Back to blog listings

DWC: Short Stories 1 - 10

Posted: Thursday 19th September 2019 by Emyr MWT

Short Story 1: Volunteering

Over 100 people donate their time at DOP every year and most of these folks will also be involved in the development of the new Dyfi Wildlife Centre.

From de-construction to re-construction and everything in-between, our volunteers will play a key part in the new centre - including the specialist help we need for all the information displays we will be producing.

But for now, here are some of those volunteers proving that it is possible to de-construct a 60-foot double-timber fence in less than 30 seconds...


Short Story 2: Recycling

A key thread running through the ethos of the new Dyfi Wildlife Centre is recycling.

Why buy new when you can reuse and repurpose the old. It saves money and the environment.

The 30m of old boardwalk we've taken up will be cleaned, sanded and used as a wall finish.

The old visitor centre and volunteer cabin have been moved to the car park and are now used by our contractors - when they've finished with them we'll use them on another MWT reserve.

Finally, the small bits of timber and young birch we've taken down are being stored by the old hide and will air dry over the winter. Next year we will 'cucumber' them and use the birch disks as ceiling and cafe coverings.

Carbon is stored in timber (sequestration) thereby offsetting some the carbon emissions we generate.

You'll hear more about how the Dyfi Wildlife Centre will optimise carbon sequestration in further Short Stories...


Short Story 3: Piling

So how do you build foundations for a two-storey building in a peat bog?

The usual way would have been to use concrete – and a lot of it. To overcome the squidginess (technical engineering term) of peat we would have to put 2-3x the amount of concrete into the ground.

Clearly, we weren’t going to do that.

The most environmental way was is to use steel piling.

These are tubes driven into the ground and then concrete put into the tubes to give them strength. We are using two types – fat and skinny (more technical terminology).

The fat ones (diameter 11 inches) go in the middle of the building as they take more of the load and the skinny ones (diameter 8 inches) on the sides, 33 piles in all.

We're using timber bog mats (second-hand, reused) to protect the peat while putting them in and once we're finished, we'll reuse them again - look out for a later Short Story about the bog mats.

The combined weight tolerance of the Dyfi Wildlife Centre on these 33 piles will be 2,490 tonnes, or 922 African elephants in old money.

In total, the combined area taken up by the 33 piles will be just 1.61m2 - less than the size of a small single bed; although we don't recommend sharing your single bed with an elephant - let alone 922 of them.


Short Story 4: Interpretation

200 years ago the Dyfi was a bustling, industrious river where thousands of people made their living.

They quarried, mined, farmed, forested, transported, constructed railways, bridges and built ships - 17 boat yards at one time. Before that there was salt panning, the wool industry and even Romans. There is a Roman fort (Cefn Caer) right besides Cors Dyfi on the north side of the river.

The way those people, our ancestors, engineered and worked the land led to huge changes in the wildlife and ecology of the river. What we see around us today is the byproduct of how the people that came before us eked out their livelihood and survival.

Today the river is a much quieter place. Indeed, at first glance you would hardly know that the Dyfi River has been anything else.

The ground floor of the Dyfi Wildlife Centre will be about ospreys - that's where DOP will be - the educational side, anyways.

Upstairs in the Galeri we will attempt to join the stories of the Dyfi River's past as key themes - Natural, Industrial and Cultural Heritage as well as Future Legacy.

This week our volunteers started research work on six key topics to begin with: Wildlife, Shipping & Trade, Railway & Bridges, Mining, Metals & Coins, Peatbog Ecology and Historical Figures of the Dyfi. This is a two year project and over 2020 and 2021 we will design and produce educational materials that relate to these topics. We call this 'Interpretation'.

You'll be able to see them on a rotational time basis in the Galeri. We'll also put some of them up on social media.

By understanding the past we make greater sense of the present allowing us to make better decisions about our future. 


Short Story 5: Metals

As many of you are aware from our pre-decimal coin collection appeal, various metals will form a key feature in the new Dyfi Wildlife Centre.

Why is this?

For centuries (millennia for some metals) the hills and mountains around the Dyfi River have been the focus of rampant mining activity. It has all come to an end now, but the landscape our ancestors left behind still bear the hallmarks (pun intended) of their metallurgic activities.

Romans mined copper on the north side of the Dyfi and Charles I found great success with silver on the south side, so much so, he moved the Royal Mint from London to Aberystwyth Castle in the 1640s and then even nearer to Cors Dyfi in 1649 – the little village of Furnace (the clue is in the name).

Charles I half-crown minted right next to Cors Dyfi in Furnace, 1649

Zinc and lead were also mined at various locations.

All these metals are elements produced by natural geological forces over billions of years; at DOP we’re sitting right in the middle of the “Welsh Basin” – the very reason why this part of Wales became the world’s most prolific slate industry in Victorian times - more on this in another Short Story.

So, by changing their environment around them to make a living, those people that came before us left us a legacy of environmental changes – just like we are doing now for our descendants. The ecosystems we see today on the Dyfi River have changed and evolved over the millennia based on changes people made to the landscape.

Dylife lead & zinc mine

The Dyfi Wildlife Centre will be built from timber and metals – those very materials that have played such a pivotal role in the history of the river over time.

The metal caps we use to lay the building on are coated in zinc, many of the key features and fittings will be made from recycled copper and then, of course, we have the Galeri floor – made from 50,000 pre-decimal British coins covering the middle one-third of the Exhibition Centre, 36m2 in total.

Zinc galvanised caps that the Dyfi Wildlife Centre will sit on

We’ll have recycled tin on some of the walls, reclaimed copper on the side of the Mary Evans Staircase… even the 3D signage on the building front itself will be made from metals we can salvage. 

A copper-faced longcase clock made by Machynlleth clockmaker Ezekiel Hughes in 1790


Short Story 6: Slate

Solar panels are going on the south-facing roof of the Dyfi Wildlife Centre, but what materials should we use for the north side that are the most environmentally sound, has virtually no carbon footprint and is culturally important?

Last month these slates were on the roofs of a row of council houses in Llanberis, north Wales. By next month they will be on the roof of the Dyfi Wildlife Centre, along with another 4,000 or so of their geological siblings.

They are 'Welsh Heather Blues', so called because of their colour - a deep blue-to-purple shade. Some say, some of the best slates in the world...

They come from Penrhyn quarry in Bethesda, near Bangor, a quarry that has been going for 500 years and was, in the late 1800s, the largest slate quarry in the world.


Penrhyn quarry in 1852

Most Welsh families in north-west Wales have fathers, grandfathers, relatives etc that have worked in the slate quarries over the centuries, we feel that it was important to reference Welsh slate and industry in our new centre rather than buying 'new' cheap slate (or worse still, tiles) from thousands of miles away.

Welsh slate such as these quarried at Penrhyn were designated by the International Union of Geological Sciences as a 'Global Heritage Stone Resource' earlier in 2019 in recognition of its significant contribution to world architectural heritage.

We agree.

Read Emyr MWT's latest blog entries.