Farmer forced to pick up other people's litter to keep rare Carneddau ponies alive

A high-profile farmer from North Wales has become a part-time litter picker to clear the mess left by thoughtless visitors. Plastic bottles and crisp packets are commonly discarded but in recent weeks Gareth Wyn Jones has also retrieved large items such as tents and sleeping bags.

Peeved by the amount of littering in the Welsh countryside, and the impacts on wildlife and livestock, he filmed a video of himself clearing up a nature reserve car park near his home in Llanfairfechan, Conwy. He’s now calling for a national social media awareness campaign and urged politicians to commit to anti-littering initiatives in July’s General Election.

“Littering around here is not as bad as it in Eryri (Snowdonia) around Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon),” he said. “But we still see a lot of it. Over the last eight to 10 weeks I’ve picked up so much of it on my land and nearby.

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“It’s all kinds – beer cans, wine bottles and crisp packets. Up at Llyn Anafon I came across a discarded tent – it had been abandoned as it was damaged – as well as discarded BBQs and a soggy sleeping bag.

"It’s not just unsightly, there’s a real risk to local wildlife. Animals, including our Carneddau ponies, will chew on these items and swallow small pieces, which can cause them to choke. All this could be avoided if people were a little bit more sensible with their rubbish.”

Over the past four years, RSPCA Cymru has recorded 614 incidents in Wales of animals being trapped, mutilated, injured and killed by carelessly discarded litter. Foxes, hedgehogs and deer are particularly vulnerable, along with birds such as swans, pigeons and gulls.

Clearing up the mess is left to cash-strapped local councils and, increasingly, community campaigns and volunteers: in late April, student members of Bangor University Mountaineering Society (BUMS) bagged 1,320 items of litter at Penmaen Head, Conwy. The haul included 92 crisp packets, 133 plastic carrier bags, 190 sweet wrappers and 23 poo bags (full). The North Wales Live Whatsapp community for top stories and breaking news is live now - here’s how to sign up

Without its ponies, the Carneddau would be a very different place. Only 220 breeding mares are left and litter is posing an ever-growing threat
Without its ponies, the Carneddau would be a very different place. Only 220 breeding mares are left and litter is posing an ever-growing threat -Credit:Daniel Diggory

Gareth, the UK’s most followed farmer on social media, with a background in TV work, said: “It looks like we could soon be having a new UK government. However I'd like to think that politicians from all parties can do more to promote the Countryside Code and curb things like littering and flytipping.

“In the 1980s, TV public information adverts featured a grumpy old farmer asking people to please shut the gate, keep dogs on leads and take their litter home. Since they ended, things have got worse, especially in recent years. Scarcely a week goes by without sheep being killed by dogs.

“It wouldn’t cost much to run a social media campaign featuring a few short videos. In truth, the majority of visitors respect the countryside and they are welcome, but we need to educate those who don’t.”

Gareth Wyn Jones at his farm in Llanfairfechan
Gareth Wyn Jones at his farm in Llanfairfechan -Credit:Mandy Jones

Expecting to receive large numbers of visitors to its woodlands and nature reserves this summer, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has been pushing the Countryside Code. In recent years it’s noted a rise in anti-social behaviour and environmental damage such as littering, fires and fly-camping. All have an impact on nature.

Wardens have been patrolling NRW sites over Bank Holiday weekends and this is due to continue over the peak summer period. You can find NRW’s countryside guidance here.

Gareth recently spent some time clearing up at Nant y Coed nature reserve, a wooded valley with stepping stones over a stream. Free parking is available and so too are the means of disposing of rubbish.

He said: “There are a couple of bins in the small car park right next to where people are dropping their litter. It’s absolutely ludicrous!” Sign up for the North Wales Live newsletter sent twice daily to your inbox

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