Saving an important route in Cwmcarn Forest, Caerphilly

22 September 2014

Some months ago, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) made it known that as part of the plans to counteract the spread of Phytophthora ramorum (Larch disease) it would be felling all the larch trees in Cwmcarn Forest and closing the Forest Drive. Cwmcarn is alone in Wales in having a drive as well as cycling trails, walking trails, a visitors’ centre and a children’s playground. We have been aware of the threat of Larch disease to local forests and woodland for some time, but the threat of the closure of the drive came as a huge surprise. If other forests which do not have a drive can manage we wondered why the Cwmcarn drive should close.

Forest Drive which NRW say is in danger of not being reopened after the felling is complete.

Forest Drive which NRW say is in danger of not being reopened after the felling is complete.

The threat of temporary closure however, was not the least of it. NRW, formerly the Forestry Commission, claimed that it was unlikely that the drive would reopen because its surface would need improving and funding was unlikely to be available. Enter Rob Southall, OSS member, founder of the Twmbarlwm society, Islwyn Ramblers member and Politics and Sociology Lecturer at Crosskeys Campus, Coleg Gwent, who has managed to stir up a huge amount of support via social media and made NRW sit up and listen.

On Sunday 21 September four members of the public with their differing agendas were interviewed by BBC. I was interviewed in my capacity as OSS local correspondent, with Terry Evans, chair of the Twmbarlwm Society, for Good Morning Wales, a BBC Radio Wales production. Rob Southall and Sharon Morgan were interviewed for BBC Wales news. Importantly, staff from NRW were available at Cwmcarn Visitors’ Centre to speak to members of the public, find out their views and concerns and allay their fears. I believe that this sudden change in NRW’s attitude would not have happened without Rob’s efforts.

Read more here.