It’s one day in August every year that pulls a community together to picnic on Bal Bach Bal Mawr moor in the Llanthony valley, near Abergavenny. Over the past 30 years this group – some of whom were in the school together in Cardiganshire bought the moor and they are passionate about the wonderful landscapes this location offers which looks out across the Brecon Beacons including the Skirrid and Sugar loaf and over to the estuary in Chepstow. Together with the local moorland manager Shaun Smith and his dad, Tony, the former keeper, the day is a special day in the calendar where they all come together and make their way up the hill to catch up with each other and take stock of the hill.
Shaun Smith, local moorland manager
Once a thriving grouse moor when heather almost carpeted the hill, bracken has certainly encroached and outcompeted the heather in a number of places but under the project restoring its condition is under way and there are acres of diverse habitats to help recover a range of bird species. Arwyn Davies heads up the responsibilities for the moor and sees the project more as a conservation initiative to help recover the heather before it’s lost forever which would hail the end of the red grouse who lives here 12 months of the year and feeds only on heather and which supports other wading birds under the same management.
With the dogs on Bal Bach
There has been no shooting here for a few years and this year was no different. Although there was lots more heather management with a good dry month of March allowing lots of burns to take place to regenerate the heather, it was the first 2 weeks of cold wet weather in June that meant that the young chicks didn’t survive. But that seems to be the same story everywhere.
Putting the work in now means there is a chance of restoring this heather even though that won’t be apparent or visible for at least another decade or two.
Arwyn and Mel Davies and Nigel Morgan