North West Wales

National Trust raises £1m to buy Snowdonia farm

The £1m needed to buy a Snowdonia farm which is home to the legend of the red dragon of Wales has been raised by the National Trust.

Twenty thousand people donated money to buy Llyndy Isaf farm, Nant Gwynant valley, near Beddgelert, Gwynedd.

Ioan Gruffudd, Mathew Rhys and Catherine Zeta Jones were among those who campaigned to buy the farm.

However, some believe too much emphasis is being placed on farm conservation, rather than food production.

The campaign to buy the 614-acre property, following the retirement of farmer Ken Owen after 35 years, was the trust's biggest countryside appeal since its drive to save Snowdon more than a decade ago.

The trust said Llyndy Isaf farm, which includes the Llyn Dinas lake, was an "an unspoilt gem" and home to threatened wildlife species like kingfishers, otters and birds like chough.

Plans are now being made to improve the farm's network of footpaths.

The hills around the farm are steeped in mythology, with legend telling of the battle between a white dragon and a red dragon which took place at the hill of Dinas Emrys that overlooks Llyn Dinas.

'Special places'

The red dragon won, becoming the national emblem of Wales, while the white dragon is said to have fallen into the lake.

Farmer Mr Owen said he was "very sorry" to be leaving the farm.

Image caption Legend has it the white dragon of the Saxons was chased into Llyn Dinas by the Celts' red dragon

He added: "It's getting harder every day, now the time is coming nearer, but I've made a decision so I've got to stick to it now I think and look ahead and see how it goes."

Actor Matthew Rhys, who supported the campaign, thanked donors, adding: "You raised £1m which now means it will be cared for forever by the National Trust, and secures that future generations shall also enjoy it free from the threat of commercial development."

The trust's Snowdonia manager, Rhys Evans, said: "We have been completely bowled over by the response from the public - it has been extraordinary how generous people have been.

"Despite these tough financial times they have really backed the appeal which really does show how much people care about protecting special places like Llyndy Isaf."

'Real threats'

Keeping the area as natural and pristine as possible was a key factor in deciding to buy the property, he said, adding: "The threats of commercial development are real threats.

"The fact that we're in a national park doesn't really say much, and you've just got to look at other national parks in Wales and England to see that commercial development is a real issue."

Many local farmers, however, believe too much emphasis is being placed on conservation, rather than producing food.

Huw Jones, who farms near Llanwnda, Gwynedd, said there was "no emphasis on food production" in recent years, and most schemes were focussed on "taking good land out and letting them go back to the old times".

He added: "The assembly itself hasn't got even a plan for food production, and to think that the population in the world's going up so much.

"They reckon they want 30-40% more food in the next 10 years."

The National Trust's Mr Evans said: "It's a balance between agriculture and conservation.

"We've got a good track record of working with our tenants and landowners to ensure that they get the best possible price and the best benefits from the land that they farm, and benefits of course to conservation also.

In 1998 Sir Anthony Hopkins helped raise £4m to buy the Hafod y Llan estate on the southern flank of Snowdon when he got involved in a similar appeal.

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