Wales is Building the Largest Ever National Forest

The new national park is being built on the site of ancient woods.

Apr 11, 2020

The ancient burial chamber, Gwal Y Filiast, in Carmarthenshire, Wales (Andydparker / Shutterstock.com)

Ancient woodlands or forests are a large part of the history and culture of Wales. The folklore of forests being dark mystical places is found in tales about enchanted woods and magical animals. But woodlands also have some real down to earth benefits and that’s why Wales is preserving and enlarging its ancient woodlands.

In March 2020, the Welsh government announced the launch of a new national forest that will run the entire length and breadth of Wales that will be managed by The Woodland Trust, the organization that plants trees and protects woods in the UK.

The idea is to allow people to walk the entire length of the forest from one end of the country to the other according to the BBC. The project is being funded to the tune of £5m in this year’s budget. Funds will also be provided for farmers to plant more trees on their property.

The site of the new forest adjacent to the Gnoll County park in Neath is called Brynau after a small area of ancient woods. It will link the surrounding countryside and new hedges consisting of 150,000 native trees according to a press release from the Trust.

The new forest will be open to the public. The site will be more than just a recreational area because planting trees will help fight against climate change by taking carbon dioxide out of the air and by soaking up excess water to prevent flooding. The Trust hopes that the forest will capture 23 tons of Co2.

The launch of the woodlands site was held On March 12 and Lesley Griffiths, the minister for environment, energy, and rural local affairs planted one of the first trees along with local school children.  The new forest is set to become the flagship site for The Plant!, a project set up by the government to plant trees every time a child is born or adopted in Wales.

Griffiths told the Trust that the creation of extensive woodlands is, "challenging and long-term ambition.

"In the coming year, we will be engaging widely so we are able to design the program in a way which allows everyone to make their contribution."

First minister Mark Drakefield who strongly supports this project was unable to attend the event but in a statement, he said: “This woodland will provide a sanctuary for the community and a rich mixture of life which will thrive in it for generations to come…Protecting and planting new woodlands will help us fight climate change, protect nature and increase our natural flood defenses.

The new planting at Neath is just a part of a £1.25 million project by Nationwide Building Society, in partnership with the Woodland Trust. But some people think that faster action is needed.  

Professor Mary Gagen from Swansea University and a climate scientist who specializes in trees told BBC, that the new project was a positive development. "It has the complexity that we need as it looks at the different elements to do with the emergency that we're facing both in our natural systems and our climate.

"But what's great is that this project also looks at habitat restoration, at retaining the trees we have at the moment, protecting our ancient forests and connecting areas so wildlife can use them." 

There is currently 763,000 acres of woodlands in Wales for a total of 19.4 percent tree coverage for the country according to the National Assembly Research Service. This is far less than the UK targets for tree planting  to combat climate change but it is a big step in the right direction. 

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.