Stop looking and let your senses take over

Bluebells 009a

Coed-y-Bwnydd bluebells

Whilst we have been busy encouraging you to go and see the bluebells at sites such as Coed-y-Bwnydd (Woodlands at Coed-y-Bwnydd article) and on the Skirrid (article on the Skirrid) with a good dose of images, what these don’t share with you is all the other senses you can only experience by getting out there.

This struck me recently after a recent walk around Coed-y-Bwnydd after installing a new information board by the main gate – more here on our Facebook page.  Walking around to see the progress of the bluebells; experiencing the cool and the warmth as I caught the sun’s heat that was waking the bluebells in between the dappled shade of the emergent leafs on the trees.  More so was the smell of the bluebells, growing stronger as the clusters of flowers got denser.

The smell of different trees is something I have been aware of for quite a while as a forester whilst we are felling or again as we process the timber into sawn wood or firewood.  A selection of smells, some trees are fruity like citrus or a watermelon, others are more plain like school dinner mashed potato and oak just smells like oak and nothing else.  The flowers and blossom that are now present on the trees are also intense and sweet, particularly hawthorn and burr cherry and especially gorse on a hot day.

Not all smells are so welcome, silage is a divisive one (that I like) and some go out of their way to smell bad, like this Stink Horn fungus.

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You can’t see how bad it smells, but you can see how popular it is with the flies

As you walk around, the sound of the birds builds and builds.  The distinctive call of the cuckoo is one that people listen out for.  At the start of the month we heard their return to the Upper Tarell Valley from where we are based and heard through Twitter of their return to the Sugar Loaf at the end of April (how odd does that phrase sound?).

There are a few tastes out there too for the forager right now, but the real bounty comes at the end of the summer as everything comes into fruit.

Stop looking at pictures and start being part of the scenery, close your eyes and see what you discover.

Tim – Woodland Ranger

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Always more to be done

We manage a lot of our woodlands with assistance from grant schemes. As a charity this helps fund work that wouldn’t pay for itself and helps us manage our woodlands for the best of flora, fauna and sustainability.
You have probably seen a lot on these pages and our facebook page about our work at Pont-ar-Daf – helped by the Better Woodlands for Wales (BWW) scheme. We are about halfway through this management plan now and have the bulk of the major work done.

New plan up on the office wall to remind us what we have to do.

New plan up on the office wall to remind us what we have to do.

So to make sure we get no rest, we have just started work at Coed-y-Bwnydd with help from the Glastir Woodland scheme.
Coed-y-Bwnydd sits on a hill top above Clytha Estate, to the south-east. Possibly best known for its display of bluebells in Spring under a high canopy of trees, it is also an ancient hill fort with its large earth ramparts still visible and with a steep bank of trees below it with evidence of charcoal burning in more recent times.

Are we felling all the trees? Will we lose the bluebells? Are we stoning big tracks through the middle? NO. The aims are to preserve the sites features and character. On the top we will be working to push back the gradual creep of bramble and bracken on the ramparts and over the hill fort. This will help reveal the ramparts to show the sites previous life as a hill fort, as well as allowing more light to the woodland floor for a greater variety of plants to come through and support a wider selection of life, not to mention that it will make it a lot easier for you to get around.

Don't worry, it's only harmful if you are bracken.  Crushing it makes spraying easier and improves the chances of reducing it.

Don’t worry, it’s only harmful if you are bracken. Crushing it makes spraying easier and improves the chances of reducing it.

Already we have started by crushing and spraying bracken to hinder its re-growth on the ramparts near the north entrance.

To my right, waiting to be done...

To my right, waiting to be done…

As well as cutting the growth on the top, we have also been using a smaller tractor and strimmers to cut back where we can on the ramparts. Where it gets steeper, we will probably have to do this with volunteer groups as the many hands will make light work.

To my left, just been done.

To my left, just been done.

Down on the wooded bank we will be thinning the woodland edge to allow more light into the woodland and create a varied age structure that will benefit the wildlife on this steep undisturbed bank. At the same time we will be replacing the fence with the neighbouring farm to help keep the livestock where it should be after a few incidences of cows wandering the woods and hill-fort – apparently its not the easiest place to chase them out of.

So there we are, Coed-y-Bwnydd will be getting a little bit of care over the next few years to reveal its features. All this work will improve access around the site, so come visit and explore. We’re hoping for more flowers, insects and butterflies and better views across the site.

Tim – Woodland Ranger

Discover wild woodlands and beautiful bluebells with the National Trust

Bluebells, bird song and one of the best preserved hill forts in Wales are just some of the delights on offer during a National Trust guided walk on Saturday 11th May at Clytha, near Abergavenny.

Man walking at Blakes Wood, Essex, in spring.

Coed-y-Bwnydd in Bloom will be led by an experienced ranger, taking in the Coed-y-Bwnydd hill fort cared for by the National Trust, where dappled shade provides the perfect conditions for a wonderful array of woodland plants and flowers.

This moderate ramble of 8.5 miles will also take in Grade One-listed Clytha Castle – one of the outstanding 18th century follies of Wales.

The walk will start at 10am from the riverside car park near Clytha House, off the Old Raglan Road at the Bettws Newydd junction. Please bring suitable clothing, food and drink.

BOOKING ESSENTIAL
Adult £5, book online or call 0844 249 1895
For more information, visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sugarloaf-and-usk-valley/

Warden, not weather forecaster

Snow, ice and freezing winds, best describes end of winter leading into spring and here I was saying in my February blog, pity the snow has gone as it saves wear and tear on the paths. Got that wrong, looking at the photo of walkers avoiding the snow and wearing away the sides of the path means more repairs to do. The snow arrived just in time for the Easter break and we had over 10,000 walkers, up on the Pont-ar-Daf footpath.

Walkers avoiding the snow and wearing away the sides on the Pont ar daf a

Walkers avoiding the snow and wearing away the sides on the Pont-ar-Daf path.

Since the last blog we did mange to get just over a weeks work on the Pont-ar-Daf path drainage, and I was rather hoping for weather like last years March with its clear skies, sunny days and warm temperatures.

bath uni digging ditches

Bath Uni’ volunteers maintaing ditches on the Skirrid path.

We were able to get down to the Skirrid for a few days and dig some drainage ditches with the help from Bath university pro experience students, and we managed to get some boardwalk put down in the boggy ground above the wall.  We’ve also been back again to continue some of our surfacing works.

Out of the mud, boardwalk building.

We have a new Seasonal Access Ranger that joined us at the beginning of April, her name is Philippa and she will be looking after the Central Brecon Beacons footpath network.  Say hello if you Philippa on the hill, digging ditches and laying stones.
At the same time, we say good bye and thank-you to full-time volunteer Laurence.  Keep an eye out for a chance to join the access team soon.

Laurence and Philippa, making sure Coed-y-Bwnydd is ready for the bluebells.

Our meet and greet wardens will be getting out more in May as the weather improves.  You’ll find them near the Pont-ar-Daf gate to the hill, with information on the best walks, the weather and some local knowledge.  They are also looking for more people to join them, so let us know if you want to share your enthusiasm for the Brecon Beacons.  E-mail robert.reith@nationaltrust.org.uk with the subject ‘Meet and Greet’.

Hoping to be on the hill in May,
The access team.