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BLOG: A little lockdown magic with Graig Gwladus

A strange  phenomena happened over lockdown in Neath’s Community Woodland Graig Gwladus, Cara Wilson (Llais y Goedwig Development Officer) interviews Ian Davies, stalwart local volunteer and secretary of Friends of Graig Gwladus, to find out what happened.

“In 2013 I found myself retired,  with a new dog Wilf taking me for walks in the local woods every day. Before long I started collecting the litter as part of my walk. I found out about a local woodland group and was soon asked to join the Friends of Graig Gwladus. In 2014 at my 2nd  meeting, which was AGM, I was the Secretary!

One morning I read an article about a woodland in Somerset that had become overrun with Fairy doors, people had been making their own and placing them everywhere. (Apparently it annoyed the local walkers!) Sue, my wife,  suggested I make some and put them up in the woods but keep it a secret to see what happened, so I did.

I made some basic doors, just a domed top with painted lines and hinges and as part of our walk I would fix a few each day. The rumours and guesses were outrageous regarding what they were or what they were for…. I said nothing, just nodded and pretended I knew nothing. They then started to appear on local Facebook posts and pages with questions and shares, lots of mums and children started to visit, but me, “I knew nothing!”

One day I was caught, and the cat was out of the bag.

At the start of lockdown in March 2020, the doors were looking very shabby so I had a brainwave and posted on local Facebook group pages and our own asking the local children if they would like to decorate a replacement Fairy door if I made one for them, I had thought it was good idea at the time!”

Ian didn’t factor in the lockdown effect….

“The next morning, after the facebook post, while I was in the woods, my wife called  to say we had run out already, there was a queue of people (2 metres apart)  all wanting doors…. To cut a Long story short – I spent the next few weeks making doors. More and more of them.  I ran out of wood, then  paint, I scavenged for wood and then had to start making ‘to order’.

By October 2020 I had made over 250 doors  and so many people made their own. They are everywhere!

No surprise, they have annoyed some local walkers, but  the little ones have loved them. Other people are coming from across Neath to the woods for the first time with their own designs, and some of them are brilliant.

It’s brought so many people to the park who wouldn’t have known about it…”

Since the Fairy doors, Ian has taken to building new benches and picnic seats around the woods as well as  checking, repairing and installing new nest boxes. There are 106 in Graig Gwladus now.

The 2021 lockdown has been harder for everyone.  “It’s been hard, we’ve all been volunteering alone for so long. Diana Davies and myself are up there every day keeping an eye on things and litter picking. People have taken their own initiative. A local lady and her two daughters are also walking around litter picking regularly… but not much else happening”

But this year things are set to change as Graig Gwladus was one of our first Community Woodlands to receive the Heritage Lottery Funding for woodland management, and there are plans for lots of path and woodland restoration, and education on the wildlife and industrial heritage in the woods.

Looking back, lan thinks lockdown had some silver linings for the woodland in Neath. And for Ian himself? well…I think he has made good use of his time….

Last words from Ian “Retirement is a different life, a wonderful life. Keep safe, keep smiling…”




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