"...Yr ydoedd ym mhob gobant Ellyllon mingeimion gant...."
("There was in every hollow a hundred wrymouthed elves...")
Welsh 14th century poet, Davydd ab Gwilym
Since moving to our little corner of Wales a year ago, it's been particularly interesting to explore the folklore of this unique and beautiful part of the world.
Forests and fields, mountains and valleys, this is a land of hidden, secret places - and many legends.
I've decided to share some of the otherworldly places I've discovered so far and my search for the mythical (?) creatures that live here, beginning with the elf-like Ellyll.
Forest folk and other ethereal beings....
Close to our own ancient house are many dense and seldom visited forests, one of which is nestled into the side of a hill. Peaceful now, it was in times gone by the site of a busy limestone quarry.
To this day deep chasms remain, now filled with trees and ferns. It is eerily quiet. On misty days, of which there are many, the only constant sounds are of dripping water and the rustling of leaves. A haze drifts through the trees like a delicate fog, while crows call from high branches overhead, as if to warn off those who might disturb the calm.
This is the habitat of mystical beings known in Welsh as the 'Ellyllon', diminutive woodland folk that were once commonly encountered in the Welsh countryside....
The Ellyllon (singular Ellyll) it seems are an ancient race. And their existence well known in historical literature.
Brewers Dictionary attests that the Ellyllon are "The souls of the ancient Druids, which, being too good for hell, and not good enough for heaven, are permitted to wander upon earth till the judgment day, when they will be admitted to a higher state of being..."
Others suggest that these little people are akin to fairies. In his famed reference work "British Goblins", 19th century writer Wirt Sikes explains that "the Ellyllon are the pigmy elves who haunt the groves and valleys, and correspond pretty closely with the English elves."
Mr Sikes tells of one man's encounter with an ellyll, this was a Welsh farmer by the name of Rowli Pugh whose meeting with one of these ethereal beings proved to be very fortunate.
"....as Rowli was sitting on his wall one day, hard by his cottage, musing over his sad lot, he was accosted by a little man who asked him what was the matter. Rowli looked around in surprise, but before he could answer the ellyll said to him with a grin, “There, there, hold your tongue, I know more about you than you ever dreamed of knowing...."
The kindly ellyll proceeded to instruct Rowli on how to improve his fortunes. Indeed these particular elfin people are known to be helpful and beneficent....unlike many other types of fairy folk.
Believe in magic....
I pass by the quiet woodland quarry often, and I always keep an eye open in case one of these friendly elves should betray its presence....though alas, an ellyll encounter has not been documented in many years.
Perhaps this world, or rather the human race, has just grown too busy and preoccupied with itself to notice the supernatural.
Nevertheless some the Ellyllon's favourite haunts remain. Perhaps we just need to believe once more in the magic that can conjure such creatures back into reality.
Or perhaps they have never disappeared at all.....
A proposal to expand the UKs offshore wind capacity could result in "no safe passage for whales, dolphins, bats and birds".
"The whole mindless idea emanates from cloud cuckoo land, where it seems many of our politicians reside...."
Words of warning
I sounded words of warning last year when I reported that seabird populations in the Irish Sea, around the Isle of Man, had plummeted by 40%.
Could it perhaps, I asked, have anything to do with the nearby presence of the world's biggest offshore wind farm?
The answer seemed glaringly obvious.
Wind turbines kill birds and bats through direct collision, and probably whales and other marine mammals through the effects of infrasound. We don't know the numbers because, unlike land based wind farms where the carnage is visible, at sea the dead bodies are usually never recovered or recorded, although some cetaceans are stranded or washed ashore dead.
Now the UK government has flaunted the idea of building many more offshore wind farms around the coast of the UK, equating to thousands of huge turbines, which means that our seas could potentially become a slaughterhouse for some of our most threatened species.
Hundreds of these enormous turbines, many of them more than 600 feet (182m) high, already fill large expanses of the Irish Sea, with each blade measuring more than 200 feet in length, spinning at up to 180 mph.
Thousands more throng the North Sea. Indeed it's been confirmed that a new generation of turbines is to be installed off England's eastern coast, with each blade measuring more than 350 feet (107m) in length. What hope is there for birds and bats to avoid such a deadly machine?
Death knell for marine mammals and birds
If the reckless industrialisation proceeds at the pace mooted by the prime minister, thousands more turbines will be added to the already lethal mix. This will sound the death knell for marine mammals and birds.
