What’s occuring?

First up, we are bringing some new changes to the blog this year.  There will be articles from more members of the team here in Brecon about the work we are involved in as well as more regular updates on our Facebook page.  You’ll be hearing from the access, estates and nature conservation teams, but first of all, we’ll kick off with the woods team and what’s going on at Pont-ar-Daf.

Somewhere near the start of work.

Somewhere near the start of work.

I think it’s fair to say, there has been quite a change in the woods at Pont-ar-Daf.  Most notably this kicked off at the start of 2012 when works began to remove trees that fell under a plant health notice to control the spread of Phytophthora ramorum disease in the Larch trees that made up most of the road edge of the woodland.  At the same time, we were just starting a project to bring a bit of management and life back into this neglected conifer plantation.

That's the larch gone.

That’s the larch gone.

After making some alterations to our plans to account for the mass felling of the larch, we moved onto the task of creating an access track to get us into the woods so that we can start managing it by being able to get around.  The winter after the felling we planted the felled area with a mix of upland broadleaved species, minus ash with the outbreak of another tree disease, chalara. 

Tree planting with some of the NTGower volunteers.

Tree planting with some of the NTGower volunteers.

The new planting seemed to attract the hill sheep that made it through the fence to the road, this prompted us to fence the woodland to protect all the new trees which were like sweets to the sheep.  So the fence is just to keep the sheep out, you are welcome to use the gates to have a look around, just keep an eye out in case we are working and you need to keep your distance.

Fencing the woods in or out?

Fencing the woods in or out?

This year will see us focus our efforts on clearing the block of Sitka spruce near the Pont-ar-Daf gate to the hill.  This block has reached maturity and is ripe to harvest.  The intention for these trees has always been as a commercial crop and now we are just fulfilling the cycle so that the next one can begin. With that out the way, we hope to put the finishing touches to our access tracks that will help with the long-term management of the woods.

So what is the vision beyond?  Well, it will remain a woodland and we’re certainly not going to be felling it all in one go.  Some areas will be thinned to allow the remaining trees to mature into good timber trees, small parcels will be cut to allow new areas to be planted up so that we can move towards a continuous cover method of woodland management that is more favourable to wildlife and the landscape view.   After all that work, the woodland will be left for some rest and recuperation, to adapt to its new spaces, for the new trees to get away and to let everything settle down.

The woods team.

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It’s all about Pont-ar-Daf, mostly

Pont-ar-Daf remains our big focus.  As I write this we have a contractor just starting to take his harvesting machine in to tackle the larger northern section.  We do like a nice big machine, so it would be rude not to post a picture.

Harvester gets going

Harvester gets going.

Please take note of any warning signs around Pont-ar-Daf whilst the work is going on, the machines and trees are a lot bigger than you.  This work should all be finished by the end of February.

Timber harvested is making its way into fencing products, gates, sawn timber for construction, pallets and bio-fuel for power stations.

We also have some logs that we have kept for ourselves.  We will be milling these at the end of February.  This will help keep our Access and Estate teams in timber for gates, boardwalks, fencing and construction projects.  Certainly helps keep our product miles down, for some items it’ll just be a handful of miles.  In fact, the finished product may only be 100m from where it grew.

We’ve managed to get away from Pont-ar-Daf a few times too.  We’ve been planting trees in what we call the ‘plantaion’ in the Upper Tarell Valley.  We planted this block last year, but we had quite a few trees die, due to the dry spring.  We were back planting or ‘beating up’ the gaps with two of our full time volunteers, Jonny and Simon.

Before the snow we had a lot of wet weather, this caused one of the banks to slip on the Tarell river.  Several large trees came down with it, so we have been clearing them out of the river before they cause a blockage.

Timber winched out

Tree spaghetti all untangled and out of the river.

February will see our concentration kept on Pont-ar-Daf, but should also see the rides cut on the Skirrid to maintain access and a variety of habitats for woodland wildlife, especially the butterflies.  The woods team will also be joining Simon and Jonny who have been helping out with our veteran tree survey, to help them categorise some tricky trees at Clytha.

Back to the woods now,
Woods team.

Hopefully this one will stay up…

Pont ar Daf Ash tree reduction

Pont ar Daf ash tree after canopy reduction.

We’ve done some reduction work on the ash tree at Pont-ar-Daf today.

With all the larch removed as part of the phytophthora ramorum control, it was looking a bit exposed to the wind.

Reducing the crown size will hopefully make it a bit less sail like and prevent it from being blown over.

In the spring it will hopefully send out lots of new growth, to form a new, tighter, canopy.

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:
http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-85TDX6
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.
Image

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.