Repairs to a damaged peat bog and a popular walking route began in spectacular style earlier today (Monday 23rd February) with the airlift of hundreds of tonnes of heather brash and crushed stone to the top of Waun Fach – the highest hill in the Black Mountains. The airlift kick starts the first phase of a unique collaboration between Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority, Natural Resources Wales, the Glanusk Estate and the Black Mountains Graziers Association to improve the biodiversity on the Black Mountains made possible with £200,000 from the Welsh Government’s Nature Fund.
Earlier this year, Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority was successfully awarded just over £200,000 from the Welsh Government’s Nature Fund to develop a continuous improvement programme to restore heathland, peat bogs and other habitats in the Black Mountains. Glanusk Estate, which owns a large area of the Black Mountains as well as Waun Fach, was also awarded nearly £20,000 from the Nature Fund to improve the state of nature in the area. The grants represent a significant portion of the Welsh Government’s Nature Fund – which is investing in innovative and collaborative projects across Wales to support practical action to improve areas of biodiversity while providing benefits to communities and local economies.
Today the first phase of the funding has been rolled out to fund the use of helicopters to deliver hundreds of tonnes of stone and heather brash to the affected areas on Waun Fach. For the next two weeks it is anticipated that the helicopters will make numerous airlifts to complete the work – which is being delivered with the co-operation of the Glanusk Estate and Black Mountains Graziers Association.
At 2660 feet above sea level, Waun Fach is an area where there is no vehicle access and is viewed as one of the most remote landscapes in the National Park. Over time, cumulative impact from walkers, as well as other factors, has contributed to the erosion of the walking route, with regular damage to the surrounding areas of peat bog. A specialist team made up of local contractors, National Park Authority wardens, graziers and volunteers will work in sub-zero temperatures to carefully create a footpath with a stable walking surface, which will lessen the impact of trampling in the unique SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and carefully preserve the peat bog. The eroding and exposed areas of peat will be blanketed in heather brash and the gullies will be blocked to stop further erosive damage. The aggregate has been specially selected on advice from Natural Resources Wales because of its durability and compatibility with the existing stone.
Harry Legge-Bourke, landowner of Waun Fach said of the newly funded project: “We were delighted to learn that the Welsh Government had approved the grants to fund this unique and collaborative project between all stakeholders of the Black Mountains which looks at slowing the decline in the state of nature in this area. For the first time the graziers and landowners are taking the lead to drive forward biodiversity restoration on Waun Fach which makes this project even more unique. Waun Fach makes up part of the Glanusk Estate, and is particularly special as it offers an incredible vantage point for walkers with views right down the Bristol Channel. The area is also economically important in terms of farming and tourism. So whilst we know that visitors bring a huge investment to the area, it’s doubly important to recognise that it also costs money to ensure that this vital Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI) is protected and maintained throughout the year and visitors recognise this is a working environment as much as a leisure destination.”
Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority Conservation Manager, Paul Sinnadurai said: “We’re delighted at last to have the funds to make these vital upgrades to such a unique and important habitat in the National Park. The important work on Waun Fach ensures that there’s an all-weather path requiring little maintenance in future years, which will in turn serve to protect the fragile peat bog and its inhabitants, which include European Scheduled ground-nesting birds. Peat bogs are natural carbon stores but eroding peat bogs give off carbon dioxide, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. So as well as helping biodiversity, protecting and then restoring the bog is an essential contribution towards mitigating the effects of climate change. The new work will improve conditions for livestock, for walkers and the surrounding landscape, which suffers in earnest when footpaths are damaged. We would also like to take this opportunity to remind visitors that if they are walking with dogs in this area, legally dogs should be on a short lead at all times between 1st March – 31st July and at all times when near any stock, This is to protect livestock and ground nesting birds.”
Waun Fach is not the only popular walking route to have received improvements via helicopter delivery, with the Offa’s Dyke path on Hay Bluff receiving ongoing work which included several hundred tonnes of crushed stone and heather brash in the middle of January to repair the erosion problems surrounding the paths. Offa’s Dyke Path is a National Trail and this work was funded by the Rights of Way Improvement Plan funds provided to the National Park Authority by the Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales and Natural England.
Margaret Underwood, Member Champion for biodiversity for Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority said: “It is very important that people can enjoy their walks and take in the wonderful views without damaging the magical place they’re walking in. Thanks to the Welsh Government’s Nature Fund, we now have the opportunity to provide a high quality path that offers good walking, fantastic views and keeps the rich biodiversity of the area safe for future generations to enjoy.”
The work on Waun Fach is part of a much larger initiative to improve the condition of the uplands in the Black Mountains. There are number of project partners who will be pivotal in ensuring the success of the programme. In due course a long-term land management partnership will be developed comprising an independent Chairand representations from Glanusk, Tregoyd, Bal Bach/Bal Mawr, The Duke of Beaufort, Michaelchurch, Ffawyddog and Evans-Bevans Estates, the Black Mountains Graziers Association, Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW), Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Natural England and Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority. Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority will also working with ADAS and the National Trust Wales to deliver elements of the Nature Fund grant.
If you are interested in joining the Black Mountains Upland Volunteers project please contact Jason Rees on 01874 620484 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Pictures: Copyright of Chas Breton and Simon Powell Photography
Taken at an earlier airlift in the Black Mountains near Offa’s Dyke in January 2015