Presently the Cwmcarn Forest looks very different to what it has in the past which is due to a disease within the Larch trees. Welsh Country has asked questions of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) who has directed us to their frequently asked questions.
Another body that is looking after the interests of the future of Cwmcarn Forest is the Open Spaces Society website
Follows are the notes from NRW and we thank them for their co-opertation in this matter.
Our (NRW) work at Cwmcarn Forest
In response to questions from the local community and other interested parties, we have collated the most frequently asked questions on our work at Cwmcarn Forest.
Whilst it is long, it addresses most questions we’ve received in more detail than our general briefing note.
We hope this document will help explain our work at Cwmcarn forest and why we had close the Forest Drive road.
We have tried to sort in into the following subject areas;
Forest Drive road;
Harvesting and haulage operations;
Eco-systems and nature;
1.What is larch disease?
Larch disease, or Phytophthora ramorum, is a fungus like disease can cause extensive damage and mortality to a wide range of trees and other plants which spreads through airborne spores from tree to tree. It poses no threat to human or animal health.
Almost all of the larch trees at Cwmcarn have been infected by larch disease. Whilst we cannot stop the spread of larch disease, we can take action to slow it down. This includes taking the difficult decision to close our seven – mile Forest Drive road and fell over 160,000 infected trees in Cwmcarn Forest as soon as possible.
2.Why do you have to remove the larch trees?
Under the Statutory Plant Health Notice -Movement (SPHNm) issued by Welsh Government to Natural Resources Wales, we are under a legal obligation to fell infected larch trees.
The SPHNm enables us to plan the felling in a less reactive manner than when the disease was first discovered.
3.How many of the trees at Cwmcarn are larch?
We have estimated that over three quarters of the trees in the Forest Drive road area of Cwmcarn forest are larch trees. This is approx. 160,000 trees.
Larch accounts for around 30% of trees across other forest blocks in Cwmcarn forest.
4. Where in Wales has larch disease already impacted?
Massive areas across Wales have already been infected. We estimate approximately 6000 hectares or 6 million trees will need to be felled over the next few years.
The first location to be infected was the Afan valley in south Wales. The felling in this area is now almost complete. Parts of the site that were felled in 2010/11 are already starting to regenerate and we have begun a replanting programme.
Forest Drive Road
5.Why do you have to close Forest Drive Road ?
The safety of the public is our number one priority.
The Forest Drive road is a single track, one way road system for most of its length. The road will be used to site harvesting equipment during operations. Timber will be stored directly on or adjacent to the road and loaded onto lorries. Large haulage lorries will be travelling along the road at regular intervals.
Given that the road is not built to highway standards, it is highly likely to be damaged by the 40 tonne timber trucks and harvesting machinery.
It will therefore be unsafe for public motorists to use the road during our operations.
6. Why can’t you re-open the Drive for the summer?
This would require the repair of the Forest Drive road each year. We do not have a budget to do this. Working in the winter is not as efficient as working in the summer so it would take an estimated six
winters to complete the work . This would prolong the disruption and delaying the regeneration of the site.
On all our harvesting sites, we have to consider the protection of European Protected Species, such as dormice. This can constrain the periods and locations in which harvesting can take place.
Mobilising equipment each year will add to the costs of removal and we would start to lose value of the timber in subsequent years. In addition, spreading the work over several years and permitting public access would mean that those using the road will be driving through:
•Dead forest with risk of falling timber in later years
•Sites that are being harvested
•Sites that have been harvested.
7. Could NRW offer limited opening or access opportunities in the forest during the felling period?
We will plan our work to make sure there will always be parts of the forest for people to enjoy. We will keep you informed of any planned trail closures or diversions as early as possible via social media channels and the Visitor Centre.
As parts of the forest have now become an operational harvesting site. These areas will be clearly sign posted. It is vital that members of the public don’t enter these areas for safety reasons.
8.Will the cycle routes be closing?
We will organise our felling and harvesting so it has as little impact as possible on visitors. We will not close any cycle routes permanently. However, they will be subject to temporary closures and diversions
when nearby felling operations will be taking place for safety reasons.
The cycle routes do not use the Forest Drive road so we don’t have the same concerns for cyclists as we do for motorists.
9.What standard is the Forest Drive road built to?
The Forest Drive road is not built to highway standards. This means it is likely that the heavy plant and timber haulage lorries will damage the road surface and make it both unsafe and unsuitable for the use of private vehicles.
