Coetir Anian, a new project also known as Cambrian Wildwood, has been given a boost following the award of funding by the Sustainable Management Scheme, through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.
Thanks to this support, the Aberystwyth charity running the project has hired two members of staff to join Project Director Simon Ayres. Deiniol Jones, a specialist in health and safety and environmental management, joins as Project Officer following a career in the mining industry. Clarissa Richards joins the team as Education Specialist, following 13 years working in Primary Schools in Ceredigion.
Charity chair Mat Mitchell says, “We are delighted to welcome Clarissa and Deiniol to the team. We are fortunate to attract such talented personnel. It is exciting for us to be able to push ahead with the project now that we have the funding and staff in place”.
Together the three members of staff are delivering an inspiring programme for wildlife and people. Coetir Anian is centred on Bwlch Corog, a 140-hectare site near Glaspwll, between Machynlleth and Aberystwyth. The land is ecologically degraded and very poor pasture, being almost entirely purple moor grass. Blanket bog and heathland habitats are being restored by blocking the drainage ditches and by low density grazing with a herd of semi-wild horses. The site also has 10 hectares of ancient woodland, and native tree cover is being increased by planting and natural regeneration.
Bwlch Corog was acquired by Sefydliad Tir Gwyllt Cymru (Wales Wild Land Foundation) in partnership with Coed Cadw (Woodland Trust) in 2017 in order to realise the project. As habitats are restored, wildlife is expected to be attracted to the site. Birds and insects are already increasing in number and diversity. In the longer term, the project will look into reintroducing water vole and red squirrel when conditions become suitable.
“Along with the habitat work we are running a wonderful educational programme,” explains Project Director Simon Ayres. “We are working with nine primary school groups over the next three years, taking the kids out for three visits to the site to experience the wild nature of the site and learn outdoor skills. Sessions in school connect the children to nature using art, music and drama. Each child will plant an acorn and grow their own oak tree to plant out later on.
“There will be series of youth camps for teenagers, spending four nights camping out, learning to light fires by friction, camp cooking, foraging, and having an adventurous time in nature. These are being led by some truly inspirational youth leaders and will give the participants an unforgettable experience. Some kids have limited access to nature, and with the pressures of today’s society we are very pleased to give this opportunity to experience real connections away from social media and other influences. Feedback from these programmes shows they are really valued by the children and by the schools.”
The schools programme and youth camps are fully funded, and the charity plans to expand these programmes and continue them indefinitely. At no cost to participants, schools or Local Authorities they are a unique and inclusive educational resource offered to children across Mid Wales. There are also regular monthly volunteer work days and occasional one-off events, with plans to hold guided walks for promoting health.
By managing natural resources sustainably and through the education activities, Coetir Anian is helping to deliver the priorities of the Welsh Government’s Natural Resources Policy, providing benefits for the environment, education, health and well-being, and the local community.