Yesterday we took a couple of hours off from gardening to go to the top of the hill behind our house to have a look and walk along the footpath repair work which the Brecon Beacons National Park has been doing over the last 9 months or so.  We’ve been meaning to do it for ages.  The contractors parked their vehicles and heavy machinery in our yard whilst they were doing the work and we had many conversations in all weathers as to how the project was progressing.

So here are some photos we took yesterday of the work and views from the hill behind our house…and some reflections on how this relates to the garden…

Damage to the bog

Damage to the bog

‘The bog’ is Waun Fach and a site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) very wet and peaty with boggy plants growing in it.  However, over the years it has become badly eroded due in part to motorbikes riding the ridge path illegally and the pressure from walkers (legally) trying to find a reasonably dry route through the very wet bits.  The path has got wider and wider with subsequent loss of habitat and all the important species that contains.  Moreover, the peaty run-off, I understand, has caused such discolouration to the water in the Grwyne Fawr reservoir that the water supply from this reservoir can no longer be used as potable water and is now off-line.

I won’t go into details here of project funding and the partners involved.  The photos, I hope, show what a lovely job has been (and is being) done to protect important habitats by improving the footpaths so that people can enjoy the spectacular landscape.

the new path winding into the distance

the new path winding into the distance

another view of the path

another view of the path

I wondered why this grey-coloured stone had been chosen for the surface – it’s not the colour of our local stone.  Apparently, (I will avoid getting into technical detail here because I am not an expert) it has something to do with the acidity of the bog.  Our local stone is old red sandstone which is what we have used for the paths and walls and other stone features in our garden – because it looks right but also because we are not short of stone in our garden – as anyone who has visited can testify.

The path in the photos above has been created by laying geo-textile of the surface of the bog and then covering this with crushed-up (not the technical term) stone for the surface.  A finer layer of finely crushed stone is then put on top.  This works for the flattish areas but doesn’t work on slopes.  A different technique is used here – stone pitching.  We have used this same technique in our garden.

stone pitching on slopes

stone pitching on slopes

Here you can see the difference in colour between the imported stone (grey slabs) and the local stone – much pinker.

And here is the view…

the view across to the Brecon Beacons

the view across to the Brecon Beacons

Breathtaking.

It’s also interesting and informative to take note of what is growing up there on this exposed windswept site.  I was particularly struck by the eye-catching swathes of red grass.

'red grass'

‘red grass’

This was growing in very wet areas and I thought how good it would look in the regeneration zone of our natural swimming pond.  On closer inspection I think I identified it as cotton grass which we already have.  Bought from a reputable nursery I must add, not dug up from our SSSI.  I presume that ours in the pond will turn red during the Autumn as the weather gets colder.

Heather is also much in evidence in the drier areas which reminds me that there are areas in our garden into which we could introduce the native heather to good effect.

Alongside the eroded areas of path on the slopes heather has been strewn so that the seeds will fall and heather will be re-established.  It will be interesting to take this walk again in a years time to see how successful this has been.  This technique should work in the garden if the conditions are right.

repairing the damaged slope with heather trimmings

repairing the damaged slope with heather trimmings

The scar on the left of the photo above is the old path strewn with heather.  The new stone-pitched path meanders up the slope on the right.

heather 'strewings'

heather ‘strewings’

Work is also being done to prevent the water running off and washing the peat away.  This involves a simple technique of blocking the ditches – see photo below

preventing run-off

preventing run-off

All in all a brilliant example of what can be done if agencies and organisations work together to achieve mutually beneficial objectives.  And we can enjoy the views without getting our feet wet…

Now back to the garden and harvesting the rest of the potatoes whilst the weather remains dry.