10. Will the uplift service continue?
The mountain bike uplift service will continue to operate because their drivers are able to communicate with the felling contractors and are familiar with the road system. This means it is not therefore subject to the same level of risk as public motorists. There are likely to be times when this service may be
11.Why can’t NRW commit to reopening the Drive?
Our ambition is to reinstate a forest road. However, no final decision has yet been made. Repairing the road to its prefelling standard will take significant investment which we cannot commit to at this time due to pressures on public sector budgets.
We have already started to explore possible options for the future from looking at possible funding and partnership opportunities to reopen or partially reopen the existing road. We will continue to actively explore these options for the future and consult with local residents and other interested parties.
12. Will NRW be involving local people and groups in decisions about the future of the site?
We will continue our ongoing dialogue people interested in the future of the Forest Drive road through our contact with the local Residents Association, other stakeholder groups and both local and visiting users of the site.
We are keen to gather ideas for the future of the Forest Drive and are planning on holding events so that people can share their ideas with us. It is likely that these events will take place in spring 2015 once felling operations have commenced on site.
If you would like to receive further updates on any developments at the site, please send your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
13. When will replanting take place?
Replanting generally starts two years after harvest operations have been completed. In the two years before replanting starts, trees, shrubs and other plants will start to grow within the felled areas. We will assess whether supplementary planting of other trees and species is required before proceeding. The felling at Cwmcarn Forest has given us a once in a lifetime opportunity to redesign the forest and
restore large areas of native woodlands.
Our preferred option will be to allow ‘natural regeneration’, ie, allowing nature to put the right trees in the right places. We will give natural processes a hand by keeping sheep and other grazers out of the regenerating areas and managing bracken and bramble levels until the new trees have established
Some additional ‘enrichment planting’ is likely using native broadleaves (eg. beech, rowan, oak). This is normally completed within 5 years of felling. As Cwmcarn forest will still need to provide timber in the future, we will be planting a range of more resilient conifers. These will be grown from seeds collected in and around Abercarn including from the 1920s Douglas Fir. These seeds will be grown on in nurseries
and then brought back to the area. This may provide an ideal opportunity for schools and the local community to be involved in some of the planting where and when it is safe to do so.
14. What about the historic features and memorials on site?
We know about most of the protected historic sites within the Cwmcarn forest and will protect these from damage during our harvesting operations. If other non statutory sites are brought to our attention, we will aim to protect these as well provided that it does not compromise the safety of our operations.
15. How will we protect against water pollution and flooding?
Both NRW and our contractors operate within the nationally recognised ‘Forest and Water Guidelines’
which set out the requirements of forestry sites in order to protect water courses and other hydrological features.
We do not uproot the trees as this can lead to significant soil erosion with consequences downstream for flooding and siltation.
Any incidents can be reported to us on 0800 807060.
Harvesting and haulage operations at the site
16. What harvesting methods will you use?
We cannot use modern harvesting and forwarding machinery due to steep slopes. Timber has to be cut manually and then pulled to the processing and storage site on the road using a ‘Skyline’ winch system. This requires some machinery to be positioned on the forest road.
17. What is the nature of the terrain?
Given the steep slopes where the larch trees are growing, the only safe and practical place to put some machinery is on the forest drive road. The winch machinery and wire ropes (loaded with several tonnes of whole trees) are positioned upslope above the Forest Drive, bringing material up to the harvesting machinery for processing, storage in log piles and then loaded onto lorries.
18. How many lorries will be operating and what route will they take?
We estimate that there will be around 2000 lorry loads of larch timber to be removed from the plantations around the Forest Drive road itself over the haulage period . These loads will be transported
via NRW’s private road from Twyncarn Road to the Visitor Centre. The lorries will not travel through Cwmcarn village. It is anticipated that the first loads of timber will be transported out of the forest via the ‘Double D’ entrance. However, the route will revert to using the Forest Drive main entrance
once improvements have been made to the road.
We will discuss precise timing and frequency of haulage operations with our felling and haulage contractors. We will always avoid peak visitor and school run periods. Harvesting machinery will be disinfected (steam cleaned) before moving off site to minimise the risk of further spread of larch disease.
19. Can the infected larch timber still be used?
Yes. The timber lorries will transport the logs to sawmills in mid Wales. These sites are specifically licensed to handle timber from infected areas. It is likely that the timber from Cwmcarn Forest will be used to manufacture packaging, building products and fibreboard.
