Country diary: wildfowlers threaten marsh and its wildlife

Tywyn, Gwynedd: Farmers and landowners are fighting to protect this river idyll

Geographers know about the Afon Dysynni. A classic example of river capture, it’s the outflow from lovely Llyn Mwyngil. It heads south-west along the shortest route to the sea, suddenly breaks north into Dyffryn Dysynni, absorbs the Cader into its flow and, thus augmented, turns south-west again along a wide strath below Craig yr Aderyn (where cormorants nest inland, three miles from the sea). Finally it reaches a coastal lagoon, Morlyn (formerly known as Broad Water).

Broad Water on the Afon Dysynni near the coastal town of Tywyn, Cardigan Bay
Broad Water on the Afon Dysynni near the coastal town of Tywyn, Cardigan Bay. Photograph: Paul Weston/Alamy Stock Photo

From source to sea is only 16 miles. The rare, shy bittern nests among extensive phragmites beds. You might catch a glimpse of one upright among them, looking like a scrawny, elongated hen. Along the bank between Crynllwyn and the old farmstead of Rhydygarnedd, red-breasted mergansers bob on waves sent lapping upriver by the wind. Sea eagles have been seen here recently.

I’d been invited to visit Dr Margaret Tudor Turner, whose family have farmed this land for generations, as well as supplied a lineage of rural veterinary surgeons to the region. She’s a voluble, articulate woman, formidable in presence – an Ellen Wilkinson for our time. You’d not want to cross her. The shooting interest has done just that.

There have been times when she has been in her garden with her two young sons, or when her neighbour Bob Allen at Crynllwyn has been in with his grandchildren, when shot from wildfowlers has pattered down around them. The leasing authority has called for suspension of shooting here. Last month, an aeroplane was sent along the lower Dysynni to establish its tidal limits, and hence the extent of the foreshore – crucial in defining what activities can take place here. It’s barely tidal, thanks to 19th-century works by the Corbett family, one of the two major landholders on the river. The other, Peniarth Estate, has been the outstanding conservation agency on this marsh where cattle once grazed.

It should all be a wildlife reserve. I have little doubt that, thanks to Maggie’s forensic presentation of the case against wildfowling here, it soon will be, and her filltir sgwâr, her ancestral patch, will be protected once again. Far better thus, than open to gunmen in kayaks, who paddle along the marsh channels, threaten opponents, and even shoot coot.


Jim Perrin

The GuardianTramp

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