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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

Cadle Heath is alive with the sound of critters

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From endangered bats to moths, beetles and unusual critters, a Swansea suburb is giving locals an opportunity to discover exactly what’s living on their doorstep.

The Cadle Heath BioBlitz event funded by the Swansea Nature Partnership on Saturday, May 14, is a day packed with scavenger hunts, guided walks, opportunities to learn about the wildflowers, bugs birds, reptiles and mammals and help to gather important nature data by recording the unusual species living in this urban heath.

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This nature reserve is one of Swansea’s best kept secrets and stretches from behind Swansea Community Farm on Carmarthen Road, to popular shopping-destination, Pontarddulais Road Retail Park.

The event, which is organised by Swansea Community Farm, South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre and Penderi Green Regeneration project, will take place between 10am and 3pm at the farm. Followed by a bat walk at 8.30pm, giving people the chance to listen for the elusive, red-listed, Lesser Horseshoe Bat in its natural habitat.

Kate McCabe from Pobl, leading on the Penderi Green Regeneration Project, said: “This is an exciting event for us. Cadle Heath is one of the best examples of urban heathland in the country and we are proud to have such a rich, exciting space for nature in the heart of Swansea’s Penderi region. The fact that the heath is home to a red-listed bat species is something we should be really proud of and something we should protect and celebrate.”

“Cadle is in such a highly populated part of Swansea that it is often overlooked, and people don’t often realise the hidden haven that exists for local wildlife. This family-friendly event will really bring the area to life, giving people a unique opportunity to really explore the area with the guidance of passionate scientists and nature experts.”

Katharine Aylett, from Swansea Community Farm, said: “We are proud to be hosting such an important and exciting event for the area, and to be partners of Pobl’s Penderi Green Regeneration Project. At Swansea Community Farm, we know the positive effect activities like this have on the community and local wildlife; it’s about raising awareness of the natural world and bringing people together, outdoors. 

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“The Penderi Green Regeneration Project itself, is vital to the area and is already having a clear impact on this part of Swansea. We’re looking forward to working with them on future events and initiatives.”

The Penderi Green Regeneration Project is an initiative to support local people in their desire to improve green spaces in their area which will help boost health and wellbeing. Through a series of physical and educational opportunities, the initiative will bring the wider neighbourhood together to regenerate green spaces in the Penderi area of Swansea.

Funded by UK Government, under the Community Renewal Fund (CRF), Pobl Group is able to deliver the Project with the help of key partners, Swansea Environment Centre, Room To Grow and the Conservation Team at Swansea Council.

For more information on the free event, visit: www.swanseacommunityfarm.org.uk

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Environment

First Minister celebrates 10 years of the Wales Coast Path

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The First Minister will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Wales Coast Path with a visit to meet volunteers and walkers.

A year long programme of events and activities celebrating the Wales Coast Path will take place throughout 2022, including walking festivals, virtual challenges and art installations.

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Since its opening in 2012, the Wales Coast Path has established itself as a beacon of our nation’s natural beauty.

The 870 mile path guides walkers along Wales’ picturesque coastline, weaving its way past a hundred beaches and sixteen castles.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The coastal path is one of the crowning glories of Wales and one of the proudest achievements of devolution.

“I would like to thank all those involved in the management of the path. Particularly the staff and volunteers, who are out in all weathers, working hard to maintain the path to such high standards.

“If I had to choose my favourite stretch of the path, the portion between Pendine and Amroth would be a candidate: starting in my own home county of Carmarthenshire, and ending in Pembrokeshire. It may not be the most well-known part of the path, but it offers huge variety: some challenging climbs, outstanding variety of flowers, secret coves and plenty of historical interest”.

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The Welsh Government will build on the successes of the first ten years so that more people are able to enjoy the path, from more backgrounds, more easily, and with more benefits for local communities, businesses and the environment.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS, asked Huw Irranca-Davies, MS for Ogmore to undertake a review of the Wales Coast Path.

A small group, drawn from academia and the public, private and voluntary sectors was established to undertake the review.

The Group reflected on the key achievements over the last decade and identified how to maximise opportunities for the future.

Their report has been published on the Welsh Government website today (11 May).

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The review recognises the potential value and challenges of the Wales Coast Path. It contains 19 recommendations for the Welsh Government to consider when developing its future strategic approach to the path.

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Dyfed Powys Police

Man banned from driving for 12 months for fishing offence

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A man from Merthyr Tydfil who travelled to the River Loughor, near Llanelli to fish using a barbaric and illegal method, has been banned from driving for 12 months as part of his sentence.

Vu Quang Tien pleaded guilty to an illegal fishing charge and also to a charge of obstruction of a Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Fisheries Enforcement Officer on 26 April at Swansea Magistrates Court.

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Mr Tien and two other anglers were witnessed by NRW Fisheries Enforcement Officers deliberately using the illegal foul hooking method of fishing – also known as snatching – at the river Loughor on 15 August 2021. NRW officers attended the site after several reports of illegal fishing were made to NRW’s 24/7 incident call centre by concerned members of the community.

When approached and questioned by NRW officers, Mr Tien and his accomplices showed significant hostility and reluctance to share identification documents which eventually had to be extracted by use of reasonable force.

All of Mr Tien’s fishing tackle and fish, along with his associates’ fishing tackle was seized by NRW Officers at the time of the incident. The district judge on the day at Swansea Magistrates Court gave permission to NRW to confiscate these items permanently from each of them.

The District Judge disqualified Mr Tien from driving for 12 months due to seriousness of the incident, and the premeditated and deliberate action of travelling such a distance to commit the offence.

He was also ordered to pay a total of £2,334 in fines, NRW costs and a victim surcharge.

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Mark Thomas, Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “We would like to again thank Dyfed Powys Police, the local communities and also the law-abiding anglers in the area for their continued support in reporting these illegal fishing activities.

“Foul hooking is a truly barbaric form of fishing carried out by a small minority of anglers in Wales, who have no regard for fish welfare.

“NRW and the Police take these incidents seriously as do the courts.

“Hopefully, the small minority of anglers who may in future, think of using any illegal fishing methods will take heed of the heavy fines and driving ban in this case issued by the courts.”

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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