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?

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.