BLOG: Traditional extraction on PAWS

Posted on October 22, 2019 by

Talgarth Community Woodland – traditional extraction on PAWS.

By Jed Needs
Talgarth Community Woodland Group is made up of residents of Talgarth and the surrounding area. There is a cross section of the community, including all ages and gender. Membership is open to anyone who wishes to attend meetings. The community led organisation is supported by the Green Valleys Community Interest Company.

The woodland is called Park Wood, a site owned by the woodland trust. Talgarth Community Woodland Group have negotiated a Management agreement to 2023 to thin beech from compartment 2a (5.5ha).


Plantation on ancient woodland

It is classified as a Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site [PAWS] and consists of beech and oak plantation mixed with conifer / Western Hemlock. The whole site comprises of 57 hectares. PAWS are sites that have a long history of woodland cover: they are ancient semi-natural woodlands on which the original, “natural” woodland was cleared, and replaced by a plantation of either native or exotic species. The woodland project aim is to begin restoration of part of the PAWS site through the felling and removal of Beech as directed by the Park Wood management plan. It is interesting to note that native woodland species comprise approximately 30 to 40 per cent of PAWS. Beech casts a dense shade, that can have a severe effect on the growth of other native trees, shrubs and herbs that would normally grow on the site.


The restoration of PAWS sites is a significant challenge across Wales and this project aims to be a demonstration of lower impact, community centred methods. PAWS sites are sensitive to ground disturbance, which means that lower impact methods for tree removal are favoured rather than using large forestry equipment. Working horse and simple mechanical winch have been used for centuries as a means of supplementing people power to fell and extract timber, and the use of heavy horse and hand winch reduces fossil fuel inputs when compared to mechanized methods.


Responsible management

The Woodland Trust promotes best practice in the restoration of PAWS sites and seeks to use lower impact methods wherever suitable, particularly in sensitive areas. This more careful work is less cost effective but does allow a skilled community group to becoming engaged in the process rather than reliance on mechanized contractors. The Woodland Trust requires high standards of all contractors and this includes community groups. To enable lower impact methods to be used, recognized certificates of competence for community group members are required. Larger timber will need to be moved into place to allow extraction by heavy horse. This can only safely be done by a forestry winch.


Team skills

Trees will be selected and felled, then winched to a set location, where they can be collected by a working heavy horse and dragged to a suitable location for processing and extraction. These methods are used to limit ground disturbance and cope with the steep slopes and are required for areas with very limited vehicular access. The project requires skilled labour in the form of chainsaw operators (already within the group), winch operators, preparation of access routes and the skilled horse handler (contracted in). In addition, the horse logging sessions will be of interest as a demonstration for other community woodland groups, private owners undertaking PAWS restoration and local horse owners, interested in seeing the horses.



In 2019 the woodland group changed status to a Community Benefit Society. Supported and promoted by the ‘The Green Valleys CiC’, this gives the group a secure platform to raise money and sell it’s products. The benefit of creating a local, sustainable wood fuel supply has direct impact to the local economy and lifestyle choices of it’s inhabitants.

Shaun, Woodland group member

The wood we extract from Park Wood provides enough energy to both heat and supply hot water to our home. We are no longer reliant on fossil fuels. Although relatively small, this is an important contribution to changing the way we treat our planet. The way the trees are felled and processed is sensitive to the woodland environment, promoting a sustainable fuel supply whilst conserving the woodland’s ecosystem. For my children it is a part of life and an ethos I hope they will take into adulthood.” 


Future plans

We are planning to create a coppicing element to our activities to promote traditional crafts. We are also exploring possibilities of milling some of our timber to provide a local source of building materials.

This is an intergenerational project which will continue for many years after the initial term of our agreement with the woodland trust ends. We have laid the foundation for future generations to benefit from a sustainable woodland management scheme. Providing re-growth on an existing site ensures the longevity of the existing woodland.

Walkers are Welcome event in Parkwood Talgarth 2019, championing the work of the group and the Woodland Trust.

An Oak sapling emerging in the understorey, because of the extra light created by thinning the Beech. This regeneration will ensure the future of the woodland for many years to come.

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