The run up to Christmas has been a visual spectacular at Erddig, near Wrexham. A special light show has set the house and gardens aglow.
Pity the poor hedgehog, the gardener’s ally whose life is in almost constant peril – especially if it gets too close to an otherwise harmless cattle grid. Simon Rose, area ranger for the Brecon Beacons, has been bearing our spiny friends in mind.
There are two cattle grids on the way up to Parc Lodge farm near Abergavenny’s Sugar Loaf mountain. Time and money had been spent repairing both of them over the years but they were losing strength and not really stopping the livestock, so it was decided they had reached the point where they needed to be replaced. What’s more, there was no escape route for wildlife that fell into the old grids.
Simon Rose writes: “I decided to go for 2 x 50 ton-rated grids. Graham, the tenant, agreed to make a financial contribution for the new stronger grids, as well as helping out and making his tractors available to move everything around.
“There were a few logistical problems; this is the only road access and it is used by another property as well as the farm. Choosing days to close off the road that suited everyone, and sticking to them with the weather, proved difficult!”
The old ones were made of reinforced cast concrete which was hard work to break up, but we got there in the end. The opportunity was also taken to widen the grids so that three-metre wide farm machinery could fit over them.
We’re also happy to report that they also came with drainage holes and hedgehog escape ladders as standard.
Find out more: http://nationaltrustbreconbeacons.wordpress.com
We are all trying to find ways to responsibly reduce our carbon emissions. However, enormous quantities of carbon dioxide are also ‘contained’ in peatland habitats like those looked after by the Trust in Wales.
We spoke to Andrew Roberts, Lead Ranger at Ysbyty Estate, pictured above inspecting the unglamorous, but useful results of planned ‘ditch blocking’ on our property south of Betws-y-coed in Conwy.
“If you had told me 30 years ago when I joined the Trust that I would be managing carbon I would have thought you were talking nonsense. But we didn’t realise then how important peatlands are for stopping greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.
“We know now that about half of the 100 billion tonnes of carbon that are locked up in the UK’s soil are in peatland habitats. This is more than all the forests of Europe and, acre-for-acre, is more important than the Amazon rainforest.
“One of the largest areas of peat in the UK is Y Migneint on the Trust’s Ysbyty Estate, five miles south of Betws-y-coed. We discovered that old drainage ditches were causing this valuable carbon store to break down, releasing a staggering 50,000 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere each year. That’s as much as 20,000 average family cars for a year.
“We’ve been dealing with the problem by working with our farming tenants to close 300km (186 miles) of old ditches with 30,000 dams to raise the water table. As well as helping to tackle global warming this work also benefits the area’s wildlife – a real win-win situation.”
The Trust is helping to “bump start” the electric vehicle market in Wales by installing charging points at locations across the country. This first-hand article by enthusiastic electric vehicle (EV) owner, Neil Lewis, explains.
Living in Carmarthen and working in the Gwendraeth valley, my job helping small businesses address environmental/energy concerns was taking me all over our beautiful county. The beaches of Carmarthen bay one minute, the hills above Llandovery the next.
The family car was our beloved Galaxy 7-seater with a 1.9 turbo diesel. State of the art when we bought it in 2000. We’d run a bird watching business all over west Wales with it. Gone on family holidays to the Netherlands, Spain and the south of France (3 times). It had carried surfboards, dogs and especially mountain bikes. Permanently sandy and smelly! And that’s just the kids.
However the 35 miles per gallon was starting to nag at my conscience. I scanned the internet and newspaper adverts and it seemed electric technology was advancing. My lips-red EV arrived on a flat-bed and our family heirloom was driven away in the traditional puff of smoke.
My wife and I drove up to Cwmcerrig farm shop on a Sunday morning for breakfast in Cross Hands – half the charge had gone – would we be able to get home? What had I done?
Slowly, but surely, I learned. We thrilled at the acceleration, marvelled at the recharging on the downhill sections. Slowly travelled further. Fixated by the range display the whole time, I started getting a neck ache…seriously. Crucially, I learnt eventually that the range display is a “guessometer” based on how you’d been driving recently. The range extended from 40 miles to 50 to 60 to 70 … and now I’ll take on 80 miles!
Where are the charge points? What’s a Zap-map? At first, January 2013, the only charge point in the area was at Home Farm, Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo. Provided by Zerocarbonworld and installed/hosted by The National Trust near to their 50kw solar array. It was comforting to know that I wasn’t alone!
