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‘Bleak future’ for Welsh hedgerow landscape warns rural environment partnership project

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Wales’ hedgerows face a bleak future without urgent action to support traditional craft skills, which are dying out, a Welsh rural environment partnership project is warning.

‘Dyffryn Tywi – Hanes Tirwedd Ein Bro’, based at the National Botanic Garden of Wales (the project’s lead partner), warns that failing to act now to support our hedgerows will damage their huge potential contribution to flood prevention, wildlife conservation and ultimately the battle against climate change.

Partners in the Project, which has launched a new website, www.dyffryntywi.org.uk include Natural Resources Wales, Cadw, Dyfed Archaeological Trust, The Bishop’s Park Abergwili, the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and the National Trust at Dinefwr.

The project also encompasses a network of local landowners and stakeholders in the middle Tywi Valley, between Llandeilo and Carmarthen.

The Dyffryn Tywi Project points out that well-maintained, dense hedgerows are a vital part of Wales’ rural landscape and an important haven for wildlife.

Local Hedgelayer Malcolm Edwards (orange overalls), with Dyffryn Tywi hedgelaying apprentices Osian Owen (shorts) and Dan Bakewell plus Helen Whitear (Dyffryn Tywi Project Officer).

It says hedgerows can also slow run-off and help defend against flooding, and that they can play a key role in carbon sequestration – removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so helping to combat climate change.

But the Project says that the traditional skills needed to keep our hedgerows alive and thriving are in decline – many of the best local hedgelayers are now in their 80s and their skills are not being passed down. Proper hedgelaying is being superseded by mechanised hedgerow management – such as flailing which can do untold and sometimes irreparable damage to hedgerows.

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Helen Whitear, lead for the Dyffryn Tywi Project said: “Our hedgerows are a link between the past and the future, and a really good example of how fundamentally intertwined our natural and cultural environments are. It’s easy to take hedges for granted – people often assume that they’re just part of the ‘natural’ environment.

“Hedges are vital for supporting wildlife, but the hedgerows of the Tywi Valley are also part of our cultural heritage – they’re full of history and local skill.

“Before post and wire fencing, hedges had to be well-constructed and well-maintained, for managing stock. Maintaining them in a traditional way, to a local style is continuing knowledge and understanding that has developed and survived over hundreds if not thousands of years. It is about the identity of the local area in an age of globalisation. It is about doing our bit to help the environment in our own particular way.”

Local Hedgelayer Malcolm Edwards with Helen Whitear (Dyffryn Tywi Project Officer).

The process of hedge-laying is achieved by creating living hinges. ‘Pleach’ cutting through the stem forces the plant to pivot and cleave, forming a hinge. The stem is then layed horizontally, as low to the bank as possible. Additional layers protect the previous cuts and once built up, protect new growth from livestock, creating a dense, stock-proof barrier.

Malcolm Edwards, from near Pentregwenlais, Llandybie, is a rural crafts practitioner who has been hedge-laying for over 25 years. He is currently working with the Dyffryn Tywi Project’s apprentices, passing on his hedgelaying skills to the next generation.

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Local Hedgelayer Malcolm Edwards alongside one of his living fences.

Malcolm said: “Hedges with a good living heart, stop erosion and slow down floodwater. Wales needs this practice to be at the forefront of good sustainable farm husbandry. A lot of the hedge-layers I know are now in their 80s and their knowledge and skills are disappearing fast.

My 20 plus years as a hedger are a small amount of time in the age of a farm or the years since the creation of a hedge-line to the present date. I have been lucky to learn from my elderly family, farmers I’ve worked with along the way and good mentoring.

I hope that showing how important our local hedges are, will inspire farming grandparents to take their grandchildren or their sons and daughters to the field boundaries. Show them the work your parents or grandparents did so they can learn what works on your farm. The craft is there in the old hedge lines and the knowledge might still be there if you ask the right people.”

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Osian Owen, one of the Dyffryn Tywi Project’s Environmental and Conservation apprentices said: “I enjoy hedge laying as I find it both peaceful and stimulating, and the connection I feel to the land and past generations who would’ve done the same is special.

Trying to find the best positions to lay pleachers into each other is like an old-style game of Tetris. Hedge laying is important as it is a way of rejuvenating old hedges which promotes and creates habitat and food sources for all kinds of animals, through a method that is more environmentally friendly.

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The link to the past is also important, learning methods which our forefathers would’ve used across the Tywi Valley and beyond, and keeping those traditions alive.”

Local Hedgelayer Malcolm Edwards (orange overalls), with Dyffryn Tywi hedgelaying apprentices Osian Owen (shorts) and Dan Bakewell.

