Thursday, July 11, 2013

Another review of a book I haven't read

It's more than 800 years since Giraldus reported that some of his Norman compatriots thought it best to turn Wales into an "unpopulated forest area and game preserve."  Which is pretty much what George Monbiot advocates in his recently published book.

George doesn't like the Cambrian Mountains, the Cambrian Desert he calls it; indeed he describes losing the will to live when faced with its bleakness.  Now as it happens, and as you can see from the satellite photo, Elenydd* isn't really an unproductive desert at all.  It's a major supplier of water - which presumably Guardian readers occasionally drink.  It produces electricity - both sensible (hydro) and daft (wind) - commercial forestry and the dastardly sheep.

Monbiot doesn't like sheep and I tend to agree with a good deal of what he has to say.  There is an over-dependence on sheep in Wales and Elenydd would certainly benefit from large areas being fenced off and restored to natural woodland. I'm not sure how that would affect the water catchment areas mind, and since he doesn't mention the reservoirs I'm guessing George doesn't either.

Of course the agricultural grant system encourages many of the wrong things, but what can Wales - or the UK for that matter - do about it?  I agree with Monbiot that grant aid should be restricted to smaller, family run farms, I agree that mad regulations should be ditched - the rule that fallen stock must be carted away rather than left to the raptors for example.  But these matters are decided in Brussels.  It's a puzzle to me why so many of the forces - the left, the unions, Plaid Cymru - who opposed it in 1975, are now the most enthusiastic backers of this constipated European cleptocracy.

Back at the end of the Sixties the Countryside Commission was pushing for the establishment of a Cambrian Mountains National Park.  They wanted it to open by 1972, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Yellowstone National Park.  Monbiot is also inspired by Yellowstone and especially its success in reintroducing the wolf.  He'd take it a step further though and bring back bears, bison, lynx and beaver to the hills of Mid-Wales. 

Personally I'd like to see the future of areas such as Elenydd decided, not by GATT, or the EU, or bored English environmentalists, but by the people of Wales.  I guess that makes me as much of a fantasist as George and the dream of elephants munching their way through Rhayader's Atlantic rain forest.

* I think it should be more properly called Elenid but Elenydd seems to have won the day.


Jac o' the North, said...

Yes, there have always been English people who dream of an 'unspoilt' Wales. By which they mean a semi-wilderness devoid of people other than those needed to provide the services they require, and to keep everything green and 'natural'. Environmentalism is just the latest manifestation - or justification - for what Giraldus suggested the Normans were guilty of.

It reared its head in Ebbw Vale earlier this week when the local council gave permission for the planned - promised? hoped for? - racetrack. Up jumped the Open Spaces Society to object.

Now I have my own views on this project, I dealt with it on my blog recently. But we are dealing with the Heads of the Valleys, perhaps the most deprived area of western Europe. If this project comes anywhere near delivering what it promises, then it is the duty of all Welsh people to support it.

But whatever issues it raises, the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers, the National Trust, and all the other middle class English organisations should be completely ignored. Because they do not have our best interests at heart. They are defending their 'Wales'.

Fferllys said...

I'm interested in Radnorian's comment about Elenid rather than Elenydd - what is the root word(s).

On the article itself, its very thought provoking as are Jac o'the North's interesting comments and link to news of the racetrack, which I remember seeing mention of.

In an ideal world, I'd rather see people back living in the places that economic conditions led them to desert (no pun intended)long ago - the evidence of old farmsteads etc are there to see - than wind farms that are put across the wilds of mid-Wales; if they think its a mere 'desert', no wonder they don't mind what they do to it.

This is why Radnorian is so correct (as he says elsewhere) about the importance of the farming communities of Wales. The more they disperse and dissipate, the more the culture they have preserved and evolved is lost, and any remaining language with it.

radnorian said...

Fferllys - the root word according to Richard Morgan's Study of Radnorshire Placenames is Elain, a hind or a fawn. It's not unusual for Welsh river names - in this case the river Elan - to be related to the behaviour of animals. Elenid and Elenydd would basically mean the same thing - the area around the Elan but the bards used Elenid not Elenydd.

Jac - I wouldn't invest in this circuit myself, nor would I like to see anything but a modicum of public money spent on the project. At the same time we have to wish it well and certainly the concerns of outside pressure groups, such as those you mention, should count for very little. Do any of the naysayers actually live in Blaenau Gwent?

Fferllys said...

Many thanks for your reply Radnorian. I confess that I hadn't ever thought about the link to Elain/hind/fawn, and how very interesting that the bards used 'Elenid' rather than Elenydd. I wonder if this reflected the same linguistic influence that gave us Dinbod and Tinboeth?

radnorian said...

There is a river Ellen in Cumbria which is said to be named for a goddess Alauna cf. St Helen. I prefer the more prosaic young animal connection which fits in with local streams like the Edw and Colwyn but who knows.