View a list of responses to information requests we regard as having a wider public interest
View a list of responses to information requests we regard as having a wider public interest
As much as 450,000 litres of slurry was sent careering towards a stream after the slurry store wall appeared to collapse. Thankfully, quick thinking by the farmer in reporting this serious incident to us and an immediate reaction from our partner agencies prevented this serious incident from becoming a major pollution event. But it could have been so very different. Slurry is a major pollutant that strips oxygen from water, killing most river life in its path as it descends down tributaries to main rivers. The importance of our rivers And these same rivers provide us with a huge range of benefits. These include use for business, public water supply and recreation – all of it relying on a high water quality that also provides important places for wildlife. Thankfully, prompt reporting of the incident meant that we, and our partners at Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and, as it was a cross-border incident, the Environment Agency, could take immediate action. We diverted a stream around the main pollution area and dug ditches and trenches to catch around three quarters of the slurry before it reached the Honddu river. The farmer involved contacted us as soon as he became of what was happening. This is how it should be. And we would encourage every other farmer to do the same if they suspect their slurry may be leaking into the wider environment. But the point is that we want to avoid situations like this arising in the first instance. We’d much rather work with farmers before any incident such as this one happens – and avoid them becoming caught up in any subsequent enforcement action. Causing pollution can lead to heavy fines and it will always be much better if there is no need for such a drastic course of action. Practical advice for farmers There is a huge amount of practical guidance that we can offer including advice on the size of slurry store required, and even how to reduce the amounts of slurry produced in the first place. We can also explain the rules about things such as the age of any slurry store, design and performance standards it must comply with and where it is located. We’d encourage any farmer to contact us to discuss how we can help, or to visit our website. And it’s a win/win situation for all concerned because slurry, and the nutrients it contains, can be a valuable free commodity for the farm when used well. Managed and used correctly, it can help reduce costs, increase efficiency and yields and directly boost the profitability of the business. Farming Connect offers 80% funding for one-to-one nutrient management advice (on 08456 000 813) and 100% funding for group advice. For farms located within a nitrate vulnerable zone there is also a Welsh Government confidential free helpline on 01974 847 000. But it’s not just about storage either. Deciding on when to spread and carefully choosing your target crops can also make a big difference. In particular avoid spreading of slurry on saturated ground or 48 hours before predicted rainfall. When using contractors to spread slurry it’s sensible to discuss and agree contingency plans in the event of something going wrong. For example does the contractor have access to a digger and materials such as bales which could create bunds to prevent slurry getting into a local stream? Spreading risk maps, or manure management plans as they are often referred to, are a great tool to give contractors who may be spreading on your behalf. Information on these is available through Farming Connect and the Tried and Tested Professional Nutrient Management website. Natural Resources Wales has produced a simple online leaflet with advice written in layman’s terms. There is also lots more advice available from the Welsh Government. We’d encourage any farmer to contact NRW on 03000 65 3000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how we can help.
With over 70 National Nature Reserves in Wales, we are all only a few miles away from a special place to discover nature. Our colleagues working to look after the National Nature Reserves (NNR) have got together to write a blog, bringing you the latest news and goings on from a different site each month. This month's blog is from Duncan Ludlow, Senior Reserves Manager for South East Wales... As a Senior Reserves Manager I am privileged to manage a number of special sites in Wales. One of these sites is Penhow Woodlands National Nature Reserve, near Newport. This is a very different habitat from the sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr Warren mentioned in my previous blog. Penhow Woodlands is made up of three woodlands - Coed Wen, West Lone and The Knoll. These are ancient semi-natural woodlands. This means that the trees and shrubs are native to the area and that the woodland has developed naturally and not been planted. To be considered as an ancient semi-natural woodland it must have been present since 1600AD but may have existed since woodland first colonised the British Isles after the last glaciation. The woodlands have a mixture of ash, oak, lime, cherry, elm trees and they are surrounded by and understory of hazel trees. This is a fantastic place to visit at any time of the year. However, it is in spring that the woods are at their finest with the woodland floor covered in a colourful array of wild flowers. This diverse woodland is a result of the long history of coppicing Coppicing is when small areas of the wood (or coupes as we call them) are cut to create light open areas within the woodland. Many light demanding woodland plants at Penhow have benefitted from this regular coppicing. A notable rarity is upright spurge, (Euphorbia stricta). This can only be found in Gwent and Gloucestershire in Great Britain, with Coed Wen having the largest population recorded for Gwent. Unfortunately coppicing has been in decline following the Second World War, and this can effect species that struggle to survive darker closed canopy woodlands. If coppicing were abandoned for a significant period of time at Penhow Woods they would lose their characteristic woodland structure and associated plants. One of my tasks at Penhow has been to re-establish the traditional coppicing at Coed Wen The coppicing is carried out between October and March to minimise disturbance to wildlife, like nesting birds and mammals. It can look very destructive when first carried out, however the trees recover quickly often reaching over 6 feet in the first year of regrowth. Rather than damaging the trees, this management can increase the lifespan of trees with some ash tree stools surviving for hundreds of years. The coppicing also allows new trees to grow within the cut