Finding common ground between livestock farmers and environmentalists regarding the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis

Alerted more by instinct than sound, I peered through a hedge and deciphered a farmer’s whispered commands to dogs whirling sheep into a pen. It was 2012 and I was just embarking on my walk around the edge of Cymru. Moments like this excited me. I knew a few farmers but didn’t know their magic.

Farmers seemed elusive, poetic perhaps, embedded in the Welsh-language culture I admired. I respected their hard graft, sheer grit, and care for tradition, family and community. Meanwhile I had quit my teaching job at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Machynlleth, to become a writer. My ex-colleagues, many of them incomers like myself, also worked passionately – attempting to reverse biodiversity loss and avoid extremely dangerous climate breakdown.

My walk led me to consider these two communities and the common ground between them. But I set off with angst. Firstly, I wasn’t sure how us eco-immigrants were perceived. Too busy at first, I’d not spent much time learning Cymraeg or about Cymru’s history (something I’ve since rectified). Secondly, escaping environmental concerns wasn’t easy. Teaching people who were seeking solutions had shielded me from the ‘real world’ where most people seemed unwilling to even acknowledge the crisis.

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I love this thorough review by Steven Lovatt, author of the excellent Birdsong in a Time of Silence, (published by Penguin) in Caught by The River. Thank you Steven.

‘Nobody else writes this beautifully in quite this way, and if there’s room for doubt whether Bromincks’ clipped style suits long-form nature writing then the onus is plainly on the latter to adapt and accommodate it. 

My abiding impression of The Edge of Cymru is of a still snipped from an ongoing cine-reel of Welsh cultural and landscape history, a picture of sorrow for what is being lost and love for what yet remains. Or as Brominicks puts it with eloquent simplicity, ‘I was a witness of Cymru’s edge at a point in time, before it changed’.’

It seems I have the summit to myself. ‘Yr Wyddfa’ I say, grinning stupidly. Any mountain makes me euphoric, this one particularly so – for a special few moments I stand alone at the apex of Cymru. Or not alone as it transpires. A herring gull hunkers here too, grumpy but not incongruous. Cold mizzle slaps my face and the entire squally summit, with rocks and ghostly figures looming through swirling cloud resembles a shipwreck. The figures materialise, grinning and whooping. There is always a party atmosphere on the top, even when like now, the weather (which only 24 hours earlier was forecast to be light snow and sun) has closed in – vanishing the fabulous views of north Cymru into a theatre of mist.

Read more in the February 2023 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

Imagine. Frosted bracken, a frozen lake. Snow silence. Ice-white, cloud-white, breath-white. The encircling summits may well be snowy in January, and icy weather still does occasionally visit this route traversing the low terrain of central Eryri (Snowdonia) – weaving through or alongside, National Trust Cymru land. Beddgelert at the confluence of the Glaslyn and Colwyn rivers. Glassy Llyn Dinas. The remnants of Sygun Copperworks, Bwlch y Sygun, and the path clutching Afon Glaslyn. But more often you’ll encounter rain. Listen. The gusting of wet wind, the gurgle of streams. Afon Glaslyn’s crashing crescendo.

Read more in the January 2023 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

Dwi’n mor falch i ymddangos yn y cylchgrawn sy’n cyfnogi dysgwyr fel fi.

Looking forward to this on Wednesday.

Beyond Afon Tywi and a strip of bright sand is a string of colourful buildings and a wooded headland on which sits a broken castle. My first glimpse of Llansteffan from Glanyfferi was ten years ago, back when you had to walk another 28km to reach it via the first crossing of Afon Twyi at Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen). The walk was green and interesting, but I regretted the disappearance of the ferry, which travellers of old had used. But now, the ferry is back. It is the way to arrive.

Read more in the November 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

The gorgeous film about the book, by Pete Telfer of Culture Colony

The town walls are thrilling. Crevices, turrets, gateways and twenty-one towers. Cold stone, still enclosing jammed-together streets, shops and homes. You can circle the town by walking on top of the walls, and visit the stout and beastly castle with its murder-holes and machicolations. It was built by Edward I who filled his walled town with English merchants and banished the Welsh to the hills – but times change. Now Welsh flags flutter in the turrets. Costa came and went (muscled out by the merchants’ legacy – a multitude of independent shops and cafes). And Father Christmas, snug in his jolly grotto at Jester’s Tower coffee shop, goes by the Welsh name of Siôn Corn. (Siôn Corn is sometimes even spotted scaling the castle walls, but this is a magical somewhat fugitive event, and difficult to corroborate.) Snug within these walls, Conwy is clud (cosy), cyffroes (exciting) – and very Christmassy.

Read more in the December 2022 edition of BBC Countryfile Magazine

I turned inland, bound for Priordy Penmon; the priory which the clas had spawned. Y Fenai, gun-grey and impatient, nagged the stony shore to my left. Across it, mountains shouldered cloud like banks of snow. The mountains were hard and stern. Winter itself, they intimated, (and the eco-systems which required it) was confused and threatened, but they would fight for it while they still could. Either side of the toll road, small trees poked through scrub, underpinned by limestone and shale. A chill wind was tugging at the bronze leaves still clinging to branches like Verdigris plant labels. Some of the leaves were tumbling across the path, but not all of them, it transpired, were leaves.

Read more in Into The Red, published by BTO, October 2022

Illustration by Myles Mansfield