A major operation by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to remove diseased larch trees from forestry in the Sirhowy Valley will begin mid-February.
NRW estimates that a total area of 70 hectares – roughly the equivalent of 70 rugby fields – of larch will need to be felled. This includes forestry bordering the Sirhowy Country Park, and near Cwmfelinfach on the opposite side of the valley.
The trees are infected with Phytophthora ramorum, commonly known as larch disease. In 2013, surveys identified that the disease was spreading rapidly across forestry in Wales, sparking a nationwide strategy to remove diseased trees to stop it spreading further.
At nearby Cwmcarn Forest, a five-year operation to remove diseased larch has just drawn to a close. But unlike the complex operation at Cwmcarn, contractors working on behalf of NRW intend to remove the diseased larch from the Sirhowy Valley quickly, within a number of months rather than years.
To allow them to do this safely and efficiently, NRW will need to temporarily close the forestry off for visitors. Sirhowy Country Park will remain open.
Jim Hepburn, Forest Operations Team Leader for NRW said “We don’t like to close off access to our forestry, as we know how valued it is by local people, but in this case it’s the best solution to get the work done quickly without delay.
We’ll do everything we can to limit the disruption caused by the work, and where it’s safe to do so, we’ll reopen areas of the forest as the operation progresses.
Larch disease has had a dramatic impact on our forestry in Wales, and nowhere is this more prominent than nearby Cwmcarn Forest where we are now making preparations to reopen the Forest Drive.
It’s unfortunate to have to fell trees, but it does provide us with an opportunity to redesign the forest for the future. After the felling is complete, we intend to plant new trees, including a mixture of native, broadleaf species, which will start the regeneration of those parts that were once ancient woodland. These will make the forest more resilient so it can continue to be enjoyed for many years to come.”
Cllr Nigel George, Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Neighbourhood Services, added “The council will support NRW in their operation to remove diseased trees from the Sirhowy Valley and ensure disruption to visitors is kept to a minimum. This is a popular area amongst local residents and the council would like to reassure them that the Sirhowy Country Park will remain open throughout the works.
We also look forward to Cwmcarn Forest Drive reopening later this year which will enhance a number of exciting new developments being delivered at the site, including new mountain bike trails, adventure play hub and luxury accommodation.”
For updates on the tree felling operation in the Sirhowy Valley visit: naturalresources.wales/about-us/our-projects/forestry-projects/information-on-sirhowy-forest-work