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She may not be a prominent landowner, but Evelyn Over is the unseen force who has been credited with transforming huge areas of the Welsh countryside.
As a woodland agent, Evelyn works quietly behind the scenes, offering a guiding hand to farmers and the owners of some of Wales’s most renowned areas to bring their woodlands into active management.
She has single-handedly helped more than 100 landowners to access grants under the Better Woodlands for Wales (BWW) scheme operated by Forestry Commission Wales to encourage sustainable woodland management.
Evelyn, who lives in Castle Caereinion, near Welshpool, prepares applications for grant aid on the landowners’ behalf and then brings her expertise – gained from a PhD in Forestry at Bangor University – to bear to help them manage their woodlands.
Since the BWW scheme was introduced in 2006, a total of 1,303 woodland management grant schemes have been approved, but Evelyn didn’t realise she had racked up more than a century of those successes.
She said, “I was surprised to learn that I was responsible for bringing over 100 schemes into Better Woodlands for Wales.
“Well managed woodlands can make a significant contribution to the rural economy and I am pleased to be able to advise landowners and their contractors in managing their woodlands.”
Evelyn said BWW had been an effective and flexible scheme which had provided incentives to promote woodland management through carefully directed grants.
“It has encouraged sustainable woodland management so that owners have been encouraged to manage their woods for a variety of reasons, whether to grow good quality timber, biodiversity, generate a regular supply of woodfuel or as a community woodland,” she said.
“I’ve had a number of woodland owners who have never managed their woods but have appreciated the BWW scheme as a way of accessing a wide range of grants and getting advice on managing their woods.”
The latest scheme to benefit from Evelyn’s advice and guidance is the Vaynor Estate in Powys, which has 81 woodlands totalling nearly 200 hectares.
It is a mixed farming and woodland estate and home to one of the top shoots in Britain, requiring six full time keepers, as well as numerous contractors employed on the multitude of land-based activities.
BWW grants accessed with Evelyn’s help have enabled felled areas to be restocked – including reinstatement of native woodlands – fences to be replaced, the pruning of young trees and controlling woodland pests. There is also a significant thinning programme under way.
Evelyn works closely with Terry Merchant, who acts as forester to William Corbett-Winder, the owner of Vaynor Estate.
Vaynor Estate has been in the family since about 1700 and William Corbett-Winder has been running it since the death of his father 21 years ago.
Mr Corbett-Winder said Evelyn was an excellent woodland manager and that the BWW grants enabled him to focus on the woodland management that was so important for the estate’s enterprises.
He said, “The woodlands at Vaynor make an important contribution to the economy of this rural area, providing local jobs and income from sporting and timber.
“I welcome the support of the grant from Forestry Commission Wales in helping to make sure that we manage the woodlands in a sustainable way that also benefits the environment.”
In addition to managing its existing woodlands, Vaynor Estate is also looking to expand its woodland area and has an application submitted under the Glastir Woodland Creation scheme which is proving popular with many farmers and landowners.
The Glastir grant, which is part of the Welsh Government’s new sustainable land management scheme, has replaced BWW, which has now closed to new applications.
Rachel Chamberlain, Operations Manager for the Forestry Commission Wales Grants and Regulation team, praised Evelyn’s tireless efforts to help landowners during BWW’s lifetime.
“Woodlands need to be managed if they are to provide important environmental benefits both now and in the future,” she said.
“Evelyn’s prolific work in helping so many people to bring their woodlands into management will result in benefits, not only to the landowners themselves, but to all of us who value our countryside.”
For more information on grants available for planting new woodland, ring 0300 068 0300 and ask for the Forestry Commission Wales Glastir woodland team, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or look online at www.forestry.gov.uk/glastirwoodland.
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.
Glastir replaces previous land management schemes including Tir Gofal, Tir Cynnal, Tir Mynydd and the Organic Farming Scheme/Organic Farming Conversion Scheme.
Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, e-mail email@example.com