Between losing my ‘seat’ in the National Assembly for Wales in 2007, and being elected to the House of Commons in 2010, I was a trustee of the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. Always had a great interest in the Welsh countryside, it’s natural appearance and it’s wildlife. Still have. Not in a sentimental bunny-hugging way. The rythym of the natural world is often brutal and cruel. What matters to me is diversity, and how people can best connect with it.
Much the most ambitious project that MWT embarked on was/is The Pumlumon Project. It relates to 100,000 acres within the triangle stretching between Llanidloes, Machynlleth and Aberystwyth, where the Rivers Severn, Wye and Rheidol begin their journeys to the sea. The project involves re-wetting the peat bogs, and connecting existing habitats to create natural pathways. This would, if done at scale, hold back enormous amounts of rain water and melting snow, preventing flooding further down the Severn Valley. At the same time give more support to viable communities, create more natural landscapes, a more diverse wildlife, cleaner water and store carbon.
The area has enormous potential for tourism based on a diverse environment. It’s immediately adjacent to the Osprey observation site on the Dyfi Estuary which attracts tens of thousands every year. The potential is massive for hen harriers, short eared owls and black grouse -and much much more.
Now to the downside. Money. To deliver the project at the scale proposed will cost a lot of money - in my view, probably more than its reasonable to expect the Welsh Govt to provide. It is reasonable to expect part of the reformed post Brexit farm funding to support new practice and support diversification investment, but it’s unreasonable to expect the ‘Welsh’ budget to fund the flood prevention work. All the benefit would accrue to towns in the Severn Valley in England - Shrewsbury, Tewksbury etc. This is why I’m trying to secure a debate at Westminster, hoping to win over the support of England based MPs. Hoping I come up in the ballot for debates soon. And if I do, I’ll be on the phone to Clive Faulkner at the MWT to help me write my speech. I also think I might be interviewed by the BBC on this issue tomorrow. Will keep you informed.