The History

What is Pwllpeiran?

Pwllpeiran is a research hub for the study of upland farmed ecosystems, which is located in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains, West Wales. In total Pwllpeiran comprises just over 400 ha of mixed grassland/heathland ranging from 225 – 625 m above sea level. Below 500 m soils are predominantly mineral with a high stone content, with peat found at higher elevations.

The history of Pwllpeiran

Pwllpeiran has a long and unrivalled record of involvement with change and development in the uplands. In the eighteenth century it was host to the radical agricultural experiments undertaken by Thomas Johnes of the Hafod estate. In the 1930’s Pwllpeiran then became the centre of Sir George Stapledon’s pioneering Cahn Hill Improvement Scheme developing methods of establishing productive hill pastures.

Pwllpeiran history

Caterpillar “20” and junotrac plough, Pwllpeiran 1937-38

Specialist machinery was used on derelict moorland to kill the bracken, tear through the matted turf and rushes, and carve open drains through bogs. The land was slagged and limed, and sown with rape and ryegrass for speedy grazing by sheep, before being harrowed and resown with ryegrass, white clover and timothy as the foundation of a new sward. This was kept productive by regular fertilising and controlled grazing.

The result was a striking increase in the productivity of the pasture, in the density of the stocking, and in the quality of the lamb produced. Over the next 30 years Pwllpeiran increased its agricultural output dramatically and its systems were widely taken up by farmers. From 1955, Pwllperian was officially designated as an Experimental Husbandry Farm. During the following forty years, work at the farm achieved substantial improvements in the quality and quantity of lamb and beef produced, but by the turn of the millennium the emphasis of agricultural policy was turning away from increased livestock production and towards the development of environmentally sensitive farming systems, and research priorities changed.   After decades of managment by MAFF and then ADAS,  Aberystwyth University took over the lease for the site in 2012

Why study the uplands?

20th January 2016 02

‘A view from the hill’. Taken on a very sunny, but cold (-5 Celsius!) 20th of January 2016.

Just under 50% of utilised UK agricultural land has been classified as less favoured area, and within Wales this figure rises to 80%. A combination of altitude, soil characteristics and climatic conditions restricts most farms within these areas to extensive sheep and cattle production, and around 60% of the UK breeding flock and 60% of the UK beef suckler herd are found in the uplands.

Upland regions also play a vital role in delivering a range of ecosystem services; e.g. water management (including provision of drinking water and flood mitigation), carbon management (including soil carbon conservation and sequestration), and landscape and heritage management (including tourism, recreation and educational access).


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