Tuesday, 25 January 2011

What’s New in the Forest of the Wolves?

Mother Nature does most of the work but CCW wardens do their bit. Just recently there has been lots going on, including sprucing up of the willow wolf. 10 months old and it had grown a bit straggly so 4 of us set to, weaving the pliable strands back into the structure – what a barbershop quartet we could have made. The chestnut paling fence around the outside will remain in place for the coming year to protect it from goats until it becomes more established.

Speaking of goats ... the snow was heavier and hung around for longer than usual, squashing the undergrowth of bracken. This left young saplings standing proud and with little else to eat, the goats had a nibble or two.

On the positive side the double height fence, enclosing a section of the reserve close to the railway line, has been removed. For over 20 years the area has been free from grazing and the inevitable consequence, a profusion of brambles and ivy, is what the goats are feasting on at the moment.

Stands of trees, generally square in shape, like military formations, were planted 20 years ago and enclosed with wire netting. The fencing has all been removed and so too the Y shape funnel. This funnel was designed as a means for catching goats in the days when the local population was an unsustainable 50+. The idea was to lure the goats into the narrow funnel, with tasty strands of ivy and other delicacies hanging from the fence, then quickly close the door and transport them to Scotland. It didn’t work and now it has gone for recycling.

The ability to exclude sheep is vital to regeneration of the woods and the old perimeter fence posts are being replaced. Instead of those rounded, chemically treated, poles we are being re-fenced with cleaved, sweet chestnut. 

In the really good old days dry stone walls would have been the stockproof barrier. Sustainable and enduring they will last indefinitely, provided there is some maintenance. Sadly one of the most impressive stretches of wall was breached by a fallen tree. My neighbour in the farm below says this stretch, which rises steeply from the mouth of the waterfall, was built by 2 brothers competing against each other.  Thanks to CCW the tree has been chopped and the wall rebuilt by a local master craftsman.

He’s not going to be so local in future, next month he goes West with a renewable 1 year visa to work on America’s stone walls as part of an initiative to re-introduce the craft. He’ll start in Kentucky before moving to Dallas and will employ a US citizen to work with him.

Finally for those who don’t enjoy the indignity of stiles the good news is that kissing gates have been installed on the top path heading out of Coed y Bleiddiau towards Dduallt and below by the waterfall at the hairpin bend.

To see a short film of what's been going on, click here.

January 2011

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