Gentle rain

I have walked up to Pen Trumau three times in the last month, yesterday being the third. I also had two conversations with different people in and around Brecon both of whom had been up to have a look recently. 

Both commented that they felt that there was little signs of growth on the scar.

When I first saw Pen Trumau scar there was little vegetation growing on the scar except the three islands of cotton grass and some isolated mature tumps. The main body of the peat was completely devoid of life. Yesterday when I looked back towards the woollen lines  the grey wool is now greenish with algal growth and fringed with the spreading ( but nibbled) cotton grass plugs that we have been planting since 2011.

For me this is a miracle.

Human beings in the 21st century move fast. Writing this I am using the amazing technology that we have developed. But once in a while it might be worth considering how life on earth began. How life moved slowly out of the water to colonise the land. How the elements both fight and nurture growth.

If you have never visited Pen Trumau it will be difficult to imagine just how tenacious life must be to survive the violent forces of weather.

Our work over the last 5 years is also testimony to effort and hope, perhaps it now needs patience.

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A late midsummer walk

On Monday 13th July I am walking up onto Pen Trumau with a small group. We have a few wool sausages to peg in place to assist in the erosion control and may well plant seed but mainly it is a walk to engender some reflection on the past 5 years’ efforts.

We will also be accompanied by one pack pony carrying wool and one rider to lead the pack pony.

We are starting at Taly Maes Farm gate where there is very limited parking as it harvest time and there will be tractors moving around both at our start point and up the road. So please let me know if you would like to come so I can arrange lift shares from Crickhowell to avoid the need to aggravate traffic problems in the valley.

There will be tea on returning but as always please bring your own food and plenty of water and waterproof clothing. Pen Trumau weather is hugely unpredictable!

I will send location and times to individuals who respond rather than posting them on this blog.


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Drawing Woollenlines

At last an invitation to see what has kept me busy for months!

On Friday 15th May Oriel Myrddin are showing my film in its first public screening. Many of you reading this maybe  featured in some way, either as a drawn image or in film or audio recording. I would be honoured if you were able to attend. This feels quite a momentous occasion for me and may well bring back memories for you.…/drawing-woollenlines-a-short-film-by-pip- woolf/‎


In case you cannot come over to Carmarthen for the first screening there is another opportunity to see Drawing Woollenlines, as

Arts Alive Wales will be showing the film at 7.30pm on Wednesday 20th May.

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Images from a very misty midsummer morning in 2013

Here is a link to a very short film made during the extraordinary midsummer sowing of wavy hair grass seed in 2013. The seed grew and there are pictures in the archives, then last spring the fierce rain washed out some of the small plants. However as other later pictures testify that seed sowing has held in places and is gradually providing the first wash of green over the exposed black scar.

Somehow there is so much to learn from the speed at which the natural world operates………………

Here is the link anyway

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A November visit

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.

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A little explanation

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.

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Answering the question “is it working?”

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

Wavy hair grass growing between and on felt

IMG_7408 IMG_7412 IMG_7418 IMG_7420


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