Reconnecting people and places

Image by Peter Lewis

Since the Area Statements were published in March 2020 they have naturally evolved to reflect post-pandemic priorities for our environment across Mid Wales.

 

There has been a focus towards enabling and empowering communities to develop their own resilience, with support. 

 

By delivering the Area Statement themes, we will also be helping to tackle the Climate Emergency at the local scale.  

Why this theme?

The natural environment in Mid Wales offers us many ecosystem services, although the value of these is often not fully appreciated by society, which inhibits our ability to manage and protect our natural assets in the most sustainable way. 

Outdoor recreation has been proven to make a significant positive contribution to our physical and mental health. Our urban and rural green and blue spaces, parks, woodlands, fields, mountains and water help us feel better.  Access to the natural environment can provide a range of opportunities in addition to physical activity, including companionship, meaningful activity, reflection, adventure and learning.  Outdoor recreational activities are often free and provide opportunities for everyone, regardless of age or ability.  

Reconnecting people with the natural environment can create a healthier and happier society. There is vast potential to lessen our dependence on prescriptive medication using green and social prescribing as preventative healthcare. When people understand and value their environment, they are more inclined to protect and preserve it.

Tourism is a major player in the Mid Wales economy, through visitor spend and related employment. Activity tourism is rapidly growing in this area, due to its reliance on the natural environment. There are many tourism related businesses in Mid Wales, currently supporting around 10% of the Welsh tourism economy as a whole. In a rural and sparsely populated part of Wales, this income is vital to many local communities.

Stone bridge with decorative arches stretching over river, with trees on riverbanksImage by Peter Lewis

 

Child throwing snowball in conifer woodlandImage by Peter Lewis

Mid Wales offers a wealth of opportunity for outdoor enjoyment of the countryside. Two National Trails - Offa’s Dyke and Glyndwr’s Way - run through the area, as well as the stunning and rugged stretch of Wales Coastal Path along the Ceredigion coastline. Mid Wales has benefitted from the increased interest in mountain biking, establishing many organised and well managed trails, such as the NRW Bwlch Nant yr Arian site near Aberystwyth, as well as a number of community led trail initiatives. Footpath networks provide access into some of the most remote areas of Mid Wales, providing gentle enjoyable walks for all abilities.

Many nature reserves in Mid Wales also provide access for all. Cors y Llyn National Nature Reserve near Rhayader and Dyfi Ynyslas National Nature Reserve are just two of the many special sites that can be visited anytime.

The main areas of focus under this theme are:

  • We want to help support communities develop their evidence base, using Citizen Science. This also helps reach out to include under-represented groups across communities
  • Look for new ways in which people can connect with their local environment to help improve their health and well-being

  • Work with different organisations to develop opportunities for using the natural environment on our doorstep as a tool in preventative medicine

  • Develop the evidence base to further support the theories around health and well-being and links to the natural environment
  • Promote sustainable tourism opportunities to help boost the local economy

  • Promote, encourage and support sustainable recreation, reconnect local people and visitors with access to the natural environment

The above list of points are designed to provide guidance and help set priorities, for projects and collaborative working. By approaching these focus areas together, we will also be helping to tackle the Climate Emergency at the local scale.  This list of focus areas is by no means exhaustive and do not exclude any newly emerging issues, ideas or solutions. We want to encourage communities to develop innovative ideas for their own community wellbeing initiatives 

What would success look like?

Reconnecting people with their natural environment is a key priority for this theme. Stakeholders told us that using the environment to tackle health and well-being needed to be an essential part of our society. It was recognised that in Mid Wales populations are sparse and social isolation can be a major contributor to poor mental health.

In this Area Statement, we would like to explore further opportunities to work together across many sectors to: 

  • Develop evidence around the value of the natural environment to the local economy and our physical and mental well-being
  • Develop the citizen science network and the evidential contributions that they can make to help improve our environment
  • Increase sustainable recreation and provide better access to green and blue space - reviewing the existing local connections to the natural environment and identify where improvements are needed

  • Develop and promote an improved network of footpaths and connectivity for urban and rural communities, to bring them closer to the environment
  • Develop a series of collaborative projects across health, environment and community sectors to encourage better use of green spaces, including widespread social prescribing through local community initiatives and GP surgeries, which can address mental and physical health and well-being
  • Increase sustainability in managing tourism and developing the local economy, by;
    • Improving sustainable public transport for communities and visitors
    • Explore a green tourism charter to promote sustainable management and accessibility at visitor sites
    • Undertaking a review of good practice models for sustainable tourism and look to implement these in other areas
    • Providing sustainable management of ‘honeypot’ visitor attractions, and increased public awareness and empathy for the natural environment they visit

Together, we need to support the communities and economy of Mid Wales, whilst meeting the needs of the natural environment and responding to the climate emergency.

Sgwd Yr Eira waterfallImage by Andrew Osborne

Who have we worked with to date?

In the development of the Area Statement, NRW used a range of evidence based resources, including the State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) and the Welsh Government’s Natural Resources Policy. We also sourced information from the Powys & Ceredigion Well-being Plans and the Public Service Boards (PSBs) to join up with their priorities and Wellbeing Objectives, based around local need. 

