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Farming union chief hits out at ‘devastating’ impact of tree plantations on Welsh culture

03 Aug 2021 3 minutes Read
Dafydd Gwyndaf and Robin Millar MP

A farming union chief has hit out at the “devastating” impact of vast tree plantations on rural communities and Welsh culture.

FUW County Executive Committee member Dafydd Gwyndaf has argued that the “depopulation” of Cwm Penmachno and Penmachno villages, in Conwy, was the result of “large-scale afforestation”.

He said this was because the Forestry Commission bought many of the farms on one side of the valley and planted trees on the land from the 1940’s to the 1960’s.

According to the farmer, to make room for the trees, the farm houses were sold, which resulted in many of them becoming second homes or holiday homes.

He pointed to the population of the area decreasing since then (617 – 2011 Census), and the percentage of Welsh speakers falling from 84% in 1981 to 55% 2011.

Gwyndaf made his case following a recent meeting between Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) members and Aberconwy MP Robin Millar, which was hosted at Llechwedd Hafod farm in Cwm Penmachno.

Conservative MP Robin Millar was also told of fears that more land will be sold in the near future at the far end of the valley and of concern that it will be bought by people or institutions only interested in planting trees.

‘Another disaster’ 

Dafydd Gwyndaf said: “It’s sure to lead to yet another disaster for the area and resulting in more depopulation, and with that the destruction of our rural communities, culture and way of life.

“We are supportive of planting trees but our politicians need to be aware of the devastating consequences this will have on their constituents if such plans are not thought through.

“The Forestry Commission’s track record and NRW (Natural Resources Wales) is not very good. Much tighter legislation needs to be prepared in order to ensure that our communities aren’t abused by individuals or institutions that are only interested in short term fixes without any regard to wider repercussions.”

He also said: “Afforestation has resulted in too many people leaving the area and has resulted in over 30% of the houses in the area being turned into second homes or AirBnB.

“It is having a detrimental effect on the community, it’s culture and consequently the Welsh language. The depopulation of Cwm Penmachno and Penmachno villages is living proof of the result of large-scale afforestation and we don’t want to see the same happening to other communities.

“The promises made by the Forestry Commission at the time included that they would be employing more than the agriculture industry in the area.

“Today, no more than a handful of forestry workers live in the villages as NRW use large contractors who come from outside the area more often than not.

Robin Millar said: “This is why it’s so important that as many as possible respond to the call for evidence into the new inquiry into ‘The economic and cultural impacts of trade and environmental policy on family farms in Wales’.

“It was very interesting to hear about the experiences of the FUW members who remember so well how vibrant communities like Cwm Penmachno and Penmachno used to be and the detrimental effect the afforestation of the area has proved to have on the region.”

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twm sion cati
twm sion cati
1 month ago

forestry= colonialism

Dyfi Dreamer
Dyfi Dreamer
1 month ago
Reply to  twm sion cati

Deforestation = colonialist exploitation. Reforestation = undoing the harm

Erisian
Erisian
1 month ago
Reply to  twm sion cati

No it doesn’t. Insensitive forrestation with monocultures, perhaps, at a stretch, but it really depends on who is planting what sort of trees, where and why.
Get a grip on that jerky knee of yours and if’ you’re good, I’ll buy you a new dog whistle for your birthday.

Ann Corkett
Ann Corkett
1 month ago

Mae’n anodd gwybod beth sydd orau. Mae arna i ofn y bydd angen rhagor o goed ar y bryniau i helpu rhwystro’r llifogydd yn yr ardal, ond mae’r syniad o blannu llawer o fforestydd yn atgoffa rhywun o’r sefyllfa yn “Wythnos yng Nghymru Fydd” gan Islwyn Ffowc Elis, nofel sy’n rhagweld Cymru sy’n ddim byd ond fforestydd a pharciau gwyliau.

Ed Jones
Ed Jones
1 month ago

Posting a photo of Robin Millar, owner of a seasonal home, is an interesting choice…

Dyfi Dreamer
Dyfi Dreamer
1 month ago

Isn’t this just another farmer complaining about something that might jeopardise his business, which is exploiting the land and environment for his own profit?

The use of “afforestation” is telling – it implies putting a forest somewhere it has never been before. He knows that, in reality, it is reforestation – bringing trees back to the places they once were, until they were removed by exploitative landowners.

Mark my words – farmers like Gwyndaf are only interested in their bank balance. They don’t give a toss about community or the environment!

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Dyfi Dreamer

This sounds like a spokesman for the large scale corporate exploitation machine, those who want to remove farmers and other inhabitants off the land so they can use it for rewilding, leisure businesses and commercial forestry.

Dyfi Dreamer
Dyfi Dreamer
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Nope. I’ve got no desire to see farmers removed from land. Although it isn’t “their land”, it’s our land. It belongs to all of us. They are lucky enough to be custodians of it, and to be allowed to make a living from it that benefits us all. Some farmers aren’t interested the public good, however – only their wallets.

Vic Bray
Vic Bray
1 month ago

A farmer gets into bed with a tory MP, that has just removed £96

Vic Bray
Vic Bray
1 month ago

I continue, £96 million from the Welsh farming budget and sold out to an Australia trade deal because the UK government is so desperate to have a deal at any cost to any one so they can boast easy deals.

#1Chris
#1Chris
1 month ago

Unlike the flooding of Vyrnwy and the post war pine forest blight, RE-forestation is not issuing compulsory purchase orders on farms. False correllation. Farming Union Chief doesn’t seem to “hit out” at the “devastating impact” golf courses have on the Welsh Culture(TM) Maybe because farmers can get lots of money from selling their land to golf courses. This sounds like nothing to do with Welsh Culture and everything to do with trying to negotiate better terms for himself and his pals who want to sell up. I’ll tell you who pays a good price to farmers for sustainable deciduous RE-forestation… Read more »

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