Volunteer Workday Saturday 9th February

You are invited to join us for our next volunteer workday on Saturday 9th February, 10am until about 4pm.

We will be putting our collective heads together to create a porch for the volunteer caravan out of recycled / scrap material that we have been collecting over the years. Ingenuity and lateral thinking welcome!

If you would like to come, please get in touch for more details and directions. Please bring food to share for lunch.

A warm welcome to all! Creoso Cynnes i Bawb!

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Hedgerow Management. Annual flailing and wildlife

I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning. As I lay there in the graying morning light, the sound of a tractor and hedge flail crept into my consciousness. My heart sank. I hate the annual flailing of the hedgerows that occurs locally to me, and not only because of the punctures I will be mending on my bike wheels.

Hedgerows for wildlife….and farmers.

I expect people are familiar with the wildlife value of hedgerows. They are important for everything from fungi and plants to invertebrates, birds and mammals. They connect habitats (wildlife corridor), provide shelter, food sources, nest sites and more.

They are also useful to farmers, providing shelter to animals, increasing dietary variety by providing browsing opportunities and could even help prevent the spread of disease. Farming activities benefit from the increased biodiversity that a well maintained hedge can bring (“ecosystem services”)

All hedges are not the same.

But not all hedges are of equal value. I have lived and worked in the countryside for over 15 years. Whilst building my own knowledge and connection with the countryside around me, I have become increasingly aware that many of us have lost a true understanding of what we are seeing. It’s easy to look around, see green hedges and think all is fine. It is not.

Just as there is a world of difference between the wildlife value of a species rich hay meadow and a (green, lush) high intensity silage pasture, management can drastically alter the wildlife value of the hedgerow. Annual flailing of hedges is an especially destructive part of modern hedgerow management.

Over-management of hedgerows is one of the biggest problems facing species that live in this habitat type. The practice of annual cutting using a mechanical flail creates a uniform and species-poor hedgerow that is of little value to wildlife.


Why is annual flailing an issue?

Whilst it looks “tidy”, annual flailing creates a hedge with a fairly open structure. Have a closer look at one next time you are out for a walk. At this time of year it is easy to see that the hedges are not nearly so dense as they appear when in full leaf. This open structure decreases the opportunities for, say, hibernating hedgehogs or nesting birds.

Another issue is the removal of food sources. Many hedgerow plants flower on two year old wood. If hedgerows are cut annually, there is a lack of branches of the correct age to flower. Think about it – have you ever noticed many trees flowering in a flailed hedge? And yet blackthorn is often a major component of such hedges, which should be providing an valuable nectar source for our native pollinators in the spring. And if there are no flowers, there will be no fruit to feed birds and mammals in the autumn

Annual flailing can disrupt the entire lifecycle of some species. Brown Hairstreak butterflies lay their eggs on 1-2 year old branches of blackthorn. The eggs overwinter and hatch out the following spring. Annual flailing removes potential egg laying habitat and destroys any overwintering eggs. Brown Hairstreak butterflies are one of the target species in Carmarthenshire County Council’s Biodiversity Action plan. The detailed action plan for butterflies states that:

Carmarthenshire has roughly 60% of the recently (since 1995) recorded sites in
Wales. Its known range runs roughly north of the line of the main A40 road, with a handful of sites marginally to the south, mostly in Tywi valley. The best-known concentrations are in the Tywi and Teifi valleys and their tributaries.

The principal factor thought to be affecting the species is the annual flailing
of hedges and trimming of young and sucker growth inside field boundaries,
changes in woodland management, including loss of woodland edge habitat.
The Tywi valley population has diminished significantly – likely due to
loss of egg laying habitat because of hedge flailing.

Butterfly Conservation volunteers have undertaken annual egg surveys for more
than 10 years and work with landowners on management of sites for this butterfly.

I have memories of a successful project that was run in our local area. Brown Hairstreak butterfly numbers were increased by working with local landowners to change management of blackthorn. On searching, I couldn’t find any references to it. If you know anything about it, please do get in touch.

I have highlighted some of the issues associated with annual flailing. There are many others, including worries about the longevity of flailed hedges and the lack of promotion of new hedgerow trees to become the full grown trees of the future.

Managing Hedgerows for biodiversity by flailing less

An especially frustrating aspect is that it is well known that annual flailing is a problem. Wildlife charities, NGOs and Government bodies such as DEFRA and local councils have produced a wealth of advice on good hedgerow management, including recommendations such as flailing a hedge no more then once every two to three years, except where access is an issue and rotating flailing such that not all of the hedges on a farm are trimmed in any one year.

Proper management of hedgerows to ensure their longevity and enhance their wildlife value is a complex issue, of which if and when to flail is just a part. Hedgelink have a very useful 10 Top Hedgerow Management Tips on their website and a useful leaflet about hedgecutting.

We have an ongoing program of hedge laying here at the Trust. While traditional management by laying is great for the wildlife value of a hedge, it is time consuming, and therefore expensive in terms of labor and may not attract a busy farmer.

I am becoming increasingly aware that carrying out “best practice” on the smallholding where I live has limited value if the surrounding countryside is seriously degraded. The 20 odd acres of the Trust just isn’t large enough to provide a refuge for wildlife on it’s own. We need to encourage good practice from our neighbors in what ever way they can manage, create links between habitats and trying to recreate an interconnected countryside for our wildlife.

We need to be aware that there are many different solutions and we need to use the most appropriate one in each circumstance. I am not, at the moment, advocating abandoning the flail altogether.

