LlyG member blog – Kites, bramble bashing and cowboy rock – the community stewardship of Kilvey Hill

Posted on September 2, 2015 by

Kilvey Volunteers was set up in the 1990’s by local people who all loved the woodlands on Kilvey Hill, South Wales, and wanted to look after it for the future. Here Marian Francis, on of the groups volunteers, gives a snapshot into the life of this vibrant group, and their work to engage to local community in their local woods.

Where is Kilvey Hill?

Kilvey Hill (Mynydd Cilfái) is based to the east of Swansea, with panoramic views of Swansea city centre, docks, and bay. Kilvey Volunteers has helped to manage a 250 acre woodland site across the central belt of the hill, owned by the County Council, private landowners and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) since the 1990’s.

The group, which is set up as an unincorporated association and run by a volunteer committee, has a management agreement with NRW, and an informal agreement with County Council and the private landowners.

The woodland is a mixture of conifer woodland, heathland, grown over quarries, wetland. Some areas are still grazed by locally owned horses and some of our members are involved in trying to retain rights to use pathways, tracks and cartways over the hill.

‘Copperopolis’ left Swansea badly struggling environment- wise, deforested, polluted, and eroded. The council, university and Forestry Commission (now Natural Resources Wales) organised and led regeneration projects throughout the 80s and 90’s. Conifer forests were planted (many by local schoolchildren) to rebuild soil levels but some areas are still not recovered, and some people think it’s still covered with burnt out cars. But it’s not! It’s brilliant!

The Kilvey Volunteers

Kilvey Volunteers was started by a people who loved the Hill, enjoyed spending time up there, and wanted to encourage families and young people to enjoy the woodland and look after it.

Many of our core members were and are grandparents whose own children grew up ‘playing out’ on the hill, or who themselves rode their horses over the tracks. It’s still a fantastic free playground and through our family events, locals and families from across Swansea are rediscovering what we’ve got on our doorstep.

Looking after and sharing the Hill – engaging others

Since the group started the Hill has seen an increasing number of local people share and look after the hill, fulfilling the main aim of the volunteers.

We’ve now also got some really enthusiastic students who support and help guide our work. The local comp school works with us (they named, helped develop, and help maintain our ‘Goblin’s Garden’ where our job, designated by NRW, is to remove and discourage conifers to allow broadleaf regeneration).

The group keep this wide and varied local network alive through many different means –

Events

In 2015 we have eleven key events including an Easter egg walk, fairies and goblins story evening, kite flying, and task days.

The task days to date have been particularly productive, and have included –

  • Clearing out brambles from wetland area by Pentrechwyth Village
  • Two brilliant days with green gladiator kids from our local comprehensive – lopping out conifers and laying bark paths in our Goblin’s Garden
  • Clearing overgrown footpath to ‘cowboy rock’ (a favourite picnic area many years ago)
  • Planting a hedgerow in a fantastic location overlooking the bay on land owned by one of our members

Working with community groups

As Kilvey Volunteers have evolved, we have worked with many different groups, as described.

At the moment we have a couple of special taster sessions planned in September with Whitethornes, a local learning disability day service. We’ll be just getting to know each other, finding out what is and isn’t possible – Kilvey has a huge variety of terrain, lots of it too tricky for some.

Social media, website blog and leaflets

We run a public facebook group, which has 180 members, though most of these are just supporters! This a great forum for sharing info about events, photos, and discussions around anything – concerns, great work by people in the woods, updates on management.

We have also set up a website. We have kept it simple – it serves as a place to outline our background, aims, partners, as well as a place to share photos and our calendar of events. There is also space here to leave comments on this site, although this is mainly done through the Facebook group.

We’ve all had to learn lots techie-wise, and there’s always more to do!

Not everyone is online, so we also have a simple very leaflet that reflects the information on the website too.

Reflection and future plans

I’m very proud of what we manage to achieve as a pretty mixed (mixed-up!) bunch of volunteers. When you write something like this, you tend to ‘big-up’ what you do. It’s important to note that we also make lots of mistakes, and there are lots of things we DON’T do, but HEY so what, we love it!

Looking forward – our event calendar continues – we have our annual kite flying event is in a few weeks, all welcome.

We’re also ordering fruit and other trees from Woodland Trust for some planting this autumn.

We welcome other community woodlands to visit to see our woodland, and volunteer if interested! You can contact us via our website https://kilveyhill.wordpress.com.

 

Kilvey Hill Community Woodland 4

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