Fleece Jacket Fascists

This year saw a heated debate that most Welsh people would have been unaware was even taking place; not surprising seeing as it was about Marine Conservation Zones in the north west. Eventually, the protests of commercial fishermen and others saw the ‘Welsh’ Government do a U-turn. These Zones had been proposed with the support of the Countryside Council for Wales, now subsumed into Natural Resources Wales, and the Marine Conservation Society. The first of those bodies is run by the ‘Welsh’ Government, while the other seems to be yet another in the unending list of Englandandwales outfits. (Remember all that talk of devolution? Do you think it will ever happen?)

At the other end of the country we have seen a remarkably similar story, with very similar groups (one, the same) opposing the plan for a motor racing circuit in Ebbw Vale: first it was The Gwent Wildlife Trust, then the Open Spaces Society got in on the act before, finally, our old friends, Natural Resources Wales piped up. I made my position on the Ebbw Vale project clear in this recent post, and I shall repeat it here. If this project can deliver real jobs to the Heads of the Valleys for Welsh people, then we must support it, and ignore the objections. But earlier this week we were told that the ‘Welsh’ Government had put the project ‘on hold’. Seeing as the Assembly is in recess this decision was almost certainly taken by civil servants. Given the background of so many top civil servants in Wales we should not be surprised to see them support protests from what are, essentially, middle class English groups. Their people.

What I now realise from these and other sources is that we have a burgeoning sector of ‘Welsh’ life that is usually alien in its composition, and often hostile to Welsh interests in its policies and attitudes. The fleece jacketmembers of this sector, found all over Wales, can be recognised by their distinctive ‘uniform’ of the fleece jacket. They can be found patrolling our National Parks and nature reserves; we may know them as ‘rangers’ or ‘guides’; they may be working for the National Trust, the RSPB, Woodland Trust, countless wildlife and archaeological trusts, etc., etc. Unless the Welsh language comes into play – as with the Snowdonia National Park – then the practice in the fleece jacket industry is to not employ locals.

How do they get away with it? Simple. In today’s carefully nurtured political and social climate, in which wicked humanity is destroying the planet, a serial killer would be forgiven if he was ‘protecting dolphins’, and Hitler himself could come back and be rehabilitated if he was saving the habitat of some rare and exquisite orchid. More practically, the fleeces always have friends in high places. One was Jane Davidson, Minister for Environment and Sustainability from 2007 to 2011. Among the policies Davidson wanted to introduce was that of opening all Welsh rivers, lakes and waterways to her canoeist friends. It is of course entirely coincidental that Jane Davidson is English, and went to a private school; as is the fact that upon leaving politics she became Director of the Wales Institute of Sustainability and a spokesperson for the Ramblers Association.

Let me end by addressing something some of you may be thinking – that I’ve gone OTT with my description of these people and, consequently, the title of this post. Well, in my defence I would ask you to ponder this. We now have in Wales an army of fleece-jacketed, dictatorial outsiders who view ‘Wales’ through the prism of the group they represent – the English middle class visitor or settler. Too many of this group regard Welsh people as a blot on ‘their’ landscape, marring ‘their’ idyll. They’re in Wales, uninvited, telling us what we can and cannot do. Much of what they do (and wish to do) is inimical to our best interests, yet they do not have a single democratic vote to justify the power they possess and the influence they exert. So what would you call them?

And I haven’t even mentioned the funding. For very often the ‘Welsh’ Government – i.e. you and me – is funding these people to work against Welsh interests so that Wales can be saved for them and their friends. What a bloody system!

