Spring weather in Wales, and across Britain, this year broke some records, with the coldest April on record followed by the wettest May. Fortunately, by the end of May we had some fine, sunny weather going into June. Meanwhile the pandemic restrictions are being gradually eased, giving us the opportunity to resume some of our group activities.
The wild horses came through winter maintaining good condition, and two foals were born in the spring.
On site, we continued to plant trees during April adapting the ‘no fence planting’ techniques of Steve Watson in Snowdonia. For more detail on these techniques, see our website articles Sabre Planting with the Tree Shepherd and No Fence Tree Planting. We have now used up the limited amount of steep ground and existing vegetation cover that these methods require. So we are relying on our observations of where the large herbivores favour for grazing and where they seem to avoid, and planting trees where we think they will be safe due to difficulty of access and poor grazing quality. Thorn shrubs are very effective cover for other tree species to grow amongst and be safe from browsing, and this is frequently seen in nature and used in no fence planting. To increase future opportunities for this, we have been planting hawthorn this season, in areas where we want to have more trees in future, including parts of the site remote from exisiting trees.
The education programmes were able to get back into action during June. Before this there was a lot of organising to do to make sure that the pandemic measures were being followed and to find groups able to come on site. Three of our partner Primary Schools (ages 4-11) sent along groups of twenty of their older children to continue with their programmes on site. These groups spent the day learning how to make fire, foraging for wild food, and cooking on a camp fire. We found that many of the children are suffering from anxiety due to the experience of the pandemic, and they needed a lot of encouragement. Schools are still not able to send kids on residential activities, so we offered the Youth Camps to teenagers through other contacts. One group is made up of teenagers in care and foster homes: unfortunately at the last minute this was cancelled due to issues with the partner organisation. However we have established a good partnership with them and this will certainly go ahead in future. The other group is made up of young carers, and this camp went ahead during the week beginning 28 June. As ever, the experience of camping in the wilds and learning traditional and life skills was very profund for the youngsters. Some of the behavioural challenges they presented reflect the immense pressure felt by all carers during the pandemic, but more so for these teenagers. We are planning a series of day sessions and camps with two new partners, addiction recovery orgnisations: we expect the experience of spending time in wild nature will be a significant element in the recovery process of their clients.
Monitoring of the impact of the project is important. We get feedback from our beneficiaries and their mentors. For the habitats, we use vegetation surveys and photography to gain insights into how the site is evolving. We have 500 fixed point photos taken during the first two years of the project, which provide valuable baseline record. These are all referenced to fixed points by GPS and have now been catalogued. A new development is a partnership with Aberystwyth University who are linking our data to on online mapping system as part of their Living Wales project.
Our Open Day was held on 5th June and was linked to the launch of United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030. We are a partner organisation for this initiative and aim to play the fullest part that we can by restoring habitats over a larger area and increasing the abundance of wildlife. The event also saw the official inauguration of our new shed by Jane Davidson, fomrer environment minister of Welsh Government. We are now offering corporate partnerships to suitable businesses as a source of income for our work and to enable responsible companies to partner with an intiative that is making positive differences on the ground. We have also changed our donation platform focus from backing land purchase to backing the project activities. Existing donations will be held in the Land Fund, but new donations will now go into project costs. This change will continue until land becomes available to purchase and while support is required for our activities.
Mare with foal 26 May 2021
Birch regeneration with bluebells