My interests in the environment, local economy and community dominate my work history, I’m happy to say. I have a postgraduate certificate in rural community economic development, but trained as a biologist. My 14 years at the Centre for Alternative Technology included retailing, site management, education, marketing and cooperative management, and I learnt lots. Since June 1998 I’ve managed the Development Trust ecodyfi. Community-based renewable energy, ‘sustainable’ tourism, and encouraging more sustainable living have been our main issues and projects, but our mission for sustainable community regeneration is very wide. One of the things I spend a lot of time on is supporting the UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere initiative, and trying to help businesses, schools and others get involved with it. This requires patient facilitation and promoting collaboration. Currently I’m a Development Officer for the Welsh Government Energy Service and an Advisor for Energy Local. Renew Wales offers another way for me to help communities take action. Climate change can seem not relevant to people whose hands are full with developing a community project or keeping a village hall afloat, but there are times when those issues are helped by incorporating an action that is relevant to climate change.
Tell us about an experience of your work with Renew Wales…
Reconnect in Nature CIC has developed from its beginnings as a walking group for people experiencing mental health problems. It now encompasses a wide range of outdoor activities and a wider group of participants, many of whom have experienced multiple disadvantages. Reconnect supports people in developing the skills and confidence they need to participate more fully in society through engaging in the natural environment and utilizing nature as a natural healing ally.
The project concerned 4.5 acres of Gelli Hill woods, Llawhaden. The group’s vision was to establish the main training base for Reconnect in Nature at these woods. Having talked it through, it was decided that the Renew project should facilitate the first steps towards this.
This first stage of the action plan involved working with an expert in woodland management, to survey and to draw up a woodland management plan. The ‘expert’ was to work with and facilitate a group of volunteers to draw up this plan together. Gareth Ellis of The Green Valleys acted as a Renew Wales Mentor, in two steps:
- Familiarisation with site, meeting Committee and key volunteers, transferring some skills to them, rough mapping;
- Further survey work and mapping by the whole group including volunteers, taking into account their views on what the woodland should provide / be for.
Together they completed this work successfully.
They want to go on to work with an expert in woodland shelter building, so that a volunteer group can draw up a design and plan for the construction of a shelter, and then go on to fundraise and learn the skills to build it.
Climate change implications included carbon sequestration through appropriate woodland management, including use of on-site timber for on-site construction, and considering improving operations such as volunteer travel to site and use of power tools.
What is your vision of your region in 2050?
By 2050 Mid Wales will emit no more carbon than it absorbs through its trees, peat and other vegetation. Soil carbon levels will have been increased through better husbandry, boosting productivity, and much of the pasture land will have diversified – some into arable and horticultural crops, some into mixed woodland, and some into habitats that support a wider range of wildlife.
Fewer young people will feel the need to move from the area, because housing is more affordable and they are creating livelihoods in a new economy based more on local use of local resources to meet local need.