NRW are a key partner in the Mid Wales Public Service Boards (PSBs). Each local authority in Wales has a Public Service Board (PSB), designed to enable public bodies to work together to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of the area and create a better future for the people of Wales. In Mid Wales, we have the Powys PSB and the Ceredigion PSB

The PSBs have undertaken a Wellbeing Assessment to understand the specific issues and priorities within their local communities. They produced a Wellbeing Plan with definitive Wellbeing Objectives, set out to improve the well-being of communities.  The current wellbeing plans & objectives run from 2018-2023

NRW are working as part of the Ceredigion and Powys PSBs to deliver the wellbeing objectives at the community level.

Further information on the Ceredigion PSB and Powys PSB can be found by clicking on the link.

We involved our stakeholders throughout the Area Statement development process, and continue to do so.

Since initial publication in March 2020, we continued to engage with our partners and stakeholders despite the difficulties associated with a global pandemic.  We were enthused at the passion and enthusiasm of our partners and stakeholders in helping us continue to drive the Mid Wales Area Statement forward, and for this we would like to thank everyone who has contributed so far.

A number of engagement workshops were held during 2019-2021 to ask our stakeholders what they wanted to see as part of the Mid Area Statement.

Engagement Activities

9 Engagement Event, 224 Participants in Peer Groups, 241 Facebook Followers and 764 people have engaged so far

Figures reflective of engagement events carried out 2019-2021

It was clear from the engagement and feedback that the Area Statement process is new for everyone involved and the ‘new way of working’ continues to represent a significant shift from how we have all worked in the past. Success requires continued learning, reflection and adjustment in the way we all work. 

The 2022 review of the Mid Area Statement is designed to update this core text to reflect the natural development of the Area Statement over the first two years. The changes since initial publication demonstrate how the area statement process has naturally evolved, based on ever-improving evidence from both NRW’s work and stakeholder input. Our engagement will continue as the Area Statement matures, develops and evolves.

Our engagement events encouraged discussions around the type of projects and areas of interest that stakeholders are keen to work on. We want to encourage and progress opportunities for collaboration.

We see Natural Resources Wales’ role as helping to facilitate, encourage and enable different stakeholders to get together and identify priorities around the area themes on which they can progress actions into delivery. NRW want to move away from ‘consultation’ and towards ‘collaboration’ and action on the ground, even if that remains an uncertain journey for many as we progress the Mid Wales Area Statement.

Many of the participants from the engagement work to date have established working relationships with Natural Resources Wales and with each other. The ongoing engagement process allows for further opportunities to both grow established relationships and create new ones. It is not too late to still get involved if you have a good project or idea for a project! We expect further opportunities to arise as the engagement process continues. It is important to stress that the Area Statement belongs to us all - everyone who wants to be involved - and we would like to encourage as many as possible to come aboard. 

Mynydd y Cemais and Aran FawddwyImage by Ian Medcalf

What are the next steps?

We need to tackle the issues around why so many people lack connection and empathy with their natural environment,  and explore new opportunities to increase enjoyment of the natural world. This, will in turn affect our health and well-being as a society. We want to encourage more people to feel engaged with their natural surroundings and have their say in the management of their recreational areas. It will take long term commitment to realise real change.  Collectively we need to develop a way to work together to tackle these issues as a society.

There is already a vast spectrum of amazing work being carried out with passion by the people of Mid Wales.  Good practice should be celebrated and learnt from. To build on this, the Area Statement directs us to share information and understanding and design innovative ways to address the challenges.

NRW has begun to identify networks where projects with similar outcomes can be joined together and worked on collaboratively. There is an intention in Mid Wales to bring together stakeholders who may not have traditionally worked alongside each other, but who together, can deliver outcomes which have multiple benefits. The Ceredigion and Powys PSB’s have adopted this approach in delivery of their functions; in Ceredigion developing a number of ‘sub-groups’ to tackle social, environmental, cultural and economic issues at a place level.

There will be opportunities for financial support to deliver projects and ideas through Natural Resources Wales’ grant funding system.  Please contact us for further details of the current grants available, or see NRW’s grants page.

How does what we’ve proposed deliver Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR)?

The Area Statement takes an evidence-based approach. We need to continue to build our evidence base for Mid Wales, to enable better decision making for the future. Gaps in evidence can be reviewed and added to through working together and using all available data to further the objective of each theme.

Through engaging with stakeholders, we have been able to work together to identify the themes for Mid Wales. Conversations and discussions have given us an understanding of the issues and pressures faced by different stakeholders, sectors and communities. 

Throughout the process, it has become clear that this Area Statement needs to continue to engage and inspire a wide range of stakeholders and communities (beyond the environmental sector) to deliver successful results on the ground, as well as raising the profile of the natural environment amongst local communities and establish new ways for enhanced access by all.

How can people get involved?

You can join us on Facebook! The Mid Area Statement Facebook group is one way for you to keep up to date with news and developments on the Mid Wales Area Statement.  Anyone can join in the online discussion. The group is currently set to private, although we encourage you to spread the word amongst colleagues and contacts who you think would be interested. You will be asked three simple questions to join the group to ensure we keep the members and content relevant to the Mid Area Statement.

We will also be holding further events and developing specific groups and conversations around each of the Mid Wales themes. If you are already on our mailing list, you will be contacted about these. If you would like to be added to this list, please email mid.as@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

We are only at the beginning of the journey as we work with people to improve the management of Mid Wales’ natural resources. If you would like to be part of this process, please get in touch with us.

Last updated