Vast areas of forest once covered the land between northern Scotland and Portugal. All that’s left in Britain is the Celtic rainforest in Wales. The words ‘rainforest’ and ‘Wales’ don’t seem, at first glance, a logical fit. But they are, thanks to this stunningly lovely and seriously endangered rainforest. Now the ancient woodlands have received a boost in the form of £9M funding from the Welsh government and the EU.
These forests are some of the most valuable landscapes in terms of wildlife and culture. Woodlands are a valued natural asset in Wales, vital for the environment. They protect the land against floods, generate beautifully clean, fresh air, and give shelter to livestock. The project will improve the condition of key woodlands in Wales significantly, and that in turn will help the UK meet its European and international
The funds are going to be spent on protecting and improving the wet and temperate forest, which is full of sessile oak, downy birch, ash and hazel. A precious British rainforest, it has deteriorated thanks to conifer plantations, invasive Rhododendron, sheep and deer. The damage caused has put rare flora and fauna under more stress than ever. Lichens, tree lungwort and birds are at risk, as well as the rare lesser horseshoe bat, otter and dormouse.
At the same times these incredibly biodiverse oak woodlands are the stars of the show in many a Welsh folk tale and song, which adds an important social and cultural element to their protection. They are special, mysterious places celebrated and enjoyed by thousands, and with a bit of luck they’ll be around to inspire future generations.
Hopefully four key areas of Celtic rainforest will be cleared of of invasive species, in north and mid-Wales, including north Wales’ Coed Felinrhyd and Llennyrch, both in Snowdonia. The people involved will also be looking for more ways to improve the forests’ management, things like altering the way the land is grazed, and some of the money will be used to generate interest and bring more visitors.
Happily, leaving the EU won’t affect the funding, a good piece of news that has been officially confirmed by Welsh and English governments.