Monday, 11 April 2016

Welsh Assemby elections - how will you vote?

With the Welsh Assembly elections in May drawing near, Natur Cymru decided to approached the six main political parties and asked them about some of the environmental problems facing Wales today.

Judging by what we know of our readership, many people in Wales feel passionately about environmental issues. But how easy is it to judge and compare the environmental approaches of the main political parties?

We asked for a general statement, and replies to 4 questions. In Issue 58 we summarised the responses we received, but you can  read their full replies on our website here.

QUESTION 1: What do you think are the main threats to the marine environment caused by human activities? How would you address these, and would marine conservation zones be a priority?

QUESTION 2: Do you think Pillar 1 of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is delivering significant environmental benefits for the taxpayer? Are there any ways in which you and your Party would seek to reform CAP and the way in which it is administered in Wales to deliver improved environmental outcomes and public benefits?

QUESTION 3: Do you think measures are needed to improve the performance of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in fulfilling its duties and responsibilities towards wildlife and the natural environment, and if so, what would these be?

QUESTION 4: Sustainability of major land-use changes (such as the Circuit of Wales, M4 Relief road); do the stated advantages of the developments (some of which may not turn out as claimed) outweigh the permanent loss of key habitat?

We hope you find the results interesting and informative. They reveal many and varied points of view and policy intentions. We are extremely grateful to all those who provided responses to our questions, namely: Llyr Gruffydd AM, Plaid Cymru; Tom Sharman, Policy Communications Manager, Wales Green Party; Janet Howarth AM, Welsh Conservative Party; Martin Eaglestone, Welsh Policy Officer, Welsh Labour Party; and William Powell AM, Welsh Liberal Democrats Shadow Minister for the Environment & Rural Affairs. UKIP did not reply.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Goats in Bee Bole

The new kid is now 19 days old and finding its feet; quick and agile on steep slopes, but not yet able to cross over fences. For the time being the kid and its mum are separate from the rest of the gang, unable to get over fences, although today there was a second female or aunt in attendance.

This morning’s weather was foul, cold and wet. As I drove up the hill, the kid and its mum were on the drive in front of me, just above the lower hairpin. They stared at my car for a while, but as the intensity of the rain increased, it was time for shelter. They ran up the slope and took refuge in one of the bee boles. The mum ushered in the kid, then squeezed in herself; a tight fit with her horns touching the ceiling.

The bee boles were built for skeps, the baskets in which bees were kept before the invention of the beehive. It’s good to see old buildings put to new uses.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Natur Cymru 58 Spring 2016

Publication date: 18th March 2016

Cover price £4.50, or quarterly by subscription £18 pa (individual) or £32 (group/organisation)

Politics and Environment: views of the Parties
In the run up to the May elections, where do the main parties stand on key environmental issues?

Er clod i'n cloddiau cerrig ● Twn Elias, Dafydd Roberts a John H. Davies
Mae cloddiau yn rhan annatod o dirwedd Cymru ac yn amhrisiadwy i fywyd gwyllt

Travels in lichenology ● Tracey Lovering
The trials and addictive joys of learning a new subject

Native oyster restoration in Wales ● Andy Woolmer
Bringing back the native oyster to Swansea Bay

Enlightened, wildlife-friendly agriculture ● Ian Rappel
Colin Tudge speaks of the Campaign for Real Farming

Skokholm & Skomer 1946  ● David Saunders
After the Second World War naturalists were keen to return to the Pembrokeshire Islands

Pumlumon: a truly Living Landscape ● Liz Lewis-Reddy
Restoring wildlife, sustainable agriculture  and vibrant communities back to the Cambrian Mountains

When to intervene ● Rob Parry
A thought-provoking plea to do more for wildlife before it's too late

Discoveries in science ● Annette Townsend, Caroline Buttler & Cindy Howells
Moulding and casting a fossilised coral

Buglife ● Michelle Bales - Urban Buzz – creating wildlife areas for invertebrates

Green Bookshelf ● David Saunders, Andy Mackie

Dispatches from the hills ● David Elias
Rewilding the Ranges

Islands round up ● Geoff Gibbs
News from the Skerries, and overwintering on the offshore islands of Wales

Nature at large ● Audrey Watson
BASC programme of mink control to protect water voles

Woods and forests ● Rory Francis
How green is my city? The importance of urban trees

Life lines ● Russell De'Ath
Building a resilience: the principles of Sustainable Management of Natural Resources

Enquiries: 0300 065 4867

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Films about conservation in Wales

Over the past year I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of interesting people at National Trust properties across Wales to make short films about their conservation work.

At Cwm Idwal we filmed early when the arctic alpines were blooming and later in the summer when everywhere was purple with heather. Amazing geology and incredible what a difference sheep grazing or the lack of it can make. Here is a link to the English and to the Welsh

Cwm Ivy is another magical place down on the Gower where a medieval seawall has been breached and a brand new salt marsh has been created. The transition from pasture to salt marsh was incredibly quick, new species quickly filled the gap. Here is 
a link to the film.

To give people an idea of the sort of work that goes into managing a National Trust woodland we filmed in each season to show the activities at different times of year. This film condenses a year in the life of Rhodri Wigley and the Dolmelynllyn Woodland into 15 minutes. Here is a link to 
the English and to the Welsh

In Ceredigion there are 9 sites which are part of the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project. This particular site was just north of Aberporth and a group of volunteers was being trained to identify plants and thus be able to monitor the progress of the meadows. Here is a link to 
the film

The Cregennan Lakes between Cadair Idris and the Mawddach are the best in Wales, the benchmark against which all other lakes are measured. 
This film incorporates dive footage which shows the plantlife growing at almost twice the depth of other lakes. 

