Where is the project?

The Summit to Sea project is working in an area of Mid-Wales, from the rugged uplands of the Cambrian Mountains, down through wooded valleys to the Dyfi Estuary and out into the marine-protected areas of Cardigan Bay. The project area lies across the north of Ceredigion and western Powys 

The Plynlimon massif forms the largest watershed in Wales. Here is the source of the Severn and Wye rivers – the UK’s longest and fifth longest rivers respectively – which flow east right through Wales and into England, as well as the Rheidol that flows west to the sea at Aberystwyth 

The project area overlaps with the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve and comprises the Dyfi National Nature Reserve, as well as several Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), including the Pen Llŷn a’r Sarnau Marine SAC  to name just a few of the many designations of the area. 

What is special about this area?

Diverse habitats

There are a diverse range of habitat types here, including grazed upland grassland, deciduous woodland, lowland pasture, saltmarshes, dune systems, freshwater lakes and rivers, an internationally important raised bog, an estuary which is home to nesting ospreys, and marine reefs. The communities who live here are rightly proud of this extraordinary but little-celebrated part of Wales. 

A landscape in trouble 

Wales has lost a significant proportion of its natural habitat, including 44% of upland heathland and 30% of its wildlife-rich dune systems. Only 12% of woodland in Wales is ancient or semi-natural and much of that has become degraded and fragmented. This loss has led to a continuous decline in the number of breeding bird species and other key wildlife over the last 30 years.  

Fragile seabed ecosystems are being damaged by nomadic dredgers who, with little or no enforcement of regulations, fish illegally in Cardigan Bay.  

The area faces a range of ecological and social threats: rising sea levels threaten our coastal communities, and flooding, droughts and extreme weather events are getting more frequent and damaging. Meanwhile insect numbers are in serious decline, and their role in pollination causes serious alarm for farming and food production.  

The living systems that we are losing are not just about attractive rural surroundings – they provide the ecological functions on which we all depend. 

Ancient land and sea use heritage 

Nature and culture are closely interwoven in the uplands, lowlands and coastline of the Cambrian Mountains, developed through a long history of people working closely with the land and sea. 

These communities of people who manage, use and harvest our natural resources not only underpin the local economy but are the bedrock of the area’s cultural heritage, giving it the sense of place. These histories far pre-date the habitat loss that has been escalating in the last four decades, and traditional practices and wisdom will hold many solutions. With 80% of Wales farmed, supporting nature-friendly land management practices could have a huge impact on birds, invertebrates and other wildlife. 

Who we’ll be working with

We’ll be working with people who: 

  • own a natural resource – for example forestry, farms (both private, public and charity owned)  
  • manage a natural resource – fishers, foresters, farms, tourism providers, local authorities 
  • use natural resources – local community, visitors 

This project does not include any remit for acquiring land, compulsorily or otherwise. The success of the project relies on voluntary involvement and engagement between landowners and users. It is important, and urgent, that ground-breaking models for land-use and conservation are found that work across land ownership, for nature.  

Why ‘Summit to Sea’? 

Ecological processes don’t happen in small, neat areas. Traditional designations such as SSSIs and SACs are important, but in themselves can only manage specific oases of nature, or particular species 

As environmental degradation and loss of wildlife continues, it is clear that humanity needs to think bigger – more ambitious, more optimistic and, crucially, more joined-up. This project is one of a growing number working at what is becoming known as ‘landscape-scale’, which aim to enhance mosaics of interconnected landscapes to allow wildlife to move, migrate and interact.