry peat and deeper gullies. The peat bog on top of the hill has always moved, but sometime during the last hundred years the sides have blown out causing the subsidence and exposure of bare peat. This problem has been worsened by fires at different times and the combined effect has been to allow more invasive species to take hold and therefore unsettle the fine balance of life within the bog.

Walking through this landscape even to my untrained eye it was apparent that there was a richer diversity of insect life, lichens mosses and grasses on this great expanse of protected land. Protected by people but not inhabited by them, one or two ancient cairns still survive to mark the way for the occasional walker, but mostly this is a landscape without people.

I had met my guide in the morning for the first time, a young woman half my age. As we walked, we talked, looked and learnt about each other and our understanding of the world we are living in. This for me is the essence of what a good walk does.

Quote from the walk

“Things that evolve over a short period of time tend to die out very quickly, but things that last, evolve over millions of years. In 10 thousand years of civilisation I can’t believe our brains have changed that much, we are not that different from those people 6 thousand years ago, it is just that we have advanced the technology……..”

Thursday, 13 May 2010

1st Entry

The health of the grassess is a very imortant issue.

This is the first blog of the Change, Climate Landscape, Me, project and I do hope that lots of people feel interested enough to add comments to the site. I want to hear from those who have an interest in the area of Brecon, not just those connected to the landscape; or those who have specialist interests in the natural environment, climate change or even art, but obviously their contributions are also most welcome.

I am interested to hear from as many people as possible including members of the Armed Forces who only stay in the area for brief period’s of time before moving on to meet new tasks and challenges. I would also like to hear from those who, from one generation to the next, have never lived anywhere else.

I would like to hear from those people who would like to change things, who feel that life in the Brecon area could be improved. What do young people do? Do they feel involved in the community across all ages or do they feel a little disenfranchised?

Since the project got underway at the beginning of May I have spoken to individuals from the National Trust; volunteer groups; graziers; and people from the National Parks I have found all these meetings very interesting. I have learnt something about the complexities associated with the business of looking after the natural landscape. There are obviously very different and sometimes quite conflicting concerns connected to general issues as well as specific geographic areas.

I look forward to talking to and sharing information with anyone who is interested in getting involved, whoever you are and wherever you are from.