Upland forestry is a new venture for the Trust, and where better to start than Cwm Mynach (Monks Valley) – a recent Woodland Trust acquisition in the Snowdonia National Park. This beautiful Welsh valley runs down to the Mawddach estuary, located between the towns of Dolgellau and Barmouth. From it you can view the majestic Cadair Idris mountain and the peaks of the Rhinogydd. It’s a stunning site.
Cwm Mynach is made up of a mixture of wooded areas (ancient woodland and conifer plantation), heathland and wetter peat sites. Our PAWS (Planted Ancient Woodland Sites) team visited to assess the site for repair last week, and returned very excited about its potential; the site is both large and diverse enough to be a testing ground for a variety of restoration and management techniques and approaches, such as potentially useful new manual extraction machines.
There are sections where PAWS-style restoration can be carried out, removing conifers to allow broadleaf remnants to flourish and proliferate. Large areas of non-native lodgepole pine are dying off and may be left to naturally thin out, creating canopy gaps for other species. Elsewhere, trees will be removed from peat soils to prevent the soils drying out and return them to their natural boggy state so keeping their carbon locked away.
The special habitat and conservation potential of PAWS is frequently misunderstood. This was made especially clear by Westminster in the consultation document ‘Future of the Public Forest Estate in England’ in which PAWS – despite being ancient woods – were assigned ‘commercially valuable’ (rather than ‘heritage’) status and were included as part of leasehold proposals for commercial forests.
The plans this consultation was based on may have since been abandoned, but PAWS sites on the public estate in England were being sold right up to December 2010, when sales were postponed pending a review of the Government’s sales criteria. State-owned PAWS woods can, and are still likely to, be sold in the future.
The Trust continues to call for the timely restoration of planted ancient woodland sites on the public estate, in order to protect ancient remnants and maximise the conservation potential of these unique sites… before it’s too late. You can sign the petition here.
Kay Haw, Assistant Conservation Adviser