Launching a new grassroots association for Wales
So how did Llais y Goedwig get started? In many respects it was an idea waiting to happen – with several conversations about community woodland groups coming together to form a grassroots association in Wales.
Much of this conversation had been mobilised by Cydcoed, a £18m Community Woodland Programme (WAG and Objective 1 funded) that ran from 2001 – 2008. Run by a semi-autonomous unit within Forestry Commission Wales, derived from TirCoed. Cydcoed was a major catalyst for community woodland groups forming and being able to get funds, and it was the legacy of Cydcoed that provided much of the initial momentum to set up a Community Woodland network in Wales.
Finally in March 2008, at a community woodland networking event organized by Coed Lleol in Machynlleth , 18 woodland groups voted to form a new grassroots association to support and represent community woodland groups in Wales.
A working group of community woodland group representatives was formed, and in November 2008, Llais y Goedwig (Voice of the Woodlands) was inaugurated as an unincorporated voluntary association.
By February 2009, a 5 member Llais y Goedwig Board of Directors was in place and the membership stood at 21 groups.
Llais y Goedwig was formally launched at the Senedd in Cardiff with the enthusiastic support of Elin Jones AM, Minister for Rural Affairs and later at Llanwrst in North Wales.
The first Llais y Goedwig AGM and Conference was held in Lampeter in November 2009 when the Constitution was agreed. We were grateful to have secretariat support to the new organisation from Coed Lleol up until September 2010. We also received support from Environment Wales.
At a later date, Llais y Goedwig took on the legal status of a Company Limited by Guarantee with a set of Articles of Association as its governing documents.
Support from the Welsh Government
In July 2010, Llais y Goedwig began to receive funding from Forestry Commission Wales as part of a 3 year partnership agreement to support delivery of the Welsh Government’s Woodlands for You Action Plan. This funding boosted Llais y Goedwig’s organisational development – enabling us to engage a staff member, establish a website, run networking events, finalise the governance arrangements and begin developing resources for members.
An established part of the forestry sector in Wales
From that modest beginning in 2008, Llais y Goedwig has gone from strength to strength, with over 200 members now part of the network – including 50 community woodland groups.
Since 2008, Llais y Goedwig has represented the interests of community woodland groups in policy debates in Wales (including during the establishment of Natural Resource Wales) and published a Manifesto for the forests of Wales. Llais y Goedwig is also undertaking research into critical areas of forestry in Wales – including studies of woodfuel supply and the potential for non wood forest products to support social enterprises.
Through local and national networking events, Llais y Goedwig has helped bring community woodland groups together to share their experience – the Llais y Goedwig Gathering is now an annual event, each year moving to a different part of Wales.
Since 2008 new publications and resources for community woodland have been developed – including a set of fantastic case studies written by community groups. Practical advice has been given to many groups through the Llais y Goedwig enquiry service.
Llais y Goedwig is looking forward to exciting new partnerships in the years ahead and to securing the resources to better encourage and support community woodlands in Wales.
 At the Centre for Alternative Technology, with the support of the Woodland Trust Community Woodland Network