The Map Captures Cultural Identity, Historic Environment and Richly Diverse Landscapes for Which Wales Is Renowned; Commissioning Body Says Chosen Areas Best Define Welsh Term 'Bro'

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Byline: Steffan Rhys

IT HAS been divided into eight counties and 22 local authorities, but now Wales has been subdivided even further - by a new map which splits the country into 48 "landscape characters".

Based on notable characteristics - like a mountain range or major urban area - the map's creators say it aims to capture each area's distinctive sense of place, thereby better defining it.

So in place of what was known pre-1996 as Dyfed or post-1996 as Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, the south west of Wales is made up of around 15 new landscape characters.

These include the Towy Valley; the Pembroke and Carmarthen foothills; Milford Haven; the South Pembrokeshire Coast; and the Ceredigion Coast.

Conversely, a region termed the South Wales Valleys stretches from the Gwent to the Swansea Valleys, an area which currently spreads across several different local authorities.

The Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) - who commissioned the map from Land Use Consultants - said it enabled each place to be recognised as a single area and in some cases, such as the tiny Aberdyfi Coast, an extremely well defined space.

But the CCW said the map "goes much further than just compiling information on geology, landform and biodiversity", adding that it defines the Welsh term "bro" - best translated as "district" or "area".

They said the map draws on a wide range of sources to underpin people's more subjective feelings about their area and it is hoped it could be used in future for planning and policy guidance.

Work is now underway to describe each character area, explaining what makes it distinctive and recognisable from the next one. It should be complete by the spring. John Briggs, CCW landscape architect, said the map was aimed at better categorising the Welsh landscape to help inform the Welsh Assembly Government's Developing Wales Spatial Plan.

It would also enable a better "broad-brush understanding" of Wales, he said.

"When we refer to the Gower, Snowdonia or the South Wales Valleys, a lot of people will have an idea of where you are talking about but if you referred toamore obscure, upland area, people might not know," said Mr Briggs.

Yesterday, the author of a new book which highlights huge architectural and linguistic differences within Pembrokeshire said the map could be a valuable tool.

"It is always hard to try and do something like this," said Rob Scourfield, a building conservation officer with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and author of Below the Landsker. He was not involved in the development of the map.

"There is a link between culture and topography, especially in Pembrokeshire.

"I suppose that link ranges from the manmade environment of the south with its castles, lodges and medieval churches to the smaller parishes of the north, which in some ways weren't as civilised until the later 18th century.

"You have distinctly varied parts of Pembrokeshire. Even in the south you've got areas of topography that differ dramatically, from the Cleddau estuary with its mudflats and drowned river valleys to the exposed Angle and Castlemartin peninsula and its large fields. It is this local distinctiveness that I think all local planning authorities struggle with a bit when they look at new design. …