A CENTURIES old oak tree in a Gwynedd park with connections to a Welsh children’s book is to be fenced off and cut back for public safety.
The striking tree at Parc Meurig in Bethesda is believed to be at least 500 years old.
Work will include cutting back the canopy and lopping back any rotten branches.
Concerns had been raised that some branches could fall posing a risk to the public using the recreation area – particularly during high winds.
The tree is being “safeguarded” by Cyngor Gwynedd after investigations found it to be in a “very poor condition”.
The worrying situation was revealed as work was being carried out to improve the local environment and popular community resources.
The popular area has connections with Llyfr Mawr y Plant, a classic Welsh language book for children, and which is considered to be of cultural significance to Wales.
Ongoing improvements to the area include planting indigenous trees, clearing invasive species, placing benches and leisure facilities, fixing stone walls at the park’s edge and making better use of an old tennis court.
Jack Walmsley, Cyngor Gwynedd’s biodiversity officer, said: “During the initial examinations of the trees at Parc Meurig, it became clear that a large portion of this tree’s trunk was rotten.
Following further detailed examinations by an external expert, it was found that the fungal infection had spread through the tree’s structure, which could cause further rotting and seriously damage the trunk.
“This means that there is real risk that the branches could fall and hurt someone or cause some other structural damage, especially during strong winds and wintry conditions.
“We estimate that this beautiful tree could be up to 500 years old.
“We have talked to many local people, and everyone understands the situation – no one wants to lose the tree, nor do we want to see anyone hurt by falling branches.”
The work will see a section of the park fenced off in a way to prevent anyone from walking directly under the branches of the tree.
In addition, the canopy will be reduced by cutting back some branches, and it is hoped this will give the tree a better chance of survival.
Councillor Dafydd Meurig, cabinet member for the environment department said: “Parc Meurig is an important community asset for Dyffryn Ogwen.
“The area also has connections to Llyfr Mawr y Plant – a collection of children’s stories which is of huge cultural significance for Wales – and I’m sure generations of children have imagined the characters from the books living under the branches of the oak trees at Parc Meurig.
“Inspections carried out by our officers have revealed the vulnerable state of the tree and detailed work is being carried out to see what can be done to strike the right balance between safeguarding the tree, safeguarding wildlife habitats, and keeping the public safe.
“We do not take any decision lightly and the tree certainly is not going to be cut down.
“It is important to remember that this park is very popular.
“A busy footpath passes underneath the branches of the tree and many children come here to play, so it’s vital that we do everything possible to protect all who visit.”
Anyone concerned about the tree or interested in the situation, is being offered an opportunity to speak with the council’s biodiversity officers during an informal session from 11am to 1pm, on Saturday, January 20, 2024.
Anyone who is unable to attend can send any questions about the situation to: [email protected].