Sunday, 26 February 2012

Castaway needed for island

Flat Holm Island is currently looking for volunteers who can commit themselves to a full six months on the island starting in April. Volunteering on Flat Holm will provide you with valuable experience that will help you find paid work in the conservation sector. Bed and board provided plus shore leave once a month and the project will cover reasonable travel costs to and from your home. Interviews are in mid March, so if you would like to know more please email Sam Whitfield at

To find out more about Flat Holm visit the blog at

Friday, 24 February 2012

Skokholm and Skomer

Just a quick report on the annual get-together of the Friends of these two Pembrokeshire islands; around 100 enthusiasts gathered (near Stroud) last Sunday to hear presentations by the Warden of Skomer (Chris Taylor) and others.
Puffin by Mike Alexander
Both islands are managed by the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales; Skomer belongs to CCW and is leased to the Trust, while Skokholm is now owned by the Trust. Skomer more or less reaches capacity for day visitors (250-300) when the Puffins are there (May - July), and the price to stay overnight comes down after that!

The great news about Skokholm is that the full refurbishment of the visitor accommodation is now well underway; in the meantime the island is fully open for stays of 3, 4 or 7 days.  All the work on the accommodation was costed at £1,000,000 if done commercially; in fact most of the work is being done by volunteers (working with 'proper' builders) which has brought the cost down by 90%. All work on the island being organised by Steve Sutcliffe, with lots of costly services being provided for free (including shipping all the materials from Martinshaven). Have a look at, all the details for visiting and staying on both islands are there.

We were very excited to hear about plans to reopen the Bird Observatory on Skokholm - Ronald Lockley set it up in 1933 but it had to close in 1976 when the landowner at that time decided to ban ringing of birds there. The plan is to build Heligoland traps which visiting ringers will use to catch migrants. We'll keep you informed in Natur Cymru about how this all progresses.

Finally - geolocating devices fitted to Puffins on Skomer have begun to reveal their wintering grounds - Iceland, south of Greenland, even into the Mediterranean.

Kate and I have never visited Skokholm but now are raring to go! There's still time to enter the Inspired by Nature writing competition and win 3rd prize which is an overnight trip for two to Skomer.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Brecon Beacons – Natur Cymru special edition spring 2012

Artwork by Denise di Battistta
  • Llangorse Lake - the essence of an entirely natural lake. Gareth Ellis
  • Fires and remote sensing technology to monitor restoration.  Judith Harvey & Shaun Lewis
  • Waun Fignen Felen - recovery of degraded moorland. Arwel Michael  
  • Y Gyrn - Blue Greys crossed with a Blonde. Joe Daggett            
  • Pipeline - gas from Milford Haven to England via the Brecon Beacons. Graham Cowden
  • Challenges of conservation management in the National Park. Paul Sinnadurai
  • Cynrig and captive rearing of crayfish. Catrin Grimstead & Oliver Brown                
  • Capel Horeb quarry’s ancient plant evidence. Christopher Cleal
  • Counting and measuring limpets in Pembrokeshire. John Archer-Thomson                                          
  • Challenges and joys of opening 870 miles of Wales Coast Path. Sue Rice & Denis McAteer     
  • Living Wales - a layman’s view of the ecosystems approach. Huw Jenkins
  • National Nature Reserves - 74 hidden treasures revealed. Sue Parker
  • Phytophthora in Wales. Owen Thurgate
  • Methane derived bubbling reefs. Ivor Rees
  • Role of NATUR and training in times of change. Celia Thomas
  • Fancy a chat? New BTO Cymru survey. Kelvin Jones
Publication date 15th March. Cover price £4.00 or quarterly by subscription at £16 p.a. or £15 by direct debit. ISSN 1742-37400103 Format: 170 x 220mm, 50 pages, full colour

For further information visit or call 01248 387 373

If you would like to download an A4 poster for this edition please click here

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Rape of the Vale

Of course the cheque is in the post. Of course the impacts will be minimal. Of course the landscape will be restored to its previous condition.

