The Tir Gofal scheme
Tir Gofal (literally meaning ‘Land Care’) was an agri-environment scheme run by the Welsh Assembly Government. This was the first scheme in Wales, and indeed in Europe, aimed at promoting whole farm conservation and management. Since its inception in 1999, Tir Gofal has supported thousands of farmers in protecting both the archaeological heritage and the natural environment in one scheme.
The four main objectives of the scheme were: Habitat Conservation (encouraging bio-diversity), Landscape Management (preserving local rural character), Historic and Archaeological Features (protecting archaeological sites, traditional farm buildings, field boundaries, and other historic features), and Access (public access paths across land).
Landholders that were accepted into the scheme signed up to a ten year agreement (with a five year break clause), and agreed to four elements:
Land management - mandatory compliance with the whole farm section and management of key habitats, and optional restoration or creation of certain habitats or features. Landholders were expected to maintain all existing boundaries, all trees, protect all historic sites/archaeology, maintain in a weatherproof condition all traditional buildings, not remove rocky outcrops, keep farm rubbish free, protect rivers from drainage, keep open existing rights of way, agree to limits on stocking of animals, not introduce non-native plant species, and follow governmental water/air/soil good practice guidelines.
In addition, there were voluntary options, which could be selected for inclusion into the farms management plan. Extra money was then available for creation and restoration of habitats, new access to enclosed land, and enhancement of landscape and historic features, like archaeological sites, ponds, bridges and traditional buildings, etc.
Creating new permissive access - voluntary options were available for new linear access routes, new area based permissive access or to provide for access for educational purposes.
Capital works - payments were made for additional work to protect and manage habitats and features and to support new access provision.
Training for farmers - payments were made for courses on managing specific habitats, such as wetlands and woodlands and practical skills, such as drystone walling and hedge laying.
Distribution of all the Tir Gofal farm applications in the Clwyd-Powys area between 1999-2009
Welsh Archaeological Trust involvement
The four Welsh Archaeological Trusts were consulted on every farm that applied to enter the scheme, and subsequently every farm was subjected to a desk-based assessment, or HE1 (Historic Environment Report 1). During this process the Heritage Management team would inspect the HER, early OS maps and other sources to provide the WAG with all known information regarding the historic environment of that farm. The Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust were consulted on a total of 1412 farms throughout the life of the scheme - of which 227 were then visited. This enabled more informed decisions to be made on the management of historic features and traditional farm buildings. A second report (HE2, or Historic Environment Report 2) was then produced, and the updated information on the various sites and monuments was then fed back into the HER.