Imagine a reserve:
- of over 2000ha that is criss-crossed by miles of footpaths and bridleways and where you see no traffic,
- where the hills rise to 547m and from the highest point you can see Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons,
- where only the wind and birdsong disturb your thoughts,
- which is home to many heathland species together with prehistoric ferns and ancient aquatic invertebrates,
- that is the source of two rivers with Sites of Special Scientific (SSSI) status, namely the Lugg and the Teme,
- with over 400 archaeological sites, the oldest dating back to to around 450 AD (Bronze Age),
- shaped over the centuries by man's attempts to make a living from the land.
This is Beacon Hill
Photo by Sue Buckingham
A Place of Change
The open landscape and heathland habitat on the Beacon has been created by man's activities over many centuries. So it was not always the wild open upland we see today.
After the last Ice Age much of Britain was covered in forest, the original "wild wood". It was only from the Stone Age that people began to clear the land for crops and grazing. The early ploughs were not suitable for working heavy wet soils in the river valleys, so people settled on the uplands where soil s were easier to plough and the scattered trees were easier to clear.
The population in the uplands varied over time and occupation increased during periods when the climate was warmer than it is now. These early farmers and settlers depleted the soils of nutrients, so the cleared land became less fertile creating a habitat where heathland plants were able to survive. The grazing of cattle, ponies and sheep helped keep the heather and bilberry short and prevented trees from recolonising the land.
Records show that by around 10,000BC, it had become part of a manorial estate known as the Manor of Golon. William II then gave the land to Ralph Mortimer, Earl of Wigmore. Later in Victorian times, the Beacon was held in high regard as a grouse moor and the owners of the hill held regular and successful grouse shoots.