Valleys community to shape the future of public forest

People from NRW and Welcome to our Woods in Cwm Saerbren forest

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is working with Welcome To Our Woods, a community partnership in the South Wales Valleys, on the future management of a large area of public forestry around Treherbert.

Representatives from NRW and Welcome To Our Woods were in Cwm Saerbren on 5 May to celebrate the community participation initiative, called Project Skyline.

Project Skyline aims to involve local people in managing their local landscape to provide places for social and cultural activities and opportunities for income and jobs.

A long-term forest management plan, “Future Forest Vision”, has been co-designed by the people of Treherbert and NRW, facilitated by Welcome To Our Woods, and other community organisations. It is designed to benefit nature, the local community and visitors.

Welcome To Our Woods will initially manage an area of NRW’s Cwm Saerbren woodland through a Community Management Agreement for activities such as managing the trees, creating and maintaining footpaths, while also creating spaces for running community and educational activities.

The agreement also includes training for people to help build up skills and experience in managing a forest, making sure standards of health and safety and environmental management are met.

Prof. Calvin Jones, Chair of the Land Estates Committee of the NRW Board, said:

“We are proud to be working alongside Welcome To Our Woods and the people of Treherbert to achieve the Project Skyline vision to make local natural resources more useful and relevant to communities.

“This is an innovative project that offers opportunities for the community to improve the local economy through creating jobs and developing skills. And in doing so make the woodland an even better place for people who live in, work in, or visit Treherbert.

“Our current work together is the first step to the wider Future Forest Vision for the woodland around Treherbert.

“With this Future Forest Vision and management agreement in place, this project is a blueprint for community management models across the land in NRW’s care.”

Ian Thomas from Welcome To Our Woods said:

“Our community has long been calling for a greater stake in the natural landscape around where we live. Treherbert and our surrounding villages are a rich tapestry of skilled, entrepreneurial and ambitious people who are passionate about their home town.

“All parties concerned recognise the long road travelled here and the tremendous efforts on all parts which has got us to the positive place we are at today: a community recognising the statutory duties of NRW as land manager, even the commercial necessity of plantations in a climate crisis, whilst being given a clear voice in co-steering how our natural assets are managed for multiple benefits, for climate and biodiversity positive futures, and for generations to come.

“It is our sincere wish to now share this learning with our sister communities across Cymru, to embed these co-production principles and in time achieve wider recognition and formal accountability for social value across all the work that we collectively do.”