Skip to main content

BLOG: Tree planting with communities in Wrecsam.

Hywel Dodd north Wales development officer

Tree planting at Lincoln Close, Wrecsam.

On 15th March I attended a tree planting event organised by Wrexham CBC Open Spaces and Horticultural Officer, Jacinta Challinor and attended by around 60 employees of Lloyds Bank from Chester Business Park.

The planting site is open greenspace near Borras Park Community Primary School and was planted last winter with trees donated by the national scheme “My Tree Our Forest”.  Unfortunately, due to combination of factors a high percentage of these trees failed so the aim of this event was to replace the trees (beat up) and to ensure a higher success rate through summer watering & aftercare.

Lloyds Bank had approached an organisation called Employee Volunteering CIC: who had facilitated the experience with the help of WCBC.

The volunteers were really enthusiastic and were committed to the planting tasks (and the opportunity to be away from their screens no doubt!)  Over the course of the day we planted around 1000 whips with plenty of team work on show.

Wrecsam County Borough Council have committed to increase tree cover in the County Borough and have developed a  ‘Woodland Pledge’ to demonstrate their commitment to this end. For more information and to take part in a series of woodland activities in the summer please get in touch.

BLOG: Adventures in Charcoal: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Steve Chamberlain southeast development officer

Late January I organised a training day focusing on charcoal production. The volunteers at Blaen Bran community woodland had been sorting out their yard and as a result had much waste wood.  I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to trial my new retort kiln prototype (ivor) that I have been tweaking since Lockdown #1 and then later in the year we will use the ring kiln with the volunteers and compare the advantages and disadvantages of kiln type in the production of charcoal. 

 Subzero temperatures were not anticipated but the sun was shining and the woodland had a wonderful winter atmosphere. It would seem the perfect time for charcoal production, however, that was not the case. Winter is the time of gathering materials for charcoal production and the summer months for creating it but we thought we would try anyway. We fired up the kiln and discussed all things charcoal whilst soaking up the heat being expelled from the kiln, potatoes hissing in their tins on the coals, what could go wrong?

It took 90 minutes to get the inner chamber up to 100 degrees. 300 degrees is the target –  as it is the point where the wood in the inner chamber releases gas that goes into the fire box and the wood starts ‘cooking’ itself. Four hours had now passed and still no gasification. We had only reached 230 degrees in the inner chamber despite piling in extra waste wood into the firebox. As nothing was progressing and the weather was desperately trying to snow we agreed we close the kiln down, by  and hope for the best.

This process could be viewed as a failure but as this was a test run and confirmed two important factors a failure it was not, so if knowledge was gained it should be deemed at least a partial success.

The first of the two learning factors was the quality of the wood being charred. This was cut and seasoned firewood which had been sat out in the elements for some ten years and had become light in weight, thinking this would have very little moisture if any, it may hold less wood gases also.

The second learning factor is the time of year or more accurately the temperature . The kiln is not insulated and could not get to the required temperature in sub zero conditions. We had considered this as a potential issue at the beginning of our trial but can confirm this now.

 Despite the lack of product at the close of play a good day was had by all, we all learned something new and we are looking forward to our next session in more clement weather. Charcoal and more importantly biochar is a great way for groups to learn important woodland heritage skills and generate an income from waste materials as well as trapping carbon and halting further climate change. Many groups already produce these products with traditional ring kilns but retort kilns are much more efficient and environmentally friendly so if you are interested in making the switch Llais y Goedwig would be glad to assist.

Have a look at the helpful glossary and links if you want to understand more about this process.


Retort Kiln – Wood is placed in a large steel cylinder (or “retort”). This has a tightly closed door, and some means to let tar and gases escape. The cylinder is heated from the outside. No air enters the barrel. When the wood in the cylinder has been heated to the right temperature, a chemical reaction (called carbonization) begins that gives off heat and by-products. Little additional outside heat is necessary.

Ring Kiln –  A ring kiln is a metal drum with chimneys and a lid that acts as an oven in just the same way as the soil once did.

Gasification – Gasification is a process that converts organic or fossil-based carbonaceous materials at high temperatures (>700°C).

Charcoal –  is a lightweight black carbon residue produced by strongly heating wood in minimal oxygen to remove all water and volatile constituents. without combustion, with a controlled amount of oxygen and/or steam into carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide.

Biochar –  imore porous and has a larger surface area than charcoal — a few ounces of biochar can have an internal surface the size of a football! This porosity and surface area helps biochar improve soil structure and house beneficial microbes, resulting in healthy soil.

BLOG: Coednet Focus on Foraging

Jules Cooper is a professional forager and wild weaver who lives on a smallholding on the Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Mon) She is passionate about the preservation of our native hedgerows and wild spaces, and regularly runs workshops teaching people about the wonders of wild plants. Jules is also known on Anglesey for her award winning hedgerow-inspired fruit leathers and has been referred to as a wild food alchemist and a Hedgewitch!

For more profiles on our talented woodland foragers check out the Coednet website.

