Locations across Wales have been earmarked as “exemplar sites” for a National Forest – a connected network of forests which will span the length of the country.
As well as improving existing woodlands to meet the National Forest standard, plans will also see more trees planted by Welsh Government in collaboration with partners such as communities, farmers, foresters and public bodies.
Along with providing spaces for leisure and nature, new managed woodlands created for the National Forest will also help to capture and store carbon – and the timber will provide a sustainable resource for construction.
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, commented: “I am delighted to announce the very first sites which will form part of our National Forest.
“They are among the very best woodland in Wales, and will serve as exemplars for the benefits we would expect from other sites and new woodlands before they could become part of the National Forest.”
The 14 new sites announced on 4 November are part of the Welsh Government estate, and are managed and maintained by Natural Resources Wales.
Next year, Welsh Government will also work alongside partners to discuss the features and benefits which new and existing woodland could provide before they can form part of the National Forest – with good existing infrastructure and connectivity including bridleways, pathways and access.
Alongside establishing the National Forest, earlier this year Welsh Government launched a new window of the Glastir Woodland Creation scheme, with a fourfold increase in the budget to £8 million.
The scheme received more than 350 expressions of interest from people wanting to plant new woodlands in Wales and contracts have now been offered to successful applicants.
A further £9m window of the scheme will also open this month, leading to more than £17m allocated to woodland creation this year – the largest such allocation since devolution, and more than the first eight windows of the Glastir Woodland Creation scheme put together.
First project to be backed by the Community Woodlands programme was also announced on 4 November – a Wales-wide initiative run jointly by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Welsh Government.
Andrew White, Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales, added: “It has never been more important to look after nature, to aid its recovery and help people to understand its significance.
“This is why funding landscapes and nature is one of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s key strategic funding priorities in Wales.
“As part of this commitment and in partnership with the Welsh Government, we launched the ‘Community Woodlands’ programme – a capital grant scheme that offers funding of £10,000 to £250,000 for restoring, creating, connecting and managing woodlands in Wales.
“Projects funded by this grant scheme will also help inform the Welsh Government’s thinking on the long-term development and resilience of the National Forest of Wales – the national ecological network which is protecting nature and addressing the loss of bio-diversity.”
As part of this project, Craig Gwladus Woods, in Neath, will receive a £125,000 grant via the Community Woodlands programme – as part of a larger £155,000 grant package with further support from Natural Resources Wales.