Student helps out with new vision for visitor centre woodland

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A student is helping Forestry Commission Wales to re-design the landscape around its popular visitor centre in Garwnant, near Merthyr Tydfil.

Jason Norman is studying forestry at Bangor University but is spending a year-long sandwich placement at the Commission’s Llandovery office – the first such student hosted by the district for more than ten years.

One of his key tasks will be to work with forest designers as they grapple with the threat posed by ramorum disease of larch, which has been identified in the woodlands surrounding the visitor centre.

Forestry Commission Wales has already felled four infected larch trees to try to stop the disease from spreading. Now, foresters are working on a new vision for the woodland which could include introducing the world’s largest tree – the giant redwood – to the area.

An area of larch trees equivalent to about 10 rugby pitches could become susceptible to ramorum disease of larch over the next few years, and so foresters are planning ahead to make the woodland more resilient to disease and the effects of climate change.

This could involve thinning or felling small areas of trees and replacing them with a range of tree species which will also add visual interest and, possibly, open up sight lines to view the wider landscape of Cwm Taf.

Visitor Centre Manager Sam Detheridge said, “While it will be sad to lose the larch that give Garwnant its wonderful woodland character, this is a great opportunity for us to re-imagine and re-invigorate the site with a new and exciting mix of trees and to consider all sorts of developments to appeal to the broadest possible range of visitors.”

Planning Forester Owen Davies said the loss of infected larch trees would completely change the character of the woodland around the visitor centre, giving Forestry Commission Wales the ideal opportunity to come up with a new vision for the landscape.

He said, “It's a fertile, sheltered site so the potential range of species is very wide, from most conventional forest species like oak and Douglas fir but also including all sorts of more unusual forest trees or ornamental trees like redwoods, tulip tree or maples.

“Importantly, the planning and first steps need to be tackled now so that the site isn’t suddenly denuded of trees with nothing to replace them.

“By proactively thinning and felling small areas and planting other trees under the larch, we can diversify the site right now and get a head start if the infection does spread.”

Jason, 26, from Newport, said, “My placement with Forestry Commission Wales has presented me with a lot of challenges; tackling this detailed design of a small area is one of the more unusual ones.”

Caption: Larch trees at Garwnant.


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 of larch is caused by the pathogen Phytophthora ramorum (P. ramorum), which can infect more than 150 species of plants and trees.

For more information on Garwnant Visitor Centre, call 01685 387456 or visit the Forestry Commission Wales website at

Visit News at FCWales for news, images, press office contact details and links to case studies.

Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email