Seasonal Foraging RecipesWild Spring

The recipes are inspired by the beautiful wild plants growing on my smallholding, in magical woodlands, the heathland, my local beach in Llanfwrog and other free spirits who share my passion. Due to the diversity of locations on the island, there is an abundance of wild food to be foraged, so snacks like my legendary pakoras can eaten all year round with seasonal plants like Wild Garlic, Three Cornered Leek, Chickweed, Fat hen, Sea beet and even Dandelion flowers! 

Wild Garlic Vegan Pesto –   Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum)

65g sunflower seeds 

100g wild garlic leaves

1 zest and juice of one lemon 

½ tsp salt, more to taste

4 tbsp Nutritional Yeast 

Pepper to taste

120 ml extra virgin olive oil

a generous pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

How to make it

Wash wild garlic leaves really well and dry them in a salad spinner or pat dry with clean tea towel.

Place all the pesto ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. 

Keep in a lidded container in a fridge and use within 3 days. 

The pesto goes well with the pakoras! 

Chickweed Pakoras – Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Pakoras are a very popular snack in my foraging workshops. They are street a social food, an ancient relationship between a society and its food. They can be made throughout the year using chickweed (it’s pretty much all year round) dandelion flowers, Seabeet and Fat hen or mixture of the above. 

200g Gram flour 

1 tsp baking powder 

2 tbsp curry powder

1 tsp Turmeric powder 

1 tsp Celtic sea salt

100g Chickweed or another wild edible ingredient. 

1 medium onion 

A small handful of three cornered leek or 2 garlic cloves

About 240ml water 

Sunflower oil for frying 

How to make them

Wash your chickweed well and dry in a salad spinner or Pat dry in clean tea towel Cut chickweed with scissors to break up the long stringy strands. 

Cut the onion in half and and slice quite thinly. 

Chop garlic finely or cut the three cornered leek into small pieces. 

Sieve the gram flour, baking powder and curry powder into a large bowl.

Slowly add the water to create thickish batter consistency.

Stir in the onion and garlic and thoroughly mix. 

Add chickweed and stir well

Heat oil to about 200 C 

When oil is ready carefully drop dessert spoonfuls into the hot oil until golden brown, turning once in the oil. 

Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. 

Makes about 16 

For more recipes to try out this book is now available: Seasonal Wild Plant Recipes (2023) £11.99 

A collection of some of my favourite wild plant recipes that I have used in my foraging events since moving to Ynys Mon (Isle of Anglesey) in 2010. 

Follow the link to purchase. Buy Book Here

BLOG: Read all about the Llais y Goedwig Year (2022/23)

For anyone that was unable to attend our AGM in October, but wanted to see what we have been up to, here is the report that was delivered by our Programme Manager Maria Wilding.

Llais y Goedwig Yearly Report

Autumn 2022

Autumn 2022 onwards saw us pretty much returning to pre-Covid levels of activity – our summer events of the Royal Welsh Show and the Eisteddfod took place for the first time in 3 years in 2022 and gave us a chance to reconnect with members and the general public in Wales, showcase the great work of Community Woodlands across Wales and continue through 2022 and 2023 with a renewed appetite for all things Community Woods!

This year we have continued to support member groups via the website, online, the newsletters and in person through our Development Officers across Wales delivering targeted assistance relevant to each group.

The Annual Gathering

The 2023 Gathering was held on Anglesey in May with 64 attendees from member groups and partner organisations coming together to explore local Community Woodland sites, discuss topics (as diverse as: the National Forest, Forest Resource Plan consultations, orchard management and managing a site for red squirrels) as well as taking the opportunity to learn practical techniques and share ideas to take back to their own woodland groups.  We enjoyed some spectacular weather, great food, and our thanks go to the groups on Ynys Mon who helped make the Gathering a success. 

Project update

The RDP funded Dewis Gwyllt project ended in October 2022 after three years of researching the feasibility and development of non-timber forest products with woodland groups.  The completion of this project coincided with the beginning of Goods from the Woods; informed by member feedback and Dewis Gwyllt research, this nine-month project had a remit to set up and run a marketing platform for sustainable woodland goods and services in Wales.  It is great to report that the COEDNET website is now live, showcasing the best of Wales’ woodland products. If you haven’t yet joined – Llais y Goedwig members have a free listing and there will be an online Christmas market from November so please get in touch if you would like to be part of that. 

Another successful work stream has been the  CommuniTree project, working in conjunction with Woodland Trust to enable small and community tree nurseries to start up and expand. It has continued into a third year with more courses, workshops and networking.   

Contract Work

Our contracted work with local councils continued with a renewed contract with Bridgend County Borough Council to help manage a local nature reserve Bedford Park, and I’m pleased to report that Kaz and her groups of volunteers have transformed the site.

We also helped to manage a series of activities under an ENRaW funded project across Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT) and Merthyr council areas with the Cwm Taf Nature Networks project.

Our largest contract over the last year was ‘My Tree, Our Forest’ – a 12-month Welsh Government/Woodland Trust campaign to deliver the ‘give-away’ hubs and ‘plant a tree for me’ aspects of the programme linking with a wide range of community groups across Wales.

