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Ecologists from Gwent Wildlife Trust have discovered many rare plants during a detailed survey of a newly-listed nature reserve which also provides a refuge for a number of threatened birds.
Beacon Hill has been transformed into the largest lowland heathland in Monmouthshire over the past five years after Forestry Commission Wales cleared the area of trees.
FC Wales carried out the restoration work in order to safeguard the precious plants, shrubs and wildlife that are only found within a lowland heathland habitat.
Four Welsh mountain ponies have since been released onto the site to graze the heathland, which is a favourite area for the endangered nightjar as well as other rare birds like the tree pipit, brambling, redpoll and stonechat.
Gwent Wildlife Trust registered the site as one of its listed nature reserves in Gwent earlier this year after preparing a management plan for Beacon Hill on behalf of FC Wales.
Now, the Trust is carrying out a detailed ecological survey which will provide FC Wales with vital information for the management of the habitat near the village of Trellech, which is on the main Monmouth to Chepstow road.
Some interesting plants found in the heathland so far include climbing corydalis, lousewort, heath milkwort, heather (ling), bell heather and bilberry. Along the track leading to the heathland are plants such as bee orchid, centuary and fairy flax.
Only a few areas of lowland heathland remain in Gwent and the Local Biodiversity Action Plan aims to re-establish 44 hectares of lowland heathland. Measuring 28 hectares – the size of 75 football pitches – the heathland restoration work at Beacon Hill, along with a 13-hectare site just a stone’s throw away at Broadmeend, will contribute 93% to this restoration target.
It is one of two areas – the other is on Broad Meend – that have recently been cleared in order to re-establish a lowland heathland habitat in Gwent.
Richard Gable, FC Wales Local Area Manager, said the restoration of lowland heathland on Beacon Hill had led to a wide range of environmental benefits, including providing essential habitats for endangered wildlife and plants.
“We are very proud of our lowland heathland restoration site at Beacon Hill, which is the largest area supporting this habitat type in the whole of Monmouthshire,” he said.
“We are particularly pleased to be working in close partnership with Gwent Wildlife Trust, who have the knowledge and expertise to enable us to manage the habitat for nature conservation and on a sustainable basis into the future.”
The survey work on Beacon Hill will take Gwent Wildlife Trust most of the summer to complete.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages the 126,000 hectares/311,000 acres of woodlands owned by the Assembly Government.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on the Forestry Commission Wales website at www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Gwent Wildlife Trust has a vision of an environment rich in wildlife for everyone and works to rebuild biodiversity and engage people with their environment. It manages land, campaigns for wildlife, promotes appreciation of wildlife and fosters sustainable living. It is supported by more than 10,000 members and seven local members groups.
For more information on the Gwent Wildlife Trust, visit GWT’s website at: www.gwentwildlife.org
For more information on the survey, contact Richard Gable on 01291 627412, mobile 07789 653882, email email@example.com
Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Wales Information Officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922.