LlyG Member Blog; A shared vision for Penllergare

Posted on August 30, 2016 by

In June a group of five volunteers and one member of staff from Penllergare Valley Woods near Swansea, visited Coed Craig Ruperra, near Caerphilly.  Ruperra has a similar historical background to Penllergare, but unlike us, Ruperra have largely resolved their rhododendron and cherry laurel problem by using a spray whose licence has now expired. They are now looking at other options and so it will be useful to keep in touch on this issue.

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Coed Craig Ruperra is owned by the Ruperra Conservation Trust, a registered charity with the castle and grounds privately owned, so issues of competing visions do not arise.   Having the freehold on the land is a big advantage as they more in control of their destiny and Ruperra has a shared vision and a clear view of how they wish to proceed. The site is managed largely as a nature reserve and they are comfortable with their current financial position and level of visitors. They have developed a coppice area and pond and have dormice and great crested newts both of which are rare in South Wales.

Ruppera have a Community Interest Company tied to the charity and have developed a small business in woodland products, including logs which generates a modest income. They have limited overheads and can rely on their members, with support from small grants which gives them flexibility. In contrast, at Penllergare we have to raise £25,000 per annum ground rent, so there is a major emphasis on fund raising and buildings on site like the coffee shop are seen as essential in order to generate the income needed to survive. This makes our business model much more complex.

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Our visit to Ruperra provided us with some great ideas, as we need to explore generating a modest income from woodland products and plant propagation. A wetland nature reserve is also being considered and there is a great deal of interest in the natural history aspect of the site, both from volunteers and the general public. Penllergare is at an earlier stage in its development than Ruperra and we are still working on a “shared vision” which is essential for long term success.  Our visit showed that this can be achieved successfully.

John Childs, a Trustee of Penllergare

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