Estate and woodland at Dolaucothi
The estate stretches over 2,500 acres in total, comprising of upland farms, woodland and the site of the original Dolaucothi house and surrounding parkland. The trails themselves offer everything from fantastic views to gentle riverside strolls.
Over the years nature has taken over this industrial landscape leading you to believe that this undulating woodland landscape could be a natural feature, but as we know, there’s so much more hiding beneath these wooded hillsides.
Natural features of the estate are designated in their own right as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), for the upland oak woodland, the British Isles’ own temperate rainforest. The industrial and natural worlds colliding to create the perfect conditions for lichens, mosses and rare ferns.
The tour of the Roman mine takes you through the Allt Hebog SSSI which is significant for its upland oak woodland, rare Hay Scented Buckler Fern and bat presence. The humidity and moisture content in the area creates conditions equivalent to the rainforest, even on the rainiest of days, you can see this habitat at its best.
Woodland restoration at Allt Dolaucothi
We manage the woodlands to improve the habitat conditions within them. At Dolaucothi this has meant interventions when disease has struck and management of non-native invasive species and involvement in Celtic Rain Forest LIFE+ Project with RSPB and Snowdonia National Park.
In 2017 there was an outbreak of the disease Phytophthora Ramorum in the larch trees which dominated the woodlands at Allt Dolaucothi. An area that’s located at the lower end of Pumsaint village, easily accessible if you follow the red estate walk into the woodland on our estate map or part of the blue walk which takes you through the top end of the woodland.
The outbreak resulted in the felling of a large area of larch trees. It’s never nice to see an entire woodland cleared away, however, thinking about the long-term ecological health of this woodland, it was a step in the right direction to improve these woodlands.
They’re designated as PAWS (Plantation on Ancient Woodland Site) which means that an oak woodland has existed on this site for many years. Our long term aim for the management of the site is to restore the native woodland and reduce the presence of the more commercialised crop such as douglas fir and sitka spruce.
The several large areas of open canopy breathed new life into the woodland floor and we’re seeing the native oaks regenerating and re-establishing in this area. We’re adding to the mix of native broadleaved tress and fruiting shrubs. As the trees mature they’ll become part of a much larger high nature habitat for wildlife to thrive in.
We’re managing these woodlands to create better connectivity between the woodlands so that they form a joined up network of wildlife friendly corridors giving species the chance to establish larger, more sustainable populations and attract new ones too. This will make the habitats on our land less susceptible to climate change.
Management of phytophera ramorum today
Sadly the management of phytophera ramourm on the estate continues as its presence was discovered at Allt Cwm Hen and Caio Forest, woodlands that are under the management of Natural Resources Wales. If you’re walking the longer orange walking route it’ll take you through parts of Caio forest where you may come across areas where they’ve felled the trees to try and manage the outbreak. It’s a disease that’s spreading throughout South Wales and a big challenge in terms of woodland management alongside ash dieback.
Celtic Rainforest LIFE+ Project
The aim of this project is to support and protect a rare ecosystem, the temperate rainforest. This oak woodland is characterised by slow growing oaks with an abundance of lichens, bryophytes and ferns, making these woodlands very special. It aims to improve the conservation status of these woodlands by removing non-native invasive species and implement active woodland management to improve the habitats.
Controlling non-native invasive species
As you walk around the Dolaucothi estate you’ll notice that there are some plants growing here that you wouldn’t expect to see, rhododendron ponticum being one of them, alongside pockets of Japanese knotweed and Himalayan Balsam. So that the natural oak woodlands can thrive we’re planning the treating or removing these species as part of a seven year control programme of non-native invasive species.
Management of ash dieback disease
Ash dieback is a disease that is becoming ever more prominent in the UK and we’re seeing areas where large numbers of ash trees are affected. Sadly the disease makes the trees very brittle and vulnerable to collapse. We’ve a programme of works to remove the ash trees to secure the safety of the footpaths and surrounding features.