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Just as Concorde was making its first commercial flight, another fledgling enterprise was preparing for take-off in the forests of deepest mid-Wales.
George Johnson bought Coed Trallwm woodlands, near Abergwesyn, Powys, in 1976 with the ambition of turning the 165-hectare commercial conifer forest into a thriving rural business for his young family.
With the help of grants and advice from the Forestry Commission, the Johnsons slowly set about transforming the remote forest and assorted old farm buildings into a business that would provide a secure future for their children, Mary and Will.
Thirty-five years on, George and his wife, Christine, are the proud owners of a multi-purpose forest complete with a mountain bike centre and café for walkers and cyclists.
The evolution of Coed Trallwm into a successful commercial enterprise and valuable tourist asset to the local economy set the standard for forest design that is followed by Forestry Commission Wales today.
Rachel Chamberlain, Operations Manager for the Forestry Commission Wales Grants and Regulation team, said, “George’s long term vision to create jobs and opportunities in the rural economy – both through timber production as well as recreational activities – is the perfect model of sustainable woodland management.
“With the help of Better Woodlands for Wales grants over the past 35 years, he has successfully taken on a commercial conifer woodland producing high quality timber and added tourism and mountain biking.
“We’re delighted to have just approved his management plan for the woodland for the next five years, so we look forward to Coed Trallwm going from strength to strength.”
The secret of the Johnsons’ success is to have created a wild destination for adrenaline junkies and those seeking quiet relaxation, while embracing best practice in woodland management which delivers employment and income.
Several derelict buildings were converted into eight self-catering holiday cottages during the 1980s, along with a reflexology treatment room.
A visit to the Forestry Commission Wales centre at Coed-y-Brenin, North Wales, provided the inspiration to invest in a mountain bike trail in 2001 to attract visitors to the cottages and, with the addition of a café, parking and toilets, as well as the other biking essentials such as showers, bike wash and maps, the trail centre was born.
Coed Trallwm has now established itself as a location for all sorts of activities, hosting walking, mountain biking and enduro events. The centre has also been used for meetings by groups such as vintage car clubs, Women’s Institute and the National Trust.
George said, “We bought a woodland because we enjoy working with nature to provide a rewarding and healthy livelihood.
“Today, we get a wide spectrum of people, many of them mountain bikers, who find themselves in one of the most remote and unspoilt parts of the UK.
“Christine provides them with home-made soup, cakes, bread, flapjacks etc. and we both serve it up, hopefully with a smile!”
Coed Trallwm’s new-found status as a recreation magnet is underpinned by a solid commercial business which generates up to 10,000 cubic metres of timber every year for local sawmills such as BSW at Newbridge, or for biomass and round fencing.
“Managing the forest as both an attractive place for walkers and cyclists and as a productive forest has equal importance,” said George.
“Some areas of the forest are being slowly converted to Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF), which involves gradual thinning of different sized trees to create an interesting, productive and attractive woodland with trees of different ages and sizes.
“But we still re-stock around 10,000 trees a year after felling so it’s important to make it clear to holiday guests, who may not understand what’s going on, that this is a working forest, while at the same time try to minimise the impact on their enjoyment.”
Balancing these conflicting demands has become a real family affair. While son Will and son-in-law Chris oversee the forestry side of the business, daughter Mary and Harri, who are due to be married in May, took over management of the recreation facilities in 2009 and, with the help of a new website, have raised the turnover by 20%.
George said, “Coed Trallwm now supports three families, including Christine and me. With the support of Forestry Commission Wales – and a lot of hard work over the years – we are finally living the dream we had all those years ago.”
Caption: George and Christine Johnson enjoy a stroll in their woodland.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About 14 per cent 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 Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
BWW has been replaced by a Glastir grant developed by Forestry Commission Wales to create woodlands. The new grant aims to help fulfil the Government’s commitment to increase the amount of tree cover in Wales, as well as the range of tree species.
FC Wales will continue to deliver woodland creation grants until January 1, 2013 via Glastir on behalf of the Welsh Government.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Visit News at FC Wales for news, images, press office contact details and links to case studies.
Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org