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
After the eerily quiet start to the day, storm Ophelia hit north Wales with brutal force from Monday afternoon through into Tuesday.
View from the boardwalk the morning after Ophelia
On Penrhos Beach, the sand cliffs have been eaten into again. There is now a vertically faced step of three to six feet running most of the length of the beach. That means it will be harder to “escape” if you get trapped by the tide on the beach. In addition, the whole of the sand cliff has become unstable again – much like it was after storm Imogen in 2016.
The sand cliffs the length of Penrhos beach have been undermined and are crumbling
Within the newly exposed face of sand, I found this perfectly preserved Jewsbury and Brown Spardal bottle, complete with its rubber screw cap. Jewsbury and Brown were taken over by Schweppes in 1964. Perhaps it is possible that this bottle has lain in the sands for more than 50 years…
Jewsbury and Brown Spardal Mineral Water bottle complete with its original vulcanite screw stopper
Detail on the top of the J and B mineral water bottle stopper
I also found an “American style cola” drink can buried in the sand cliff with a date of May 1996.
A coke tin sticking out from the sand cliff face: its date (top line) is May 96.
The sand cliff face where the coke tin was. The tin was about two feet off the ground in a cliff about 14 feet tall.
There must’ve been about 12 feet of sand above the coke tin. Presumably all accumulated since 1996. Wow.
Walking along Penrhos Beach, the tall cliff of sand on your landward side gives no clue to the beautiful flowers that are blooming behind it.
At first glance, as you climb (or stagger) over the sand dune there seems to be a carpet of yellow flowers. Mainly this is made up of vetches, trefoils and bedstraws, with some beautiful acid yellow stonecrops too.
The first impression is of a carpet of yellow…
…yellow bedstraw flowers…
But amongst all the yellows, there are lots of other colours including the pinky purples of orchids, wild liquorice (restharrow) and wild thyme.
One of the many orchids behind the dune cliff
Dotted amongst the yellow flowers there are several different orchids
The pink and white flowers of restharrow creep close to the ground
Patches of wild thyme form little mats, their flowers hardly bigger than pin heads
The flower heads of the grasses are beautiful too, like this little sand cats tail
And these beautiful pinky orange seed heads on a tiny little grass – possibly a dune fescue
It’s a bit of a shame when you come to the end of a beautiful walk through these flowers and arrive at one of the areas that were “improved” over the winter and spring…:(
One of the cleared areas on the edge of the dunes
Mmm. That doesn’t sound quite right, and it certainly doesn’t look right!
Newborough’s new pyramids
Early this spring, NRW and their contractors brought out their big toys – excavators, bulldozers and tipper trucks – to continue with their resculpting of the duneland. These sculptures are the result of their trying to make nature do as they think she ought.
These “pyramids” have been created to the south east of the forest – at the end of the path that runs from the Marram Grass car park. They’re accompanied by a huge scrape.
This is how it looked in 2013 – the last dune before the sea at the end of the path from the Marram Grass car park
…and this is how it looks now
…and the giant scrape that accompanies them
It’s ironic that the work is being done to “help rare plants and insects such as … mining bees” as the area which has been trashed was a very active one for the little mining bees to burrow in and they will have been unceremoniously scraped out of their winter sleep:(
Also gone for now are the many orchids, centaury, coltsfoot and other lovely plants that made the zone so attractive to people and wildlife. Fingers crossed that it recovers soon.
A view from the forest edge
There are more storms still to come, but the highest tides are behind us. Penrhos Beach (the one to the west of Llanddwyn Island) has been remodelled by the elements: all the sand cliffs have been cut back and there are sand-slides all the way along.
Sand-slides slumped all along the foot of the sand-cliffs at Traeth Penrhos Beach
A fresh sand-slide: the fresh face of the dunes is still very unstable.
The path that used to run along the crest of the dunes now leads straight off the edge:)
The little path along the crest of the dunes now leads straight over the edge. Byddwch yn ofalus! Take care!
Newborough forest pines at the edge of the shore
The Forestry Commission began planting Newborough forest back in the 1940s. It is now an established and diverse forest of immense character and beauty. The forest makes a beautiful backdrop to areas of the beaches of Llanddwyn and Penrhos.
Since April of this year, the Forestry Commission (Wales) has been subsumed into Natural Resources Wales (NRW). Whereas the Forestry Commission’s mission was (and still is in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland) to “protect and expand forests and woodlands” NRW’s mission is to “make the most of our natural resources”. Rather a bland and uninformative mission really. They also want to fell and then destump parts of Newborough Forest that abut the shore.
Monterey cypresses and sprawling pines at the forest edge
These forest edges provide some of the most atmospheric scenery at Newborough with trees sculpted by the wind and skeletal remains of dead trees that the woodpeckers love to feed on. The area abounds with wildlife: but not, on the whole, the “right” wildlife.
The reasoning on NRW’s part is that the site is not complying with the requirements of its Special Area of Conservation status: a status confirmed in 2004…when the forest had already been in existence for nearly 60 years.
A smattering of holm oaks (ever-green oaks) survive on the forest edge
It’s a sadly ironic situation that on an island that already has so little tree-cover there will soon be less.
The track along the edge of the forest and the dunes.
Sea holly (Eryngium maritimum) is one of the most striking of the dune plants. And one of the most prickly. It used to be widely used in medicine and as candies. It was considered an aphrodisiac and a cure for many ailments including, according to Culpeper, “melancholy of the heart”:)
The sea hollies are just coming into flower on the dunes at Newborough. They are incredibly structural plants. In winter most of the above ground parts of the plant will die back to leave their spiky skeletons that will stand through the winter.