As Wales’s largest and most complex tree felling operation draws to a close, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has submitted plans to secure the redevelopment of Cwmcarn Forest.
As part of its planning application to Caerphilly and Torfaen County Borough Councils, NRW has asked for approval to redevelop eight recreational sites along the Forest Drive.
It would like to create a number of all-ability trails opening up access to the forest for all, with many picnic and barbeque areas along the route.
Secluded seating areas are incorporated for those looking for quiet moments of contemplation, and a wooden cabin with panoramic views providing opportunities for outdoor learning and health and wellbeing activities.
For younger visitors, three play areas are planned which will incorporate accessible play furniture and paths, as well as woodland sculptures and sensory tunnels.
Information signs will explain all about the forest’s history, heritage and its wildlife, allowing people to learn more about the forest they love.
The plans have been developed with input from the community and regular visitors, who put forward suggestions for what they would like to see in the forest at drop in sessions over the summer.
The milestone comes as NRW makes final preparations to reopen the Forest Drive next year, after being closed to the public since 2014 while 150,000 diseased larch trees were removed from the site.
Last month, the final larch trees were felled at the site. And following work to reinstate mountain bike trails, the Cafall trail was reopened meaning that all trails were open for riders.
In the New Year, work will also begin to resurface the drive, which has been damaged by timber haulage trucks removing the trees from the site.
Geminie Drinkwater, Project Manager from Natural Resources Wales said:
“Thank you to everyone for their patience and understanding while we’ve undertaken this difficult and complex operation to remove such a large number of diseased trees from a much-loved and popular forest.
“The reopening of the Forest Drive has been long awaited, and we’re really excited to be making preparations for it’s reopening, and improving the site so it can continue to be loved by locals and visitors for years to come.
“We hope the forest will offer something for everyone – exhilarating mountain bike trails, quiet areas for mindfulness and wellbeing, and educational trails where little explorers can learn more about the forest and its creatures.”
Around half of the trees to be restocked have already been planted – an area approximately the size of 100 rugby pitches - but unfortunately many of these were damaged in the fires in summer 2018. Efforts to replant again in these areas, as well as more recently felled areas continues.
NRW is planting a mixture of young conifer and native broadleaves. This should make the forest more resilient to pests and disease in the future.
“Larch disease has had a dramatic impact on our forestry across Wales, and nowhere is that more prominent than Cwmcarn.
“It’s been so sad to see the larch go, but despite this we’re confident that we can once again make Cwmcarn a fantastic destination for visitors and an important contributor to the local economy.”