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Foresters have turned adversity to their advantage by improving public facilities in an ancient woodland that was afflicted by a deadly tree disease.
Forestry Commission Wales seized the moment after trees in Hensol Wood, near Cowbridge, became infected by Ramorum disease in larch and had to be felled in an effort to stop the disease from spreading.
The forest is one of several sites in South Wales where Ramorum disease in larch – a fungus-like pathogen that kills many of the trees it infects – was found in 2010.
Forestry Commission Wales was forced to take decisive action to try to contain the fast-spreading disease, which is not harmful to people or animals – and now visitors to the picturesque woodland are set to reap the benefits.
Most of the timber from the infected trees has been removed to be used for biofuel and access restrictions imposed in areas where trees were being felled have now been lifted.
Footpaths and trails within the woodland have been opened up, a horse stepover has been upgraded and woodland barbecues which had fallen into disrepair have been rebuilt in preparation for the spring.
Greg Jones, Forestry Commission Wales local area manager, said, “Hensol is a popular place for recreation and, in working to bring the tree disease under control, we have taken the opportunity to make the woodland more inviting.
“The landscape around the car park has altered dramatically since the felling and will be left to regenerate naturally with native trees, as well as being restocked with a greater diversity of tree species.”
However, Forestry Commission Wales is monitoring the area for further infection and visitors are being asked to continue to observe simple biosecurity precautions to avoid inadvertently spreading the disease.
These measures are explained by signs in the woodland and include keeping to paths, horses staying on bridleways and forest roads, keeping dogs on leads, cleaning footwear and not taking any plant material away.
As well as being popular with visitors Hensol woodland, which dates back to at least 1600, is a haven for many species of flora and fauna and it’s hoped to resume conservation work which was put on hold due to the Ramorum disease in larch outbreak.
Graham Woosnam, footpath officer for the Vale of Glamorgan Ramblers, said, “Hensol Forest has been a haven for us for many years. Now, with improved car parks, wide avenues to walk in and more footpaths opened up, access is easier than ever.
“The appearance of the forest has been enhanced by the replacement of some of the conifers with more attractive native trees and, in some places, the felling of conifers has opened up fine views of, for example, the Garth and Llantrisant.
“We really appreciate the work done by Forestry Commission Wales in bringing about these improvements."
Caption: One of the paths that have been opened up in Hensol woods.
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 Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
Ramorum disease in larch was first discovered on Japanese larch trees in Great Britain in 2009 in South-West England. It was then found on larch in public woodlands in South Wales in June 2010.
Infected Japanese larch trees produce high numbers of the spores that spread the disease with the result that a lot of these trees can become infected very quickly.
Further information about P. ramorum can be found on the Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorum.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
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