15 thoughts on “Fleece Jacket Fascists

  1. Brychan

    I had a rather nasty encounter with a National Trust Fascist in South Pembrokeshire. Me some friends decided to take a trip to the coast to chance our luck on getting the first mackerel catch of the season. We parked in a car park and paid the relevant daily parking fee at the national trust shack. After a glorious day angling off the rocks near Broadhaven, one of our number, Brendan (who’s Irish by the way) decided to pack up and make his way back to the van early to swap the beer cans out of the cooler box with a few of our catch. When I arrived back at the car park with the gear an altercation was taking place between my Irish friend and a National Trust warden. I intervened to find out what the problem was. It turned our that the proprietors of the car park like to get all vehicles out by sunset unless a patron of a nearby tea and scones cafe. We were not one on these. When I spoke Welsh to my girlfriend the warden told me to stop it, as he couldn’t understand what we were saying. Then he told my Irish friend ‘We don’t want your sort here’, which I assume to be an assumption he was a travelling variety. Brendan is in fact a steel fabricator, as was printed on the side of the van. Needless to say, we left, not wanting to cause any trouble. But I did get the impression that the Pembrokeshire National Park is some sort of imperial game reserve set aside specifically for the fleeced middle classes. I doubt if we’d had the same difficulty if our vehicle was a new Vauxhall Vectra and we’d been munching at the nearby purveyor of cream scones. On similar trips in Co Wexford, I have never been asked to stop speaking Welsh and we have never been subject to a ‘suitable vehicle type’ policy on coastal car parks. What’s the problem?

    1. Jac

      As I mention in the post, this is one of the real problems in this field. Unless they fear complaints from the ‘langauge lobby’ then the fleece jacket gangs will invariably employ English staff. Many of the staff – especially with the NT, RSPB, etc – recruited in England and transferred into Wales. A ploy that is unfortunately not confined to the fleece jacket gangs.

  2. D Morris

    Spot on Jac, I’ve spent most of my life in Pembrokeshire and walking the national coast path was a frequent past time of mine. During my many walks I often encountered a warden in a fleece, 90% of these were of the university educated middle England type. Nothing wrong with being educated but I took offence to incomers with posh English accents strutting around our national park giving advice and sometimes orders.

    However I’ve some good news, I do know they hire locals during the busy summer period, on a temporary basis of course. Any local thinking of a career in the National Park/Trust can forget it though, local grunts will only be hired to carry out menial tasks and will without doubt be sacked by September.

  3. Jac

    As I mentioned in the post, and now as a couple of comments have reminded us, this is a problem on two levels. First, that these groups have too much political influence; second that they don’t employ locals.

    If the second problem is due to simple racism, then it must be confronted. If it’s attributable to a lack of skills in the local population then, a) Why can’t these organisations train local people? b) Why isn’t the ‘Welsh’ Government providing the training courses?

  4. Karen

    As an English infiltrator working in the fleece fascist sector I’m bound to be torn to pieces here 🙂 But, have to say that I work with a lot of Welsh and Welsh-speaking colleagues. In fact, I’m fully aware that if I want to have a successful career in the long run, and I don’t get better at speaking Welsh, I’m going to be limited in the jobs I can do, and that’s fair enough. I moved here because Wales is such a beautiful country, and I haven’t yet met a Welsh person that’s told me I should go home, thankfully. I can understand the annoyance of local people who come up against the rudeness of people like that National Trust car park guy, but I think it’s wrong to say these organisations only employ posh English people.

    1. Jac

      This is not a language issue.

      Even if I accept what you say at face value it does nothing to change the fact that too much of my homeland is owned by alien organisations and maintained, largely, for the benefit of outsiders. I understand that Iolo Williams is now supporting some Scottish body (Muir something?) to buy up a bit of Wales. Why the hell can’t we have Welsh organisations, employing Welsh people, doing the work of the National Trust and all the other bodies?

      1. Anonymous

        Wow where do I start? Do I carry on trying to show how many people who work in the environment sector are Welsh? Probably not because I’ve admitted to being English and, therefore, a liar. Do I try to show how these organisations aren’t just managing Wales for the benefit of outsiders by citing the many Welsh people who are members of their local wildlife trust or similar charities because they love the Welsh countryside. No, because they’re probably all secretly English, or at least not Welsh. In the end, it’s better to give up and leave you to get on with gathering “evidence” that all the murderers in Wales are being dumped here from England. I’m sure you’ll find plenty.