The bark of trees, usually a valuable source of income for the timber yards, will not be able to be used for horticultural purposes so it will be used as a biofuel.
20.What happens to all the money you get from selling the timber?
All income from timber sales goes towards the operating costs that NRW incurs through managing the Welsh Government woodland estate. Our costs exceed the revenue generated by timber sales so we also
receive additional financial support from Welsh Government. This enables us to continue to provide many free facilities throughout Wales for the benefit of local communities and visitors. The cost of harvesting larch is greater than other tree species due to the fact that larch was historically planted on steep sided valleys making extraction of timber more labour intensive.
21. Timescales of operations
We have a detailed programme of our planned felling operations over the next two years, focusing on the Forest Drive area. This will be followed by felling the in wider area around Cwmcarn with outline plans having been drawn up for the next five years. These plans will become firmer in forthcoming months but
may be subject to changes as we are constrained by availability of harvesting contractor resource, demand from timber markets and also the weather conditions.
We intend to start felling with area car park near car park one (Coupe 99609) and also car park 7 down to skip area (Coupe 99675). Our contractors are currently due to start manual preparatory felling in
March with heavy machinery being deployed from April onwards.
22.How will we protect the site against antisocial behaviour?
We will do this in the same way as all our other sites using preventative infrastructure, education and where appropriate enforcement action in collaboration with the police. The site will still be being used by other us ers such as walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders, and we will encourage them to report problems.
Our forestry contractors will employ security services to protect the site whilst harvesting is taking place. We would encourage members of the public visiting the site to report any incidents of antisocial behaviour to the police on 101 or to the NRW Incident Hotline on 0800 807060.
23. Who will be able to see work going on?
Anyone using the A467 between Risca and Newbridge will be able to see some of the later felling operations taking place. The Twmbarlwm fort will also provide an ideal viewpoint providing a vista that extends for many miles. This can be accessed from Risca.
24.How can you carry out felling work during nesting season?
Our ecologists survey all harvesting sites during nesting season. Our Cwmcarn Forest survey shows there are no threatened bird species or habitats that are nesting in the ‘live’ felling area. However, if we find or suspect a protected or threatened active nest there, we will suspend our work and move to another felling area if necessary. We will also ensure a reasonable duty of care for the protection of the less threatened species and habitats in line with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This approach to delivering forest management programmes allows us to carry out important work and protect wildlife as much as possible.
What will be happening with the access road from Twyncarn Road to the Visitor Centre?
Cwmcarn access road is a private road owned by Natural Resources Wales. It begins at Twyncarn Road and leads up to, and beyond, the Cwmcarn Visitor Centre car park. It is used by visitors to Cwmcarn Forest as well as by some local residents who live near to the Visitor Centre.
The road was originally built to allow haulage lorries to transport timber out of the forest and to alleviate visitor traffic on the public roads through Cwmcarn village itself. To help us to safely carry out our haulage operations and to better manage traffic on the road, we will be beginning some improvement works to control traffic along the road and create more frequent passing bays on 8th May.
Once started, we anticipate this will take approximately seven weeks to complete. This work will take place between the Visitor Centre car park and Twyncarn Road. To keep the road open as much as possible during this work, we will use a traffic management system. However, there may be occasions when we have to temporarily close the road. This is because it would not be safe to keep the road open whilst some of the work is being undertaken.
We will avoid closing the road at peak times, such as weekends, and when there are events at the Visitor Centre. We aim to minimise disruption to visitors and people who use the road.
Ecosystems and nature
25. How will the felling affect the local ecosystem?
We have a detailed design plan which shows some of our long term intentions for the site. Whilst there will be inevitable disruption in the harvesting areas we believe we will see significant future improvements. In the short term, we may see some non – protected habitats or species displaced and an
increased risk of soil erosion.
In the longer term, the work may create better habitats as biodiversity will be enhanced and soil and water quality may improve.
Throughout our work, we will do our utmost to deliver as many enhancements to ecosystems as we possibly can, working with local interests to find the best solution.
26.How do I raise concerns or give feedback?
We welcome feedback from site users so that we can minimise inconvenience and improve our operations. If you have any comments or questions regarding the work please contact us at:
Cwmcarn enquiries: email@example.com
General Enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
0300 065 3000 (Mon – Fri, 8am – 6pm)
03702 422 549**
0800 807060 (24 hour service)
You should use the incident hotline to report an incident such as pollution. Our Incident Hotline 0800 number is free from a landline but charges are likely from a mobile.