Five miles North of Aberystwyth lies the community of Llandre. It is a beautiful place steeped in history, a wealth of cultural and natural heritage can be found on their doorstep. The environs feature a rare example of an early lychgate, Castle Gwallter and a Healing well that are frequented by tourists keen to learn more about the history of this Welsh community.
Our purpose, as a team visiting the area, was to attend the Environment Wales team meeting which was held within the historic church of St Michael’s, Llanfihangel Genau’r Glyn. The venue held significance for the team as it was home to Treftadaeth Llandre Heritage’s Llandre Environment Project. The project registered with Environment Wales (EW) in 2009 with the aim of developing a haven for people and wildlife. The group supports volunteers, often recovering from substance misuse, to carry out practical projects to restore the woodland and make the historic graveyard safe, this enables easier access to all areas of the steep banks which make up this unique hillside graveyard.
At lunchtime the team were privileged to receive a tour of their site from the project’s Secretary/treasurer and active member, Roger Haggar. In his blue overalls he began the tour outside St Michael’s church and provided us with a brief history of the church and surrounding area, explaining that the area of woodland, adjacent to the church, was completely cleared during the First World War. The area was colonised by tall, thin trees – as a result of the dense re-growth which occurred due to the site clearance. Despite the felling of trees, some veteran trees in the southern area did survive; he explained that this area features on the provisional register of ancient woodlands. As the team meandered around the churchyard, Roger pointed out some of the gravestones and the tales behind the people who were laid to rest. We were informed that as time progressed an extension to the graveyard was created which led to the decreased management of the original site. As time progressed the trees which shared the space started to cause damage to the headstones – degrading the heritage of the area. This is the point at which the Treftadaeth Llandre Heritage group were formed, as a constituted group, to safeguard this area for future generations and to manage the environment. The group collaborated with the Forestry Commission to produce a management plan for the churchyard and contiguous woodland.
As we continued to climb the steep hillside, it was evident that the area was sensitively managed. The group maintained the woodland and hillside graveyard to enhance biodiversity, improve access for visitors and care for the graves of community members past. The most impressive natural feature of the site is a 2,000 year old yew tree which forms part of the living heritage of Llandre. It is an iconic feature and adds to the majesty of this unique site. Roger continued to enlighten the captivated EW team with information about the restorative work undertaken by the volunteers. He informed the team about developments made to improve access and safety of the woodland, and parts of the old, steeply, wooded graveyard. The volunteers managed some of the beech trees – their crowns were reduced to limit the danger of the wood splitting or falling – volunteers also removed invasive species, cleared pathways and strengthened sections by repointing the retaining stone walls, using traditional materials.
At the end of the tour Roger explained plans for the future and the work he and the volunteer team would like to undertake, he thanked his Development Officer and Environment Wales for the support given to the group as it has helped them to further preserve this important space and maintain it as a legacy for the community of Llandre.
If you would like information about the Llandre Environment Project and Treftadaeth Llandre Heritage (the group) please visit their website which provides you with a history of the site and the preservation work underway at this unique hillside graveyard: http://www.llandre.org.uk/