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Government to give free tree to every household in Wales to tackle climate change

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Every household in Wales will be offered a free tree to plant as part of the Welsh Government’s commitment to tackle climate change, Deputy Minister Lee Waters promised today.

The bold new policy will give people the chance to choose a tree of their own to plant or opt to have a tree planted on their behalf.

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Speaking at a visit to a major Coed Cadw woodland creation project in Neath during National Tree Week, the Deputy Minister for Climate Change confirmed the Welsh Government had partnered with the Woodland Trust to deliver the campaign.

The first trees will be available to collect from March, from one of five regional community hubs that will be established. The Welsh Government aims to set up a further 20 hubs across wales by October 2022.

Earlier this year, the Deputy Minister for Climate Change led a deep dive exercise into tree planting and timber, which identified a set of actions the Welsh Government needed to take forward to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change.

The Deputy Minister said: “Trees are amazing – they save lives by keeping our air clean, they improve people’s physical and mental health, they are essential for tackling our nature emergency, improving biodiversity and, of course, in tackling climate change.

“The deep dive made it clear to me that everyone will have a part to play if we are to be successful in tackling climate change and realising our ambitions to create a National Forest for Wales.

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“I am therefore pleased to announce we have partnered with the Woodland Trust to deliver a campaign that will provide every household in Wales an opportunity to plant a free tree in Wales.

“This will enable people in Wales to further understand and experience the many benefits that trees can provide, not only to the environment but also to people’s health and wellbeing.”

The Deputy Minister made it clear that everyone in Wales could benefit from the campaign.

“We understand that not all households will be able to plant a tree themselves, but will still be keen to get involved,” he explained.

“That is why we will make an option available to ‘plant a tree for me’, which will allow for people to opt to have a free tree planted on their behalf at locations across Wales via the community hubs and volunteers.

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“Instruction and guidance, including the location of community hubs near you and how to claim your tree, will soon be available through various information webpages but also locally on the ground via a network of volunteers in every area.”

Natalie Buttriss, Coed Cadw Director said, “We are delighted to be working with the Welsh Government in this great community tree giveaway to get thousands of native trees in the ground.

“While tree-planting is only one way to help tackle climate change, it is a simple and enjoyable way for every single person in Wales to have the chance to plant a tree and watch it grow.

“This project will be open to all types of people living in Wales and we hope it will inspire many individuals and local community groups to become involved. We want people from all backgrounds to be part of planting the National Forest for Wales.”

The Deputy Minister also revealed that a consultation would launch early in 2022 on plans to create a National Forest for Wales.

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Carmarthenshire

PCSO works to bring end to unscrupulous cockle pickers in Kidwelly, Ferryside, Llansteffan and Laugharne

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PCSO Helen Fender has been recognised at Dyfed Powys Police’s awards for her efforts in tackling anti-social behaviour associated with unscrupulous cockle pickers descending on the communities of St Ishmael, Kidwelly, Llanybri, Llansteffan and Laugharne.

To effect change, PCSO Fender looked at the issue and its cause – pinpointing an old by-law that allowed anyone to get a free permit to pick cockles in the Three Rivers Fishery cockle beds.

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PCSO Helen Fender (Image: Dyfed Powys Police)

In 2017 there were more than 1,000 permit holders and the only regulation for obtaining a permit is to give a name, address, contact details and a photograph for ID.

“I noticed that something had to be done, it couldn’t go on this way as it was causing no end of issues for the community and the genuine fishermen who relied on picking cockles for a living,” she said.

“On the Bury Inlet there was no issue as it was much harder to get a permit.”

PCSO Fender set about working with the Welsh Government to try and make the Three Rivers Fishery regulated as other cockle beds are.

A three-month consultation is being launched with the aim to bring in tougher legislation for permits to be issued – with requirements to include training, minimum kit standards, their employment status for HMRC and an annual fee of £800.

“I’ve worked with the communities and with the local fishermen on this, and they are supportive,” said PCSO Fender.

