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New opportunities for nature....

Occasionally our teams write a blog about the special places they look after. Here, Paul Williams, a land management officer in the Eryri uplands, talks about plans to restore an old wetland.

This autumn, I’ve been visiting several areas of forest that have been added to my portfolio of sites to manage in Gwynedd.

Some areas are commercial plantations where the priority is to grow trees for the timber industry. But others have become features in our landscape, and have lots of potential for giving a boost to biodiversity.

One of these is Cors Wen, near Trawsfynydd. 

Because of its location, near a river that supports rare freshwater pearl mussels, this 88-hectare site has been managed with this species in mind, and this is helping to save it from extinction.

Under a recently completed Pearls in Peril EU LIFE funded project, settling ponds were created throughout the clear-felled site and several of the drainage ditches have been blocked.

In time, it will be restored to a mosaic of wet woodland and bog habitats, benefiting other invertebrate, mammal, and bird species as well as the mussels.

There’s lots still to do.

Access through the site, to undertake maintenance tasks and habitat and species monitoring, is slow and difficult due to the very wet ground and ungrazed vegetation.

On an early November visit, with the sun low in the sky, dew sparkled on the yellowing leaves and arcing flower heads of purple moor grass, as far as the eye could see.

I watched a small flock of reed bunting chasing each other, the winter plumage of the males now similar to the females, having lost their distinctive summer black head feathers.

Amongst golden leaves of birch a family of long-tailed tits announced their arrival.

It’s never easy to negotiate an area of tall tussocks of moorgrass, but when accompanied by brambles, it makes for slow progress. Add to that the perils of hidden ditches, obscured by new vegetation, and the pleasure and enthusiasm of exploring a new site can fade a bit!

Despite having to rescue my wellington boots regularly from quaking ditches and failing to avoid the million sharp barbs of the brambles, I stand back and imagine the future of this potential new nature reserve.

Hopefully, after blocking more ditches and removing regenerating conifers, that future will mean the long-term formation of new peat – which will, in turn, capture carbon and retain and filter the high rainfall of upland Meirionnydd.

The wildlife highlights might include the haunting piping song of breeding curlews, otters hunting in ponds rich in dragonflies and damselflies, and rare large heath butterflies expanding onto the restored bog from neighbouring Cors Goch.

Watch this space!

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