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Cyngor Gwynedd protects an ancient tree

An ancient and historic tree in a public park in Bethesda is being safeguarded by Cyngor Gwynedd after it was found to be in very poor condition and could pose a risk to the public.

The worrying condition of the centuries-old oak tree at Parc Meurig became known as work is being carried out to improve the local environmental and community resources.

There will be an opportunity for local people who are interested in the matter, or who are concerned about the future of the tree, to speak with the Council’s Biodiversity officers during an informal session to be held on Saturday, 20 January 2024, 11am-1pm.

To protect the longevity of the tree, and to ensure the health and safety of everyone who uses the area to relax and socialise, the Council will install a fence around the oak and part of the canopy will be cut back.

Jack Walmsley, Cyngor Gwynedd’s Biodiversity Officer, said: “During the initial examinations of all 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 wintery conditions.

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“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.”

Work will therefore be carried out to fence off a section of the park, preventing anyone from walking directly under the branches. In addition, the canopy will be reduced by cutting back some of the branches. 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.”

The situation emerged during improvement work at Parc Meurig, which includes planting indigenous trees, clearing invasive species, placing benches and other leisure facilities, fixing the stone walls around the edge of the park, and making better use of the old tennis court. This work will continue despite the situation that has arisen with the tree.

Cyngor Gwynedd’s Biodiversity officers will be available to speak to the public during the informal session at Parc Meurig on Saturday, 20 January between 11am and 1pm. Any members of the public who are interested in the matter but are unable to attend may send their questions about the situation to: [email protected].