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BLOG: Magu Coed and CommuniTree, the journey so far.

Reflections on Magu Coed and CommuniTree; supporting the community tree network across Wales.

Cara Wilson  – outgoing CommuniTree Project Officer

As my time at Llais y Goedwig comes to an end I reflect on the past few years we have been working to develop Magu Coed, a network that has arisen out of the Communitree project*, for those intent on raising trees.   There is such a shortage of local provenance trees available in Wales, which forces organisations to import trees, with the added risk of importing disease, and even in some cases, trees with different flowering times to the local variety.  The events and training are hopefully reducing that risk by giving people the skills and confidence to grow their own local provenance trees, and helping to meet the demand for more trees in Wales.

The events have pulled together people from all sectors;  seed savers, growers, volunteers and professionals, farmers, trades people setting up in business, conservation charity staff, and public sector officers who are needing to increase the local provenance stock for their planting targets. We now have nearly 200 people on our mailing list  and have run around 25 workshops and site visits at tree nurseries and woodlands across Wales.

We have officers from two of the three national parks participating in the network, as well as large conservation charities such as the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust. We have staff from councils creating nurseries in Ynys Mon, Conwy, Denbigh, Pembrokeshire, Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan and Monmouth.

It is heartening to see all sectors working hard on this to contribute and to collaborate, and it is interesting how the demographic of those seeking out this information has changed – there is a definite movement in Wales to grow more local tree seedlings, which is impacting across all sectors.  And of course this is also why Llais y Goedwig and Coed Cadw have teamed up to help small scale tree nurseries and growers, with training and networking.

The presentations were excellent and the presenters were extremely knowledgeable. The visit to the tree nursery was also really good. I came away with a much better understanding of the topics covered, and inspired by the nursery. “

Key Recollections

Thanks to the involvement of David from Prees Heath Trees, a commercial nursery in Shropshire,  who donated a day of his time to join and support 25 of us with some training at Aberduna; The North Wales Wildlife Trust’s nursery. He even showed us some clever heritage kit which Aberduna now uses.   This  allows a traditional nursery worker to plant 10-15000 seedling plugs into the field nursery in a day.

It is called  ‘Planking out’.  David advised us that as a commercial nursery he wants to work with other nurseries whether they are social or private enterprises, and that it is in the interest of nurseries to collaborate in order to hold on to customers. So when he has an order that he can only partially fulfil, he will contact other nurseries in his network and buy some of their stock to fill his customer’s order.

After this training I plan to…create my own tree stand especially for black poplar”

We had some great tutors on the programme this year – highlights included;

Bryan Dickinson and Jenny Wong from Wild Resources Ltd who taught us about the science of tree genetics and how little it has changed over 10,000 years since the last ice age, how genes are turned on or off according to the climatic conditions; about the hazel stands on the shore at Nant Gwytheryn which may be evidence of the first arrival of hazel after the ice age; and the large stands of over 150 veteran crab apple trees at Abergwyngregyn which may be the largest stand in the UK.

“One thing I have learnt today is how valuable it is to get into the field to learn from others rather than just reading. And that there’s great potential to gather local seed and create productive seed stands”

Alisha and Rebecca from the Woodland Trust/Coed Cadw taught us about the importance of biosecurity at nursery sites – such as careful boot cleaning,to avoid cross contamination from other woodlands or nurseries which may have diseased material; they also gave us a useful grounding in the political reasons why trees are still being imported from abroad, even though the dangers of bringing in yet more diseases is well known.

The first half, it was extremely useful to learn the biology of tree seeds, to be given the tools to know and understand what each type of tree seed requires in order for germination to begin”

Steve Wilson gave us another year of foundational information on the many different ways tree seeds need to be treated in order to grow trees successfully from seed and how to give them the best start in your own tailor made composts which mimic the forest soil.

What is next ? 

With funding approved for another year of CommuniTree we will be able to host more training in 2023 / 4 when my role will be taken over by my colleague Jayne Hunt.  Here Jayne describes some of the highlights for the network coming up;

“ We’ll be following the progression of courses from seed collection to growing on, with a few of the popular tried and tested courses from years 1 to 3 as well as new courses and resources to help nurseries certify their trees and work collaboratively to supply the trees to the market.  We need to ensure Wales future forests thrive, and the CommuniTree project is supporting community and small tree nurseries across Wales to help meet that objective”

For more information on CommuniTree and the thriving regional Magu Coed networks please get on touch with Jayne on

The CommuniTree programme was made possible through Coed Cadw, The Woodland Trust in Wales, with support from the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and the Nature Networks Fund, delivered by Heritage Fund on behalf of the Welsh Government.

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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