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A group of volunteers has started work to conserve two precious woodlands that have become a living encyclopaedia of some of Wales’s rarest plants and wildlife.
Penybedd woods and Pembrey forest in Carmarthenshire are home to a vast array of endangered species, including a variety of butterflies and birds, a wide range of insect life and rare orchids.
Pembrey forest includes part of a Special Site of Scientific Interest and, as one of Britain's unusual sand dune forests, has attracted great interest from naturalists drawn by its many scarce botanical species.
Now, under a management agreement with Forestry Commission Wales, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers Cymru (BTCV) has embarked on a project to preserve this natural wonderland.
As well as undertaking work to improve the conservation aspects of the two Welsh Assembly Government-owned woodlands, near Llanelli, volunteers also aim to improve access so that more visitors can appreciate the colourful biodiversity of the woods.
FC Wales Community Ranger Jonathan Price said, “These woodlands offer a natural refuge for so many species and we are delighted to help the BTCV carry out this work, without which many of these plants and wildlife would be lost to future generations.
“Our ongoing partnership with the BTCV in the Pembrey area will bring benefits to the biodiversity of the site and, thanks to the excellent conservation management work they are undertaking, will help to secure the future for these important species.”
FC Wales leased a small forest office in Penybedd woods to provide a base for BTCV to carry out its work, which will be done as part of the Countryside Council for Wales’s Communities and Nature Project, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Assembly Government.
FC Wales has an ongoing agreement with Butterfly Conservation Wales to manage areas of the wood to benefit the 31 species of butterfly and moths in Pembrey, and much of the work carried out by the volunteers will be to this end.
Path and track edges will be strimmed to increase areas of bare ground for the benefit of the Dingy Skipper, while some trees will be removed from other areas to expand the preferred habitat for the Grizzled Skipper, which can only be seen at two other sites in Wales.
Vegetation will be cut back along some paths and trackside sandbanks to create a mosaic of vegetated areas and bare ground, thereby creating a favoured environment for the Small Blue population.
But it’s not only the butterflies that make these important woods such a special place for some of our most important fauna and flora.
The mixture of pine trees on the dunes and willow and sallow in the wet slacks provide the ideal habitat for many species of bird including Crossbills, Warblers and Kingfishers.
Birds of prey also visit the forest, with Goshawk and Sparrowhawk recorded, and large flocks of Lapwing feed on the salt marshes outside the forest.
A patchwork of ponds throughout the forest support a wide range of insect life, including several species of dragonfly.
The flora includes at least eight species of orchid, including Bee Orchid and Marsh Helleborine. Adders' Tongue Fern and Round Leaved Wintergreen are some of the other species present.
Nick Thomas, West Wales Manager for BTCV Cymru, said, “BTCV is pleased to be working in partnership with FC Wales, CCW’s Communities and Nature Project and the Butterfly Conservation Trust to deliver positive action to support such an important site for conservation and amenity in Carmarthenshire.”
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.
The EU’s European Regional Development Fund is part of the £3.4bn Structural Funds programmes 2007-2013 aimed at creating economic, social and environmental improvements for people, business and communities across Wales. For more information visit www.wefo.wales.gov.uk
Communities and Nature is a £14.5m European-funded project led and managed by CCW and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Assembly Government. Its aim is to use our natural environment in Wales to create economic opportunities through leisure and tourism – providing valuable, sustainable jobs in areas and communities where they are needed.
For more information on Pembrey forest and Penybedd woods, contact FC Wales Community Ranger Jonathan Price on 0800 068 0213, mobile 07789 922748.
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 email@example.com