(Title Image: © Copyright Robin Drayton and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence).
This week’s short debate was the turn of John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East). His chosen topic was the Gwent Levels.
“A hugely significant ecology”
While the Levels have an important ecological role, John Griffiths first turned to the area’s archaeological importance. The area has been settled since the Mesolithic era and some parts are rich with fossils. There were also a number of unique traditions; Black Rock fishermen are the last to use lave nets in Wales.
While the low-lying nature of the land has enabled people living in the area to make a living, it’s also brought disaster – particularly the 1607 flood/tsunami, which killed 2,000 people.
However, the thing most associated with the Gwent Levels is its ecology, with a number of protected species present, some of which – like water voles – have been reintroduced.
“We must, Dirprwy Lywydd, encourage more people to visit and enjoy what this special area has to offer. Walking, cycling, exploring and experiencing will enable a better understanding of why it should be cared for and preserved. It is an oasis of peace, tranquillity and calm, aiding well-being and health. Thankfully, the RSPB centre and the Gwent Wildlife Trust’s Magor marsh nature reserve welcome thousands of visitors every week, including very many school children undertaking activities and enjoying learning about nature.”
– John Griffiths AM
There was, however, one massive black cloud lurking on the horizon: the Newport bypass. It poses a major threat to the Levels and would cause “significant and long-lasting damage” if it went ahead. John finished by saying that the best way to understand why the area needs protection is to visit it for yourselves.
“Notable and unique”
Replying on behalf of the government, Deputy Minister for Culture, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meironnydd), said the landscape of Wales was “notable and unique”. The Gwent Levels were notable particularly because they are, in essence, artificial and man-made.
Turning to the possible threats to the area:
“John referred briefly to some of the threats that can face an area such as this, as they face many other areas of conservation. It is clear that we must take great consideration of the environmental issues if we consider intervening in any way on this notable landscape….the environmental issues (relating to the Newport bypass) will be taken fully into account, and certainly, that is a commitment that deserves to be restated.”
– Deputy Minister for Culture, Dafydd Elis-Thomas
He thanked everyone who takes care of the Levels, such as the Living Levels programme and the RSPB which he held up as an example of how collaboration was possible to protect historic landscapes.