A project by Welsh Water to rejuvenate a neglected and overgrown woodland at a north Cardiff reservoir site is set to get under way as the company marks World Wildlife Day.
The Gwern-y-Bendy woods and part of the Rhyd-y-Penau woods, which sit within the site of Lisvane and Llanishen reservoirs, will see work start on a woodland management plan to restore and enhance the woodlands so that they can flourish for decades to come.
The start of the work coincides with World Wildlife Day which aims to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The theme of this year’s day is Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet to highlight the important role forests play in sustaining ecosystems and livelihoods. While Welsh Water does not have forests, it is responsible for sustainably managing hundreds of acres of woodland across Wales.
While Welsh Water took over the Lisvane and Llanishen reservoirs in 2016, for years up until then the woods had been left largely unmanaged. This in turn has resulted in overgrowth, the emergence of invasive species and left the woods largely inaccessible. It also meant some trees had died and deemed as dangerous.
Thanks to the Welsh Government Community Woodlands initiative – part of the Welsh Government’s National Forest programme – and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, many of these issues will be addressed and the woodland brought under a sustainable management plan.
The first phase of the project was to remove the dead trees which has just been completed by the not-for-profit company. The work, which was carried out by professional tree surgeons, was undertaken before the bird nesting season and saw an ecologist on site to ensure there was no harm to wildlife.
With the dead trees removed – which will see the wood reclaimed and used for signage and benches around the site – the project can now move to the next phase which will include the removal of waste and invasive species. This in turn will enable the regeneration of woodland flora and fauna as well as plant connecting hedgerows which serve as wildlife corridors. The more sensitive areas of the woodland will be protected through the creation of conservation zones while a learning zone will provide an education amenity for local schools, community and visitors. The project will also include restoring a historic fishpond within the woodlands to further enhance its biodiversity credentials.
Peter Perry, Welsh Water’s Chief Executive Officer said: “We take our responsibility towards the environment seriously and this includes the sustainable management of the woodlands in our care. The work we will be undertaking to restore the woodland at Lisvane and Llanishen reservoirs will not only help preserve this rich ecology of the site but also provide accessible green space that will contribute to the health and well-being of future generations.
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “As we look to combat both the impact of the climate crisis, and the decline in our biodiversity, helping communities to create and restore habitats across Wales is vital.
“As such, I’m very pleased that Welsh Water have been able to provide new management visions for the woods, and have commenced restoration work at both reservoir sites, helping to secure them for future generations.
“This is exactly what our Community Woodlands initiative was devised to do, and I look forward to the submission of similar schemes in future.”
Andrew White, Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales said: “Nature is our oldest form of heritage and it has never been more important to look after it, aid its recovery and help people to understand the significance of nature. This is why funding landscapes and nature is one of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s key strategic funding priorities in Wales.
“We’re very proud to be supporting Welsh Water in partnership with the Welsh Government through the Community Woodlands grant programme, to undertake this rejuvenation work at Lisvane and Llanishen reservoirs to encourage biodiversity and ensure the woodlands are flourishing so that they can be enjoyed by current and future generations.”
The Community Woodlands initiative will be able to actively support the newly formed ‘Friends of’ group by offering a supervised training programme that will contribute to the restoration of the woodlands. The programme will build community capacity and understanding to continue to care for the area in environmentally appropriate ways whilst individuals are also being given the opportunity to learn new skills and reconnect with others and nature in a safe environment.
Welsh Water recently submitted a planning application for a visitor hub and associated water activities for the reservoir site. During the public consultation period, members of the local community were able register an expression of interest to join a Friends of Group and to work with Welsh Water and co-create volunteering events such as helping with conservation management activities to protect and enhance the unique ecology of the site. Many registrations have expressed an interest in conservation management, some of whom have no prior knowledge but would like the opportunity to learn and care for the local area.
Any organisations, community groups or charities which would be interested in finding out more about the partnership opportunities which could be available at the site should contact Welsh Water at [email protected]