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My Bioregion (March, 2020)

This is an article I wrote for Permaculture Works Magazine, its all about my bioregion here in North Wales

On the North West coast of Britain sits the ancient kingdom of Old Gwynedd. Long sheltered from the outside world by the rugged mountains of Snowdonia to its South and East and the long and beautiful coastlines of the Llyn peninsula and Anglesey to its North and West. This is a place that still has old growth rainforest and one which still has its own language in popular use. It is an area that I am lucky enough to call home. We are a region where legend and memory blur together. We have a word here, Bro which means a geographical location, plus the people and culture that exist within it; y Fro Hen Gwynedd would be the people, place and culture of Old Gwynedd.

We have a lot of variation both in land type and season length. The rich soils of Anglesey are a gift to the grower, the real name of which is Ynys Mon, or ‘Mother Land’, which indeed it was to the Druids. In comparison the Llyn Peninsula has a very early spring, but many fields still have the earths crust poking through and from here one can still see snow on Mt Snowdon many months after the coastal lambs have been born. Much of our land is described as marginal, much here is indeed marginal and it’s our strongest asset.

With our strong communities and sense of identity this is a place where bioregionalism could thrive. Old Gwynedd was never fully taken by the Irish, the Romans nor the Knights of King Edward. Somehow this land has never been fully taken by humans. Here there still exists a negation between the saltmarsh and the sea, between the rock filled fields and the plough and most relevant to our current time between mans greed and his love for the green valley of home. This is a place less damaged and possibly more loved.

It’s also a region with many abandoned train lines, drovers paths, houses and hafods all of which can be reoccupied for more localised, human powered transport, more housing and smaller farms. We have one of the highest tidal ranges in the world and no shortage of wind or rain. We are rich in potential energy. Our towns, the biggest of which, Bangor, has 22,000 people, are mostly on the coast and are not too big to be unsupportable from local supply.

In winter our coastal villages are often an abandoned vista where only one in ten houses has a light on, this needs to change, but tourists really are a blessing. The population can rise by over five times in summer. This is a great opportunity not only to feed and supply these people from within Old Gwynedd but also to be a model of what a regenerative bioregion can look like. It’s a place that should and can support so much more than it does. According to the wonderfully inclusive Welsh Government “If you live in Wales, you are Welsh”. Possibly you are even more so if you feed its soil and it feeds you. I promise you in current times this feels like a great thing to be.

All this means that it is easier here to still have hope for the more beautiful world that each permaculturalist knows in their heart can exist. We came 4th in the Lonely Planets best paces to visit in the world and are awash with protections: National Parks, AONB’s and World Heritage Sites. However, this conserved landscape is far from perfect, we sell out of the region much that we produce, we are dependent on grants and chemical based fertilisers, we must not pretend that our wide acreages of over grazed landscapes are healthy.

Neither however, am I a big re-wilder or land sparer; humans are after all part of the ecosystem. To feel that our presence is always negative does a disservice to all that Permaculture entails. Humans can do good. The possibility of a regenerative landscape is within reach here; one that remembers cultural heritage and which designs new rich ecosystems with agroforestry, holistic management, microclimates and layered, people powered, community, farms, agriwilding.

We must feed our neighbours instead of the supermarket lorry. We can become designers, gardeners and ecologists instead of industrialists. We can remember our ancient songs and re-write covenants of trust we had with our animals the future of Old Gwynedd is bright and it is one I look forward to living in.

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