A tree felling operation to combat larch disease at Cwmcarn Forest Drive has stepped up a gear.
Natural Resources Wales has begun major tree felling to slow the spread of Phytophthora ramorum, a disease which is attacking larch trees. Preparation work has been ongoing at the site since March.
The felling will remove up to 150,000 larch trees at the site which have become infected with the fungus-like disease and need to be felled as part of a nationwide strategy.
The disease has infected approximately 6.7 million larch trees in Wales and kills the tree once it is infected.
Despite this extensive felling work, the visitor centre, run by Caerphilly County Borough Council, and all other facilities at the site will remain open.
Andy Schofield, Operational Resources Manager for Natural Resources Wales, said: “Unfortunately, we cannot stop larch disease from spreading, but we can take action to slow it down. This means felling all the larch trees at Cwmcarn Forest.
“It is sad that we have to fell so many infected trees, but it does provide us with an opportunity to replace them with a range of resilient, native broad-leaf woodland trees, as well as more commercial timber producing trees, such as spruce.
“We will plan our work to make sure there will always be parts of the forest for people to enjoy.
“We will keep you informed of any planned trail closures or diversions as early as possible via our website, social media channels and the Visitor Centre.
“Parts of Cwmcarn Forest have now become an operational harvesting site. These areas will be clearly signposted. It is vital that members of the public don’t enter these areas for safety reasons.”
Due to the scale of the operation and the forest’s steep gradients, it would not have been safe or practical to keep the Forest Drive road open during the felling and harvesting operations.
Mr Schofield continued: “We know Cwmcarn Forest and the Forest Drive road has a special place in the hearts of local people and visitors so we’re already working on a plan to replace them with a range of other species to make the woodland more ecologically diverse and less susceptible to disease.
“We have already started to explore options for the future of the Forest Drive road, including looking at possible funding or partnership opportunities to reopen or partially reopen the existing road.
“We’ll continue to actively explore these options and consult with local residents and other interested parties.”
To manage the spread of the disease, Natural Resources Wales has so far felled nearly three million trees across Wales and are planting three million trees annually.