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“When you’ve got 1,000 permits handed out to people from all over the country, there is going to be problems for the community and it impacts the local gatherers who depend on this industry to make a living.

“It was having a really detrimental effect on the lives of people in the area and it was proving dangerous, with numerous quads on the beaches and villages, even crossing railway lines.”

The issue has caused problems over the years with the Welsh Government Marine and Fisheries Division closing the Three Rivers Fishery cockle beds from 2012 to 2017 due to serious reports of anti-social behaviour, including people sleeping rough, litter not disposed of properly, no toilet facilities, and large articulated lorries trying to access small village roads.     

Sgt Gemma Davies said: “Helen has conducted a thorough and detailed enquiry into the underlying issues at the location, has sourced expert opinion and discussed numerous options to try and implement change for the better for the cockling community and the people living near to the cockle beds.

“We’re hopeful to achieving a regulated permit system which can be monitored and ‘policed’ by the fisheries more effectively.”

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Lead image: File photo of cockle picking in the Burry Inlet (Image: Natural Resources Wales)

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Seeds of change sown for crops to be grown on Morriston Hospital land

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Healthy eating will soon take on a whole new meaning with exciting plans to develop a “farm” on land near Morriston Hospital.

 The health board has agreed to turn over an area of land to a not-for-profit venture to grow a range of crops – with the wider community and potentially hospital patients helping to run it.

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Although independently run, the project is being supported by Swansea Bay as part of its wider commitment to a more sustainable future.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiatives are partnerships between farmers and consumers in which the responsibilities, risks and rewards of farming are shared.

They are run by one or more principal growers supported by volunteers who are able to learn new skills and enjoy the therapeutic benefits associated with gardening activities.

Funding comes from a variety of sources, including grants and the sale of weekly organic veg boxes to local subscribers.

CSAs originated in Japan and North America and are now established across Europe and the UK – including two in Gower.

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Swansea Bay UHB became involved after discovering that Swansea’s Food Poverty Network was looking for opportunities to establish further CSAs across a wider area of the city.

Health board Service Improvement Manger, Amanda Davies, said Swansea Bay residents were living longer than ever before.

“Like many other parts of Wales, we face increasing challenges about how to keep our population healthy,” she said.

“We also continue to have health inequalities across different parts of the area.

“We know that people living in Swansea East have a life expectancy of 12 years less than those who live in the west of Swansea.

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“We need to think differently about how we address these challenges if we are to have a sustainable health and care service in the future.”

Some time ago, the health board bought land near Morriston Hospital for potential future development. However, the topography of one part of this land makes it unsuitable to be built on.

But, as it turns out, the soil is ideal for growing crops.

Swansea Bay linked up with Cae Tan, a successful CSA based in Parkmill, Gower, and with National Resources Wales to explore the possibility of developing this 7.6-acre site, which comes complete with its own stream.

The health board has now committed to leasing the site, for a peppercorn rent, to a new CSA for 10 years, starting in mid-March.

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It will be managed by principal grower Rob Hernando who has been involved in community projects in the Swansea area since 2014.

In 2017 he began studying for a Masters in sustainability and adaption with the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, which fostered an interest in food supply networks and alternative agriculture.

Rob began volunteering at Cae Tan, and became passionate about creating access to similar projects in the east of the city, which eventually led to him working with the health board to develop the Morriston CSA.

“We will spend the first year developing the site. This involves various tasks like improving the access, hardstanding for parking and improving the fertility of the ground,” said Rob, who himself lives in Swansea east.

“The plan is to plant green manure crops over the field to build fertility for the first growing season, then doing all the other work like fencing, hedging, planting trees and improving biodiversity.

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“The production of food will start around March 2023 and we hope to be able to provide regular food boxes from June that year.”

Details of how people can volunteer, and subscribe to veg boxes, will be announced later. And while Swansea Bay will not be directly involved in the CSA, some partnership plans are already being discussed.