During the project we managed 56 hubs giving out trees to the public, landowners and organisations and arranged planting on 190 sites nationally.

NRW Enabling Community Woodlands

We are in the second year of a two-year contract supporting woodland groups with Community Management Agreement on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate, this has been an interesting work stream working with the NRW Permissions team, and we are now negotiating an extension to the contract.


We are pleased to announce we have been awarded a WCVA Strategic Volunteering Grant to run a project between October 2023 and March 2025 to work with Local Authorities in Wales to develop their volunteering offer for groups on their land. More details of this project in the next couple of weeks.

Organisational Overview

The past year has been our first without core grant funding and has been a test of our adaptability in delivery models – moving to a blend of contract work and grant funds. It has been a challenging but rewarding year which has tested our flexibility – but we’ve risen to the challenge, and we feel a stronger organisation for it.

Our proven ability to deliver on larger scale contracts (as noted above) working in partnership with other third sector organisations has meant an increase in partnership opportunities within the sector.

The blended income model will continue to be how we fund support for members over the next year.  With the support of staff, board and members we have a mixture of ongoing contracts and smaller grant fund ‘pots’ so that we can continue to support the network to both grow and develop.

This new way of working has meant a revision of staff roles, as well as examining our skills and capacity, and our Llais y Goedwig team have adapted as needed to continue to deliver our aims. 

This year we have bid farewell to Cara Wilson our CommuniTree Officer who is now an ally in the NRW People & Places team, and one of our original development officers Sara Wynne Pari who is studying for an MSC at Bangor University.  We also welcomed

new staff member Martyn Davies who will be covering Southwest and South Central Wales along with existing staff.

Llais y Goedwig Membership

Once again, we’ve had a busy membership year, which reflects the focus on woodlands both for community wellbeing and climate change outcomes, and this perhaps also reflects renewed interest in these areas following the Covid Pandemic and restrictions that came with it.  We now have 124 full community woodland members from across Wales.

New members this year come from every corner of our country and include:

Goedwig Gymunedol Dyffryn Tanat, Bwyd am Byth, Rosehill Quarry, Ynysdawley Playing fields association, Natur Ystradgynlais, Gwendreath Environmental Education, Colwyn Bay Conservation and Environment Federation, Gelli Deg Dyfi, Llanbrynmair Pathfinders, Woodworks CIC, Friends of Wern Mynach, Friends of West Park, Merthyr Mawr Conservation Volunteers, Rabbitt Hill Community Woodland, Cemaes Bay, Nature for all, Friends of Henllys LNR, and Coedwig Creu – apologies if I’ve missed anyone off the list

So welcome to the network folks.   Please do engage, ask questions, contribute your experiences, and ask for help when needed – it is what we are here for.

Board of Directors

The Llais y Goedwig board are all volunteers representing the diversity of our members and supporters.  Their time, energy and effort in steering Llais y Goedwig should not go unrecognized as it has been a year of, at times, challenging decision making regarding the ongoing management of the Forestry Hub in Machynlleth, staff roles and the future

shape of our income streams, all the while taking into account the wishes and needs of our member groups.

They’ve supported with the organisation through, what have sometimes been, difficult times for them personally as well as professionally.  So, thanks to the current board members: David, Fay, Chris, Suzy, Joey and Ian.  As of this AGM Joey is resigning as a Board member and Suzy is stepping down for a year.  We hope to welcome more Directors before the end of the AGM as they are a vital part of how we operate. 

If you feel you would like to play a part in steering LlyG through the next few years as a member of the board of directors or as a member of the Policy Advisory Group please do get in touch to talk over ways you can contribute. 

The Forestry Hub

Some of you might know that we’ve been managing a shared office space in Machynlleth since 2016 – Originally at Unit 6 in Dyfi Eco Parc and now in a larger space at Unit 1.  The ‘Forestry Hub’ was initially funded by Welsh Government but with careful management by Llais y Goedwig has become self-sustaining with almost 30 desks occupied by other forestry and related organisations and small businesses. It brings in a small but reliable income for LlyG  as well as useful storage space. An added bonus is that it also enables us to connect with forestry and environmental organisations who we share the office with.   We are in the final stages of negotiating a further lease with Dulas the organisation who manage the building. 

And finally … to round off

 A big thank you to everyone! – especially to our staff for their hard work, but to everyone who has attended events and contributed to the network over the past year and a bit. 

All our hard work over the past few years has meant that Llais y Goedwig’s profile at strategic levels in NRW, Welsh Government and with other environmental organisations has never been higher – we are increasingly being seen, not only as an organisation to be consulted, but also one who can help deliver on many levels and on multiple agendas.

Llais y Goedwig still exists for and is directed by you the members – it’s your amazing work that is the inspiration for what we do and we really need you to keep talking to us and telling us what works and what doesn’t, and what you need to thrive as community woodland groups in Wales.


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…”




©2024 Llais y Goedwig