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Thanks to funders, some 150,000 native trees will start to be planted over the next five years to create a new, large woodland next to the Gnoll Country Park in Neath. The site, currently called Brynau named after the small area of ancient wood that already exists there, will link the surrounding landscape with new hedges and small patches of existing woodland.  Once completed, the new woodland (the size of some 100 rugby pitches) will be accessible to the public and be within an hour’s journey of more than 600,000 people within south Wales.

The site will not only provide a place for people to enjoy the outdoors but will help with the fight against the effects of climate change by purifying the air, locking up carbon and soaking up excess water which would otherwise run down the hills and contribute to flooding risk in Neath below. The tree planting the Trust aims to undertake across the whole site would capture over 23,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and lock up the carbon in its wood.

The new planting at Brynau will also become the latest flagship site for the Plant! project – the Welsh Government’s commitment to plant a tree for every child born or adopted in Wales, delivered through Natural Resources Wales in partnership with The Woodland Trust.

Environment Minister gets planting

The Trust invited the First Minister Mark Drakeford to visit the site to launch the public consultation on 12 March. In the event, he was called away at the last minute to attend a COBRA meeting on Coronavirus, but he was represented by the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths. She planted one of the first trees at the site along with local schoolchildren and talked about the First Minister’s vision to create a National Forest for Wales.

The First Minister earlier said: “This woodland will provide a sanctuary for the community and a rich mixture of life which will thrive in it for generations to come.  The Welsh Government is committed to working with expert partners such as the Woodland Trust to ensure a tree is planted for every child born or adopted here in Wales. Protecting and planting new woodlands will help us fight climate change, protect nature and increase our natural flood defences. I’m looking forward to Thursday, when I’ll be joining the Woodland Trust and announcing plans of our own to work with people throughout Wales to fight climate change and protect nature.”

Our newest site in Wales

Natalie Buttriss, director of Wales for the Woodland Trust says:

“I’m delighted that this project is starting at our newest site in Wales. We had an amazing response to our fundraising appeal last year and I’d like to thank everyone who supported this. We now have the wonderful opportunity to create 66 acres of new native woodland which we hope will not just provide an amazing place for people to enjoy healthy outdoor exercise, but will also provide a healthier, more resilient environment. We very much want local people to help us shape how the woodland develops and I look forward to hearing the public’s response to our planned consultation events.”

Woodland creation helps reduce Nationwide’s environmental impact

The planting at Neath is part of a £1.25 million project by Nationwide Building Society, in partnership with the Woodland Trust. With the Trust, Nationwide is planting 60,000 trees and creating several new woods across the UK. It has already created woodland at Ballathie Woods in Scotland, Hedley Hall woods near Durham and Pack Hill near its headquarters in Swindon.

Lynn Forrester, social investment manager at Nationwide, said:

“We’re delighted to be working with the Woodland Trust to create this new woodland. As a mutual, we want to do the right thing for our members, employees and wider society, so our woodland creation programme is helping us reduce our environmental impact and provide long lasting benefits to local communities for generations to come.”

Have your say!

The Trust’s consultation programme launched on 12 March and will be followed by public events over the coming months to allow local people to see and give feedback on the plans for the creation of new woodland. There will also be an online consultation to ensure that those further afield or supporters who may have donated to the appeal can also get involved.

The Trust is keen to incorporate ideas from the community and tweak the design to meet local need. All suggestions received that add value to the site and what it offers to the community will be considered. This could even include, for example, suggestions regarding the name of the site.

Notes to editors

In September 2019 the Coed Cadw completed the purchase of 71 hectares of land adjacent to Gnoll Country Park, and will soon purchase of a second block of 24ha. It is mostly open pasture, however, 18ha is already woodland, which includes the ancient Brynau Wood. Total 20 year project costs are in excess of £2 million, which is split roughly half and half between land acquisition costs and site management costs.

Nationwide Building Society is the world’s largest building society, and has 15m members and customers. Nationwide recognises that it has an impact on the communities and environments in which it operates. The Society’s mutual status means it aims to do the right thing in terms of building a sustainable business for its members and employees. In 2015 Nationwide asked members to choose to receive their future AGM information via email rather than in print through the post.  To encourage this, they offered to plant a tree for every three members who chose this option – Nationwide is now working towards planting a total of 60,000 trees (40,000 of which relate to the AGM). 

The Trust expects to plant around 150,000 trees. In accordance with its policies, all of these trees will be sourced and grown from the UK, so as to avoid any risk in importing tree diseases. Some of this planting will be in blocks to create new woodland. Other trees will be planted singly or in small groups, scattered through areas of grassland: this will mirror the wood pasture or ‘parkland’ to be seen in the landscape of the Gnoll next door. The Trust has aspirations to find alternatives to plastic tree guard tubes and chemical weed control, currently under investigation and subject to trial.

The design will also leave plenty of open space, with patches of rough grassland and a pond, to attract a range of wildlife. It will also maintain viewpoints so visitors can enjoy the fantastic vistas across to the sea and the Vale of Neath.

For media enquiries contact:

Rory Francis, PR and campaigns manager Wales, on 0343 770 5738, 07539 322678 or roryfrancis@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Or the Woodland Trust press office on 01476 581121 or media@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw) is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife. The Trust has three key aims:

  1. protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,200 sites in its care covering approximately 29,000 hectares. These include over 100 sites in Wales, with a total area of 2,897 hectares (7,155 acres). Access to its woods is free so everyone can benefit from woods and trees. The Trust’s Welsh language name, Coed Cadw, is an old Welsh term, used in medieval laws to describe protected or preserved woodland.