What can we do?

I don’t know all the answers, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Here are some suggestions to be going on with.

Get educated. Learn about the flora and fauna around where you live, what is there and what SHOULD be there. A surprisingly large number of people can’t name common wild flowers. If we don’t know about our wildlife it is easy to miss the decline. In my experience, learning about the natural world gives a great deal of pleasure and a greater motivation to halt the decline.

Walk the talk. If you manage land yourself, do some research into best practice hedgerow management. If your land is out on tack, talk to the people managing your land about hedgerow management

Raise awareness. Do you know the people who own land / farm in your area? Would you be willing to open conversations with them about how they manage their hedgerows?

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Volunteer Workday 12th January 2019

Our first volunteer workday of the year will be on Saturday 12th January, 10am until about 4pm. We will be laying a new water supply to the volunteer caravan and working on the Red Barn after the refurbishment work that has been carried out on the kitchen

If you would like to come, please get in touch for more details and directions. Please bring food to share for lunch. A warm welcome to all! Creoso Cynnes i Bawb!

Shared lunch on a workday
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All Year Round – Halloween!

All Year Round will be celebrating Halloween on Wednesday 31st October with a lantern lit parade.

Meet at Derwlwyn, Drefach Felindre at 5pm, ready to parade around the village from 5.30pm.

We will be carrying a magnificent Adder Lantern from the Adders are Amazing! project. The Adder will need 5 carriers, bring extra lanterns if you have them and feel free to dress up in suitably festive costume!

We will return to Derwlwyn for Halloween feasting from 6pm. All Year Round will provide pumpkin soup. Please bring bread, puddings and cider / apple juice to share.

Get in touch if you need directions.

Bydd Cylch y Flwyddyn yn dathlu Calan Gaeaf ddydd Mercher 31ain Hydref gyda gorymdaith llusern.

Cwrddwch â Derwlwyn, Drefach Felindre am 5yh, yn barod i orymdaith o gwmpas y pentre o 5.30yh.

Byddwn ni’n cario Llusern Gwiber godidog o’r Prosiect Adders are Amazing! Bydd angen 5 o cludwr i’r Wiber. Dod â llusernau ychwanegol os oes gennych chi ac mae croeso i chi wisgo i fyny mewn gwisg addas i’r wyl!

Byddwn yn dychwelyd i Derwlwyn ar gyfer welydd Calan Gaeaf o 6yh.  Bydd Cylch y Flwyddyn yn darparu cawl pwmpen. Dewch â bara, pwdinau a sudd seidr / afal i’w rannu.

Cysylltwch â chi os oes angen cyfarwyddiadau arnoch chi

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Open Morning – Bore Agored

It’s our open morning this Saturday, 30th June and everything is looking beautiful!

Come and have a look – wildflower meadows and labyrinth, butterflies, scything, hand hay making, blooming vegetable garden, permaculture, forest garden, tea, cakes, elderflower cordial……

….and a brand new Shetland calf, born 26th June!


Freshly mown windrows

Iris and her calf Ray

Common Spotted Orchid

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Solstice and Lammas events with All Year Round

All Year Round have two upcoming seasonal celebrations, All Welcome – Croeso Cynnes i Bawb!

Summer Solstice Barbeque

Join us from 5pm on Thursday 21st June for an All Year Round Summer Solstice celebration with food, song, stories and chat around a camp fire.

Please bring contributions for a bring and share supper, including things to cook on the fire if you want!

Lammas Moth Celebration and Camp

Join the All Year Round group from 4pm on Saturday 4th August an afternoon of fun and activities (including wildflower labyrinth and moth themed crafts) followed by a bring and share supper and camp fire. We will set up a moth trap at dusk.

Those who would like to camp over in the wildflower meadows are welcome; otherwise come back early on Sunday 5th August to help identify the moths that have been trapped and release them back into the wide world. Sally Hall has kindly agreed to help again.

To give you a taste of what to expect, some lovely pictures of the beauties we saw last time can be seen in the comments or this link http://dyfedpermaculturefarmtrust.org.uk/moth-celebration-species-list-and-bats/

All Year Round ask for donations of £3 per child to cover costs, with sliding scale of discounts for families with more then one child. If you would like to camp, a suggested donation of £7.50 per family can be made to Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust.

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Open Morning – Bore Agored

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Celebrating the New Fields

Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust recently took on the management of two new fields. Sue and Pam organized a lovely event to celebrate to open the fields and officially name them.

The top field of the two is called Cae Herc (“lopsided field” it’s historical name ). The second has become Cae Novella in recognition of one of the previous owners.  This post tells you more about the traditional field names of Wales.

Here is a short video showing some highlights of the event

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Spring Workdays at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust

The next two Trust workdays will be Saturday 19th May and Saturday 23rd June.

We will be weeding and maintaining the forest garden and perennial plantings around the barn, as well as carrying out any annual maintenance needed on the barn and compost toilets.

Workdays run from 10am until about 4pm. Please bring contributions for a bring and share lunch.

Croeso Cynnes i bawb!

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Celebrating the New Fields

Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust has taken on the management of 2 new fields. Follow the link to hear the story of how they became available and how we celebrated their opening.

A couple of years ago Mark Boyle, Guardian columnist and author of ‘The Moneyless Man and ‘Drinking Molatov Cocktails with Ghandi’, put into words a discomfort I had been feeling for a while. When John died I claimed the life insurance originally intended to pay off our mortgage. In the event it we had paid […]

via The consequence of reading books — Going Batty in Wales

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