A Letter-Writing Campaign

The Welsh county of Carmarthenshire is home to about 180,000 people spread across about 2,400 km^2. At a population density of about 75 people per km^2 (or about 195 per square mile), it is a relatively sparsely populated region, and therefore, a good candidate for wind farms. (Well, that and the meaningful amount of wind in the area.) And that’s probably why there’s a planned wind farm in the county. But wind farms are typically unpopular among those who live nearby, even if the number of such people is low. There are often a lot of objections by locals around such projects in general and Carmarthenshire is no different, as residents start petitions. (Here’s the Welsh one. As of this writing, it has fewer than 1,000 signatures.) The petitions complain about blight, safety, ecological issues, and the like, and are rarely successful.

But a few years ago, one village in Carmarthenshire managed to stop a previous wind farm from coming. They didn’t use a traditional petition, though.

The village is Llanfynydd, a tiny community whose school, for example, only has a dozen or so students. (Here are a couple of pictures of the kids.) Llanfynydd dates back to the Bronze Age and the village’s official website notes that “the area holds an assortment of archaeological remains providing evidence of early prehistoric activity.” But for those in the energy business, another part of the Llanfynydd website explains why this tiny town has earned their interest: “the landscape is characterized by steep-sided valleys topped by rugged windswept uplands” — emphasis on the word “windswept.” In 2004, a Spanish-owned wind power company proposed building a wind farm in Llanfynddd.

So the locals started writing letters. Not the type you mail, though. The ones that make up words and names. In this case, they started adding letters to the name Llanfynydd, turning the 10-letter name into the 66-letter word Llanhyfryddawellehynafolybarcudprindanfygythiadtrienusyllafnauole. (Don’t ask how to pronounce it.)

Llanhyfryddawellehynafolybarcudprindanfygythiadtrienusyllafnauole, according to the BBC, means “a quiet beautiful village, an historic place with rare kite [that’s a kind of bird] under threat from wretched blades.” That’s the crux of the village formerly known as Llanfynydd’s argument: a wind farm in the area would put at risk three species of purportedly endangered birds which are common to the area. (The three birds, as it turns out, are all listed as “not threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which is widely considered the authority on such things. But why let an inconvenient detail get in the way of an otherwise incredible PR campaign?) The meaning of the name wasn’t really all that important though — what mattered was the length. The 66-lettered name passed the Welsh town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (pronounced Llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-queern-drob-ooll-llandus-ilio-gogo-goch, as evidenced by the sign at their railway station) for the longest named municipality in Europe. That caught the attention of the public outside of Llanfynydd and, for that matter, outside of Carmarthenshire and Wales as well.

And it probably worked. The developers who were hoping to build the wind farm instead claimed (perhaps honestly) that the Llanfynydd campaign was going to be a feasibility study, not a full build-out. Llanfynydd changed its name back to Llanfynydd a week after elongating it, with at least some semblance of victory in hand.

Bonus Fact: There’s a hill in New Zealand with a Maori name which is 85 letters long, making it the place with longest name planet-wide. The name is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu, and Wikipedia offers the following translation: “The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the climber of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one.” (This is a picture of a man playing a nose flute, in case you were wondering.)

From the ArchivesTiny Houses: Something not that big in Wales.

Related: “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope,” by William Kamkwamba. It’s a best-selling true story about a boy from Malawi who helped bring electricity to his neighbors.