TWELVE years since one of Wales’ top tourism destinations opened, Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire has developed 500 acres of former agricultural pastureland into one of Wales’ most outstanding areas of biodiversity.

As more restrictions are lifted, one of West Wales’ tourism success stories is celebrating its achievement of creating a rich area of natural wildlife and fauna, with more than 500 species now recorded on the site near Narberth.

It believes the pandemic has highlighted to people how the countryside, the natural environment, and nature, is ever more important to them. As a result, more and more people will seek short breaks in areas where they can enjoy such free-range environments.

Marten Lewis, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Bluestone, said: “The past year has really made us all think about how important nature and the environment is. The inability to travel or even leave home much during lockdown created a reality check for us all.

“The natural environment, nature, flora and fauna, has been put on a pedestal as a result, and for good reason. It’s been most people’s only distraction to what has been happening in the world.

“Over the past decade we’ve created an environment of Open space, the ability to walk and see wildlife, go on adventures into the natural environment. Free range has become synonymous with Bluestone and it’s even more so as we see guests booking for just that reason.”

In a survey undertaken in 2019, Bluestone worked with local recorders in conjunction with the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre, and they identified 320 species in just one day.

Combined with other survey work, more than 500 species have been identified within the 500-acre Bluestone site, including in its ancient woodland which it carefully manages.

This is a far cry from when the site was dairy farm pastureland with virtually no ecosystem and no more than a handful of species.

The vision of the former farmer and founder of Bluestone, CEO William McNamara, to create a sustainable tourism destination with the natural environment at its heart has become a reality in just 12 years.

More than 200,000 additional trees and plants have been planted since then. In 2012 a new Diamond Wood was planted in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. One of only two in Wales, over 120 people joined broadcaster and wildlife expert Iolo Williams to help plant some of the 35,000 native trees to create an additional natural woodland habitat within the 500-acre site. 

The new wood joined two historical woodlands, Canaston and Minwear, for the first time in centuries, and created an important habitat for wildlife in the area.

But that’s just a start. Bluestone has now set out its Biodiversity Action Plan 2020-2030. Over the next 10 years it aims to enhance biodiversity even more. This will also support the Pembrokeshire Local Biodiversity Action Plan and the Nature Recovery Action Plans.

“We’ve demonstrated how eco-tourism can make not just a positive impact on a local environment, but how it can enhance and attract even greater biodiversity. We’ve seen fields used for dairy farming turned into some of the richest areas for nature and conservation,” said Marten.

“This is something that cannot only be developed here within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, but more widely throughout Wales and the UK.”

Bluestone has many other environmental and biodiverse credentials. From a biomass fuelled energy centre, solar panels on lodges, a car free resort to reduce emissions, a district biomass system on 60 of its lodges, and many more.

“As our Biodiversity Action Plan sets out the next 10 years, we realise that this is just one part of our day-to-day and ongoing commitment to nurturing our natural environment. It’s what everyone at Bluestone is working to. It is also one key reason as to why so many guests return here year-on-year.

“The pandemic may have had an impact on tourism and the local economy and people’s lives, however it has also demonstrated the importance of nature and having biodiversity in our lives,” added Marten.

More details about Bluestone and its work and commitments to biodiversity and the natural environment can be found at www.bluestonewales.com.