Sixty years ago this month, the secretary of the Open Spaces Society, Mr AOB Harris, wrote an article in the society’s Journal headed ‘An early grant of public access’. Here is some of what it said.
It is worth recording that the parish of Glascwm [in Radnorshire, now Powys] provides an interesting and comparatively early example of a grant of public access over what was originally common land. On either side of the porch at Glascwm church, two similarly worded tablets face one another. One of the tablets reads as follows:
Llandegley Rhos Common
Upon the inclosure of Llandegley Rhos Common in the year 1885, there was reserved to the public in perpetuity a privilege of enjoying, at all times, air, exercise and recreation on all parts of the lands inclosed except such as shall be planted or cultivated.
The other tablet bears the same legend in respect of Cefn Drawen Common. In the year of the inclosure, the benefit of the privilege was no doubt somewhat circumscribed: even today, Glascwm is only a tiny hamlet, with 220 names on the electoral roll for the whole of the scattered parish. But it so happens that, when the village school was closed in 1947, it was later reopened as a hostel by the Youth Hostels Association; and some hundreds of visitors now find their way annually to the district. The privilege of access is therefore enjoyed by a much larger public than was originally foreseen; and this value is all the greater. From the moors surrounding Glascwm, walkers can obtain fine views, northwards over Radnor Forest and southwards to the Black Mountains on the borders of Herefordshire and Breconshire…
I visited this inclosed land with its access rights on my way to the Big Welsh Walk in May this year. Hendy Wind Farm Ltd had applied for seven wind turbines near Llandegley Rocks (grid reference SO 131617) and these had been rejected by Powys Council in April. I had not yet heard the news that the developers were appealing to the Welsh Government to reverse the decision—so I was feeling jubilant.
I left the car in a layby on the A44 less than a mile south of the village of Llandegley and walked over the splendid Llandegley Rocks with the views described by Mr Harris (although I believe I was looking at Pen y Fan and Corn Du rather than the Black Mountains).
I walked south over the rocks; to the east were the Radnorshire Hills.
I looked down on the inclosure award land, where five of the seven turbines would be located, creating a horrific eyesore.
The inclosure awards for Hendy Bank and Llandegley Rhos were made under the Inclosure Acts 1845 to 1878 by orders under the Commons Act 1876. The Commons Act marked a change in the inclosure movement, with a recognition that inclosure must also provide benefit to the neighbourhood as well as to private interests. thus the awards here give a right of access. They also decree that no injury shall be done to the land. I have set out the full wording below*.
It is evident that if wind turbines are placed on this land, with their tracks and other paraphernalia, injury will be done and the public’s rights of access will suffer interference. Accordingly, the Open Spaces Society, in objecting to the planning application and the appeal, said that the turbines here may be unlawful.
The company also proposed to make an access track on Llandegley Common, for which it would need ministerial consent. Previously, it proposed to deregister this part of the common under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006 and to offer in exchange part of the inclosure award land. The Open Spaces Society objected, pointing out that there was already a public right of access to the inclosure award land and therefore this was an unfair swap. The company withdrew the proposed exchange. But it would have to offer suitable exchange land and get permission before taking part of the common.
On my way home from the Big Welsh Walk I turned off the main road at Hundred House. I followed tiny lanes with grass down the middle to Glascwm church (SO 158532), hidden away in a valley. What a beautiful, tranquil place this was on a May morning.
There in the porch were the two plaques facing each other, just as Mr Harris had described.
The plaque for Hendy inclosure award is further north, in the church of St Michael at Cefnllys (SO 084 615), a mile east of Llandrindod Wells.
Llandegley church which is the closest to the rocks has no inclosure award plaque, but it does have a lovely view of Llandegley Rocks.
This patch of east Powys is beautiful but unprotected, and severely at risk. I earnestly hope that the Welsh Government sees sense and does not sacrifice it for wind turbines.
*The inclosure award says:
And I declare that I do reserve to the Public a privilege at all times of enjoying air exercise and recreation on all parts of the lands to be inclosed which shall be unplanted or uncultivated for arable purposes. And I direct that in the fences of the Allotments gates or stiles shall be placed at convenient intervals at or about the places shown upon the Map hereunto annexed for the purpose of securing access for the Public but in the exercise of the privilege hereby reserved no injury shall be done to the lands or to the herbage or to the fences or to the stock or game or to anything upon such lands. And I declare that in the event of a belt of trees being planted the Public shall not thereby be deprived of the privilege hereinbefore reserved but that access shall be provided by means of paths or openings through the belt of trees to the uncultivated or unplanted land.