Amanda said: “One of the proposals is for the CSA to provide us with a supply of vegetables on a regular basis.

“I spoke to our catering department and they said that was something they could look into.

“There’s an opportunity that our patients could have fresh organic soup, on a regular basis, improving their health and also reducing our carbon footprint. The food will come from across the road.

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“There could also be an opportunity to use the hospital’s food waste for compost. There are DEFRA guidelines to follow, so we are having discussions about how we can do that.”

 There will also be opportunities for patients to become involved, along with volunteers from across the wider community.

Amanda added: “Other health boards in Wales have done gardening projects but the Morriston CSA is the first on this scale.

“The Well-being of Future Generations Act has been the lever to encourage us to think differently about how we use our estate.

“By saying land is not just for building on, we can support people in our community by increasing access to healthy, affordable food. 

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“The CSA will help connect our community, improve skills, reduce loneliness and isolation, and improve people’s health and well-being. And at no cost to the health board.”

Rob said that, when he first started thinking about his own CSA, he had no idea he would end up working with the health board.

“It feels like quite a unique relationship but also one that makes logical sense,” he added.

 “We are trying to provide healthy locally-sourced food, not only to help the environment but to help our people.

“If we can provide opportunities for people to improve their health and well-being through their daily actions and therefore reduce pressure on the health service it seems logical, and that is what’s really exciting for me.

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“If it is successful, and I fully expect it to be successful, it’s something that can potentially be replicated elsewhere.”

Swansea Bay UHB’s Chair, Emma Woollett, said: “I’m delighted we have been able to support such a worthwhile initiative.

“The board takes their responsibilities under the Well-being of Future Generations Act very seriously.

“This is a perfect opportunity to support our communities, increase well-being and encourage greater access to affordable, healthy food.”

Lead image: Amanda Davies and Rob Hernando in the field near Morriston Hospital that will be used to grow crops (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Environment

The Welsh National Survey for Otters shows partial decline of otter populations in Wales

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Natural Resources Wales, Cardiff University and a host of volunteers have repeated the Welsh National Survey for Otters for the first time since 2010.

Using the same methods as previous surveys to ensure results were comparable, a total of 1073 sites were visited, with signs of otters found at 756 sites, showing a substantive decline in their populations for the first time since the 1970s, from around 90% occupancy in 2010 to 70% in 2015 to 2018.

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Reasons for the decline are unclear and further work is planned by NRW and CU to investigate likely reasons for this.

Dr Eleanor Kean, who led the research for the Cardiff University Otter Project, said: “Cardiff University Otter Project (CUOP) surveyed national survey sites across six river catchments and noted a decline in otter signs. Natural Resources Wales collaborated with us to organise surveys of the remaining sites across Wales to complete a sixth Otter Survey of Wales, with the help of volunteer surveyors.

“Declines were not universal, with the worst affected regions being the Conwy, Loughor, and Teifi catchments. Smaller declines were evident on most other catchments, while only a few, such as the Severn, seemed to have stable populations”.

Liz Halliwell, Team Leader for Terrestrial Ecosystems and Species at NRW said: “Monitoring otter population status is important with respect to conservation of this much-loved mammal. As well as this, as top predator of our freshwaters, the otter can be an important biological indicator of the health of our rivers and wetlands.

“In Wales as in much of the UK, the otter is a largely nocturnal animal and is rarely observed in the wild, but it is possible to detect its presence by searching for its distinctive droppings – spraints- and footprints.

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“Otter populations across Britain have been gradually recovering from significant declines in the 1970s. The clear message from this report is that we cannot be complacent about the ongoing recovery of the otter in the UK. To understand the reasons for the decline, we are working with otter and freshwater habitat experts to review the situation.  We also have an extensive River Restoration Programme in development which will bring benefits to many riparian species including otters.”

The Mammal Society, Environment Agency and Natural England, with support from a number of water companies, will be initiating the sixth national otter survey of England in 2022. 

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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