Blog: Cambrian Wildwood Volunteering

Posted on March 23, 2018 by

Cambrian Wildwood is a project run by the charity Wales Wild Land Foundation.

Set in the Cambrian Mountains in West Wales, the project will restore the native forest and other natural habitats to the area and reintroduce some of the missing native species.  The initial focus is on Bwlch Corog, a 350 acre (140 hectare) stretch of land, flanked by higher hills, both moorland Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).  The project will begin with planting around 8,000 native trees in two areas: these will provide a seed source for the natural colonisation of woodland across the site more generally and enable us to introduce native tree species that once grew here but are no longer present locally.  By blocking the drainage grips that criss-cross the site, the swathes of purple moor grass will revert to blanket bog in the wetter areas.  Combined with light grazing by horses, the drier areas will revert to heather moorland.  Pockets of native tree cover will develop naturally and improve the biodiversity of the landscape.

In this Blog Cambrian Wildwood’s Milly Jackdaw recounts the first Volunteer Day at the Bwlch Corog Site.


” It would have been all too easy to have remained in my warm bed. Surely no one else would be mad enough to head for the hills on such a chilly, wet and windy day? However, I could not deceive myself. There are plenty of folk, thank goodness who are mad enough to give up their time and personal comfort to give nature a helping hand and, well I’m one of them. There is, after all a dullness in too much comfort.”

 

There were nine of us in all, of varied backgrounds and experience but all with both a common interest in supporting wildlife and a love of the Welsh countryside rain or shine, the only way to love it. After greetings, briefings and kittings out with tools we ascended the track onto the Bwlch Corrog site. Our spirits were undampened as we walked in conscious silence, a line of troops ready for action, our mission, the removal of the now redundant internal fences. It was to be an unleashing of the wild land. Can we call it that after six years free from grazing? It felt good holding a pair of bolt cutters in my hand. So many times I had wished to liberate trees from barbed wire and staples. The rain drove on and the wind swirled the birch trees, small flocks of hardy tits dashed between hawthorn and oak and as we rose higher we were rewarded with a stunning view of the misty, timeless landscape stretching towards the sea.

Heading down the western slope we entered the area designated as ancient woodland, and began removing fences among the old oak trees on the steepest, muddiest, slippiest spot we could find! Not easy grappling with bolt croppers, hoisting folds of wire fencing and circlets of barb wire whilst navigating those muddy slopes and additionally I discovered my waterproof clothing was not really that waterproof and my wellies had a leak. However I can honestly say I felt invigorated and surprisingly happy. Yes truly happy to be actively engaged with doing something really positive for nature. I had a slight dilemma at one point when I found that a section of the fence I was dismantling had honeysuckle growing on it. Already in leaf and with the promise of nectar rich food for insects it seemed foolish to take away it’s support – the offending fence. After deliberating about whether to seek advice I decided instead to make an executive decision – that section of the fence would stay! Some man made structures can actually help create habitat for wildlife. We are symbiotic creatures.

By the time I headed back up towards the main path most of the team were already up there getting to grips with the fence that borders it all the way along to the old gate that leads to the larger proportion of land, an area rich in purple moor grass and a few bold rowan trees. The gatepost has a rowan tree growing right out of it, seemingly quite happy but restricted by wire. In the blink of an eye, gate gone, fencing gone and rowan tree free to expand and grow as it pleases. The rain had stopped but after taking time out for a convivial lunch my body temperate had dropped and though I’m sure the wind had friendly intentions I felt a definite resistance to it’s chilling effects. I told myself again, there is a dullness in too much comfort! We kept going.

Team work was paying off and the fences were coming down quickly now. I felt the land breathing, energy flowing. 

A very satisfying day, great piles of wire ready for collection for scrap, and the final reward – a sighting of a lesser spotted woodpecker. What could be better? I wondered if it was messaging with morse code ‘Diolch yn fawr’. I must admit though I really did appreciate the return to the dullness of comfort,which at the end of such a day was no longer dull but richly enjoyable.


Volunteer opportunities take place monthly – look at their Facebook page for details; https://www.facebook.com/cambrianwildwood/

To keep up to date with the Wildwood project: https://www.cambrianwildwood.org/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cambrianwildwood/

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