Forest centre doubles up as popularity soars

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The Forestry Commission Wales visitor centre at Coed-y-Brenin is to almost double in size as the iconic woodland venue experiences soaring visitor numbers.

Work on a massive, two-storey extension which will include a new bike shop with cycle hire, a multi-functional conference and meeting room and cafe overflow area will begin next year in the Welsh Government forest near Dolgellau.

The new 400m2 structure will be linked by an inter-connecting bridge to the existing 500m2 centre, which is struggling to cope with the ever-growing number of visitors since it opened in 2006.

Coed-y-Brenin was the UK’s first purpose-built mountain bike centre and its world-wide reputation drew 145,000 visitors last year, bringing a massive boost to the area’s economy.

That number looks set to be exceeded this year following a record-breaking summer with other attractions such as the Go Ape! high ropes course, orienteering, running and walking routes as well as geocaching and audio trails broadening the venue’s appeal.

FC Wales recreation manager John Taylor said, “Coed-y-Brenin becomes more important to the local economy as each year passes and its reputation grows.

“We’re delighted to gain approval for this development from the Snowdonia National Park Authority, which means Coed-y-Brenin will continue to be able to support and give confidence to local hospitality and outdoor activity businesses in the area.”

Debra Harris of Discover Dolgellau, which represents the interests of businesses in the area, welcomed the plan which she said would “further strengthen Coed-y-Brenin’s position as one of the UK’s leading forest parks and continue to draw people to the area all year round”.

She added, “Coed-y-Brenin has had a significant impact on visitor numbers to the area since it opened five years ago. The combination of superb mountain bike trails, family focused activities and excellent facilities for nature lovers or adrenalin junkies means it offers something for everyone.”

The extension, which it’s hoped will be open by Christmas, 2013, will be built with Welsh wood from Welsh Government forests and will set a benchmark for Wales in terms of energy efficient public buildings.

“The development will showcase the best of sustainable Welsh building design and mean we can provide an even bigger attraction for visitors to this part of Wales,” said John.

“One of our aims was to push the boundaries of sustainable design and move away from the tokenism or ‘eco bling’ of adding technologies such as photovoltaic panels to an otherwise conventional building in order to gain a sustainability label.”

The design of the extension won praise from the Design Council Wales, an independent body that reviews the merits of planning developments.

The extension is part of the £1.4 million Gwynedd Council-led Eryri Centre of Excellence project which includes the MinorTaur all-ability mountain bike trail and a new skills park.

The project is funded by the EU's Convergence European Regional Development Fund, Visit Wales and the Welsh Government. Additional funding comes from Gwynedd Council, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Tourism Partnership Mid Wales, Forestry Commission Wales, Urdd Gobaith Cymru and the Environment Agency.

Designed by Architype, one of the UK’s leading sustainable design practices, the building will be highly energy efficient, using high levels of insulation and natural light.

It will be built using a German technology called Brettstaple, a solid timber construction system which has no glue or nails.

It uses low grade timber that would otherwise be unsuitable for use in construction which is held together with hardwood dowels that swell and tighten, thus “locking” the walls together and creating a structural load-bearing system.

The panels will be made for the first time in the UK by a timber frame builder from Welshpool.

Caption: How the new extension at Coed-y-Brenin will look.


About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.

More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on

For more information on recreation at Coed-y-Brenin, contact John Taylor on 01341 440747, email

The £3.2bn 2007-2013 programmes in Wales include the Convergence programmes for West Wales and the Valleys (the successor to Objective 1), and the Regional Competitiveness and Employment programmes for East Wales. The programmes are delivered by the Welsh Government and are aimed at creating employment opportunities, business growth, regenerating Wales’s most deprived communities and protecting the environment.

Press office contact: Clive Davies, , 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922.