O’r Mynydd i’r Môr / Summit to Sea

Nature and people quietly getting on with it

Hannah Scrase writes about the beautiful and surprising examples of natural regeneration and restoration that she’s witnessed as she visits people and places in the Summit to Sea area. 

As a species, we humans are prone to thinking we know how the world works. We tend to think we know best, and yet to disagree with each other, about how to manage land, rivers and sea ( oh and Brexit). I’m underwhelmed by the evidence of our collective wisdom on this front. We have lost so many whole species, local populations and habitats, that we would probably get an E- if not an F for planet stewardship if it was a test.

But, I am frequently surprised and inspired by what nature is capable of doing to recover if we can restrain ourselves from trying to control everything.

The best part of my working week is when I visit people who show me round their land and talk about the wildlife they see and that they hope to see in the future. These are people who have got in touch with the project team, usually via info@summit2sea.wales, and some who we already know or who other people have introduced us to. They are all different but mostly they have lived where they do for many years, their land is mostly under a mix of uses including grazing, hay or silage, woodland, wood pasture and areas left untouched. They share a love for and concern for wildlife and want to do what they can to help bring it back.

They are not firebrands, they are not telling others what to do. They are quietly making space for nature and nature is quietly moving into that space wherever it can and we allow it. Frequently it isn’t where we plan for or expect it to be.

Spring hazel catkins - image by Ben Porter

[Aerial roots of a rowan inside the bark of a dead tree (cherry or birch?) inside an ancient oak]

Sometimes these very unexpected opportunists in nature can be better at engaging people in wildlife than when nature is following the complex rules we think apply.

… The tree seedlings quietly making their way through the bracken on common land near Llanidloes having found a patch of bare ground on a badger path …the bracken, which for years shaded out all other plants then acting as a nursery hiding the young trees from grazing animals.

… My first deer sighting locally, a proud roe buck contemplating the final treeless ascent on the mountain road to Machynlleth above Dylife. Deer sightings are still quite rare in Mid Wales, this was my first in over four decades of looking and he was in about the last place I expected to see him.

… The dormouse hibernating in a nest box put up for pied flycatchers above Tal y Bont …. the dormouse found nesting on the central reservation of a dual carriageway (this one not local as any one familiar with our roads will quickly point out!)

… The oak tree which blew over but when it found that no one sawed it up while it was down decided to have another go and now grows upside down.

… The spotted flycatcher bringing up a nestful of young on top of an old rake leaning against our shed.

… The rowan tree putting down aerial roots inside the hollowed out bark of another  tree which itself grew and died in the hollow of a 500 year old oak tree in Elan Valley.

People didn’t make these happen but they happened because no one stopped them.

Spring hazel catkins - image by Ben Porter

[Woodland creation – without plastic tubes, herbicides or risk assessments]

These encounters with nature holding on, or coming back in unexpected places – and the people who are allowing it to happen or gently helping it along – make up for a lot of time spent on spreadsheets (that seem to have minds of their own these days), conference calls and emails.  

The people I refer to above know who you are and I salute you. Thank you  – for making space for nature – and for sharing the results.

Hannah Scrase is project coordinator for Summit to Sea.

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