This is a special moment for Rewilding Britain, as we announce that our first landscape-scale project has been funded.
O’r Mynydd i’r Môr, or Summit to Sea, is a big idea. It’s a call for renewal of wild nature and rural communities in mid-Wales, stretching from the Cambrian Mountains, down wooded valleys and along the Dyfi estuary, and out into Cardigan Bay.
Many of us who know and love this part of Wales will have looked out across it from the high slopes of Pumlumon and asked what the future holds for this place. Summit to Sea is one possible answer to that question.
A year ago we sat down with over 40 people in the area and shared thoughts about the potential of the project. People drew a postcard to themselves about how they wanted the future to look. There was so much common ground and shared vision.
People saw opportunities for all ages, connected communities, and working economies. They saw the challenges of making change, finding balance and of keeping things going. And they saw the prospect of belonging, in thriving places rich in nature.
This is what we were set-up for. Since 2014 we have been looking at how we can demonstrate a different model for the land and sea, that works for both people and nature.
Over the past two years we’ve been working behind the scenes with conservation organisations, landowners and community groups, as well as public bodies and businesses, to shape a vision for Summit to Sea.
So we’re delighted to finally be able to share it. This is one of only eight projects across Europe to receive funding from the Endangered Landscape Programme, and that’s a great reflection of the hard work of partners and all the local people and organisations who have helped to design it.
Summit to Sea is about bringing together local expertise with support and knowledge from further afield to create solutions that work for mid-Wales.
Some of this is about rediscovering what we used to know. Although we have a long history of coming together to manage the land and sea we’re now not so used to doing so. And working together can be hard!
So the biggest challenge will be to find effective mechanisms, for people to have an ongoing role in the governance of Summit to Sea and to allow for revenue and other benefits to be shared.
A core group of partners have been actively involved from the start. They bring a combination of practical expertise plus areas of land and sea that are already managed for nature conservation.
Many local people and other organisations have helped design the project too. These range from farmer and landowner representative bodies and a number of local farmers to Business Wales, Dyfi Biosphere Reserve, Cambrian Mountains Initiative, Ceredigion and Powys County Councils and Welsh Government.
We have opened a conversation with as many people locally as possible about the potential for Summit to Sea, and have been delighted by people’s openness to having that conversation — and for raising any doubts or concerns. There are many more conversations to come.
Summit to Sea offers hope. I can imagine standing on the slopes of Pumlumon in 20 years and looking out towards the sea across a rich mosaic of forest, glades and wild pasture, that can shift and change in response to natural processes. Watching black grouse pick their way through the trees. Looking down at the revitalised buildings of Maesnant and seeing young people having adventures in the landscape. Maybe catching a glimpse of a beaver cutting through the waters below.
I’ve been involved in conservation and community development programmes around the world for over 25 years now. More than at any other point I feel that we have a moment of opportunity, to demonstrate that renewal and hope is possible, for us, for the places we live in and for wild nature.
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