Mid-Wales August 2017

A trip to Wales is starting to look like an annual fixture in my diary.  After managing to ‘avoid’ visiting for several years, the promise of a good discussion about rewilding lured me to North Wales last autumn, and now the promise of an even better workshop on rewilding drew me back again last week, this time to mid-Wales.
The main event was at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth - there’s a separate blog post about the excellent workshop I was doing there.  
The Centre for Alternative Technology is well worth a visit if you are in the area - it’s an inspiring glimpse of many ways of living more greenly - and there’s a splendid water-powered cliff railway if the walk up from the car park to the centre looks too daunting.
CAT Water-powered railway
Centre for Alternative Technology 

CAT isn’t the only attraction in the area. The Dovey Estuary is beautiful, and has the RSPB Ynys Hir reserve on it’s southern side.  
Dovey Estuary 
Ynys Hir

A bit further south gets you to Aberystwyth - a mix of holiday resort and university town looking out onto Cardigan Bay.  And it’s got it’s own cliff railway too - the landscape in this part of the country seems to lend itself to cliff railways. 
Aberystwyth marina
Aberystwyth
Aberystwyth Pier
Aberystwyth cliff railway 
Looking onto Cardigan Bay

On the north side of the Dovey is the rather sleepier (at first glance at least) town of Aberdovey.  Is this where one retreats to when the bright lights of Abersytwyth become too much?

Aberdovey Beach

And the weather.  It’s fashionable to make jokes about the Welsh weather, and indeed the idea of a water-power cliff railway would be of limited use in a drought zone. It did indeed rain (and rain very heavily) for some of my time in mid-Wales, but the sun also shone.  In fact the sun managed to shine brightly pretty much any time that my timetable required me to be outside, so all in all, I really can’t complain about the Welsh weather

Whatever next? Maybe south Wales next year!

Rewilding 101

I was delighted to be able to spend a long weekend on a three-day introduction to rewilding course at the Centre for Alternative Technology recently.  This course (and I certainly hadn’t seen anything similar elsewhere) gave a really thorough and engaging introduction to many strands of rewilding.   It was good to finally get to visiting CAT, I'd been a shareholder at one point in the very distant past, but had never managed to get round to visiting.

CAT Water-powered cliff railway

The course helped the 15 attendees (from a huge range of backgrounds, some with lots of really good relevant background knowledge!) to get their heads around topics as diverse as our changing relationship with nature, historical attitudes to nature and wildlife, the many ecological, geographical and political drivers relevant to rewilding, strategies for rewilding, land management and financial issues and also the development of a geographical understanding of rewilding. All this was illustrated with an excellent range of case studies both on screen and in the countryside around the Centre in Machynlleth.

Field Trip 1 - south of the Dovey Estuary

Dynyn

Dovey Estuary

Details

One of the things that really struck me was the vast range of different approaches to rewilding that can and have been tried.  I was already aware of two of the extreme approaches – from the top down (the approach of Paul Lister at Allandale  and big carnivore introduction) to the bottom up (Alan Watson Featherstone and Trees for Life and restoration of the Caledonian Forest).  I was also already aware of the sterling work being done by the John Muir Trust in returning a range of properties to a more natural (and sustainable) condition, and of Rewilding Britain starting to establish large scale pilot projects in England, Scotland and Wales.
I hadn’t previously taken on board the range of active and passive strategies for rewilding (based on how much one wants, or is able, to intervene in a landscape), or indeed of the more scientific strategies for figuring out what ‘should’ be in a particular landscape (as has been done at Carrifran in the south of Scotland).  I also hadn’t given much thought to be importance of ecological networks – allowing different areas of recovered or recovering land to interact with each other. I certainly hadn’t really understood a lot of the funding streams that drive what currently happens in the British countryside (although Brexit has the potential to divert or dam a lot of those streams).

Field Trip 2 - The Old Quarry at CAT - abandoned 60 years ago

Guess the age?  Trees above the CAT Quarry

Passive rewilding underway above CAT

I had already been trying to get my head around the practical aspects of rewilding with a view to looking for a suitable area of land somewhere in the country – but I certainly hadn’t got to the stage of contemplating using drones to replant inaccessible areas. 
If you want to watch some videos about rewilding you could start with these 

Thank you to Kara Moses for co-ordinating the whole event, and to Mick Green, Steve Carver and Dave Gurnett for sharing their expertise and enthusiasm.

My next task is to figure out if I can find somewhere to put my new found knowledge to work.