Croeso i Hyddgen, Plant Glyndŵr! Welcome to Hyddgen, Children of Glyndŵr – for all of you here today to protest an issue vital in Welsh nationhood are that – sons and daughters of Glyndŵr, ready to assert his resistant legacy.
You will know the story of this place, as briefly told in the manuscript, Peniarth 135:
“In the summer of 1401 Owain rose with 120 reckless men and outlaws, and he brought them in warlike fashion to the uplands of Ceredigion.
“And 1,500 men of the lowlands came to the mountain with the intent to seize Owain. The encounter between them was on Hyddgen mountain.”
You will know the outcome – hundreds of the lowlanders slain, thousands of his countrymen flocking thereafter to Glyndŵr’s standard – a rallying-point now against external oppression. The mercenaries had been put to flight, the first victory of Owain’s great uprising had been won.
Here, at Hyddgen!
Through that event, this place became enshrined in a kind of secular majesty. It is one of the hallowed places of Welsh history.
All I need to say, to those with the capacity to hear, to those who are not impervious to the land’s beauty and its spiritual dimension, to those who can rise above the strident demands of profit and self-interest, are three simple words:
Respect this place!
This straightforward, resonant precept is surely the fundamental unit of eco-consciousness. Without its observance, all other environmental protestations become no more than hypocrisy and charade.
And yet, climb there to the top of Pen Pumlumon Fawr, look south, look east, look north and you will see hundreds upon hundreds of purportedly planet-saving wind-turbines.
Is there not a contradiction here? How can that which destroys the land save the planet?
My own lifelong connection is with this small and beautiful nation, its landscape, its culture, its people. I’ve been around this whole world, from the Himalaya to the High Arctic, from Borneo to Bolivia, from Morocco to Montana. If you were to ask what all this travelling has taught me, I would tell you this:
There is nowhere more beautiful on our planet than these worn and intimate old history-haunted hills of Wales.
That increasingly we see subjected to desecration..
I told you just now a story from 600 years ago – or 610 years ago, to be precise.
Let me tell you another one now, from 60 years ago.
Let me give you the exact words of a spokesman for the Attlee government, spoken in 1951:
“We intend to plant 800,000 acres in Wales. We intend to change the face of Wales. We know there will be opposition, but we intend to force this thing through.”
An extract from a poem, whilst you regain your breath:
“Ac erbyn hyd nid oes yno ond coed,
A’u gwreiddiau haerllug yn sugno’r hen bridd:
Coed lle y bu cymdogaeth,
Fforest lle bu ffermydd…”
(“And now there is nothing there but trees,/And their insolent roots sucking the ancient earth,/Conifers where once was community,Forest in place of farms.”)
Recent events, from the planned woodland sell-off by the present government – an act of blatant illegality on which they were forced to back-track (as with the disaster of water-privatisation, how can you justify selling for profit that which was acquired for the common good by compulsory purchase?) – to recurrent natural disasters might turn us (though clearly not the politicians) to consider the consequences of blind environmental arrogance.
The sterile and marring forests were clear-felled, the soured land beneath the erstwhile trees leached away to silt up rivers and lakes, thus easing the path of the rain down to the English flood-plains of Welsh rivers – periodically now along the courses of the Severn, the Dee, devastation!
Put it down to climate change if you like – as a plausible politician might. But I’ve known Wales for a long time and can assure you of one of its eternal verities – in Wales it rains!
What correlation, then, between clear-felling and catastrophic flooding? What consequence? What wider lessons?
I digress from the matter we are here today to protest in order to show you that there are precedents for the total disregard of Welsh landscape by English government (and make no mistake that it is central government whose policy and funding is enabling Welsh Assembly planning here).
Even so, this proposal to line the surrounding ridges of Hyddgen with monstrous turbines the presence of which will annihilate the affective wild beauty of this landscape, destroy its recreational value, its visitor-appeal, its habitats for rare species – this proposal is the most calculated, gross and insensitive affront to Welsh nationhood imaginable.
It is viler by far even than the destruction of Penyberth, for which Saunders Lewis, D.J. Williams and Lewis Valentine – respectable, honest, cultured men – served time in prison for protesting in the 1930s – for asserting their moral right to protect their land and its cultural and aesthetic fabric
The destruction of Hyddgen must not happen!
Consider how an English public might respond if our Welsh Assembly decreed that 500-foot-high turbines should surround the battlefield of Hastings or Lords Cricket Ground, Canterbury Cathedral or Flatford Mill.
And yet, here in Wales, through a – to put it mildly – contentious argument about how best to serve the good of the planet, we are expected to welcome them not only into one of the resonant places of our history but into one of the last lovely remnants of our wild country – into the very heart of Wild Wales.
