Mountain walls are an important feature of the mountain scenery of the Brecon Beacons National Park, separating common grazing from in-bye land. We all know of walks that follow the contours of the hill and mountainside and run alongside an ancient wall, built, who knows when, and with how many hours of hard labour. Such walls form an important and striking element in the beauty and power of the landscape. Today, however it is a common sight to see recently fallen walls, with the gaps filled with wire or a hurdle or, even more tragically, stretches of scraped earth where the wall has been removed, the stone sold for building and replaced by a sterile wire fence.
Walls of Llangynidr (WOL) was started in 2000 as a village millennium project to try and save the mountain dry stone walls in our parish. Working in partnership with the Llangynidr Community Council, the Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) and BBNP, WOL was formed with two major aims. The first was to rebuild and replace fallen walls and the second to provide training in the craft of dry stone walling.
We started by recording all our mountain walls and then identified which sections we might be able to rebuild, choosing sections where a major part of the wall remained, where the wall was close to a foot path and had an obvious ecological and environmental value and, very importantly, where we had the support of the local farmer of landowner. Each year we have rebuilt a new section of wall, using qualified dry stone wallers and we have run one or two training courses, under the direction of DSWA andwith awards granted by DSWAand recognised by LANTRA. So far we have rebuilt about 400m of wall and trained over ninety new people in the craft of dry stone walling.
Later, WOL made the decision to approach the BBPS to discuss the possibility of becoming a part of, and partner with the Park Society and we are delighted that WOL has now a become a special subcommittee of the Park Society.
Our new position gives us an opportunity to try and work on a larger scale within the Park. From the very outset it was our intention to act as a pilot project with the hope that the ideas, if they worked in Llangynidr, might spread to other communities. This we hope we can now do with the support of Park Society members. If you feel strongly about the need to protect and rebuild the dry stone walls in your community, if you have two or three others in your community with whom you could start a local action group, if you think that you have the support of your community council and local farmers, do contact me and we can explore developing a strategy together.
Spreading the ideas of WOL will have two major consequences; it will unlock funding for wall restoration and training but it will also give increased impetus for a Park-wide strategy on the management of natural stone which will include, not only the protection and restoration of walls, but also a policy on local quarries and on planning decisions relating to the use of stone in new buildings.