Hafod y Llan farm and the wider estate is a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest but most importantly, it’s a living, breathing piece of Wales’s rural upland heritage. It is a historically important farm on the southern flanks of Snowdon, Lliwedd, and Aran mountains. There are cultural and archaeological signs at every bend in the Watkin Path that leads visitors to the summit of Snowdon.
Care has been taken here to understand the environment and how to enhance it, in order to promote the native wildlife and produce quality livestock. Hafod y Llan is the result of generations of sheep, goat, and cattle farming, and the habitats here now reflect this. Visitors might come across a herd of Welsh Black cattle in the mountains, or the hardy Welsh Mountain sheep. Goats are nimble animals that find their way onto even the steepest cliffs of the mountains.
The shepherds on the farm are devoted to promoting their traditional skills and passing these on to future generations. The farm is committed to the principle of integrating farming and conservation. Habitats are monitored post grazing and a herd of 40 welsh black cows plus their followers have been built up over the past ten years. Through careful selection the National Trust aims to develop a herd which is suited to hill grazing and which has a high health status. These animals graze the valley slopes in a bid to encourage natural regeneration of the ancient Oak and Ash woodland. Sheep numbers have been halved since the National Trust purchased the farm, to enable natural vegetation to regenerate.
Wildlife is abundant here. From the rugged cliffs, look out for breeding choughs and peregrines, while in the woods visitors might catch a glimpse of the cuckoo or pied flycatchers who fill spring and summer air with their songs.
The uplands of the farm host rare vegetation such as clubmosses taking advantage of the grazed heaths, roseroot, and starry saxifrage in the less accessible areas. Visitors hiking Lliwedd will walk through the usual dark heather, but also the largest population of dwarf juniper in the UK, 90% of it in fact. Primroses and bluebells carpet the wooded oak and ash valleys in the springtime.
Work on the single largest renewable energy project in the National Trust is currently being conducted here; the construction of a 640kW river hydro system. Once complete it will generate the equivalent of almost the entire electricity need of the National Trust’s mansions in Wales. Building such a serious bit of civil engineering in such a sensitive site has been a challenge ecologically, archaeologically and aesthetically. The result of all this work means there will be a viable 640kw hydro, and a site to demonstrate that it is possible to conserve the natural environment whilst adopting technology at the same time. The National Trust believes that renewables are vital to the future but they must be sympathetic to their surroundings.
The competition with food-production on fertile land and the resulting increase of prices for land and agricultural products causes ethical and socio-economic problems. Hafod y Llan is tackling this challenge by converting organic matter from European urban and natural areas into storable bio-energy, using an integrated approach. The project aims at opening-up abandoned urban, natural and agricultural areas for energy production through the use of new raw materials. The project hopes to deliver a viable biomass supply which will utilise land which is currently of low biodiversity value. The process of management could increase the ecological value of the land, provide employment opportunity, whilst delivering a valuable, low-carbon biomass fuel alternative.
The National Trust mentors young farmers at Hadfod y Llan and has developed links with research establishments and agricultural colleges. One college has leased a converted building on the farm to teach students about the outdoors and hill farming in particular. The property also has a belief in supporting local businesses where possible.
Sustainability actions: Biodiversity conservation, Community engagement, Eco-tourism, Education, Green technologies