        1. Jac

          I don’t know what you’re trying to say but I suppose playing the outraged innocent helps you avoid addressing my main point about the lack of indigenous Welsh organisations in the ‘fleece jacket’ sector. Though why you should try to link this with the dumping of undesirables in Wales is a mystery. I don’t believe I’ve ever made this linkage. That said, the dumping does happen, systematically and all over Wales. The cases I cite come not from my fevered imagination but from the media and the reporting of court proceeedings.

  5. Karen

    Ok, here are a few Welsh fleeces for you:

    http://www.afonyddcymru.org/
    http://www.friendsofcardiganbay.org/
    http://www.snowdonia-society.org.uk/
    http://cambrian-mountains.co.uk/
    http://llaisygoedwig.org.uk/
    http://www.wyeuskfoundation.org/

    And some green local community development companies such as http://www.thegreenvalleys.org/

    I’m sure not all of their staff are Welsh, but many are.

    CADW is also the Welsh version of National Trust and seems to have just as many historical sites (though perhaps not as many car parks) as them. OK CADW is not a charity, but it performs the same sort of function.

    Wildlife Trust Wales and the 6 Welsh Wildlife Trusts operate in Wales, hire Welsh people (as well as other nationalities) and have lots of local volunteers and members. They are affiliated to the UK-wide Wildlife Trust movement, but their activities in Wales are not dictacted by a UK Head Office, they are decided in Wales.

    Open Spaces Society is based in England, but it works in Wales through the medium of local volunteers who campaign to keep footpaths, common land and town and village greens open for all to enjoy. I doubt they do this just for the English.

    Do you have anything other than anecdotal evidence that only English middle class people enjoy having access to the countryside?

    I work for a Welsh network of environmental NGOs that do work nationally and locally in Wales. My boss and Chairman are Welsh. Our members include both Welsh and UK organisations. The big UK organisations do have a lot of clout because they have more money. But the Welsh branches of them have usually been started by Welsh people who are dedicated to the Welsh countryside and general environment of Wales – such as the late Morgan Parry, who started up WWF Cymru.

    So, there are Welsh organisations working for the benefit of the countryside, and there are Welsh people working for UK-wide environment organisations on Welsh projects and reserves. And you never know, there might actually be Welsh people who enjoy walking and water sports too 😉

    I’m neither an angler, nor a kayaker, so not going to get involved in the argument of who’s right or wrong here, but I have heard of areas where there have been workable agreements between the two groups, and you get exactly the same arguments over rivers in England as well.

    1. Jac

      I’m not denying that there may be small, Welsh groups operating but these, as you concede, are dominated by “The big UK organisations do have a lot of clout because they have more money.” Seeing as Scotland and Northern Ireland invariably have their own bodies we are here talking of Englandandwales outfits.

      On a point of accuracy, CADW is not the “Welsh version” of the National Trust. It is the local variant of English Heritage, and because it is staffed by English people and so reluctant to get involved in Welsh history – preferring English and Anglo-Norman sites – it is often referred to as ‘English Heritage (Wales)’.

      As for the real National Trust, it is unmistakably English. So I return to my earlier question, the one that you have consistently ignored: Why, after 15 years of devolution, do we not have separate and independent Welsh bodies doing the work of the National Trust, the Open Spaces Society, etc., etc? The prevailing system in Wales encourages me to talk of Fleece Jacket Fascists, and I shall doubtless return to the subject in the very near future. Can I quote you?

      P.S. Are you doing this in work? Is it part of your job?

      1. Anonymous

        This isn’t part of my job. My views are my own and I comment in my own time. Quote away.

        National Trust and RSPB are the biggest (and work in Scotland and Northern Ireland too). But they do employ Welsh staff and my opinion is that they have a lot of support in the local areas they work in.

        That’s not to say there shouldn’t be larger Welsh organisations and I never said there shouldn’t be. I stumbled across your blog and just wanted to point out that there are loads of Welsh people working in this sector.

        And now I’ll bow out gracefully.

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