Blaengors is a very old farm, typical of this area in Cardiganshire. It was mixed-use, with sheep, dairy, beef, pigs and hay meadows. In 1998 the owners, who had ceased farming themselves, split for sale the farmstead from the most useable land. A charitable foundation sensed its spiritual and ecological value and Blaengors became its spiritual retreat for 9 years. Its plans, however, were too ambitious and we bought Blaengors in 2008.
We are managing Wildernest as a wildlife habitat, with its five enclosures, woodland and ponds. It is of low value agriculturally, because it is heavy clay and boggy and really only suitable for summer grazing and hay.
Kite Meadow is an ancient ley or hay meadow where a crop of hay is cut and baled. We do this in late summer when flowers (knapweed, yellow rattle, ox-eye daisy, tormentil, thyme, vetch and clovers) have seeded.
Our Emden geese graze Rolo meadow and the orchard. We have planted the apple trees in a circular pattern. This is where we have our annual Wilderfest. We leave the grass to die back at the summer end to form a litter layer. This is ideal habitat for mice and voles. Owls and raptors find their prey here.
The largest fields – Elysian and Hide Park – are classed as lowland marshy grasslands. The vegetation is mostly rushes, sedges and wetland grasses and bramble. We need to maintain it as such; otherwise it reverts to scrub and willow woodland. Grazing and foraging by the Konik horses is effective in this, bringing a diversity of species. The scrapes are valuable for attracting and supporting wildlife – insects, amphibians, birds and mammals. There is cover for birds including non-passerine (not perching) birds and waterfowl– snipe, curlew, heron, buzzard, kite, coot, goose, lapwing, owl, swift, woodpecker. Thousands of starlings gather here in the winter months.
Our three beautiful Konik horses are on permanent loan from the Wildwood Trust. These rare-breed horses graze and forage the wet pastures, helps sustain the habitat. You can read more about them on their website.
Many trees have been planted recently. Besides the indigenous species, there are some unusual ones. There is a swamp cypress, and various aspens, which are forming an interesting colony. We cut back the willows for firewood – otherwise they take over! Also, unusually, many of our hedgerows are laburnum. The story is that they sprouted from fence posts imported from France. Anyway, they are hardly suitable as they contain arsenic – beware!
The old stonewalls provide homes for nesting birds, solitary bees, hibernating bats and other mammals. We have left much of the stone and rubble walls un-pointed to avoid disturbance. In the roofs there are bat roosts – and many dozen fly out at sunset in the warmer months. The Bat Conservation Trust has been helpful, surveying and identifying and guiding us in our building work.
Please feel at home and wander around the meadows, wet grasslands and woodland. By keeping to paths, ground-nesting birds and animals are not disturbed. Be careful – the ground can be very muddy and waterlogged in places.