Leaving the lovely hippy town of Machynelleth on foot you cross low rolling hills before being confronted by a wonderful natural spectacle. The cliffs of Creigiau Bwlch Hyddgen sweep down to a great scoop out of the hillside, a waterfall cascading from its head. Unfortunately the hand of man has already ruined this landscape with a broad swathe of regimented conifers. However continue south for a couple of miles and the landscape become wilder, a scene to lift the spirits and calm the soul. Just below the northern slopes of Plynlimon / Pumlumon Fawr the Hyddgen meets the Hengwm. This is one of the wildest and loneliest corners of Wales. A land of mountain rivers tumbling down craggy slopes, roadless and barely touched by the hand of man. A bridleway runs the length of the Hengwm valley but it barely exists on the ground. Wildness of this quality is hard to come by outside of the Scottish highlands. This special quality can only be hinted at by this map and some old digital photographs I have taken.
I was therefore dismayed to read that this area may very well be the site of 64 wind turbines up to 146 metres high. I have lifted the following directly from the Cambrian Mountains society website.
Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) is proposing to build a wind power station of 64 turbines up to 481ft high – much larger than any yet built in the UK – on the foothills of Pumlumon overlooking the Nant y Moch reservoir. The turbine tower sections, blades and generators would be imported via Swansea and brought in ‘abnormal load’ convoys via Cardigan and Penparcau using a new entrance at the Bwlch Nant yr Arian Forest Visitor Centre.
The huge site, in both Ceredigion and Powys, extends to 9 x 5 miles, straddling the Scenic Route from Ponterwyd to Tal y Bont and overlooking Hyddgen, the site of Owain Glyndŵr’s famous victory over English soldiers and Flemish mercenaries in 1401. The area is in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains, once nominated as a National Park, and is rated as ‘Outstanding’ in the Countryside Council for Wales’ LANDMAP system. The beauty of the hills, lakes and forests in this area steeped in Welsh history is undisputed. Despite its inclusion by the Assembly Government as within a ‘Strategic Search Area’ (SSA) for windfarms, there cannot be a site that deserves more protection and a proposal that requires more opposition.
I find this news incomprehensible. The recent go ahead for the wind farm at Drumglass in the Monadhliath made me angry, however for this my feelings go much deeper. It is a feeling that is hard to articulate in words but is definitely a feeling of loss and sadness, a knot in my stomach making me feel sick.
I first came this way over a decade ago on a long backpack between the North coast of Snowdonia and the Gower. It was early April and Rae and I pitched our very cheap tents next to Llynn Llygad Rheiddol. During the evening we watched a solid wall of white progress towards us along the Hyddgen, finally engulfing us in a blizzard. Having cheap ridge tents without porches meant we could not cook that night and we lay awake pushing the snow of fly sheets. Morning brought an alpine scene of deep snow and blue skies. We crossed Pumlumon and the busy A44 and climbed towards the bothy at Cefn Croes. Sadly Cefn Croes has now fell to the turbine god, white whirring beasts stealing the views, monstrous tracks scarring the hillsides. I backpacked there a couple of years ago walking to the bothy under the cover of darkness. I can remember standing outside with a mug of coffee in my hand, no moon or stars, the dark absolute. There was a strange whirring noise close by, whoosh whoosh whoosh. Morning light against a backdrop of cloud and rain revealed the giant whirring blades. Is this what lays in store for what I consider the best wild land south of the border? A short video I shot of a rather bleak industrial scene.
Last weekend Jim Perrin led a protest of more than 250 people to the proposed site, I wish that I had know about it as I would have gone. There is an article in Grough here and an article from the Guardian here.
Soon will it only be our crowded National Parks that are left free from development on an industrial scale?