This project to rewild a part of the Cambrian Mountains is being run by the charity Wales Wild Land Foundation. The project will restore the native forest and bring back some of the lost animals. The initial focus is on 750 acres of degraded upland valley and moorland. In time, the aim is to extend the Wildwood by further land purchase to make 7,500 acres (3,000 hectares) and by other landowners participating.

The Cambrian Wildwood programme will run indefinitely, but is to be managed in 5 year project cycles, for planning and funding purposes. The initial 5 year project will carry out habitat restoration on 300 hectares (750 acres) of ecologically degraded upland valley and moorland in the Cambrian Mountains. Purchase of the land holding is within the scope of the project. Native woodland cover will be restored to the valley, which is currently almost treeless. The land is 1.5km from a woodland SAC (Special Area of Conservation), and the intervening land is woodland and rough pasture with scattered trees. The project will extend the native woodland cover another 2km up the valley, and up the slopes to fade into scattered trees on the moorland. At the top of the valley, large swathes of purple moor grass (Molinia purpurea) will be restored to heather moorland, on the land between two existing heather moorland SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest), some of which will be in a mosaic with the restored native woodland. Riparian and wetland habitats will also be restored where appropriate.

Through this habitat restoration work, the project will create the right conditions for bringing back some of the lost animal species. This will be achieved by natural colonisation or by reintroduction programmes, following detailed research into feasibility. These could include water vole (Arvicola terrestris), red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), mountain hare (Lepus timidus subsp. Scoticus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), beaver (Castor fiber), pine marten (Martes martes) and wild cat (Felis silvestris) for example, as well as other candidate small mammals.

It is expected that bird species will be attracted to the area as the habitats are restored. The initiative will follow rewilding principles, so that large herbivores brought in to graze the land will be wild or feral substitutes for wild animals, instead of domestic livestock. We envisage introducing Exmoor ponies as a substitute for Tarpan and will research the suitability of a feral breed of cattle such as Heck as a substitute for Aurochs. We expect Roe deer to migrate into the area in the long term, and will study the case for Red deer.

In summary, the 5 year project will include these elements:

  • Purchase of land.
  • Producing detailed management plan, based on soil survey and pollen analysis.
  • Habitat restoration.
  • Study of the feasibility of introducing species.
  • Public access: physical works, for example footpaths and camping areas.
  • Promotion of the site and the Cambrian Wildwood initiative; education and outreach.
  • Preparing for next 5 year project phase of initiative, including negotiating further land purchase, and securing funding.
  • Engage with partners and neighbouring landowners, including Welsh Government and Aberystwyth University.