Ponds & Woodlands
A Local Nature Reserve &
Community Green Flag Award Winner
BEAUFORT HILL WOODLANDS PROJECT.
As the Coed Cymru Officer for the S.E. East valleys, I have had the pleasure of working with Beaufort Hill Ponds & Woodland Preservation Society over the last few years and with several of their members prior to this period, since 1999.
COED CYMRU INITIATIVE
Aims - Coed Cymru promotes the use, protection and enhancement of broadleaved woodlands. Woodland Officers provide free help and advice to woodland owners and hardwood users. Officers are based in every County Council and National Park. Central Office is in Tregynon, near Newtown , Powys.
Advice aims to provide income from grants and timber sales; timber for use on the farm; shelter for livestock and game; habitats for plants and animals; recreation for local people and visitors; employment in rural communities.
Origins - Since the arrival of cheap imported hardwoods into Wales in the 19th Century, neglect and plunder have caused a decline in native broadleaved woodlands. Of the original post glacial forest area, only 3% still carries broadleaved trees. Studies in the late seventies and early eighties showed that 80% of that remnant showed no significant regeneration; it was literally dying on its feet.
In response to this crisis, Government agencies, Local Authorities, industry and the voluntary sector came together in 1985, under the name Coed Cymru, to promote a campaign of public awareness spearheaded by locally based project officers who would provide free help and advice to woodland owners, community groups and hardwood users. Their purpose was to re-establish the traditions of woodland husbandry and local timber use in Wales . The first was appointed in September 1986 and there are currently 17 employed throughout Wales.
Coed Cymru’s involvement at Beaufort Hill started in 1999 when initial native tree planting occurred on this former industrial land, immediately around the ponds to provide shelter and cover for breeding birds etc. The main native woodland planting which occurred in 2002, saw approximately 20,000 trees planted and fenced to protect them from grazing.
In 2004 the Beaufort Hill Ponds & Woodland Preservation Society formed as a result of local residents concerns over the potential loss of the ponds following the closure of Corus Steel. Due to their hard work and lobbying, the ponds were saved in conjunction with Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council. During this time Coed Cymru forged links with the group to pro-actively manage the site and as such the group set themselves as a company Limited by Guarantee and bid for Cyd Coed European funding through the Forestry Commission and Welsh Assembly funding through the former Welsh Development Agency.
Without going into too much detail, the key objectives of the scheme were to create access facilities for the local community and engage schools in activities on the site. Specialist contractors were appointed to undertake the main works using local materials. Two good examples of this are the Welsh oak bridge which was designed and constructed by the Gower Charcoal and Woodland Company using oak from a locally and sustainably managed woodland.
The second example is the metalwork artist ( Suraj Guha) who worked with local children to produce designs for the entrance gates and railings following their ‘bug hunt’ with the council’s ecologists. The artist took all of the children’s drawings and incorporated them into his forged steelwork artistry, producing some striking designs.
Another element to the scheme was appointing Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s LAMS team to undertake the path work and hedgerow planting etc. The LAMS team are a local training organisation for the landscape industry providing opportunities for local people to gain experience and certification in a working environment. The LAMS training scheme is viewed by many outside of the local authority as an exemplary scheme for training in real working environment and gaining certification that the industry recognises. The trainees and foreman of LAMS team should be proud of the work they delivered at Beaufort Hill, often in very poor weather conditions i.e. horizontal rain and snow !
The current phase of works on the site is coming to and end , however it is our intention to continue improving the site for the good of local people and wildlife though future management.
There is a downside to working with the Beaufort Hill Ponds & Woodland Preservation Society and that is their name, it's too long and I still haven’t found an easy acronym ( BHPWPS !! there are just to many consonants ) it takes forever when writing correspondence !
In March 2007, the local schoolchildren took part in a tree planting session. They planted the final 200 saplings to add to the several thousand that had been planted over the previous five years.
The photograph shows Vaughan Lewis instructing the children how to plant the saplings.Vaughan left Coed Cymru in August 2009 to become the Arboricultural Officer for Blaenau Gwent Council.
The project to develop the Woodlands was undertaken by Coed Cymru and managed by Vaughan Lewis,their Woodlands Officer for the South East Valleys of Wales.
The society was very impressed by the way Vaughan managed the project and has built up a very good working relationship with him over the last few years.
The article below the photo was submitted by Vaughan, and explains his role in the project.
This photograph was taken five
years later, in July 2012, and shows how the saplings have matured.
. . . . and 10 years later in 2017