Friday, 31 August 2012

Campaign for National Parks - trustee required with particular interest and expertise in Wales

Campaign for National Parks, the nation’s leading environmental charity concerned with the English and Welsh National Parks, needs an outstanding volunteer for one of its key trustee posts - a trustee who is passionate about and committed to National Parks, understands the Welsh political scene and is bilingual in Welsh and English.

With its strong policy campaigning, research and technical expertise Campaign for National Parks is a potent influencer of environmental issues in the Parks. It acts as the umbrella organisation for a number of charities and groups, including the National Trust, RSPB, the Ramblers’ Association, and National Park Societies. Together these organisations form the body that elects the Trustees and provides a rich source of advice.
The 11-strong Board aims to have three Trustees with an interest and expertise in Welsh National Parks and the Welsh political scene. Together they bring rigour to Board decisions on matters specific to Wales and broad insights into all National Park matters. They also provide essential advice and a Welsh perspective to the Chief Executive and her staff.

Applicants will be able to think strategically and contribute to organisational development within the rapidly changing economic and environmental context in Wales, and have effective networks in the National Park family and wider environmental sector in Wales. Experience of working within a National Park Authority in Wales either as a member or as an officer and/or within the voluntary sector, and/or of campaigning, and/or of engaging with different audiences would be an advantage. The position is unpaid but expenses will be reimbursed.

Board meetings are held quarterly in London. There are three Council meetings every year with our members, of which trustees are expected to attend at least the Annual General Meeting. Our three Welsh trustees also support the quarterly meetings of our Welsh Advisory Committee, now called CNP Cymru, at various venues in Wales.

Person spec:
 Passion and commitment to National Parks
 Experience of the Welsh political scene
 Preferably bilingual in Welsh and English
 Experience in a senior leadership role
 Strategic vision
 Good independent judgement
 Excellent communication skills
 Understanding of the responsibilities of charity trustees
 Ability to network and build relationships
 A willingness to devote the necessary time and effort

The deadline for applications is 14th September 2012. If you are interested please contact the chair, Anne Robinson, by phone 01433 650934 or by email 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Natur Cymru autumn edition - out mid September

Artwork by Guy Manning
50 Years Ago – National Nature Reserves then and now – Mike Alexander. The legacy of the last five decades

A Living Wales? – Mick Green.
Will a new approach to conservation bring real benefits for wildlife?

A little bird told me – Merlin Evans. The perils of feeding the birds

Stackpole – A treasure trove for grassland and duneland fungi – David Harries. An island of fungal gems!

Sand dunes on the move – John Ratcliffe. The benefits of natural sand dune processes

The sand dunes of Pembrey Burrows – Simeon Jones. Recent restoration in Carmarthenshire

Seaweedy seascapes – Francis Bunker. A tour of underwater pastures

Hen lwybrau a ffyrdd porthmyn – Twm Elias. Allweddau i ddeall y tirlun

Inspired by Nature at Dinefwr – Natur Cymru writing competition winners
·     The Hawk moth effect – Chris Kinsey
·     How I fell in love with the frog lady – John Harold

Ynys Dewi – Ramsey Island: time to take stock – Lisa Morgan. Seabird populations and the rat eradication programme

Falling apples – painting a picture of Welsh orchards – Andrew Micah Green.
Findings of the Gwent Orchards Project survey

Discoveries in Science – Teresa Darbyshire. Marine collections supporting research in Wales

Islands round-up – Geoff Gibbs. Bardsey: diary of a visit in July

Green Bookshelf – Hywel Roberts, Annie Haycock

NATUR – Mike Alexander. News from the Welsh Institute of Countryside & Conservation Management

Water environment – Gareth Farr. Groundwater animals – the stygobites of Wales

Woods and forest – Chris Tucker. New Ancient Woodland Inventory is launched

Thursday, 23 August 2012

It's an elm!

20 to 25 million elms died of Dutch elm disease in the UK but don’t blame the Dutch, it was their scientist who identified it. Today it’s a rare sight to see an elm but you can find one on the drive down from Plas Tan y Bwlch towards The Oakeley Arms, on the right hand side, just after the turning to The Lodge.

The gardens are open to the public from 10am until 4pm and contain all sorts of trees. Oaks of course, giant limes, also the handkerchief tree and the tree of heaven. But for me the elm is the star – I wonder how it survived.

I understand there are quite a few elms across the valley in Ceunant Llenerch.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Frogs and toads

While stacking logs from under a tarpaulin into the log shed I came across co-habiting frogs and toads. The frog was definitely a (common) frog but the (common) toad didn’t match up with ID photos. I suspect that’s either because it’s a baby or the colour of log it’s been living next to. Incredible to think that toads can live for forty years.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Scratching the surface or scratching my head?

Fourteen of us stepped out of Pen Ceunant Cafe on the slopes of Snowdon for a guided geology walk led by Paul Gannon. I’d read parts of his excellent book, Rock Trails Snowdonia, but I understood more in five hours of walk and talk than any amount of reading. At least I thought I did; the more I try to write it up the more I find I’m scratching my head.

