I don’t know who decided that the outdoor uniform for Natural Resources Wales (NRW) staff should be black, but it was unfortunate—for NRW can’t want to appear either funereal or fascist.
The uniforms were much in evidence when I joined the walk organised by NRW during the eisteddfod, an annual tradition which it has inherited from its predecessor the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW). Regrettably NRW executes it with less enthusiasm.
The notice was far too short, so only five non-NRW people came. The chief executive, Emyr Roberts, despite having invited us ‘to join me on what I’m sure will be a most enjoyable event’ had accepted another appointment so that he and a couple of others left us after about an hour. But good for David Lee, NRW’s Montgomeryshire team leader, for organising it and it was great that board member Hywel Davies was there.
We set off from the village of Meifod in Powys, westwards along the River Vyrnwy with the pink peaks of the eisteddford maes visible in the distance. We saw the problem with Himalayan balsam by the river, and the signs encouraging people to pull it up.
Emyr and Tim Jones gave a demonstration.
We also learnt how NRW (which was formed from the old CCW, Environment Agency and Forestry Commission) monitors river flow and water quality, and how it hopes to control salmon fishing. It was lovely to see a muddy bank where sand martins had nested and to see a few flying around.
This valley is an important habitat for the lesser horseshoe bat, which relies on a continuous woodland cover. The proposed National Grid mid-Wales connection which may go through here (there were many protest-signs on the roads) would disrupt that woodland and could affect the bats’ breeding.
When those of us who completed the walk arrived back at the car park, David Lee kindly produced coffee, sandwiches and cake, made by his wife.
Next year, we must persuade NRW to plan the walk and send the invitations much earlier. It should devote a day to it, and board members and senior staff should save the date. This is an excellent opportunity for us all to swap information and intelligence, learn about NRW’s work on the ground, and of course for us to do some lobbying. NRW has a huge and vital remit and it needs its partners. What better way to liaise with them than on a walk in the beautiful Welsh countryside?