The Powys Moorland Partnership is currently interviewing farmers in and around the project area to feed into the Sustainable farming and our land consultation.
It’s difficult to know how many more trees can be planted and how wildlife corridors can be improved in much of the Radnorshire uplands. The place is already rich in habitats, wildlife, carbon stored in the trees, hedges and soils. Their landscape has changed very little and being well over 1000 feet above sea level taking out hedges and trees was not a consideration. It’s windy up here and you can see what they mean with the shape of individual windswept trees that have been sculpted by the sometimes brutal climate. The trees have protected us, our farms, our wildlife and our livestock, they say. Every farm is individual and needs a different approach. Each has its own outcomes to deliver but it must be the farmer to decide what those are. The call from the farmers is a desperate “please listen to us first, we haven’t just arrived here and finding out what’s what, we have been here for generations and that knowledge has been passed onto us. We think that’s important. We hope you do too.”
Although they recognise the new payments could be scary – because nobody knows yet what they look like – the vast majority have their sleeves rolled up and are ready to embrace the new challenges. Call them wildlife farmers, carbon farmers, whatever farmers, as long as there is a sensible scheme in place that is properly funded and supported by people who know what they are talking about, I get a sense that these farmers are not about to abandon the land, which is a good job because there’s no one else up there who can do what they do.
One farmer told me how his dad would always spend hours clearing the roads in the snow for everyone around here or clearing debris when there was heavy rainfall because the council couldn’t get anywhere near, but today there is usually only one person left working on a farm who doesn’t have enough time and which was what kept rural communities together. The countryside needs more people, not less, and these people feel that wildlife needs them with their grazing stock more than ever.
It is a way of life where time has stood still. As I rode alongside Anne who has been riding these Radnorshire hills for over 60 years, she believes very little has changed.
At 85 years of age, she believes that other than it being a lot drier than it was, and the bracken continuing its fight to take over the heather, everything else is pretty much the same. With 10 of us on horseback plus another 20 or so on foot with dogs, the stunning views as the weather goes through all seasons in one day is relished by everyone who lap up the energy of these heather coated hills. And with 23 grouse flying over our heads as we canter along, the day captures the magic of these diverse landscapes.
It never seems to fade; the excitement of being up on the open hills where you can look across to Snowdonia, Aberystwyth around to the Shropshire hills and beyond. “You would pay a lot of money to do what we are doing today” said one man as we chatted about the rising cost of mental health in Wales. This community knows each other well and completely love their days together with their beloved horses. In fact a group of them ride every August from the area to Ynys Las beach near Borth staying in barns using sleeping bags covering 80 miles over 3 days and have done so for the past 20 years.
Darren and Sheila joined the day. They moved recently from the hustle and bustle of the south east and have thrown themselves into the community and clearly loving every minute of it and in so doing are already part of the community. “We are just so welcomed here and it was an opportunity to start riding again after many years,” says Sheila, who had a bad accident many years ago. Sheila helps out with the local farmer at lambing times and Darren has got involved in a number of jobs from clearing streams to restoring ancient monuments on farmland.
As the day closes, the sun lowers there was a silence as the horses lower their heads and move downhill towards home. For me there was a longing to be horizontal with a guaranteed and exceptionally well earned sleep. Thank you.
Catherine Hughes, Powys Moorland Partnership facilitator
Keep in touch, get involved.
We will be putting on various events over the next 12 months. If you would like to get involved, have some ideas please contact Catherine on urmyc.sdnalroomsywop@tcatnoc