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A new project aims to stop teenagers indulging in illegal off-roading by showing them the damage motorbikes can cause to the countryside.
The Treads project promotes responsible and safe driving and targets teenagers in south Wales who have been in trouble with the police or who have been identified as having potential to cause trouble.
The project is a partnership between Forestry Commission Wales, Gwent Police and Caerphilly Council youth services and teaches 14 to 19-year-olds to appreciate their environment.
FC Wales and police forces throughout Wales have mounted several operations to crack down on illegal off-road riding in Assembly Government woodlands, which can be a danger to other people enjoying the countryside.
Culprits can be fined and have their machines seized, and the Treads project is an innovative way of showing off-roaders the error of their ways.
All the Treads participants have a keen interest in off-road motorcycling and, as part of the course, learn about mechanics at Thunder Road, a motorbike centre in Cwmbran.
If they complete the course they get the opportunity to visit the Yamaha Off-road Experience in Llanidloes to try out proper off-roading under the instruction of 10 times British enduro champion Geraint Jones.
The course opens their eyes to the damage off-roading can cause to livestock and farmers’ livelihoods by ripping down and cutting fences, destroying ground vegetation, ruining footpaths and creating noise disturbance.
Participants are taught new skills such as drystone walling and first aid, and during a recent session with Forestry Commission Wales they watched a tree felling and climbing demonstration before learning the finer points of how to operate a chainsaw.
The group then walked from Coed Twmbarlwm up to Twmbarlwm, where they had lunch and learned about the area’s rich history and origins from Rob Southall of the Twmbarlwm Society.
Twmbarlwm is presumed to be an Iron Age hill fort believed to have been built by the Silures, the Celtic tribe that inhabited the area before and during Roman times.
There is also a substantial Norman motte and bailey castle at the eastern end of the fort, probably of early Norman construction, which is a well known local landmark visible from as far as Bristol.
They finished the session at Cwmcarn forest drive, where they cut back some silver birch regenerating near Windy Ridge to help FC Wales maintain the heathland habitat.
James Mak, FC Wales Local Area Manager, said, “I hope the Treads participants had an enjoyable time whilst also learning more about the Forestry Commission and the day-to-day problems we encounter with illegal off-roading on our land.”
Each Treads course lasts 12 weeks with participants attending one session a week, either during the evenings or at weekends. It is hoped to run the project three times a year.
Caption: Treads project participants with members of Forestry Commission Wales, Caerphilly Council and Gwent Police.
NOTES TO EDITORS
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 Assembly Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email firstname.lastname@example.org