AN OFFICIAL ceremony to celebrate the re-opening of Cwmcarn Forest Drive, took place yesterday (6 July), a year after the Drive was able to welcome visitors back by car for the first time. Cwmcarn Forest Drive is one of the Valley Regional Parks (VRP) discovery gateways. 

The Drive officially reopened to the public on June 21 last year, but coronavirus restrictions in place at the time, meant that an official re-opening ceremony was unable to take place.

The Drive had previously been closed for 6 years to allow essential forestry operations to be undertaken,  to remove 160,000 larch trees that had been infected with Phytophthora ramorum, (larch disease).

Representatives from the local community groups, Friends of Cwmcarn Forest Drive, and the Twmbarlwm Society, who were fundamental to the success of the re-opening, joined elected officials for a tour of the Drive to celebrate everything Cwmcarn has to offer.

As part of the tour, three new Copper Beech trees were planted near to the activity  playground at car park four to mark the one-year anniversary.

The 7-mile Forest Drive – the only one of its kind in Wales – was given a brand-new lease life  last year, when it underwent a 12-month re-development and was significantly transformed as a result of a successful collaboration between Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Caerphilly County Borough Council (CCBC) and the local community.

The site was designed to be as inclusive as possible and  offers something for every type of visitor  – from exhilarating mountain bike trails to  quiet areas for mindfulness and wellbeing, to educational trails where little explorers can learn more about the forest and its creatures.

Several new all-ability trails were also created with access for all, along with many new picnic seating areas for leisurely lunches and a wooden cabin with panoramic views over the valley.  

Geminie Drinkwater, Senior Land Management Officer for Natural Resources Wales said: “It’s been truly fantastic to be able to welcome so many visitors from across Wales back to this beautiful and unique site over the past year and see people enjoying and discovering everything Cwmcarn has to offer.

“Cwmcarn is such an important asset and provides a valuable greenspace for both local residents and tourists alike. The last two years has shown us just how important places like this are for our physical and mental wellbeing.

“Today was an opportunity for us to be able to come together and celebrate everything that has been collectively achieved in re-developing the Forest Drive  and a chance to honour everyone’s efforts, including the substantial investment from Welsh Government and Valleys Regional Park fund.

“From the beginning of this project, we’ve seen tremendous support and involvement from both individuals and local community groups, who have been fundamental in helping to shape the drive into what you see here today.  I’m sure it will be cherished by many people for years to come.”

Cllr. Jamie Pritchard Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Prosperity, Regeneration and Climate Change from Caerphilly County Borough Council said: “It has been a pleasure to see first-hand the results of the collective efforts to restore and improve the iconic Cwmcarn Forest Drive.

“The large scale investment on the drive and the valley floor has seen the site that is set in a vast 1,400 hectares, totally transformed to become a more sustainable and provide an impressive visitor experience.

“The site now boasts a wide range of new and improved facilities including, state-of-the-art accommodation, and an award winning visitor centre all set within a beautiful backdrop.

“This truly demonstrates our commitment to work together with our partners to continue to invest and improve our services now and for future generations.”

Plan your visit to Cwmcarn Forest Drive by visiting the website – https://www.cwmcarnforest.co.uk/ 

The admission costs for the drive is  £8 for a car, £4 for a motorbike, £15 for a minibus and £30 for a coach. The payment is cash only at the barrier or tokens can be obtained from reception onsite. The drive operates a one-way system and there are no time constraints for visitors.