The waxcaps at Llanerchaeron are beautiful and so is the soil analysis and DNA science which helps you detect which species are present without the need to see the fruiting bodies. Here is 
a link to the film

I always look forward to my visits to Pembrokeshire but as I drove down through the storms I thought it was going to be a wasted journey. Fortunately the Gods were on our side and we had 5 hours of filming before the heavens opened again. This is what they are doing on the Castlemartin Peninsula

At Hafod y Llan a second shepherd was appointed to control the sheep which were grazing the wrong parts of the mountain as soon as the first shepherd clocked off at the end of his shift. Here is a link to the English and to the Welsh

The geography of the Migneint is so impressive and vast but it still needs managing. This is what is being done to improve the conditions for species such as the Red Grouse. Here is a link to the film

I also had the opportunity to make some films about the Llyn Peninsula which were not commissioned by the National Trust but included a lot of their input. Here is a link to one of those films. 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

New exhibition at Brymbo Fossil Forest

In Natur Cymru 43 (2012) Raymond Roberts wrote about the exciting fossil discoveries unearthed at the former iron and steelworks at Brymbo near Wrexham. There has been much work at the site since then, and Raymond has written about the developments in the latest issue of Earth Heritage, the twice-yearly geology magazine. You can download a copy for free here.

Fossil of giant clubmoss
One of the most important finds was that of a giant clubmoss from the Carboniferous Era, with the trunk and roots still connected. It was decided to extract this from the site, both for its own protection and to allow further access. After careful reconstruction the fossil will now be on display in Wrexham Museum from 30th January 2016.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Over-wintering on Welsh Islands

Here in North Wales we probably think we’ve had it pretty rough over the Christmas period, with roads flooded and closed, railways closed (Bangor to Holyhead a few days ago, Conwy Valley line closed for weeks to come) and difficult driving conditions.

Spare a thought then for those hardy souls spending the winter on two offshore islands, Ramsey and Bardsey (Ynys Enlli). Life on offshore islands is never easy, but at least staff on islands without livestock, such as Skomer and Skokholm, are able to leave for the mainland in early winter.

You can read about the adventures of Greg and Lisa Morgan on their Ramsey blog on the RSPB website. In addition to pictures of the little harbour being pounded by the gales 3 days ago and at the end of November, you will find out about the tidal turbine which was installed in Ramsey Sound in mid-December (in a calm spell!). To see how Lisa and Greg have coped over various winters, you can read their blog back to 2010.

The situation on Bardsey is a bit more complicated. The Porter family have been living on Enlli since 2007, but by October last year both children were away at University in Falmouth (some way away....). They were due to come back for Christmas, by which time when the island should have had another two new residents: Sian Stacey and her partner Mark Carter. Mark has been Assistant Warden at the Bird Observatory for several years, and Sian is the new Island Manager for the Bardsey Island Trust. Sian and Mark were all set to arrive at the start of December, but had to wait on the mainland until 27th when the weather relented and Colin Evans was able to take them and the young Porters across.

You can read Sian’s blog about their adventures at, and see pictures of the whole gang bathing in the Cafn on January 1st. Let’s see how they cope with the next three months!

My pictures taken at the end of September show that life on Bardsey can be easier, at times.

Cattle returned to the island in September
A September sunset looking towards Ireland 
Geoff Gibbs

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Natur Cymru Issue 57 Winter 2015-16

'Twelve drummers drumming' (detail)
by Ann Lewis
Publication date: 15th December 2015
Cover price £4.50, or quarterly by subscription £18 pa (individual) or £32 (group/organisation)

A box of matches and sheep's teeth ● David Elias
Conservation management on the North Wales moors

The Welsh uplands death or resurrection? ● Mick Green
Wildlife declines may require a new approach.

Planhigion meddyginiaethol Meddygon Myddfai ● Bethan Wyn Jones
Hynt a hanes meddygaeth lysieuol.

The Black Mountains - not such a black future ● Bradley Welch
Targeted use of the Welsh Government Nature Fund.

One farm’s flora: 30 years on ● Neil Ludlow
Vegetation changes on a Carmarthenshire smallholding.

Something like tundra.....unique Welsh highland habitat ● John Harold
Montane heath on the upland plateaux of Snowdonia.

The pearl-bordered fritillary in Wales ● Tammy Stretton & Russel Hobson
Conservation efforts along the Welsh border for this declining species.

The Llysdinam legacy ● Fred Slater
The story of Cardiff Unversity’s field centre in mid-Wales, and the studies conducted there


Buglife ● Sarah Henshall
Exposed Riverine Sediments and the invertebrates found there

Discoveries in science ● Sarah Daly
Stuffed, Pickled & Pinned - an exhibition of the wonders of nature in Welsh museums

From the Garden ● Rob Thomas
Pollen analysis throws light on the creation of the Middleton Hall gardens two centuries ago

Green Bookshelf ● Ian Spence, Annie Haycock, Chris Fuller, David Saunders & Mandy Marsh

Lifelines ● Kathryn Hewitt
Natura 2000 - the natural wealth of Wales

Mammals round-up ● Frances Cattanach
An update on a whole spectrum of Wales' mammals

Marine matters ● Ivor Rees
Proposed Tidal Lagoon in Swansea Bay

Nature at large ● Gareth Cunningham
Welsh seabird colonies - how are they faring?

Plantlife ● Dave Lamacraft
Unearthing the secrets of the Celtic rainforest

News ● Hilary Kehoe - PONT - grazing animals project

Enquiries: 0300 065 4867