Sheep set for upland forest mission

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A local farmer is set to send his sheep on a mission to improve the environment high in the hills above mid-Wales.

Forestry Commission Wales hope Joe Phillips’s flock will play a key role in improving the upland habitat of Plynlimon in Hafren Forest.

Already, Forestry Commission Wales has felled 120,000 conifers across a 40-hectare area over the past three years and planted 10,000 broadleaved trees such as birch and rowan in their place.

Now, it has received £2,800 funding from Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust to maintain peatland areas adjacent to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as part of an ongoing programme to improve the upland habitats in mid-Wales.

Forestry Commission Wales has installed 2,500 metres of fencing in the forest and hope Mr Phillips’s sheep can be sent up into the hills to sensitively graze the open space in a controlled way.

Forestry Commission Wales local area manager in Hafren, Jim Ralph, said, “This funding will contribute significantly to our long-term vision for this area and will provide environmental benefits both now and in the future.

“The management regime we have put in place to restore this sensitive habitat will have downstream benefits all the way to Bristol.”

The project to improve the area by replacing the conifers with broadleaved trees and open space is at a delicate stage and will take another three to four years before landscape benefits will be seen as the trees become established.

The use of livestock to graze the area is seen as a cost-effective and appropriate method of managing the landscape over the next 10 years, and Forestry Commission Wales has installed a small access track to allow stock movement safely from the hill in readiness.

Jim said, “I’ve been in talks with the local farmer who has a smallholding in the forest and he is keen to put his sheep up the mountain for grazing.

“This would allow him to expand his enterprise as well as improve our land by managing the habitat in a natural way, removing spruce regeneration as well as lightly grazing a moorland in a sympathetic way.”

The stockproof fence will keep the sheep away from an area of peatland and help to stop soil erosion into the streams, thereby improving water quality.

Caption: Forestry Commission Wales local area manager Jim Ralph by the fenced off area where sheep will help to improve the upland habitat of Plynlimon.


A total of 14.3 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government.

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

For more information on Hafren Forest, contact Jim Ralph on 01686 411043, mobile 07815 186996, email

More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on

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