Don’t miss our 3rd annual Landscape Art Exhibition at the Barnabas Arts House, Newport, opening on Tues 24th Sept -


Artists exhibiting include

  • Jamie Routley – selected for BP Exhibition in London, his works are now expensive!
  • David Bellamy – a favoutite Welsh artist for many years
  • Jantien Powell – very busy with art classes as well as her gallery near Raglan
  • Alex Arnell – Welsh Artist of the Year Award 2010
  • Philip Muirden – superb sea subjects, from West Wales
  • Winnie Kwong Kuen-Shan – fascinating oriental take on Wales
  • Mark Williams,- painter, illustrator, cartoonist – great fun
  • Maggie Davies – ‘richly textured paintings’
  • Janet Walters
  • Glen Carney
  • Sheila Williams
  • Andrrew Worsfoid

Call 01495 755557 for Preview invitation, Masterclass booking, or other info


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On October 15, 2011, in Uncategorized, by vic

Forgotten Landscapes (FLP) is a partnership project focusing on the development of 27 square miles around Blaenavon as an internationally recognised visitor destination, inevitably working within the aspirations of the remarkable World Heritage Site (WHS) there.  

Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales is fairly obviously interested in all things that relate to landscape, so I caught up with what is happening with FLP at a recent update meeting, a year into the three year project. As the spouse (and business partner, and mucker-out of pigs) of a local farmer and commoner within the FLP area, I also had other interests. The update comprised a very useful series of short presentations by the five FLP staff.

Planning Officer (main man) Steve Rogers introduced the update session by going briefly over the history of the area. The post-ice age wild wooded valleys and natural uplands have been transformed by human activities several times, initially by limited clearance for farming, then with the discovery of iron ore, with more use of timber (charcoal) for furnaces. This led to the seismic change of the Industrial Revolution, of which Blaenavon was a crucible, when all the various natural resources were found in quantity in the Welsh Valleys – iron ore, limestone, coal, water, timber. With no concerns about pollution or health and safety, quarries, mines, furnaces, ironworks proliferated, and large-scale immigration demanded basic housing. So today there is a ‘rich mosaic of geological features, industrial relics and nationally important wildlife habitats’ as the FLP website describes it. And much of the area is still a working agricultural landscape.

FLP’s aims are mainly two-fold: -

  • Conservation – wildlife, traditional farming, industrial heritage
  • Access and interpretation for visitors.

Both of these aims include engaging with local people and encouraging volunteer activities, and safeguarding the ‘treasures’.

The other FLP officers then told us of their specialist work: -

The Commons Officer is working with several commoners Associations and many farmers to restore and enhance the commons – grazing has reduced considerably in recent years, so that bracken and scrub has extended, affecting wildlife and access. Grouse are now rare, for example. Bracken clearance and heather management has started, together with boundary improvement work (drystone walls etc), more livestock is encouraged, machinery is being made available. Reed beds are being established.

The Education & Interpretation Officer told us of her work with schools, engaging local communities and catering for visitors, organizing events and roadshows about FLP. This will shortly even include Smartphone apps for information – how modern is that?  

Landscape Crime Officer (there’s a title you don’t see every day) explained his impressively busy and successful working life, dealing mainly with

  • Flytipping
  • Vehicles driven illegally on commons
  • Arson – fires destroying heather and wildlife
  • Theft of metal as scrap – often heritage artifacts
  • Wildlife crime – contravening Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 protection of plants, birds, animals etc

Many illegal activities have been addressed in less than a year, and incidents reported have reduced. He mentioned the value of information gathered via FarmWatch, OWL, twitter.

The Volunteer Organiser reported substantial activity in this area, with volunteer groups and training increasing, many tasks tackled, working towards sustainability of the FLP initiative when the project ends in two years. 

Steve concluded by publicising the establishment of a Consultative Group, and asked for interested local organisations to be represented.

 A Q&A session followed, and some concerns were voiced by various attendees. The main points I noted and answers given were: -

Lack of information and FLP communication with local interest groups

          The Consultative Group will address this

Ban on grouse shooting – could be the end of shoots and conservation of local moorlands

          Discussions ongoing, but it depends on the recovery of grouse numbers

More visitor information, press & TV coverage

          Discussions taking place with WHS on more joint provision

Insufficient assistance for Commoners

          Liaison ongoing, assistance with bracken clearance & drystone walls, more coming. Increase in grazing     needed

Landowners involved?

          Yes, most supportive, but the largest landowner not interested


I believe FLP is a unique project, and beneficially seeks to identify and conserve important aspects of landscape. I’m not sure how much influence it has on local planning strategy and/or development control, which of course can greatly affect landscape, but to my mind similar considerations of landscape conservation should apply to all our countryside. I hope FLP is successful in establishing a permanent source of conservation and management in its area, and is widely copied.

One further point, having been involved in a recent Blorenge Commoners Association meeting where we decided not to participate in a Welsh Government Commons agri-environment scheme which promises funding in return for a reduction of Commons-grazed livestock, and other requirements (the meeting was against participation because the conditions attached were ridiculous), it is strange to hear FLP asking for increased grazing, to help maintain wildlife-friendly habitats

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Reading the Landscape

On August 28, 2011, in Uncategorized, by vic

I bought a new book last year, and it was a revelation. I thought I’d post a review

THE LIVING LANDSCAPE  -   How to Read and Understand It

Patrick Whitefield    Permanent Publications

Five or six times a year I take a train trip from Cwmbran to Shrewsbury and on to  Welshpool, and I look forward to the journey on this Welsh border line, travelling through the delightful and varying scenery of the Welsh Marches, more often than not with the hills of Wales or Shropshire to the west and lowland to the east. I occasionally write notes of what I see, the differing farms, livestock, trees, field boundaries and trackside herbage, and of course buildings. Often I am surprised at the changes I note, and wonder what I am missing that would explain them. I play at armchair landscape assessment, in a very superficial and defective manner. I guess I am not the only person who plays this game.

So when I saw this new book, I jumped at the chance to understand more about the reasons for the nature of the landscape and countryside I see. And I was not disappointed; Patrick Whitefield’s substantial book is accessible and absorbing, very readable and informative. I now know much more about ‘reading the landscape’, and wherever I travel I shall be looking for changes and reasons, and probably boring my wife with a commentary!

His book is set out very logically, with chapters explaining how geology, soil, height and situation, climate and micro-climate, indigenous animals and livestock, agriculture and other factors all contribute to the formation and evolution of our landscape

Some of the tips, such as the glacial origins of U-shaped valleys, we probably learned at school, and gardeners and wildlife fans will know that some plants are indicative of acid or alkali soils, but how about why molehills tell you the soil is not acid, why jays are responsible for our widespread British Oak, or why medieval fields often have curved boundaries? (Think oxen!). What common wild flower is known as the ‘Poor Man’s Weatherglass’?

Whitefield pulls it all together, and has produced a tour de force on the subject, due to become a standard work. He not only writes easily and informatively, but at times lyrically. One chapter starts: -

“In the drama of the landscape there’s no distinction between actors and scenery. Everything, from rocks to humans, is both part of the scenery and an actor in it”

The only part I found in the least difficult was his long treatise on woodlands and trees. He obviously loves this aspect, and for me it was a little too much. But a minor problem in a wonderful book. For all countryside lovers, this book is exciting and at times entrancing, as one remembers childhood meadows and recognises medieval remnants still here today. My railway trips, and in fact many occasions in familiar and unfamiliar countryside, have been greatly enhanced.

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