The whole mindless idea emanates from cloud cuckoo land, where it seems many of our politicians reside, but it's a dangerous idea nevertheless because big wind companies will be eager to buy into a money making scheme, however absurd and whatever the cost to the environment and wildlife.
With greed and stupidity combined in one ridiculous proposal, is there any hope at all for the survival of our endangered marine ecosystems?
No safe passage for whales, dolphins, bats and birds
If the absurd plan is given the green light, then there will be no safe passage for whales, dolphins, bats and birds. Creatures that have traversed these maritime routes for millennia will be facing a potential massacre and some species will doubtless face extinction as a direct result of an irrational and half-baked ambition from a government that has yet to prove it can accomplish anything but general chaos.
It's a government that is already overseeing the appalling culling of badgers and the wholesale destruction of our ancient woodlands. Now they have formulated a madcap plan to destroy our precious marine ecosystems too.
No amount of mitigation will be enough to restore the fragile balance of nature, already at risk of imminent environmental collapse.
While some are already on board with the madness, others are starting to worry. The RSPB has finally woken up to the problem, warning of the significant threat to rare birds if the government's reckless plan goes ahead. They say such expansion of offshore wind farms would lead to an "irreversible decline towards extinction."
Sinister Irony: Slaughter of wildlife under the banner of 'saving the planet'
It would be insane to think that oceans full of turbines, at the expense of so many species, will prove to be a reliable or economic solution to the energy crisis.
If the plan goes ahead, then the final mass slaughter of our most endangered wildlife will be underway. And with sinister irony it will all be under the banner of 'saving the planet' and 'green energy'.
Stupidity and self destruction
These are strange times we are living through folks.
Stupidity is a trait unique to the human race, and we might well be on course for self destruction through selfishness and greed - but we shouldn't be taking so many other species down with us.
* Bird control licences. An ongoing fiasco.
* 1 in 15 licence holders FAILED to submit an 'obligatory' report of action taken.
* Natural England received no licence returns for nearly 7% of bird control licences that it issued between 2018 and 2019, despite this being a mandatory requirement.
* Dozens of licences have no known outcome......
As promised, I can now report back to you with the answers I received from Natural England regarding the percentage of returns (reports of action taken) that they logged for bird control licences issued over a period of one year.
Natural England have provided me with a set of (oddly round) figures.
They tell me that there were 1075 individual and class licences issued for bird control between April 2018 and March 2019; and of those 1075, returns were received for 1000.
Outcome of 1 in 15 licences is unknown.....
The results are perhaps better than I feared, comparatively speaking, but they still present a question mark over how many wild birds are ultimately being killed (or having their eggs destroyed).
Each licence holder is obliged, under the terms of their licence, to submit a return detailing action taken, yet Natural England admits that no returns were received for nearly 7% of all licences issued that year, that's around 1 in 15....
While it is certainly encouraging to know that most licence holders are fulfilling their obligations, the 7% who didn't means that a large number of birds may have been 'controlled' under licences that have an entirely unknown outcome.
Nobody knows, least of all Natural England, just how many birds might have been killed under these 75 licences because the returns were never received. Only the licence holders know what methods were used and how successful or otherwise the action was. With precious little penalty (if any) for failing to submit a return, the system is wide open to misuse and does not discourage those who might be acting irresponsibly or even illegally.
Natural England are always keen to trumpet their much flaunted 'five point system' which applicants have to satisfy before obtaining a licence, in theory to establish that the applicant has a compelling need to control wild birds.
But the truth is that, notwithstanding this process, huge numbers of licences are still issued and a small but significant proportion of licence holders fail to submit returns.
Unmonitored system of lethal control
I acknowledge that the management of wildlife is a complex and controversial question but it is essential that any lethal control of wildlife is fully monitored - it should be a basic requirement of what is supposed to be a 'last resort' solution to any perceived wildlife problem.
What we have is a largely unmonitored, officially sanctioned, culling of wild birds and animals. This broken system may be due to lack of resources and/or lack of funding but it remains in need of an overhaul and a rethink.
"It's time to entrust the protection of nature to those who actually care about the natural world... and not a government agency that is overseeing a broken wildlife licensing system, the slaughter of birds and badgers and the destruction of ancient woodland..."
I think Natural England has proved time and again that it does not exist to "help to protect and restore our natural world" - as it boldly claims on its website. By it's actions we can assume that it exists to oversee wholesale destruction of the natural world it purports to 'protect and restore'.
It's time to hand over the task of protecting our wildlife and environment to those who really do love and cherish our natural world.
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