Tag Archives: National Trust

East Meets West

The Siberian airmass arrived on the very Western edge of Wales this week, bringing with it snows, ice, and thousands upon thousands of birds we rarely see in such numbers. Redwing, lapwing, fieldfare and golden plover driven to the edge of the country in search of food and shelter from the storm.

So for the first time in years not only were there thousands of unusual birds on the beach, there was snow too!

This is the same beach (Marloes Sands, photo Mike Alexander) in summer…….

Beautiful blanket bog in Cwmfynnon

Blanket bog CwmfynnonComing down off Glyder Fawr (see summit picture below) and into this lovely blanket bog of cotton grass in Cwmfynnon was a very nice way to end an epic walk, and it was all for work, which can’t be bad

Glyder

Where the sea used to be and now is again…

Cwm Ivy vistaThe National Trust, for whom I work, took the brave decision to allow the sea to re-claim farmland which was annexed by a sea wall in the 1600’s.  In a very short space of time a complex ecosystem has emerged with a range of small mudflat creatures attracting otters, breeding lapwing and, hopefully in time, breeding osprey.

Cwm Ivy saltmarshSometimes it’s good to let nature just do it’s thing…

My New Favourite Wall – We Should All Have One ;)

Wall 2

Built around 1760 this wall is 7 miles long and encloses the land on the lower slopes of the mountain (Glyder Fach).  It was built in an attempt to improve the value of Dyffryn, the hill farm I have been writing about recently.

Wall

It is quite beautifully made with a skill and craftsmanship, not to mention strength and endurance, that boggles the mind of this 21st century pen pusher. It has merged into the landscape so much so that it now looks like a natural part of the mountain, and when examined up close you can see how the slow growing, hardy, slightly weird organisms we call lichens have colonised the stones and have made the wall their habitat for (hopefully) centuries to come.

Nant Y Benglog

Here you can see it snaking away up and across the mountain and get a sense of the scale of the job those wallers from centuries past undertook.

Wall 1

Up In The Clouds

Big skies at Dyffryn 3

Iconic Welsh Hill Farm Part II

Top mountain plateau

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am beginning work on writing the conservation management plan for Dyffryn Mymbyr, an iconic Welsh hill farm made famous by Thomas Firbanks book “I Bought a Mountain” which was published in 1940.  Yesterday we climbed high up above the valley where the farmhouse sits and onto the imposing, rocky Glyder range which drops precipitously down into Cwm Idwal and the Nant Ffrancon Valley, a perfect u-shaped valley which was carved out by the glaciers that eventually receded around 10,000 years ago and which adorns the cover of many a geography text book.

View of Nant FfranconFirbank beautifully described how, when the sheep needed to be gathered for lambing and shearing, the men and dogs from all of the farms in both valleys assembled high up along the ridge so that they could drive the sheep down to the pens for sorting.  The flock had not been seen as a whole for months and, when the men reached their stations, the dogs were sent out to right and left and the line moved forward.  The place is high, free and, when the sun beats down from clear blue skies as it did yesterday, glorious.

It was here, high up on the mountain, that a few years after the Great War a shepherd stumbled over the skeleton of a man.  He had been lying there for about a year, and the crows had not left any flesh on the bones.  No one ever discovered who he was or what he had been doing, and the few shreds of cloth that flapped in the wind gave no clue.

Sometimes the wild goats would appear on a ledge and the dogs became wildly excited.  These goats were introduced thousands of years ago and have become feral in large herds throughout Snowdonia.  And sure enough we came across a few shy individuals yesterday who made off as soon as we appeared on the skyline.

GoatsOn the occasions when Firbank climbed to the ridge for the gathering he often mentioned the imposing, sheer rock buttresses of Tryfan, another peak which towers over the Ogwen Valley and which, yesterday, we glimpsed as we neared the summit of Glyder Fach.

TryfanThe massive rocks on the summits of Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr are a tumbling, sprawling mass of interesting shapes, sculpted by countless winters of wind, rain and freeze thaw, the most famous of which is the cantilever stone.

Cantilever stone

Glyder FachThe route down for the shepherds gathering 3000 sheep must have been arduous and precipitous, but when they had brought the flock down below the mountain wall into the “ffridd” they returned to the farmhouse for copious amounts of jam and bread, cakes and cauldrons of hot sweet tea.

Thomas and Esmes houseThe house has been renovated by the National Trust and today is let as a holiday home.  This is what Esme wanted and arranged before she died.  She didn’t want the farm to be sold to the highest bidder and broken up and sold off in parcels, she wanted it to remain a working farm.  And so it is.  The tenant farmer still keeps a flock of sheep (although much reduced in numbers), and a herd of Welsh black cattle graze the lower slopes and valley fields.  They keep the mosaic of rare and precious habitats in good condition as the peat begins to grow back, locking up carbon, restricting the flow of water and reducing soil erosion, and supporting rare and delicate upland plants.

Today, whilst doing more research, I learned that when Esme died, after living at Dyffryn for nearly 70 years, she wished to be buried in a small plot near the sheep pens on Glyder Fach.  Had I known I would have liked to have visited her grave had I been able to find it.  I can think of no more beautiful place to be buried, in the very earth that she loved so much.

View to Glyder Fawr

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welsh Mountain Farm on a Glorious Winters Day

Photo: Mike Howe
Photo: Mike Howe
Photo: Mike Howe
Photo: Mike Howe

Llyndy Isaf Farm, near Beddgelert, North Wales

Amongst Ancient Oaks and Ancient Breeds

Photo: Mike Howe
Photo: Mike Howe
Photo: Mike Howe
Photo: Mike Howe
Photo: Mike Howe
Photo: Mike Howe

March daffodils

 

The daffodils are emerging.  Here at Bodnant Garden in North Wales they put on a spectacular display in the Old Park Meadow…

Photo: Mike Alexander
Photo: Mike Alexander
Photo: Mike Alexander
Photo: Mike Alexander

Later in the summer the meadow looks like this…

Photo: Mike Alexander
Photo: Mike Alexander

The National Trust own this fabulous garden and are managing a lot of it for wild flowers, pollinating insects, birds and mammals, which is great because 98% of these old hay meadows have been lost from the Welsh countryside in the last 50 years because of agricultural intensification…

Photo: Mike Howe
Photo: Mike Howe

 

 

Web of Life

Understanding the relationship between nature and how land is used is at the heart of what I do in conservation management planning.  Today I was back at historic Dinefwr learning how an ancient deer park…

Photo: Mike Alexander
Photo: Mike Alexander

with ancient trees planted 500 years ago…

Photo: Mike Alexander
Photo: Mike Alexander

that is grazed by the descendants of those first fallow deer…

Fallow deer herd  Photo: Mike Alexander
Fallow deer herd Photo: Mike Alexander

with a good helping of clean, warm, wet, Welsh air, can provide perfect conditions for lichen communities that can take hundreds of years to become established, and only if conditions are just right…

Photo: Mike Alexander
Photo: Mike Alexander

Once the relationships are understood, making the appropriate management decisions is relatively easy.  These rare lichens need light, open conditions on old parkland trees that grow without competition from neighbours or smothering from ivy and scrub.  Grazing livestock create these conditions, and a deer park created in the 1700’s is the perfect place to find them.

And lots of other wildlife also benefits, from beautiful woodpeckers, red kites, treecreepers, to tiny beetles living in the dead wood and even tinier yellow meadow ants who make their anthills in the ancient grassland…

Photo: Mike Alexander
Photo: Mike Alexander