Wildlife presenter Lizzie Daly backs ‘Save Gwent Levels’ campaign
TV presenter and conservationist Lizzie Daly has added her voice to the campaign to obtain full protection for the “stunning” Gwent Levels landscape.
Gwent Wildlife Trust recently launched a Senedd petition calling for a halt to significant development on these nationally important wetlands until full formal protection is in place.
Daly is well-known to viewers of BBC One’s The One Show, where she has appeared many times, speaking on subjects as diverse as Welsh sharks, palmate newts and puffins. Other credits include BBC Two’s Winterwatch and Blue Planet LIVE Lessons.
A Welsh scientist and filmmaker, Daly is working on a PhD in wildlife biology at Swansea University, and is an ambassador for the Marine Conservation Society and the Jane Goodall Institute UK. In January 2022, she completed a 140km run in the Finnish Arctic Circle, where temperatures reached -35 degrees.
Joining TV naturalist Iolo Williams in support of the campaign, she said: “Protecting the Gwent Levels, a special wetland that is home to hundreds of threatened species, is in everyone’s interest. Not just as wildlife lovers or walkers who enjoy this area, but as a nation and as a society.
“We are at a turning point in recognising the escalating nature emergency and stepping up action to protect our biodiversity. This rich environment acts as an important carbon store, while also providing a home for a soup of life including the charismatic water vole, the Eurasian crane and the king diving beetle. This is our chance to act and protect this wonderful landscape. Let’s make the right decision for the protection of the Gwent Levels.”
Magor Marsh reserve, which is, says the Trust, directly threatened by the Magor Solar Farm proposal, is one of the last remaining pieces of natural fenland that once covered the Levels. Wetlands like this were once commonplace across Britain but they are now one of the UK’s most threatened habitats. Other major threats currently facing the Gwent Levels include the huge Hendre Lakes Business Park.
Gwent Wildlife Trust CEO Adam Taylor said: “The Gwent Levels are an ancient landscape, rich in culture and important for biodiversity, recreation, flood alleviation, carbon storage and food production. They are now facing multiple, adjacent, enormous solar proposals, and business parks as well as other development projects.
“However, we are deeply encouraged to see that the petition has got off to a flying start, with thousands of signatures pouring in. This reflects the widespread sense of frustration across Wales and beyond that our Levels are once again under threat.
“The Welsh planning system in its present form is unable to control such development, and the destruction which these would cause under present arrangements would mean the end of this beautiful, fragile and complex wetland.
“We need to stress that we are not opposed to solar energy, simply that such developments need to be located on land where they will not irretrievably damage a nationally important and designated landscape, teeming with wildlife. We have already seen the damage caused by the existing solar plant on the Gwent Levels, where a hugely important lapwing breeding site was destroyed.”
Mr Taylor added: “The Gwent Levels are one of the largest surviving areas of ancient grazing marsh and reen (drainage ditch) systems in Britain and is the largest of its kind in Wales.
“Thanks to several nationally significant archaeological finds, the Gwent Levels has been designated a ‘Landscape of Outstanding Historic Interest’. Its biodiversity significance is recognised both nationally and internationally.
“This ancient landscape has been carefully and purposefully managed by man for thousands of years. Prehistoric footprints preserved in the mud of the nearby estuary shows this was a hunting ground for early man. The man-made reens that criss-cross the area are thought to date back to Roman times.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said in response to concerns about the Gwent Levels : “We have declared both a nature and climate emergency and have set targets for the deployment of renewable energy.
“We must also protect our precious environmental and ecological assets and have recently consulted on updating planning policy on ecological resilience.
“The results of the consultation are being analysed and we will update in due course.”
Gwent Wildlife Trust’s petition can be signed here: https://petitions.senedd.wales/petitions/245508
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