It all seemed to start so well in the dry weather of last spring, but then came the rains and pretty soon it looked like a battlefield.  The 38km gas pipeline from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Pwllheli passes through the Vale of Ffestiniog and it shows; looking down, from the mountains and cliffs above, the incision looks more like a canal than a pipeline.

There is a summary of the pipeline replacement programme on the Wales and West Utilities website which says: ‘one of the objectives of reinstatement of the pipeline route is to return the visual and physical integrity of the landscape, as closely as possible, to its previous condition’......’To reduce potential damage to soil structure, whenever possible, topsoil movements will only be carried out when conditions are considered suitable’. 

Looking at the state of the land in February 2012 it seems this was not possible! When will these and other aspects of reinstatement or restoration be complete?

On 13th February the Department of Energy and Climate Change approved the construction of a 22km gas pipeline from Llanwrin to Dolgellau.  Energy Minister Charles Hendry said In approving this pipeline I have made sure the plans meet stringent and comprehensive environmental standards.’

Good luck to you in southern Snowdonia!

We might think we’ve had a rough ride in the Ffestiniog area as contractors sought to bury small pipes of 150mm diameter. In 2007 gas pipes of 1200mm diameter, eight times bigger, were laid through 36km of the Brecon Beacons National Park. If you’d like to know how that went, there’s an excellent article in the spring edition of NaturCymru to be published on 15th March.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Earth Hour 2012 - 31st March 8:30 pm

I know how much effort I have to put into my wind-up torch for a few minutes of dim lighting. I know that sawing, splitting, stacking and keeping a large basket of logs dry for a year will generate enough heat to cook the family supper. It also heats a large cylinder of piping hot water, enough for a family of four to have showers, that’s if we get our teenager to go last!

It’s good to have these reminders that explain the effort involved in generating power for heating, lighting and transport. So much is taken for granted at the flick of a switch. Which is why Earth Hour is such a good thing, a reminder all round the world when hundreds of millions of people from 135 countries put out the lights for an hour. This year it’s Saturday 31st March at 8:30 pm.

What will I do? If I was at home we could sit round a log fire with a wind-up radio and a glass of last year’s bilberry wine.  But I’m not: I’m out giving a Natur Cymru illustrated talk to a local National Trust Association.  Maybe if I time my slides and talk to finish bang on 8:30 I could extinguish the projector and light a candle. But then again my symbolic message would be lost on a sleeping audience! 

If you are a community doing something unusual for Earth Hour, why not enter the WWF community competition with a chance to earn either £1,000 or £300. If not, just turn down the power and enjoy mother earth au naturel. Maybe read a back edition of Natur Cymru by candlelight.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Inspired by Squashed Toads

Julian Jones has worked for the Wildlife Trusts since 1997, the majority of that time in Radnorshire.  He became interested in Llandrindod lake in 1999 after witnessing thousands of toads trying to reach the lake and seeing hundreds of squashed toads and newts that failed to make it over the adjacent road.  After dozens of meetings and lots of cajoling and campaigning, the lake was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2010.

In the recent Inspired by Nature writing competition Julian was one of the runners up with an article describing the changing fortunes of the lake at Llandrindod. It started off as a bog and with the arrival of the railway was re-engineered into a boating lake frequented by 80,000 visitors a year. Over the years different people had different ideas about what the lake needed. One of these in the 1950s was the farmer who thought a ton and a half of super phosphate fertiliser would improve things! Julian’s excellent article appeared in the autumn 2011 edition of Natur Cymru.