On the new website, the Dyffryn Tywi Project states: ‘​​The Tywi Valley remains a working agricultural landscape, whose character has been defined by traditional farming and land management. The Dyffryn Tywi Project aims to encourage people – both locals and visitors alike – to appreciate and enjoy this landscape, through understanding what has made it special and unique.”

Lead image: Local Hedgelayer Malcolm Edwards alongside one of his living fences.

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Carmarthen

Carmarthen illegal angler must pay £3k after court no-show

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After failing to attend two court hearings, a Carmarthenshire man has been found guilty of fishing offences at Llanelli Magistrates Court and has been ordered to pay almost £3,000 in fines and costs.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) prosecuted Gavin Davies of 4 Heol Spurrell, Carmarthen after he was witnessed by an NRW Enforcement Officer and a Dyfed Powys Police (DPP) Wildlife Crime Police Officer catching an adult salmon on the Wenallt fishing beat of the River Tywi, by deliberately using an illegal barbed fishing hook.

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The incident took place on 17 September 2021.

It is a legal requirement in Wales, that any salmon caught are released alive back into the river and that anglers who target migratory fish such as salmon and sea trout (sewin) must use de-barbed or barbless fishing hooks.

Mr Davies, who had caught the salmon by the time he was approached by the officers, was attempting to put the fish back into the river. He showed a very poor catch and release practice, which would have contributed to the death of the fish if it had not already died due to the damage caused by the illegal barbed hook.

The fish was seen floating down the river immediately after being released by Mr Davies.

The damage to the gills of the salmon caused by Davies’ illegal barbed hook (Image: NRW)

After the dead salmon was recovered from the river, officers witnessed fatal gill damage injuries to the salmon that were caused by the barbed hook used by Mr Davies. The NRW Officer instructed Mr Davies to de-barb and flatten the barb on his fishing hook, which he duly did.

Mr Davies made no attempt to attend his first summons to Llanelli Magistrates Court hearing and also made no effort to attend the second hearing which was re-arranged for him on 22 April 2022.

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The case was made against Mr Davies in his absence, and he was found guilty by the court Magistrates.

The court fined him the maximum amount available to them for the charge and awarded NRW the full costs of the investigation.

The fine, costs and victim surcharge totalled to £2,917.91.

Mark Thomas, Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “This incident is a case study in how not to fish for migratory fish such as salmon and sea trout. Mr Davies was experienced and well versed in the angling byelaws, but still knowingly used an illegal method to catch the salmon. Mr Davies displayed shockingly poor technique in trying to release the salmon and showed no respect for fish welfare.

“He represents a very small portion of the angling community on the Tywi catchment, and I urge anyone who isn’t sure of the angling rules, or of the best practice catch & release techniques to visit our website.

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“Every single salmon that reaches its spawning beds is highly important to the river Tywi catchment and to the passionate angling communities who visit.

“The female ‘hen’ salmon that died because of Mr Davies’ actions may have contributed nearly 5000 eggs if it had spawned in the higher reaches of the Tywi catchment. These lost salmon eggs represent an important loss for a river catchment which is already not meeting its spawning targets for successful future fish stocks.

“I would like to thank our Dyfed Powys Police Wildlife Crime Officer for his continued help within our fisheries enforcement teams and also in prosecuting this case.”

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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Carmarthen

Carmarthen set-design student replicates 1980s British Rail cup for Michael Sheen film

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A student and a lecturer from The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) BA Set Design & Production course were involved in Sky Cinema’s recent production ‘Last Train To Christmas’.

The film ‘Last Train To Christmas,’ which was recently produced in Bay Studios, Swansea required as part of their production design a difficult to source and very specific prop, a 1980’s British Rail ‘MaxPax’ coffee cup.

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York Museum hold an original but could not release it in time for filming, therefore,  Art Director Gemma Clancy reached out to UWTSD’s Creative Industries degree programme Set & Production in Carmarthen to see if one could be modelled and 3D printed.  

Lecturer in Props and Scenic Construction, Dave Atkinson offered to take up the invaluable offer and generated a 3D CAD model of the desired cup but was limited by doing so just from photos. This was then 3D printed in-house and fully finished ready to be used as an action prop by Michael Sheen.  

On delivery of the prop cup, a collaborative industry link was established, and Dave continued to work on the set as a prop and scenery maker.  

Dave said, “There are so many films and TV series now being made in West Wales, I am really enjoying connecting the industry with the provisions we have at UWTSD. We have revalidated the provisions in Carmarthen and are launching them in September this year, this will open up more exciting opportunities to forge industry connections.”

Also during production, a paid student placement was offered, for a Second Year Set Design & Production student. Kayla Pratt was lucky enough to be invited to work within the art department across all skill areas from dressing, props, standby and construction throughout her summer break. 

