Around 170,000 new trees are being planted at Cwmcarn Forest, as Natural Resources Wales (NRW) begins restocking areas which have been felled in recent years.
NRW is currently felling about 160,000 larch trees infected with phytophthora ramorum. To date, approximately 30% of infected trees have been removed from the forest. Cwncarn Forest Drive has been closed since November 2014 for the felling operation.
Last month, the campaign group Friends of Cwmcarn Forest Drive launched a petition calling for the drive to be reopened by Easter next year. So far, it has attracted 1,000 names online and offline.
The forest drive remains closed as harvesting operations move into the central & northern side of the forest to fell the remaining infected trees. All other attractions at the site, including the visitor centre, mountain bike trails and footpaths remain open, although temporary closures and diversions of trails and paths may be necessary for safety reasons.
This latest phase of work is expected to continue until 2020.
The new trees have been grown from seeds that were previously collected locally from Abercarn and will cover approximately 80 hectares of land across the southern part of the forest and will include a mixture of conifer and native broadleaf.
By planting a mix of different trees, NRW hopes the forest will be more resilient to climate change and disease in the future.
Sally Tansey, Regional Land Manager for NRW said: “We know that Cwmcarn Forest and the Forest Drive is a much loved place and we want to thank local people and visitors for their patience and cooperation as we undertake these important works.
“We’ve made a lot of progress over the last two years, and we are now taking important steps to secure the future of the forest.
“Cwmcarn remains a popular attraction for walkers, mountain bikers and visitor centre guests and we believe it is a unique site which can offer something for everyone.
“We are working with Caerphilly County Borough Council to look at some different options for ownership and management of the site, and to explore its potential for the future.
“We’ll continue to consult people who live near to or enjoy Cwmcarn Forest as our plans develop.”