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Foresters have begun the delicate task of transforming one of the most environmentally sensitive areas in Wales.
The "softly-softly" approach will be applied to the work that will take up to five years to complete in the Hafod and Ystwyth Valley in Ceredigion.
Contractors working for Forestry Commission Wales, which manages the woodlands on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government, will tip-toe through the woodlands as they undertake a mixture of small-scale clearfelling and thinning of trees.
Among the sensitivities they will encounter are a host of landscape issues such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), heritage and archeological considerations, Planted Ancient Woodlands (PAWs), wildlife concerns and water courses.
The foresters will work closely with the Hafod Trust and other stakeholders and will remove most of the trees using winches as opposed to the big machinery used in modern forestry.
Tony Ellis, Forestry Commission Wales local area manager, said, "This difficult project is specifically designed to target sensitive programmes where small-scale working is essential.
"We will be aiming to achieve a host of objectives that will enhance the environmental benefits of the woodlands by managing riparian/riverine areas, thinning to encourage the woodland ground flora and natural regeneration of trees."
Trees near important archaeological features may need to be cleared to safeguard their condition, and other potential benefits of the work include rhododendron clearance and windblown tree clearance from paths within the woodlands.
"On some of the sites, the aim of the work will be to improve the quality of the recreation trails and facilities by opening up viewpoints at specific locations. This might entail access on some sites being temporarily interrupted and we ask visitors for their patience. We're sure any inconvenience will be worthwhile once the public start to reap the benefits of this complex and sometimes difficult work," said Tony.
The project will last for an initial three years, with the possibility of a further two years' work.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About 14% 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.
The Hafod Estate, 13 miles east of Aberystwyth, was laid out in the late 18th century by Thomas Johnes, a pioneer of new forestry methods. It is one of the most celebrated examples of the "Picturesque" style of landscape design and receives an estimated 13,000 visitors each year.
The central parkland and wooded valley sides have been undergoing restoration since 1994, with the reconstruction of 18km of scenic walk, 11 bridges and some 30 viewpoints.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales