Could you…

We work in the woods.  Some of these woods have a lot of conifers.

So inevitably, around this time of year, talk moves to Christmas trees.  This year we have cut trees for Dyffryn Gardens to display in the house and to go on our stand at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair.  Dyffryn started with an order for quite a large tree, but once in the hall, despite looking very impressive, it wasn’t possible to get it to stand on its own.  So we trimmed it down to a mere 12 foot.

before after

On our track works, we have finally made it to the top of Pont-ar-Daf, there is a glimmer of light and we can hear you all chatting as you walk the Storey Arms path on the hill.  For now we just have the trees down and hope to get moving with the digger in the new year.  A quick borrow of a digger from the buildings team has also allowed us to clear some of the drainage on the Skirrid which should make a walk around the wood a bit more pleasant.

A couple of years ago we did some tree surgery works on one of the ash trees by Pont-ar-Daf car park.  This was to remove some of its canopy to reduce the chances of it being blown over after removing all the larch that had been sheltering it.  We have now done the same for the other tree with help from Jon at Usk Valley Training.  This tree was a little more delicate as it already had some tears and rot, but hopefully this will give the tree a few more years and save it from tearing itself apart in the wind.


Finally, we hand you over to Kate to introduce herself and share some of what she has been up to since she started volunteering with us in September.


I joined the woods team at the beginning of September as part of an apprenticeship scheme with Herefordshire and Ludlow College. The course allows me to gain experience in the field as well as studying at college once a week and gain certificates in particular tasks such as basic chainsaw use, working near power lines and machine use. A little background info, I actually studied at university to become a potter, which I did, running my own business for about 5 years but due to economic downturn I found myself climbing the ladder in retail. After realising it wasn’t for me I decided to change direction and follow my desire to work outdoors helping the environment and so here I am, starting without any prior knowledge but learning every day with some very patient teachers! Within the 3 months I’ve converted timber, processed firewood, built fences and planted trees with plenty more tasks lined up, or so I’ve been told. I’ve actually got my felling course next week which will allow me to start knocking over some trees and get really stuck in. I’m enjoying it immensely and the experience and knowledge I’m gaining is truly valuable for my future within this field.

So that’s it from the woods team,
Enjoy your Christmas.


Christmas comes to the woods

The woodland Christmas tree

A special tree tucked away in the woods.

Whilst working on one of our sites, looking for a tree for the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, we came across this ready decorated one in the depths of the wood.  It is rather past its best though and we didn’t think we’d be able to drag it out with its tinsel and decorations intact.  In the end, we found something a bit fresher for the Winter Fair.  The Winter Fair tree is also appearing at Hay School as each year we offer the tree to one of the local schools that we are involved with.

The slightly larger item in the news recently has been that of ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea).  Currently, the effects are mostly being seen in the south east of the UK and in new plantings.  The most up to date information can be found on the Forestry Commission website
For us here in Mid & SE Wales, we don’t currently have any confirmed cases and there are none in the area at the time of writing.  Heading into winter, having had a few hard frosts, the disease is now in a dormant state until spring.
We’ll be keeping an eye out for the signs of disease and you can too.  The Forestry Commission have a video guide and a pictorial guide to help identify infected trees.

The University of East Anglia have created the AshTag app for most smart phones to help you record suspected cases for verification and notification.  Available for Android and Apple phones.

November milling 2012

Round, square and firewood.

We’ve been out milling timber again.  This time the order was for material to renew the decking outside our base camp – familiar to any of you that have joined us on a working holiday  or rented the base camp for a weekend.

Dan-y-Gyrn deck

The woods team are helping out our newly acquired property Tredegar House  next month.  We’ll be heading down to help get them going on their tree surveys around the site.  Last week we met up with them to help out removing some tricky trees on their boundary with the neighbouring factory.

December will have us running all over the place, making sure customers get their deliveries and that buyers collect their timber before the Christmas close down.  Somewhere amongst all this, if we can find the time, we hope to surface some of the new tracks at Pont-ar-Daf that provide a safer link path between Storey Arms and Pont-ar-Daf as well as our access track to help us get in and manage the woods.

It is also thank-you and goodbye to Peter our woodland volunteer.  He has helped us plant, fence, spray, build, chop, fix, dig and most enjoyably, fell trees.  We wish him the best in his new work.  If this sounds like your thing, keep an eye out, we’ll start looking for a new woods volunteer in the New Year.

See you out there,
The Woods Team.

’tis the season for cutting

In our last update we told you about our thinning work at Pont-ar-Daf.  This work has now been scaled up after Phytophthora Ramorum was discovered to be affecting a tree on the roadside.  This disease primarily attacks Larch trees (the only deciduous conifer).  As a result, the Forestry Commission has given us notice to fell all our Larch trees along the road edge.  A block of Sitka Spruce will also have to be felled to avoid wind damage affecting the A470 or Storey Arms centre.
More information on the disease can be found at:
In the mean time, keep an eye out for harvesting works and follow the advice on signs in the Pont-ar-Daf car park to clean boots to help avoid spreading the disease to other woodlands.

We’ve spent a bit of time in the woods with the little old tractor and saw-bench.  Cutting a little firewood to restock our basecamp, but mostly cutting hedging stakes.  The stakes are used to pin and tie hedges as they are layed.  Most hedges are layed over winter so as to have the least effect on wildlife.

We have also found time to join Penmaes School as part of their Industry Experience day.  We spent the day with pupils building a gate that will eventually be installed along the Tarell Valley walk. Here’s the walk if you fancy it.
From it you can see a lot of the work we have done in the valley recently as part of our Better Woodlands for Wales scheme.  The Penmaes School gate along with another built by our Full-time Volunteers will be the last parts along with some fencing to complete the scheme next year.

Finally, getting into the festive spirit, we provided a Christmas Tree for the National Trust pavilion at The Royal Welsh Winter Fair, which has now made it’s way to Penmaes School as a thank-you for the gate making.  Hopefully we’ll get some pictures back of it decorated to put up here or on our facebook page.

For now, we wish you a Happy Christmas and New Year.
The woodland team.