Natural Resources Wales have announced plans to remove approximately 4,000 infected larch trees from Fforest Fawr.
Preparatory work will begin next month to prune and prepare the trees. Harvesting will begin in September 2018 and work is likely to continue through to 2021. Access will not be restricted during the initial preparation and harvesting will be carried out in two phases to keep areas of the forest open for people to use.
Phytophthora ramorum (larch tree disease) is a fungus-like pathogen that causes extensive damage and kills a wide range of trees and other plants.
Gareth Roberts, Local Area Manager from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said, “We know that Forest Fawr is well loved by the community and we want to reassure people that we will do everything we can to minimise any disruption from these works.
“Although it is some time off, we are already planning the harvesting in two phases, so we can always keep areas of the forest open for people to use, and so we can minimise the impact on protected species and the local wildlife.
“It is upsetting that we have to remove the trees, but we know the forest will still be a wonderful place for people to visit in the future.
“We will continue to work with local businesses and interest groups to keep them up to date as our plans progress, and during the harvesting work.”
Residents and politicians have raised issues. Anna McMorrin MP has launched a petition asking for the trees to be replaced. It states:
“There are currently no plans to replace the existing trees by replanting new, even if it has to be a different species.
“We understand that the Larch trees must come down, but without a suitable replanting programme the area will never be the same again.”
Anna said in a further statement received today, “The area around Castell Coch is home to a wide variety of fauna, flora and wildlife and is used and loved by the local community and an increasing number of visitors every year. This will also have a huge impact on local businesses, with some facing financial losses and disruption over many months. Efforts to restore and replant the forest should be made a priority.”
The petition currently has 678 supporters.
Community and County Councillor Linda Morgan is meeting the NRW Area Manager tomorrow and is hoping to arrange a public meeting in 2-3 weeks.
NRW explain at the end of their statement:
“After the harvesting has taken place, NRW will encourage native species such as beech, oak, birch, wild cherry, rowan and hazel in the forest to naturally regenerate. NRW will monitor the regeneration in the forest over the following years before considering if any replanting is required.”
If they don’t produce the required species or density of trees, NRW will look at restocking the site.
Some of the wooden sculptures have reached the end of their life and become rotten. These will be replaced early next year.
Update – 18 Aug, 10:00am: Link to petition amended and comment from Anna McMorrin added.