A history of wildlife in Brecknock

How the people of Brecknock have looked after their wildlife

The Brecknock County Naturalists’ Trust, as it was known until 1987, was established in 1964. In the beginning great effort was made in setting up the Trust’s Council, Executive and Scientific Commitees, recruiting members, producing a twice-yearly newsletter and establishing special interest groups. These groups encouraged bird, plant and butterfly enthusiasts to work under the umbrella of the Trust and report their findings in its publications.

The Bird Group had a strong presence. Breconshire Birds, containing records and interesting sightings was first produced privately in 1962 by John Griffiths, It was adopted by the Trust at its foundation and has been published, albeit with some gaps, ever since.

The mammal group has also had a strong profile particularly so with bats and otters. Following a popular bat day school run by Bob Stebbings in 1984, group members began recording locations of roosts, identifying winter hibernation sites and, where appropriate, protecting the bats from disturbance. These surveys revealed that the Usk valley was a very important area for the rare Lesser Horseshoe bat.

As well as bats there was a Trust Otter group set up in the early 1990’s to improve otter habitat. Increasing numbers of otters led to increasing numbers of road casulaties. In 1997 the plight of Jarvis the otter cub, orphaned when his mother was killed on the A40, made national news. Jarvis was cared for by Gareth and Jane Jones so successfully that Jarvis was reintroduced into the wild. Gareth and Jane Jones built up such skills and reputation that the Trust set up a purpose-built otter rehabilitation unit on their land, where otters were nursed through the early, vulnerable stages of recovery before being sent away to larger units. Nowadays injured otters are cared for in England but efforts are are alway made for them to be re-released near where they were found.

It was in the 1970’s and early 1980’s that most of the Trust’s present nature reserves were established, given to the Trust by supporters or leased at a peppercorn rent. The first reserve to involve a purchase was Pwll y Wrach, a mixed oak and ash woodland which was bought from the Forestry Commission in 1983 with financial help from the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC). Pwll y wrach was bought because it had a rich and diverse ground flora of over 180 species of flowering plants for which it has been designated a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI).

In the 1980’s a package of funding was secured from the World Wildlife Fund, the NCC and the Welsh Office. This was enhanced by a donation from the Honourable Vincent Weir. This allowed the employment of the first full time Conservation Officer. The following January a team of five people started a year’s work under a Manpower Services Commission employment scheme and the Trust was buzzing with activity.

The work in the 1990’s built on the early work of the Trust including gaining a crucial Heritage Lottery bid to improve management and accessibility of the Trusts Nature Reserves and in 1997 winning an award for Best Wildlife Trust Magazine in Britain.

2003 was a huge turning point for Brecknock Wildlife Trust. This was the year that Mary Gwen Willliams left a very substantial legacy to the Trust. Mary Gwen Williams was born and bred in the Welsh countryside but then worked as a nurse in America and later in Bermuda. On her regular annual visits home she had contact with the Trust through its reserves, staff and members; she became impressed with the Trust’s aims and work and made her will accordingly. Her legacy allowed the Trust to appoint a full time Reserves Officer and a part-time Education Officer.

In 2009 the Trust celebrated its 45th anniversary with a party on the promenade in Brecon. The town’s brewery produced a commemorative ale named Wild Beacon, flavoured with elderflowers and nettles foraged from the Trust’s nature reserves.The year 2014 was BWT’s 50th anniversary and was celebrated with a party on the prom and a series of celebratory events including a talk by welsh naturalist and Tv presenter Iolo Williams.

As of 2018 it was decided by the board and the membership to merge with the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales.

Brecknock's Nature Reserves.