Yesterday, despite warnings of poor weather we were blessed by kind, but cold weather again. The sun shone through drifts of hill fog to show glimpses of the extraordinary place that is home to the Woollenlines.
Brecon Beacons National Park have a wonderful trainee warden project funded, with vision, by the Lottery. Yesterday the six trainees, with four engineers from the Severn Bridge and an assortment of others ( two very important funding saviours) joined Graham Cowden and myself to carry wool and seed up onto Pen Trumau.
We planted cuttings, fixed wool sausages made by both one of the local farmers and the trainees and sowed some seed left over from the summer. The seed may sit the winter out and germinate in spring but we don’t know, meanwhile the cuttings continue to flourish, and as more grow they offer increasing support, with help from the wool for whatever new ones we plant.
The site continues to inspire questions and awe.
To explain the photographs that I posted last week in a rush of enthusiasm .
On the area where the spiralling wool was laid there had been no vegetation growing at all. It was on this patch that, on midsummer morning 2013 we sowed wavy hair grass which miraculously germinated, grew and made it through to March 2014 when the torrential rain sheared a lot of it off. However some has survived and grown as has a great deal of the cotton grass plugs that we planted this summer.
Undoubtedly common cotton grass works best up on the scar behaving much like couch grass by tillering under the surface. In fact where Graham and I planted in 2011 the plugs have grown so much that they have bridged across more than two metres of open ground. This is visible if you can decipher the photos.
Plugs planted alongside the lowest line of wool by the team from the Severn Bridge are also thriving and what is obvious is that where the wool has stabilised the surface the plants do a great deal better. This despite the fact that in some places and for no obvious reason the planting gets torn out by the force of wet and wind.
Having had this happy visit we are now preparing to go up in November to do some more planting. It will be cold but anyone is welcome to join us but do get in touch and I will email date, time and start point.
I have deliberately stayed away form Pen Trumau these last few months. Prolonged dry weather can present a really depressing image of the peat scar. However last Friday Graham Cowden and I went up to see how our midsummer planting with volunteers from Laing O’Rourke, Gwalia housing association and local stalwarts had faired. Grahams photos tell the story and perhaps, finally, answer the question.
Wavy hair grass growing between and on felt
On Wednesday 18th June a group of 19 volunteers walked up MacNamara’s track carrying about 5,000 cotton grass plugs and a few wool sausages. Within probably only an hour the plants were all in the ground. Slowly but surely Pen trumau is coming back to life with the help of numerous people giving a little of their time and energy.
As always I am struck by how inspirational human beings can be, and what little it takes. The story of Gandi and the salt march always returns to me, it does appear possible to change the world!
I was up on Pen Trumau yesterday and last year’s spiral of wool is greening well.
With two colleagues we took cotton grass plugs grown by volunteers and a professional grower to plant by way of planning the next trip with a group.
We were amazed at just how many plants came out of the small bundles that I had taken, at least 500 from two trays. Given I trays another 34 trays of plants it looks like there is going to be a great boost to hill from all that effort.
To those unknown growers, well done!
Anyone wanting to help plant do get in touch as I will be going up agin on 18th and 21st June and will send times and directions for meeting by email.
A year has passed since we sowed wavy hair grass early on a very misty mid-summer morning so I thought it good to make a date to see what can happen in year on Pen Trumau.
I am planning to take and afternoon walk up on Saturday 21st June mostly to see what has been growing but also both to sow more seed and collect new.
We will be taking a different route so please get in touch if you want to join me so I can let you know where to meet and more importantly where the post walk tea will be!
We will no longer be using the route that we have started from over the last few years as, sadly one person’s dog upset the farmer and I have lost his confidence. It demonstrates how sensitive this work is and how important it is to try to understand all the different pressures that are at play when working in our shared landscape.
Peter Williams sent me this image which although difficult to scale does show the whole scar and our combined impact on it at a macro level as seen from a satellite last summer 2013.
Google Earth image 2013
Then there is the work of the hand in preparing seed for what the satellite cannot show
National Park Warden helping to prepare seed to sow on the Pen Trumau peat scar
And the results of all that effort at the micro levelUnless you have been on the mountain you cannot know how hard it can be to move around in the wet, wind and slope yet for those of us who have made the trip these little green shoots mean more than words or pictures can express.