The cattle and the ponies on Newborough Warren are definitely finding things a little too hot. And they have a Catch 22 situation: if they go under the trees for a bit of shade, the horse flies are ferocious.
One of the belted Galloway cattle on Newborough Warren.
Young broadleaved trees, especially the willows, birches and sycamores are showing marked drought stress.
A scorched young willow behind the dunes of Penrhos Beach
Signs have been put up around the forest warning of the extreme risk of it going on fire. Mostly people are heeding these, but there are always exceptions and there have been some small fires, which have, thankfully, been controlled and put out before over much damage is done.
NRW Extreme Fire Risk warning sign, Newborough Forest
Over on the mainland things are worse, the smoke from the wildfire by Carmel, near Caernarfon, was clearly visible from Llanddwyn Beach this morning.
Smoke from the gorse/mountain wildfire by Carmel seen from Llanddwyn Beach this morning.
There seems to be no rain likely in the near future. Things are going to get tougher. It seems churlish to wish this weather to end, but I do!
It was a treat to see this swarm of bees on the edge of the forest this morning. They were resting on a small willow tree. The weight of the swarm was so great it had pulled the branch right down so it almost touched the ground.
A swarm of honey bees on the edge of Newborough Forest
Towards the end of last year, Natural Resources Wales gave notice that they planned to fell a four hectare block of the forest in order to establish an area in which to conduct “hydrological monitoring”. Off and on through the winter that clearfelling and site “preparation” work has been ongoing. The major works have now finished, the machines have left and the site has been fenced off…
The area clearfelled on the edge of the forest for hydrological monitoring.
NRW information sign for the hydrology trial site
The management of the forest is always a controversial issue and this trial is no exception…
The plan is for the area to be grazed: clearly that can’t happen for a while as the surface has been scraped and raked clear of all the vegetation that was there. That is why the smart new fencing has been put around the area (to contain the future grazing animals), even though the forest is a designated open access area…
And then, in four years time, the area may or may not be planted with some scrubby/shrubby trees like rowans, hawthorns, hazels and birches.
Newborough Forest clearfell coupe April 2018
Over the winter, new signs have sprung up along the Bike Quest trail at Newborough Forest.
The subheading of the sign is “our forests are under attack”…
This one is particularly ironic given that the main threat to Newborough Forest is probably Natural Resources Wales themselves.
The overblown tone of this sign is in keeping with the others. The previous one says “beware the bloodsuckers” and is about the medicinal leeches that are common in the forest’s ponds: it’s not really the kind of language that will help make people feel fondly towards the forest and its wildlife.
As well as the main footpaths and tracks throughout Newborough Forest, there are a lot of smaller orienteering routes waymarked. These trails take you into some of the nicest and less visited parts of the forest. On the weekend of 22nd and 23rd October 2016, there is going to be an open orienteering competition on these routes. See the poster below for more information:
When Newborough Forest was first being established, it was renowned for the diversity of species included in the planting mix.
The recent diversion of the Commonweath Run trail now takes you through an area where fragments remain of the labels used to identify trial plantings of pines from different native origins.
An old label in a Pinus contorta trial area – this one from British Colombia
Another old lodgepole pine trial label – this one from Oregon
Sadly, they are only fragments – most of the marker posts no longer have labels – but it is a lovely reminder of a happier time for forestry in Wales.
One of the dwindling areas of shoreline pines
Sylvia was a Shiba Inu dog who became lost and then sadly drowned off Newborough Beach in January 2015.
In memory of Sylvia
In a gesture of gratitude to the local people who helped search for Sylvia, and as a lasting memorial to the little dog, her owner commissioned a new bench.
The bench is now in place at the edge of the forest looking across the warren, to the mountains and the big forever beyond.
Sylvia’s bench and the view across the warren to the mountains beyond
You will find the bench about halfway along the path that leads from the Marram Grass car park (Llyn Rhos Ddu) to the edge of the forest and down to the sea.