The restoration project at Penllergare Valley Woods is well and truly underway! In the next two months, the upper lake will be desilted, the Archimedes screw will be installed, the Llewelyn bridge will be rebuilt, and the new visitor centre and car park will open to the public. Isn’t it exciting!?! Here’s a progress update:
The lake is the centrepiece of John Dillwyn Llewelyn’s landscape design and is the largest element of our landscape restoration. Since woodland volunteers cleared the Upper Lake in Spring 2013, contractor preliminary works for the desilting of the lake have started. This has involved diverting the river to the East bank so that silt can be removed from the rest of the lake in the relative dry.
What will happen next? The silt will be loaded into dumper trucks on the track on the west side of the lake, known as the lower haul road. Contractors – Kingcombe Aquacare – will carry the silt down the valley to the former parkland site where it will be allowed to dry out for up to a year before being spread out and the parkland reinstated.
We regret any inconvenience while the lower haul road is closed for public access for September and October – for visitor safety. Alternative paths will be signposted and the road will reopen as soon as possible after the job has been completed in late October / or early November.
The construction work for the Archimedes screw is well underway. When the silt was removed from around the draw down valves, an area of soft earth was uncovered where the new head wall of the turbine is to be constructed. So this has had to be removed and filled with solid material. Large concrete blocks have been laid like lego blocks to make the base of the new head wall to the side of the waterfall. Excavation of the ground below the dam is also progressing in order to construct a ‘scour mat’ i.e. an area of concrete to prevent the water coming out of the turbine to scour the earth away at its base. The Archimedes Screw will arrive for installation in early October.
CAR PARK AND VISITOR CENTRE
Our woodland volunteers have done a fantastic job in transforming the new car park.
It’s hard to believe that the car park looked liked this less than 10 months ago!
Well done everyone! With the majority of the building work completed and the new visitor centre in our possession, we have appointed City Joinery to fit the interior. Despite being midway through the restoration project, we’re pleased to announce that the visitor centre and car park will be opening to the public on Friday 20th September. The visitor centre which will be run by local volunteers (we’re still recruiting!) will provide a warm welcome for visitors as well as much-needed facilities including an information point, outside seating area, refreshments, and toilets. We will be open everyday including weekends from 10am – 4pm. Car parking will be subject to donations towards the maintenance of Valley Woods.
THE TERRACES AND HISTORIC PATHS
The lower terrace wall has now been completed. The result is truly monumental and is a source of many positive comments by passers by. The upper terrace wall is scheduled for completion in 2014. The stonemason and his team have also been working to repair the steps by the small cascade just below the new car park – we think he’s doing a really great job.
What’s more, we have been very grateful for volunteer help from local groups and organisations such as Swansea Cadets, Virgin Media, and Wolfestone Ltd this month. They have been accompanying woodland volunteers with footpath work around the new car park, visitor centre and terraces. They have been terrific!
Wolfestone Ltd even added in an afternoon of Penllergare-related woodland activities which they all thoroughly enjoyed!
The mass concrete work on the Llewelyn bridge has now been completed and the mason is working rapidly to build the stonework to the bridge ‘springing point’ i.e. the point at which the bridge arch springs out across the river.
When this level is reached a scaffolding former will be constructed to support the stone arch until it can support itself, at which point the scaffolding will be removed. It won’t be long now until the new arch and form of the bridge starts to emerge – with the aim of looking like this early photograph taken by John Dillwyn Llewelyn in the 19th century.
Did you see the feature about the restoration of the Penllergare observatory on BBC Wales Today last week? If you missed it, check it out here:
We want to reassure people that we haven’t forgotten about the management of the wider woods. As soon as we can, after the current wave of construction activity at the north end of the woods, we will turn our attention once more to the paths and tracks elsewhere. In the meantime, Dai Whitelock, our woodskeeper, with occasional volunteer assistance, is doing a good job in keeping the main paths strimmed and the young trees free of competing weed growth. Also, thanks to volunteers for keeping on top of the litter problem – the fine summer this year has brought out a lot of people and a lot of rubbish left behind!
We received a short presentation this month about the key role of Valley Woods in terms of wildlife ‘connectivity’. The Council has been carrying out a survey in recent months mainly focused on the Sites of Interest for Nature Conservation (SINCs), of which Valley Woods is one. Development of various sorts is continuing to fragment wildlife habitats which has proved to be very damaging to species protection. Places like Valley Woods play a very important part in helping to link up these sites and to act as a safe corridor for plants and species to thrive and move about. Unsurprisingly, Valley Woods is most significant for amphibian species! We are looking for more sites to create wet areas to further help amphibians.
Have a look at this splendid little video of the range of wildlife that can be seen at Penllergare. It’s produced by volunteer photographer, Jeff Driscoll.
Our finances can be divided up into projects and maintenance. Almost all of our current work is project related and funded principally by time limited grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with partnership / match funding by the Veolia Environmental Trust; the Welsh Government through the EU funded One Historic Garden project; Natural Resources Wales; Environment Wales; the Monument Trust; the City and County of Swansea and also from individual donors and trust funds. We would like to acknowledge the generous financial support we have had from all of these organisations.
Our challenge for the future is to reduce our dependence on grants and project funding so that we can maintain the woods in the longer term – car parking donations and any revenue generated from the visitor centre will all be used to support the management and maintenance of the woods. We have no ongoing financial support from the Council or from any other organisation and, as a local voluntary run charity, we are highly dependent on the generosity of local people for their gift of time as volunteers and through other forms of support including donations – a very big thank you to everyone who supports us in saving and protecting this ‘oasis’ of beauty and much treasured green space, now almost wholly surrounded by development!
LIAISON MEETINGS AND EVENTS
To respond to and answer questions and concerns about the work going on in the woods at present, we hold monthly informal meetings in the Woodland Centre. These meetings are open to anyone. The next one will take place at 4.30 pm on 4th September, for about an hour. Tea and coffee will be available!
We welcome your feedback and support on all aspects of the restoration project and the maintenance of Valley Woods. If you would like to support us through volunteering, becoming a Friend or fundraising, do get in touch!