area - replenishing the tree resource of the woodland. Not all the trees in a coupe are cut during coppicing. Some are left to grow into mature trees (we call them standards). The present oak standards within Coed Wen are known to have originated from 1800 to 1850. Using the coppiced wood In the past the cut wood arising from the coppicing would have been used to make a wide variety of products eg traditional fencing, thatching material, brooms, pea sticks, clothes pegs, tent pegs and numerous other items. Every bit of cut wood was used with small twigs being gathered together into faggotts for burning. Today, where possible the wood arising from the coppice work has been used for projects on the reserve. Wood chips have been used to surface the paths and split timber has been used to create steps. Timber has also been supplied to local craftsmen for making love spoons and for the production of charcoal. Although I am already noticing the benefits arising from the reintroduction of coppice management, this is a long term project. It will be the wildlife and future managers of the wood that will benefit most from having a diverse, well stocked, and well managed woodland. A coppice woodland can be an infinitely renewable resource for both humans and wildlife, if managed properly with forethought. In summary, I can express it no better than the following quote – “A coppiced woodland is the most beautiful place to work; a place of exquisite spring flowers, gentle bird song, and cheerful warmth all winter, reflected in the functional beauty of its products” Raymond Tabor, author of Traditional Woodland Crafts. Visiting Penhow Woodlands Coed Wen can be visited all year round and is located just south of Penhow village and the A48, there is limited parking off Bowdens Lane. There is no public access to West Lone and The Knoll. There is a nature trail through Coed Wen. Paths can be muddy and slippery and therefore good footwear is recommended.
During this time, we have worked hard to maintain and improve website standards for accessibility. Not only do we have a legal requirement to meet Web Accessibility Initiative level 2 (AA) standards, but we also want our website to be user-friendly and accessible - for everyone. We recently had news that we’re in the top spot in the SiteMorse Index UK Central Government for accessibility. In this blog, Phil Rookyard, our Digital Designer talks about the importance of making websites accessible for all. Why do we make our website accessible to everyone? With the current drive to move more public services online, we have a duty to make sure that everyone can access our online services. There are many disabilities that may prevent users accessing information online. Anyone who is blind, has poor eyesight, or even colour blindness can have real problems with text and images on screen. Those that suffer from mobility disabilities, including using their hands or suffer from loss of fine motor skills may have problems using a mouse or find it very difficult to navigate key information. And, although websites are primarily a visual media, people with hearing impairments or those that suffer from deafness should be able to receive valuable information online in audio formats. Making websites more accessible Some people use specialist software or equipment to read out web pages or allow them to navigate the web by talking to their computer. When publishing content onto the web, there’s a lot of things that we need to check to make sure that our website works properly for people using such software. This includes making sure images and links have the correct descriptions, and that making sure all links work correctly. It’s also important that content is written in Plain English. Everyone wants to be able to read and understand the content as easily as possible, but it’s especially important that it’s also understandable for people with learning disabilities or find it difficult to focus on large amounts of information. A little help from our friends To ensure our website remains accessible for both disabled and non-disabled users, we needed a little support, so we sought the help of a company called Sitemorse. Sitemorse automatically checks for errors on the site such as broken links and spelling mistakes, amongst a host of other problems many websites face. Sitemorse scans our website every week and we can then review the list and fix any issues that were highlighted. Every quarter they compile an ‘index’ and every quarter we are placed somewhere in this index. The quarter one results are announced… In the second quarter of 2013, we ranked 78th out of 206 Central Government organisations in the Sitemorse index. In January 2016, we ranked 185th and in November 2016, we ranked 10th out of 206 organisations. The results on the first quarter of 2017 are now out, and for the first time we have reached the top position in the Central Government organisations index. The full report, which also includes most improved and biggest fallers in our category, is now online. How did we reach number 1? Our score has improved by regular monitoring and focussing on fixing broken links - many of these in PDFs uploaded to the site. We used the data from the Sitemorse scans each week to fix pre-existing problems and make sure broken links are fixed, images have descriptions, and every word is correctly spelt. The scans also check to ensure our site remains available 99.9% of the time. It looks at our brand and looks for ways we can improve our content to make life easier for our users. Our new look website We’re currently working on a new design for our website, so we hope this will make things even better for our customers – it’ll go live in April 2017. The site will feature new visual designs, a revised structure for the content and improvements to the layout of the homepage and content pages. We hope the new homepage will be easier to use, so customers can quickly find the site’s search and main menu and easily get to the content they use most in our new ‘Most Popular’ section. There will still be lots of ongoing work, such as improving the content and making our online services as easy as possible to use. We are committed to keep improving our site for everyone. If you experience problems accessing the website please contact us
The Marloes Peninsula is a must-visit for wildlife watching, heritage hunting, coastal walks and outdoor adventure.
The landscape here is incredibly diverse; craggy cliffs and coves make way for sandy bays and neighbouring islands, whilst further inland, coastal heath and thriving wetlands sit alongside agriculture.
There’s plenty to see, do and explore, so get the binoculars, bucket and spade, and walking boots ready and make the most of Marloes.DISCOVER MORE OF OUR VIDEO BLOGS
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