Information on Sirhowy forest work

Find out more about why we have to fell larch trees from the Sirhowy valley

Coronavirus update


We're continuing with our harvesting operations to assist the supply of wood products. Helping to sustain essential services in the health, food and energy sectors.


All of our forestry sites are subject to strict checks to ensure that we are operating within current Government guidelines on coronavirus and social distancing measures.


We remain in close contact with Public Health Wales and will be reviewing our procedures daily in order to keep our staff, contractors, customers and partners safe.

 

Find out more in our response to the coronavirus pandemic

Updated 2 February 2021

Removal of larch trees

In April last year, work began to remove approximately 70 hectares of diseased larch trees from the Sirhowy Valley which were infected with phytopthera Ramorum, more commonly known as larch disease.

The operation has now been completed and work is underway to reinstate footpaths.

We’d like to thank the local community for their patience while we’ve undertaken this important work.

Larch disease

Larch disease, or Phytophthora ramorum, is a fungus-like disease which can cause extensive damage and mortality to a wide range of trees and other plants. Larch disease spreads through airborne spores from tree to tree. It poses no threat to human or animal health. 

Whilst we cannot stop the spread of larch disease, we can take action to slow it down.

In 2013, surveys identified that larch disease was spreading rapidly across forestry in Wales, sparking a nationwide strategy to remove diseased trees to stop it spreading further.

The disease has infected approximately 6.7 million larch trees across the whole of Wales and has had a dramatic impact on our forestry. 

We are legally required to remove infected larch trees under the Statutory Plant Health Notice - Movement (SPHNm) which is issued by Welsh Government. 

Forest access

When the work began last year, unfortunately we had to close off public access to the forestry.

We do not like to close off access to our forests, which are enjoyed by many, but this is the safest way to allow the work to be undertaken quickly and safely.

Much of the forest is now reopen to visitors, but small scale closures and diversions will remain in place while the reinstatement work takes place, and while restocking gets underway.

Please continue to adhere to safety and diversion signs within the forestry.

Proceeds from selling the timber

Even timber from diseased larch can still be processed and used. After processing it can be used for a number of wood products including building materials, pallets, fencing and wood fuel pellets.

All income from timber sales goes towards the operating costs that we incur through managing the Welsh Government woodland estate. Our costs exceed the revenue generated by timber sales so we also receive additional financial support from Welsh Government. This enables us to continue to provide many free facilities throughout Wales for the benefit of local communities and visitors.

Nesting birds

Before work began we worked closely with a bird surveyor to thoroughly survey the site for any nesting birds. Any nests that were found had an exclusion zone put around them and the teams worked around the area until the birds had finished breeding and vacated the nest.

Retaining native broadleaf trees

While we always try to retain as much broadleaf as possible while carrying out harvesting operations, sometimes trees can lose stability after the larch has been removed and become dangerous.

After the larch was removed, our safety inspections found some roadside broadleaf trees which had become unstable and were at risk of falling. Unfortunately these had to be removed for public safety reasons.

Replanting

Draft restocking map

We will be replanting over the next three planting seasons, which take place between November and April. The reason we plant in the winter is because we need the trees to become dormant before the nursery can lift and transport the trees for us to plant in our woodlands.

The Sirhowy valley is a Planted Ancient Woodland Site (PAWS) and we will be replanting it with native broadleaves which are more resilient and help secure the site for the future. You can read more about our restocking work in our news section.

Planted Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) are sites which are believed to have been continuously wooded for over 400 years and currently have a canopy cover of more than 50 percent non-native conifer tree species. From 2011 5,000ha of Ancient Woodland has been identified on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate that we manage.

Feedback

We welcome feedback from site users so that we can minimise inconvenience and improve our operations.

If you have any questions you feel are not answered here or would like to give us feedback on our communications, contact us:

General Enquiries: enquiries@naturalresourceswales.gov.uk

Telephone: 0300 065 3000 (Mon-Fri, 9am - 5pm) Minicom service: 03702 422 549**