We’d put the kids and the dog in the back and visit Dinefwr, have a coffee and return home with the smug satisfaction of spending our money on fairtrade coffee rather than diesel. The joys of slow travel were a revelation. We’d drive down to National Trust Stackpole, trying to catch sight of the otters, whilst walking down to Broad Haven beach, stunning. Over the butterfly rich cliffs to the Boat House for coffees. Return via Bosherton, bat spotting, to a fully charged car. Bliss.
Charge points being discovered in Llandovery, Llanwrtyd, Llandrindod, Swansea Transport Museum, Rhosili. All slow chargers but the coffee! We even get up to north Wales via Aberystwyth, CAT and the Eco guesthouse at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Range anxiety? Pah!
We are saving £1000s every year with our low-carbon transport. However I am spending £100s on coffee”.
The full text of this blog can be found at the Trust’s “Going Green” blog, here.
An exciting new venture is well under way to help understand and protect the wonderful limestone grassland on Gower.
Cwm Ivy Tor is an impressive limestone outcrop, which looms out of the surrounding sand dunes of Whiteford Burrows. From late spring through to autumn, these rocky slopes are awash with an incredible array of colourful, nectar-rich flowering plants, many of which are specialist to limey soils. Species found here include bloody crane’s-bill, burnet saxifrage, quaking grass, greater knapweed, squinancywort and the delicately beautiful fairy flax. At least seventy-five species have been recorded on the western slope alone. These in turn support an enormous number of bees, butterflies and other invertebrate species.
On a world scale, such species-rich limestone grasslands are pretty rare. Monitoring of the Tor is vital if we are to assess the condition of the grassland to inform its management and ensure that a rich variety of plants continue to thrive on this beautiful site.
This summer saw the first trial of the new monitoring packs assembled by Nature Conservation Advisor Helen Buckingham and Gower & Ceredigion Manager Alan Kearsley-Evans for use by staff and volunteers. They were met with great enthusiasm on training sessions held in the summer, which means we have a small group of trained and keen volunteers who are ready to continue the monitoring next year. In the autumn they have also helped input and analyse the data, feeding back the results into the management plan for the tor.
Projects such as this are a really effective way of boosting confidence, increasing knowledge, skills and job prospects for our volunteers; a fair reward for the wonderful work they do.
By the time you read this, your Christmas tree is bound to be be safely in place and beautifully decorated. If it’s a real one what kind of tree is it and did you ask yourself where it came from?
Gwen Potter, Area Ranger for Ceredigion and also now a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, has some thoughts on which tree species are best for Christmas and how removing non-native trees can contribute to conservation and provide a lovely Christmas tree.
Gwen writes: Christmas trees are very rarely native – only Scots pines are. Many real trees come from monoculture plantations or may not be from the UK so it’s worth finding out where they are from. If they’ve come from further away they will be more likely to drop their needles as freshly cut trees are the ones that hold their needles longest.
Alternatives could be decorating a lovely side branch of willow or ash – you could chop off a branch and grow it in some peat-free compost in a pot. These could be grown outside in the summer and brought in for the winter for decorating.
Many local nature reserves will work on removing invasive conifers – if these can be taken away, even better! Woodlands may have invasive conifers while bogs, heaths and upland areas may also have trees such as lodgepole pines that require removal. Sitka spruce may be too spiky, but Douglas fir is perfect and has a wonderful lemon scent.
You may recall that at the start of the summer we reported on ‘The Litter Lout’, a raft built from reclaimed refuse found on the beaches of Gower. This report from Gower team member Kathryn Thomas looks back on a summer of fun.
Having sailed the seas, we turned our hand to river rafting on the Wye for the final sailing this year for the intrepid Gower Rafters.
Leaving Gower meant a change from our original theme of beach litter and since the Kymin is the National Trust Property that overlooks the start of the race, it seemed rude to overlook her. So we set to work adapting our raft. It was topped with a scaled down version of the Round House and all paddlers were dressed in a Nelson theme in homage to the naval connection of the Kymin.
The turnout was good, Monmouth Rotary Club did a grand job of organising the day and the weather was glorious. We entered the water by the rowing club in Monmouth and set off for a leisurely float 6.5 miles down the Wye – only kidding, we were paddling for all we were worth!! The scenery was beautiful but we didn’t have time to enjoy it. We didn’t fare too badly with the eggs and flour bomb showers from the bridges and it was very satisfying to overtake so many rafts as we gave it our all.
We had so much fun and it really is the taking part that counts, but you can’t help but get competitive when you’re out on the water. So we were very pleased to find that out of the 104 that started we came in 36th with a respectable time of 2hr 2min and 59 seconds!
Thank you to everyone who’s been involved, loaned kit and cheered from dry land.
You can follow the activities of the Trust’s Gower team here.