Well, the dust has now largely settled after the Velothon Wales on Sunday. For those who were inconvenienced but late notification of road closures; I share your frustration. As a resident of a town which the race passed through, a week’s notice of the road closures is nothing like enough for people to change plans etc.
It was also deeply concerning to be caught up in the tack throwing incident and to pass a fellow rider being lifted into an ambulance following a tyre ‘blow out’; apparently caused by drawing pins thrown on the road. Modern road bike tyres are inflated to around 100psi. If punctured by a pin, they can explode like a balloon popping and cause a lot of damage and pain t the rider, not a nice experience to see
The ride itself was extraordinary. To be with Nick (a fellow Haute Route entrant) and thousands and thousands of other cyclists in the centre of Cardiff on a beautiful morning, was an experience!
We set off out of Cardiff at exactly the time slot given and it was great to see Colin Charvis offering support from the stage as we passed the start line. The pace felt rather fast but I managed to hear Ai-Lin (a colleague from RSPB Cymru)shouting support as we headed east.
This fast pace didn’t really let up, averaging twenty miles per hour for the first fifty miles! We then literally hit the Tumble, one of the UK’s most well-known climbs for cyclists. Whilst I was some way off being the fastest up it, I was encouraged by taking two and a half minutes of my previous personal best – RESULT!
The most memorable part of the ride for me was the incredible support we received from the communities along the route – DIOLCH!
It was fantastic to be cheered on through places like Blaenavon, Ystrad Mynach and Caerphilly. I even noticed Gail (one of our wonderful volunteers) and her husband cheering us on in Caerphilly. Of great surprise was whilst waiting for a friend at the top of Caerphilly Mountain, I noticed a rider in an RSPB lapwing jersey and had a brief chat with Mark Singleton from RSPB Arne who finished well ahead of me!
The pace didn’t ease off all the way back in to Cardiff which was mercifully down-hill and I crossed the finishing line in a time of four hours fifty minutes and twenty two seconds for the eighty six miles. I would have been happy with five and a half hours so was thrilled with that result and my placing of 1567th of 8775.
So, what’s next? In many ways, more of the same. It’s great that the weather has finally warmed up and I can make the most of the longer days by riding first thing in the morning or in the evenings. I hope to travel up to Snowdonia in July to keep the training going on roads I’ve not ridden before. But the most important thing of all is for me to keep motivated by riding in the fantastic Welsh countryside, taking in the landscapes and wildlife on route and knowing it’s raising more money for the Gola project.
If you would like to sponsor me and raise money for an important project please go to my fundraising page https://www.justgiving.com/Cellan-Michael1/ and follow me on Twitter #hauteroutecellan
Last week Welsh Government published its response to a recent evaluation of the impact of the Glastir Advanced Agri-environment scheme.
Glastir Advanced is the part of the scheme that should be helping to safeguard our most threatened wildlife and their homes, however, for a number of reasons the scheme has so far failed to provide the conditions required for most wildlife to begin its recovery.
Over the last few years, we at RSPB Cymru and others have voiced our concerns that due to the way the scheme was implemented, Glastir Advanced was going to fail to deliver for a whole raft of Wales most threatened wildlife like curlew, lapwing, pearl bordered fritillary and many more plants, insects and mammals.
In response to these concerns, last year Welsh Government committed to carrying out a review of a number of existing Glastir Advanced agreements to assess their ability to deliver for the scheme objectives.
This review was completed earlier this year by Dr. Geoff Radley an independent environmental and ecological consultant, Dr. Ieuan Joyce the Chair of the Elan Valley Trust and Arfon Williams who is Countryside Manager for RSPB Cymru. The final report made a number of recommendations to Welsh Government on how the scheme could be improved. The full report can be found here.
The panel made 10 recommendations including:
These recommendations would ensure that work to help wildlife was delivered in the appropriate areas, and a diverse countryside would be available for wildlife providing everything they would need, from winter food, summer food and breeding habitat and food for young in spring.
Even if the scheme contains the tools required to deliver the habitats in the right place, experience shows that guidance, support and training for those delivering the scheme is essential to success. This has been demonstrated in a number of projects across the UK including a scheme to benefit cirl bunting in Devon, work to stop the declines of corncrakes in Scotland and a project to increase the numbers of stone curlews in the East of England.
In each of these projects the provision of expert advice and guidance was critical to the success of the scheme and delivering value for the investment of public money.
Therefore for Glastir Advanced to be successful, and to repeat the success achieved in other areas of the UK, ensuring Glastir Contract Managers and farmers receive appropriate expert advice and guidance, to accompany management, will be critical to the success of the scheme and delivering true value for the investment of public money.
Earlier this week, Welsh Government published their response to the report, and we are encouraged by the approach they have taken. The good news is that the majority of the recommendations have been accepted, and work will begin immediately to address them.
Critically, Welsh Government has committed to work with partners like RSPB Cymru to build on the resources and support available to the Glastir Contract Managers developing the agreements, and to ensure access to third party assistance where required. This should ensure those agreements targeted at priority wildlife stand the best possible chance of delivering a home for nature in the Welsh countryside.
This July we will be attending the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show in Builth Wells, so if you are interested in managing your land for wildlife, or if you would like to discuss existing management and how it could be improved then visit us in the Countryside Care Area on the showground. We look forward to seeing you there!
This summer Cellan, will take on a challenge of a lifetime and cycle three times the height of Snowdon every day for seven days! He will be taking part in the Haute Route cycling challenge, and aims to raise £5,000.00 for the Gola Rainforest project which is jointly managed by the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (BirdLife in Sierra Leone), the Government of Sierra Leone and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK). The money will be match funded by Size of Wales.
Meet the man himself...
We look forward to catching up with Cellan in his next video blog.