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Conservation work at Carrog Farm

A view of the farm buildings at Cwm Penmachno surrounded by green fields and trees on a sunny day, with a view of the mountain in the background
Carrog Farm in Cwm Penmachno | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Carrog Farm at Cwm Penmachno, near Betws y Coed, has been on an incredible journey to restore nature over the past few years. The river Machno runs through the farm and has been returned to its natural course from a previously straightened and managed route. Community groups have been involved with planting trees and changes in farming methods has led to the re-establishing of a flourishing wildflower meadow.

Restoring part of the River Machno

As part of the Upper Conwy Catchment Project, the work here at Carrog has been carried out in partnership with Natural Resources Wales with help from the community.

Restoration work focussed on a 1km stretch of previously canalised river that runs through the farm. This was carried out in several stages and involved using innovative solutions and large-scale machinery to remove steep shingle embankments and re-connect the river with its natural floodplain.

What benefits can we see?

The natural and dynamic braided river habitat is already visible and it’s storing more water on the floodplain at times of high flow.

The river has shifted from a straight glide (like a canal) to developing sections of pools (deep water) and riffles (fast flowing areas) which was achieved by returning large boulders – sifted from the embankment material – to the main channel of the river. This modification has also led to gravel shoals forming around the boulders which creates a greater variety of features within the river and improves the habitat for spawning fish like brown trout. This, in turn, attracts birds such as kingfisher, common sandpiper and dipper.

A view of a river surrounded by moorland and trees on a sunny day at Cwm Penmachno, with a distant view of the mountains in the background
The river at Cwm Penmachno | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Community tree planting

Thanks to local schools, community groups and volunteers who have helped with various tasks on the farm, nearly 5,000 tree and hedging saplings have been planted. Willow and alder saplings have been established along part of the riverbank to help stabilise soils. As the trees grow, they will cast shade on the river, creating shelter for fish and perches for hunting kingfisher.

In addition to a mixture of rare black poplar, oak and aspen planted within the fields, over 500m of hedges have also been planted, re-establishing a network of wildlife corridors as well as creating shelter for livestock during harsh weather.

Attracting otters

In a bid to tempt visiting otters to move in, an otter holt has also been constructed with help from the Cwm Penmachno Action Group. There are regular tracks, other signs and even sightings of them, which is a good indicator of a clean river.

Making meadows

Making a flower and herb-rich meadow can take time, as meadow plants require soils with low nutrient levels in order to establish themselves and flourish. Cutting grass for hay keeps the nutrient levels from becoming too high so this practice has been reinstated at Carrog.

A bulbous yellow flower with bright green leaves in a hay meadow with slightly blurred red clover and white daisies in the background.
Yellow rattle, 'the meadow maker' | © National Trust Images/Nick Upton

One of the first signs that a meadow is taking hold is the appearance of yellow rattle, often dubbed the ‘meadow maker’. This flower has a very useful trick: it's a parasite on the grasses and draws nutrients from them which weakens the grasses and allows other plants to flourish. Recording yellow rattle, along with oxeye daisy and eyebright was a great sign that the meadow is on the right track.

Footpath linking communities

As part of the work we’ve been able to create a riverside community footpath linking Cwm Penmachno and Penmachno communities, providing a space for the local community to walk through and witness the transformation of their efforts.

Our partners

Natural Resources Wales

Natural Resources Wales works with the Welsh Government, ensuring the environment and natural resources of Wales are sustainably maintained.

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