Fferm Goedwig Gymunedol Dyffryn Tanat Valley Community Forest Farm Community Interest Company was established in September 2020 but the idea of some type of community nature reserve raised its head several years earlier on a Christmas walk in Delamere Forest. When 30 acres of upland sheep pasture came up for sale in Pen-Y-Garnedd, Montgomeryshire in 2019, the idea became a real possibility. The seller of the land was remarkably patient while we raised £120,000 but in February 2021 the land finally changed hands and became a community asset. We held a competition for an appropriate name for the land that was less of a mouthful than the official name. The winning entry was Dolydd Gobaith (Meadows of Hope) which I feel sums up the sentiment behind this project. Our Vision
The aims of Dolydd Gobaith are several. We hope to help combat climate change, protect and enhance local biodiversity and natural heritage, find sustainable ways to produce food and other products from the land and perhaps most importantly encourage the surrounding communities to become involved and connect with this beautiful landscape and the natural world we are all part of.
What have we done so far
We have received funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund which will help us achieve a great deal in our first year. Fencing of all the land to be planted is well underway. This will protect the young trees and hedging from grazing animals. We now have a part-time volunteer coordinator who is organising volunteer days for planting, mulching and mole hill raking! We have held a workshop on pollinating insects to start training volunteers in doing future insect surveys. We have had experts from the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust do baseline surveys of wild flowers, bumble bees and grassland fungi so that we can monitor the changes that happen over time with the change in management.
Plans for the next 6 months
We have more training workshops planned – how to undertake wildflower surveys, grassland fungi ID, scything, a bug hunt for the children and young at heart, hedge laying and winter tree ID. Starting in November we will be planting 1.5km of hedgerows and several acres of mixed native woodland. We have funding to build two ponds and improve the wetland areas on the site. We will be grazing the grassland areas with cattle, ponies, goats, sheep and geese following a conservation grazing management plan. We will be looking to involve many more people, from local schools, farms, organisations and individuals, hopefully some of whom are new to environmental community projects
Our long-term view is to develop sustainable ways to produce an income from the land so that the CIC can be financially self-sufficient for its day-to-day expenses. We hope we will be able to offer ideas to other landowners and farmers in the Welsh uplands on ways to diversify in these changing and challenging times.
The People Involved
At present the CIC has three directors, all with different strengths. In time we may look for more directors if we need other skills to run the project successfully.
Bridget Neame: I have been involved in environmental projects for nearly 50 years (gosh, that makes me sound very old!) and in environmental education for much of that time. I feel strongly that each one of us needs to do whatever it is that we can to help solve the environmental issues of our time – climate change, loss of biodiversity, plastic pollution. However daunting the problems seem, we can all do something. My hope is that this project can help shine a tiny light on a better future.
Michael Clifton: I have worked on community based environmental projects for over 30 years. Much of this work has involved engaging with volunteers (in Shetland) on a large number of projects including recycling, sustainable development, environmental improvement, habitat management and carbon reduction initiatives. I now undertake targeted work with Shropshire Wildlife Trust and manage projects for a national charity tasked with increasing biodiversity within churchyards. I am also their Fundraising Officer.
Alastair Neame: I am an economic development consultant and former civil servant with a longstanding interest in environmental issues. Much of my day job involves helping organisations seek funding for projects in the public interest and this is as important as they come. From educational opportunities direct to the community, to biodiversity gain and meeting the global challenge of climate change, this project offers so many benefits and I’m grateful to be a part of it