The competition is running again this winter. What we are looking for is a 1,000 word article on a subject of environmental or wildlife interest in Wales which inspires you. 1st prize £500 cash donated by WWF. 2nd prize a £500 place on the nature writing course at Tŷ Newydd, the national writers’ centre. Runner up prizes donated by Wildlife Trusts Wales include an overnight stay on Skomer - thank you. The competition is open to subscribers of Natur Cymru only and the closing date is 31st March 2012. Full details at

Julian on Gillian's right arm

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Wolf’s MOT in Coed y Bleiddiau

On a dry and frosty February morning I joined Doug and Gareth to tidy up the wolf before spring and the hordes of visitors arrive. All the upward sprouting shoots of growth, looking as though someone had startled the wolf, were pliable enough to weave back into the structure.  Shaggy bristles around the jaws were lopped off.

Worryingly there are quite a few strands of dead wood, particularly on the end of the tail. Do we need to call in the expert? To help Beryl, the willow sculptor from Llanidloes, decide what needs doing we made a film clip so she could see the severity of the problem.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Best Day Walks in Snowdonia?

It’s always a bit subjective and I can’t help but be biased. Frontispiece overlooking the mouth of the Dwyryd, with Rhinogydd behind, was a promising start but, as a Moelwyn man, I’m sad to see Moelwynion get barely a mention.  Cnicht and Moel Siabod, yes, but what about Moelwyn Mawr and Bach?

As for the list of best bases, everywhere from Bala to Bangor to Tywyn but no Blaenau Ffestiniog – the 3rd largest town in Gwynedd and most central to the whole of Snowdonia. It might be excluded from the national park but it is most definitely at the heart of it all.

Putting aside my parochial prejudices it is a beautiful book which inspires me to get out and try new walks. Well illustrated and well-written with just the right amount of interesting detail.  

Inevitably a single volume is going to be a compromise compared to the 4 volume epic published last year  - Pictorial Guide to the Mountains of Snowdonia. But maybe I should see the absence of my home patch as a plus point, don’t want the crowds shattering the peace and wearing down the rocks.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Brecon Beacons Special

Coming soon ..... the spring edition of Natur Cymru with a Brecon Beacons theme. Many articles written by local experts working in the front lines of conservation. Artwork for the cover kindly provided by Denise di Battistta.

Explore the finer points of Llangorse Lake or learn how to lay a 1200mm gas pipe through 36kms of national park in the 'most benign way'. The devastation of last year’s wildfires and the use of remote sensing technology to help restoration. What’s happening at Waun Fignen Felen? Farming Y Gyrn with Blue Greys. Rearing the right sort of crayfish at Cynrig. Containing the spread of phytophthora. Challenges of managing the Brecon Beacons National Park. Capel Horeb quarry boasts remnants of vascular plant tissue – the oldest evidence in the world.

Plus articles from further afield including the Wales Coast Path, monitoring limpets with the Field Studies Council at Dale Fort, new information on our 74 National Nature Reserves, BTO Cymru’s chat survey and an easy to understand introduction to the government’s Natural Environment Framework.

Retail price £4 distributed by Welsh Books Council. Available 15th March 2012. Annual subscription £16 or £15 by direct debit.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

This and that

Unknown Wales talks in Cardiff on May 19th (as in Huw's recent blog): do go if you can! Kate and I went last year and enjoyed it very much. I had a table in the displays room at lunchtime and got a couple of new subscribers for Natur Cymru.

BTO Atlas 2007-11: if you have any records for this still in your notebook, it is not too late to put them in on the Atlas website - so long as you do it by Feb 20th. In some parts of Wales (including the whole of North Wales) we are continuing to collect records in the breeding season 2012, and the BTO Atlas site will stay open until the end of July for that. The main aim is to get more evidence of breeding in some under-recorded tetrads (2x2km squares). Do contact me if you would like to help.

Country Focus: this BBC Wales radio programme is a great listen on Sunday morning from just after 0700 for half an hour. Last Sunday (Jan 29) our intrepid blogger Huw was interviewing key people to tease out the basics of NEF - the Natural Environment Framework. If you didn't hear it, you can catch it on the BBC Radio Wales website.

Snow: escaped from behind the keyboard this afternoon to enjoy the walk behind Penmaenmawr quarry to the Stone Circle. See pic.