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We Feed the UK: Custodians of the Land

Long ago, when our tribe followed grazing-tracks,

from the dales to the downs,

the children would run ahead;

the first to see the deep and dewy pasture 

from the top of the ridge,

their fervent voices proclaiming a new beginning…

Ifor ap Glyn, Land-mending (a stitch in time)

On the 8th of February AFC’s Penpont Project Team and Youth Leadership Group (YLG) member Hana Salih joined farmers and fisherpeople from across the UK to celebrate the launch of We Feed the UK, a new photographic exhibition curated by The Gaia Foundation.

It is well known that industrial agriculture is a major driver of deforestation, soil degradation, pollution and climate change. In response, We Feed the UK (WFTUK) shines a spotlight on projects, farms and enterprises from across the UK and Ireland doing things differently by farming or fishing in ways that put food on our plates while restoring and regenerating our living planet.  

Over the past eight months, we’ve worked with WFTUK photographer Andy Pilsbury and former National Poet for Wales, Ifor ap Glyn, to bring the Penpont Project’s story alive for new audiences. Andy and Ifor have joined us at Penpont for river surveying days, tree planting events, sheep shearing and much more as they’ve sought to understand what makes the Penpont Project special.  

At the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool, media, funders and the public got their first glimpse of our work. Three of Andy’s beautiful images from Penpont (see below) were exhibited in the space, Ifor performed his poem about Penpont -  Land-mending (a stitch in time) - and YLG member Hana spoke about her experience of the project (Hana is pictured below).

Intergenerational custodians of the land

In We Feed the UK, the Penpont Project joins nine other trailblazing, positive initiatives from across the UK, each of which has been chosen to highlight a different positive theme, including seed sovereignty, soil care and sustainable fishing. Our theme is ‘Intergenerational custodians of the land’

Launched in 2019, the Penpont Project is the largest intergenerational nature restoration project of its kind anywhere in the UK. AFC is a founding member of a partnership of landowners, farmers and young people drawn from our programmes who have worked together to build trust and a shared vision for the future of the land using an innovative eco-cultural mapping approach. 

Young people like Hana have played a central role in driving the project forward, bringing fresh thinking to the land, as well as the energy needed to physically restore nature. These young people have been able to sit, talk and map with knowledgeable elders who have lived at Penpont for many, many years and have shared their deep knowledge of the landscape’s wildlife and how it has changed over time.

“Being involved in the Penpont Project has been a really important experience for me growing up. I’ve grown up with the project. It's formed the basis of a lot of my adult opinions and the way I see the world now. The young people of today are the leaders of tomorrow. Having this connection with nature from such a young age is so important if we’re going to make positive changes for the environment in future.” - Hana Salih

Through this multi-generational exchange of knowledge, we have rediscovered old place names like Pwll y drainog (Pool of the hedgehog) and Gwern Ffawr (Big alder bog), piecing together a picture of the biological and cultural diversity Penpont sustained in the past. We have looked at the present state of the landscape with fresh eyes and made a plan to restore nature in a way that celebrates Welsh traditions and opens the land to more young people. 

Youth Leadership Group member Cadi, photographed by Andy Pilsbury

Our restoration work is now well underway. In the past 12 months, we have welcomed over 230 young people to the land to help plant over 5,000 trees, restore three lost ponds, and create new willow beds and microhabitats for reptiles, amphibians, owls, otters plus much more. Local farmers are on a journey towards more regenerative practices and we have run our first paid 10-week youth ranger programme.

It is this story that We Feed the UK tells through photographs and poetry that connect with people’s hearts, as well as their heads. You can catch the exhibition on the 22nd and 23rd of June 2024 at the Penpont Estate!

To support the Penpont Project and help us continue this work, please donate to our latest fundraiser.

Thanks for reading!

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