Paul's ripples
Paul gave a quick briefing into the history of the world and how rocks are formed to set the scene. A long long time ago Snowdonia was underwater, on the edge of a continental plate that crashed into an oceanic plate, triggering volcanoes that formed rocks. When our continental plate crashed into another continental plate those rocks were squeezed up into mountains, higher than the Alps but lower than the Himalayas. Since then constant weathering, including many ice ages, has eroded our mountains to a fraction of their former height.

Streams were pouring off Snowdon, full from the previous day’s downpours, taking with them tiny particles into the rivers, lakes and sea where they will re-form into sedimentary rock. Smallest fragments convert to mudstone, larger ones to siltstone and even bigger ones to sandstone building up at the rate of 0.1 millimetre a year or 100 metres in a million years.

Across the valley was the mayhem of Dinorwig which began as mudstone then morphed into slate through intense pressure from colliding plates. We were introduced to examples of ‘slaty cleavage’ which I think can occur in all (?) sedimentary rock.

Brittle deformation
From a vantage point overlooking Nant Peris there was a layer of rock at a 45 degree angle with shelf-like gaps hollowed out of it – this was ‘brittle deformation’ not to be confused with an example of ‘plastic deformation’ a bit higher up. These deformations were caused by plates squeezing layers of rock into folds until they deformed. The plastic one would have occurred when the rock was deeper, maybe 15km inside the earth’s surface, where things are a lot hotter and more malleable or less brittle. 
Plastic deformation

We would only be looking into sedimentary rocks on our walk but there was an erratic volcanic rock where erratic means out of place, dumped by a glacier on its way to the sea. I preferred the erratic dolphin on top of a hill.
Erratic dolphin

Walking towards us a visitor had just taken a photo. When asked by Paul whether he’d been photographing a geological feature he replied it was a sheep and came back with us to see what was so special. This was the boundary where Cambrian met Ordovician.  On our right towards Llanberis were Cambrian rocks and on out left towards Snowdon were rocks (with slaty cleavage) 50 million years younger.  Why the sudden leap? For some reason this part of Snowdonia had been above water for 50 million years so no new rocks were formed until it sank again and sedimentation could continue.

Cambrian meets Ordovician
Earth slips, glacial cwms, moraines and other geo titbits were pointed out but for me a highlight was the ripples. Sedimentary rock which had been formed into a series of ripples whilst in shallow water with strong currents flowing over – just like the effects of water on sand.

Thank you Paul for your patient and thoughtful explanations and thanks to the Snowdonia Society (in conjunction with Discover Gwynedd) for organising this brilliant event. My head is full of many more questions than I had at the start of the day; time to re-open that excellent book.

Friday, 17 August 2012

WARS in Llandrindod?

Yes - the Wales Amphibian and Reptile Symposium will be held in Llandrindod Wells on Saturday 3rd November. Full details, including the list of speakers, can be found by clicking here. There was a great article about Welsh lizards, in the autumn 2011 edition of Natur Cymru, written by Ziggy Otto and Elen Angharad Hall. There was a great reptile in my greenhouse this summer ....

Monday, 13 August 2012

Volunteer for National Trust's Natural Environment Panel

Volunteer needed for the National Trusts's Natural Environment Panel. Approximately 10 days a year. Applications by 5 pm Friday 17th August. Full details can be seen here.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Hawk Moth Cometh

In my garden this weekend I found this beautiful, four eyed, green caterpillar and I think it’s an elephant hawk moth. Which reminds me that there’s a great article on its way.  

This year’s winning entry of the Natur Cymru Inspired by Nature writing competition is titled The Hawk Moth Effect, by Chris Kinsey from Newtown. At the Wales Literature Festival she was presented with a cheque for £500, sponsored by WWF Cymru, and the article will be published in the autumn edition of Natur Cymru, due out mid September.

And that’s not all .... Chris will read out her article before the William Condry Lecture at The Tabernacle, Machynlleth, on Thursday evening (7pm) 4th October. Full details of the event are about to be published at

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Asulox and bracken control

Asulox, a chemical that has been used for bracken spraying for forty years, will no longer be allowed after December 2012 and no replacement product is likely until 2016. The decision was made in Brussels but do the UK government and the various conservation bodies agree with it? Without Asulox, and the use of aerial spraying, it is expected that large areas of the Welsh uplands will be lost to bracken at the rate of about 1,000 hectares a year. 

A couple of weeks ago I saw a helicopter spraying and my gut reaction was surely this must be bad for wildlife? But having looked into it, I’m not so sure. I have been told that it is highly specific to bracken (and other ferns) causing no damage to insects. It has also been used by organisations such as RSPB and The National Trust.

I am researching an article on the use of Asulox and if anyone has any views or opinions they would like to share, please contact me by commenting on this blogpost or by email to