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She adds, “When choosing a university, I wanted to study at a place that could help me get work experience. Despite all odds from the global pandemic, the university course BA Set Design and Production, helped me make my steps into the industry.

“With the support from my university tutors, they helped prepare me for my first day within the art department through to the end of Julian Kemp’s production, Last Train to Christmas.

“Every day within the feature film’s art department was a great day and they supported my learning in a range of on and off set roles throughout the 6 weeks in Swansea’s Bay studios.

“The experience, not only helped me develop as an artist but has also reassured me that this is the industry, I want to be in. Thanks all to the BA Set Design and Production tutors, I am more confident to take my next step as an industry artist.”

The University says that this collaboration is just one of many examples between themselves and a production company , and is a prime example of the importance for teaching, developing and promoting the digital capabilities within the creative industries on Carmarthen Campus.

They say that continual investment will only strengthen and further develop connections, and such support and growth will enable students and graduates from UWTSD to exceed the expectations of the industry. 

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Art Director Gemma Clancy said, “The whole production team would like to extend a huge thank you to UWTSD Carmarthen for their help in the production of The Last Train To Christmas. Kayla Pratt and Dave Atkinson joined the Art Department team and bought some fantastic skills with them. We were so happy to have them on board and incredibly appreciative of their local knowledge and 3D printing capabilities!

“Kayla was one of the most positive members of our team and always tackled the day’s tasks with enthusiasm and determination. Next time we’re shooting in Wales we’ll be calling on UWTSD Carmarthen again!”

(Lead image: Sky)

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Business

Student sets up ‘Clothes Swishing’ event in Carmarthen

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assorted clothes

A student from The University of Wales Trinity Saint David Carmarthen Business School is setting up a Clothes Swishing event in Carmarthen as a way to save the environment and for people to save money.

As a student, Christine Joy has become aware of environmental issues, circular economy, and the value of the local community whilst studying her Business and Management course at UWTSD.

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Student Christine Joy has set up a clothes swishing event in Carmarthen (Image: UWTSD)

During her first year, she became aware of fast fashion after undertaking the “Global Business Challenge” module. Whilst writing an essay, the research she uncovered shocked her – lakes were drained, a factory collapsed causing multiple deaths, ethical issues surrounding fair wage and working conditions and water pollution to name a few.

After this discovery, Christine became conscious of what she bought, even down to the material. However, it wasn’t until her 2nd year whilst studying “Technological Change and Innovation” when the lecturer asked the class what they all could be doing to help our environment, she reflected back to fast fashion and investigated ways that everyone can do their bit, this is when she came across clothes swishing.

Clothes swishing is a way to slow down fashion and help our environment. By keeping items of clothing, shoes, and accessories in life for longer, we can reduce the need to buy new, helping our environment and saving money.

The vision is simple. At a clothes swish event people will bring good quality, clean clothing, shoes and accessories which they no longer need and in return are provided with a unique validation number containing points per item (some such as brand new with tags or designer brands may be provided with extra points). All items collected are then inspected, sorted, and placed into the swishing event. During the day of the event people then redeem their points for replacement items of clothing, shoes, and accessories. Any items left over will be offered to sustainable, circular economy sectors such as fashion and design students or charity shops etc.

According to Christine, “The average person does not use 1/3 of their wardrobe with many items still having tags. Fast fashion is one of the biggest contributors to global emissions, and pollution and generates over 95 tons of waste a year, not to mention ethical exploitation.”

Before Christine came to UWTSD to study, she worked for the biggest company in Wales, where she had worked her way up the ladder to lead manager, running a small department. She always held a passion to start her own business and would always see opportunities, but through lack of knowledge, she never put them into motion. After moving back to her roots in west Wales, she decided to come and study at UWTSD as she wanted to study somewhere with a friendly and family feel environment.

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Christine has felt that the course has developed her both academically and personally and she feels that she has found herself again, however, says she is pushing herself to achieve more.

She adds, “The course really provokes thought regards to global business considerations, our planet and community. The course stimulates creativity as real-life scenarios are drawn upon with several opportunities for advancement made available to students.”

Creating an event like this on campus would according to Christine,“prevent clothing waste from entering landfills and keep it within a circular environment, saving students, family, and the community money. I would like UWTSD Carmarthen Business school to be recognized for sustainability and value creation, in addition, to strengthen relations within the local Community and UWTSD.”

Lecturer Jessica Shore is very proud of Christine’s vision. She said, “We are delighted to support Chrissie and her event, which will benefit both her fellow students, the wider community and the environment. The undergraduate business programmes here in Carmarthen aim to challenge traditional business behaviour and Chrissie’s desire to make a difference is a wonderful example of this. Personally, I shall be having a good sort out and encouraging the rest of the staff and students to do the same in order to make the event a success!”

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