A guest post by Ioan Richard, formerly Mayor of Swansea
Where is It & Who Owns It?
Mynydd y Gwair is a large open access Upland Common in north Swansea which lies within the Lordship of Gower. The Lord of Gower is the Duke of Beaufort of Badminton, Gloucestershire, an extremely wealthy non-Royal Duke. Gower was a Marcher Lordship and has been held by the Normans since well before the 1282 final conquest of Wales. The Beauforts have been Lords of Gower, and a large portion of Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire, and huge chunks of South Wales, for half a millennium.
Since just after WW2, this common land has been owned by the Beaufort Family Trust known as the Somerset Trust in what has been described as a form inheritance tax avoidance. There is uncertainty about this, as the terms of this Family Trust are unknown by the general public and only known to the Trustees and the Beauforts.
Mynydd-y-Gwair’s Historic Economic Contribution to Wales
That number of fifty has now dwindled to just about twenty larger farming family units – mostly Welsh speaking. These viable upland farms today have herds of at least a hundred suckler cows with calves and yearlings that are generally sold as “storers” for finishing for prime Welsh Beef. Similarly they generally have flocks today of about three hundred ewes with lambs that sell annually as fine Welsh lamb meat. These meat producers use Mynydd y Gwair for good “outby” summer grazing, “arosfa” or “hefts” by ancient rights, during which time their “inby” fields grow the winter fodder of hay and silage and barley with swedes and rape for the livestock to fatten after spending summer out on the common. Very few grow any arable crops for the food market.
Welsh Speakers and Mynydd y Gwair
According to the 2011 Census, 23,990 of Powys residents speak Welsh from a population of 129,083, which accounts for 18.6% of the population. Also according to the 2011 Census, 26,532 of Swansea residents speak Welsh from a population of 239,023, which accounts for 11.10 % of the population.
Mynydd y Gwair is in the Mawr Ward of Swansea
The Mawr Ward is one of the most sparsely populated in Swansea. Mawr has the highest proportion of Welsh language speakers (38% of those over three years old at the 2011 census). Mawr is the second largest ward in Swansea by land area.
The majority of the Hill Farmers in Mawr Swansea, around Mynydd y Gwair, speak and use the Welsh language in their daily lives and in their business dealings.
What Happened Over Twenty Years Ago?
Over twenty years ago a proposal came in to develop the Mynydd y Gwair common as a Wind Turbine Power Station. There was a battle for over twenty five years where the graziers were well supported by local villagers and the wider world. There were many demonstrations and three Public Inquiries.
Eventually the third and final Public Inquiry resulted in a final defeat and last year (2018) saw the trashing of Mynydd y Gwair. This has caused all sorts of difficulties for the graziers and a loss of a great scenic open landscape. The mountain has been utterly trashed and it is causing a fracture amongst the Welsh speaking community of upland Swansea.
There is now money galore, coming from Renewable Energy Subsidies, much of which will line the treasure chest of the Beaufort family the wealthy feudal Lords of Gower. Some money is on offer for sustainable community ventures and some for the graziers for livestock management. Throughout those twenty five years most of the politicians, local and national (with a few rare exceptions), did nothing to save this Welsh speaking heartland. Indeed, they even urged its trashing and construction saying it would “save the planet!”.
A Technical Eye-opener That’s Not Advertised
The average rated output of this project will be just a tiny eight Megawatts for a National grid of 40,000 Megawatts. The national grid will soon have to be upgraded to a massive 100,000 Megawatts to power our electric vehicles and home heating etc in the promised zero UK Carbon balance by year 2050. Nobody is saying where the reliable energy will come from for 100,000 Megawatts, but they all claim that the tiny erratic eight Megawatts of Mynydd y Gwair will “save the planet”, as the Welsh traditions and language here are killed off.
The question should have been asked twenty five years ago – “What planet are all these Politicians and One Planet Earthers on?”.