I should make it absolutely clear, before the blogging hordes of malevolents descend upon me – that I am not opposed in principle – how could one be? – to renewable energy sources. Nor am I – deeply offensive and ridiculous term that it is – a “climate change denier” (though I do reserve the right to appropriate degrees of Pyrrhonian Scepticism with regard to proponents’ claims about both). And nor am I irresponsible in my own consumption – I believe that paradigm shifts in our own behaviour, and not cosmetic cures, not merely being seen to be doing something however ineffectual that something may be – are crucial to our planet’s well-being. I firmly believe that a properly-constituted commission of enquiry into all issues pertaining to wind-and-wave-power generation is long overdue.
My own objections – such as they are – to power-generation by these means can be summed up in one word:
Hyddgen is not an appropriate location.
When I first heard of the detail of this scheme two years ago my initial reaction was one of incredulity, of disbelief.
How could they?
This place has beauty, history, resonance, a rare and necessary wildness.
It stands as symbol of our resistant Welsh nationhood.
How could they dream of its destruction?
I look to the recent recommendation by the inspector of a public enquiry to reject proposals for a wind-factory – and forgive me if I do not use the customary newspeak cover for this kind of industrialisation – at Mynydd y Gwair on Swansea’s urban fringe – a recommendation to reject a plan for a quarter the number of turbines proposed for Hyddgen, and in a place that for landscape value and historical significance bears no comparison with the one where we stand today.
Are there, then, grounds for hope?
To answer that question, look no further than legislation pushed through by Mr. Ed Milliband in the dying throes of the “New Labour” administration, under which schemes like these constitute a special category that can be enforced and hastened through to completion without regard for established planning procedures, protests, findings of public enquiries…
How dangerous, how anti-democratic a path that is to go down! Shades of the march against the Iraq War – you know, the one on which, by a police count, 20,000 took part and the procession stretched twenty abreast for ten miles through the streets of London. Ian MacEwan even wrote a novel about it…
Ask yourselves now, would this present coalition government dare to make use of that legislation?
Well, perhaps they might, but I suspect they would be very ill-advised. Consider in this connection the family affairs of our heads-of-state:
There is, for example, the wife of our Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Nick Clegg. She’s a director of a company manufacturing wind-turbines – a very strange sinecure, you might think, for a Spanish lawyer.
And then we might cite the fact that on the family estates of Mr. David Cameron there stand hundreds of wind-turbines, each bringing in an annual rental of between £10,000 and £15,000. Do your sums on that. Oh, and then there’s Sam Cam, who has a few dozen on her family land near Sheffield – not big earners, these, probably only enough to bring her in pin money of a yearly quarter-million, say…
Do you think these two powerful men, in our current climate where the c-word (take it how you will – corruption, cupidity, crassness) is taken by the public as endemic in politics, would dare to push through proposals so clearly beneficial to their own financial interests? How, too, might they feel if the role the Enron Corporation took in the development of wind-turbine technology were to be more widely known, more widely registered in the public consciousness?
To approach this same issue of government sensitivity to criticism at a different tangent, you will all be aware of how stridently its members deplore inefficiency and waste, whether in the public or the private sectors. I’m quite sure these members were not remotely interested in the pump-priming billion for renewables research poured into the trough by Mr. Ed Milliband last year.
So I wonder what these same prudent politicians have made of this document, published only this week?
It’s called “Worth the Candle” and I’d like to read you two short extracts from the Executive Summary:
Par. 2: “The report’s key finding… is that for every job created by renewable energy in the U.K., 3.7 jobs are lost.”
The great shibboleth of employment, before which every politician in all the time I’ve followed politics has had to genuflect!
Par. 11: “In conclusion, policy to promote the renewable electricity sector in… the U.K. is economically damaging. Government should not see this as an economic opportunity, therefore, but should focus debate instead on whether these costs, and the damage done to the environment, are worth the candle in terms of climate change mitigation.”
There you have it, unequivocally.
How does damaging the environment help save the planet?
610 years ago, a ragged and desperate band of outlaws, massively outnumbered, won a victory for their country and their way of life in this place.
All of us gathered here today, massively outnumbered, desperate to protect the land we love – all of us are the Children of Glyndŵr.
Down there beyond the ridge on the slope of Mynydd Hyddgen are two rocks of white quartz – Cerrig Cyfamod Owain Glyndŵr – the covenant stones of Owain.
As you know, Glyndŵr simply faded from the pages of history, was never captured, no record of his death exists, no grave is marked.
So let him live on now in our spirit. Let us make a new covenant with him. We have the will, and we have the weapons at our disposal. Let us fight to protect this beautiful land, and let us shame and put to flight all who seek to despoil it.
Let us expose their self-interest, their mendacity, their cupidity and their machinations, their behind-hand and behind-door agreements.
Let us drive those who do not have the good of the land and its people at heart from power.
And believe me, we will win, and this lovely, necessary, wild and unspoiled place will be saved for our children, and for all generations to come.
Thank you! Thank you all for being here at Hyddgen today to register your appreciation, and your protest.