Penllergare Valley Woods

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Restoration Update: April 2014

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The beginning of April marked an impressive milestone for the Penllergare Trust with the official opening of the new coffee shop, car park and Llewelyn bridge. On 4th April 2014, we welcomed over 100 supporters to join us in our celebration and weren’t we lucky with the weather?!? Terry Jones, Chairman of the Penllergare Trust, gave an excellent speech from the heart, followed by a speech full of praise and support for our achievements from the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, Edwina Hart (also our local Assembly Member) and another from Ted Sangster, member of the Heritage Lottery Fund Committee for Wales.

Photo by Hal Moggridge (April 2014)

Photo by Hal Moggridge (April 2014)

The naming ceremony at the bridge was a real family affair! We were delighted to be joined by Hal Moggridge (Trustee and past Chairman), Sue Morris (wife of Richard Morris, another Trustee) and Georgina Mead and her son Jasper Mead – all three are descended from John Dillwyn Llewelyn’s father Lewis Weston Dillwyn. Hal made a speech and Georgina cut the ribbon and the four family members then walked across the bridge together! Did you see this feature in the local newspaper?

In the South Wales Evening Post

In the South Wales Evening Post

The formalities were followed by a delicious cream tea buffet on the coffee shop terrace. Thanks to everyone who attended and helped to make it a very successful event to mark an important milestone in the ‘story’ of Penllergare Valley Woods – from the indefatigable woodland volunteers who helped to make the car park presentable in the run up to the event and in stewarding visitors during the walk to the bridge, through to Trustees who helped with car parking and ensuring our guests were made to feel very welcome, to coffee shop volunteers and of course staff – well done everyone!

COFFEE SHOP

With the weather getting better, it’s lovely to see the coffee shop terrace full of happy faces and muddy wellies! 🙂 Apparently our hot chocolate is famous – word has got around that it is delicious! What’s more, we have extended our menu and are now serving freshly made sandwiches, cream teas, Joe’s ice cream and ice lollies as well as our usual range of scrumptious home made cake, fairtrade coffee and tea, soft drinks and snacks. We are open 7 days Monday to Sunday from 10am – 4pm including Bank Holidays.

Cream Tea at Penllergare Coffee Shop - April 2014

Cream Tea at Penllergare Coffee Shop – April 2014

What makes our coffee shop so special is that it is run by a fantastic team of over 35 volunteers who not only serve delicious refreshments but who are more than happy to answer any of your questions about Valley Woods, its history and wildlife, and that all profits go towards the future maintenance of Valley Woods. We are proud to be a community cafe and look forward to developing this facility in the weeks, months and years to come. We would love to hear from you if you would like to support us by volunteering in the coffee shop. We also welcome any suggestions, feedback and ideas – pop in any time for a cuppa and a chat 🙂

Les and Doreen volunteering in the Coffee Shop - April 2014

Les and Doreen volunteering in the Coffee Shop – April 2014

WOODLAND GARDENING

Have you seen the stump gardens appearing opposite the coffee shop terrace? They’re really great and considerably enhance the view with their spring bulbs, ferns and other woodland flowers and plants. Well done and thanks to the woodland gardening volunteers who have worked so hard on these – they are much appreciated and will only get better with time. Thank you also to everyone so far who has donated wild daffodils, snowdrops, azaleas or rhododendrons – you can still donate here. Both azaleas and rhododendrons are being planted as we speak. In fact, some of our specimen rhododendrons are already flowering and are very inspiring for us all. Can you just imagine how beautiful our terraces will be in a few years time?!?

Camellia in flower by Christine Clarke (April 2014)

Camellia in flower by Christine Clarke (April 2014)

Our woodland volunteers haven’t of course just been working on the terraces, they have been working hard on the carriage drive near Middle Lodge cutting and burning scrub as well as clearing track side trees and scrub from around the Japanese red cedar trees by the waterfall. In the words of woodland volunteer, Janet Butt, they are showstoppers!

Showstoppers by Janet Butt - April 2014

Showstoppers by Janet Butt – April 2014

As we head into the final year of this current phase of the restoration project, our thoughts are turning to the long term management of the woodland as a whole. Over the next 5 years, we aim to tackle the out of control wild rhododendron growth to improve wildlife diversity, carry out further repairs to historic masonry, and also remove a lot of the larch plantations , especially on what is known as former Ancient Woodland Sites. Seeds from native plants and flowers are known to lie dormant in these areas where native trees have for many centuries been the main plant. Planted conifers suppress the diversity of plant, animal and bird species. We will encourage these areas to regenerate themselves if possible, but may also have to give them a helping hand by planting more trees. There’s plenty to be doing for a while yet! If you would like to join our brilliant team of woodland volunteers, please do get in touch.

ARCHIMEDES SCREW

On the 9th April 2014, the Penllergare Valley Woods Archimedean screw hydro generator was commissioned and handed over to the Penllergare Trust to operate! We have joined the growing number of community groups and private owners who operate small scale (sometimes called micro) renewable energy generating schemes around the country. The system is rated at 25kW – using national averages this is enough to power up to 20 houses. Initially, the electricity generated will feed the coffee shop, woodland centre and the office cabin by the car park, thus reducing significantly our running costs. We are negotiating with Ofgem and our electricity provider to buy surplus electricity from us by feeding it in to the National Grid from where it will be distributed to houses, offices and commercial premises nearby. All of the income derived from this will be ploughed back into running and maintaining Penllergare Valley Woods for everyone to enjoy.
Ready for commissioning. Photo by Philip James (April 2014)

Ready for commissioning. Photo by Philip James (April 2014)

The system has been set up based on the partially de-silted lake configuration. It will need to be adjusted once the lake works have been completed later in the summer. In the meantime, we plan to move soil, place stones and later, plant trees and shrubs around the works to better integrate it all into the landscape. Once this work has been completed, the area around the turbine will be open for people to take a look and to see the screw turning through the specially designed viewing panels in the top of the screw housing.

 

OBSERVATORY

The contract to repair the Observatory has finally been let – to Taliesin Conservation Ltd and they have already made a start. A couple of trees that had grown up close to this Scheduled Ancient Monument have been removed by tree surgeons  and the building has been scaffolded and covered to permit working in all weather conditions. A small ‘welfare unit’ has also been placed next to the Observatory (a requirement of all contracts of this nature).

Observatory under scaffolding at dusk - April 2014

Observatory under scaffolding at dusk – April 2014

 

It will be a particularly challenging project as the site is so constrained and it is in the main operating area of the Council offices adjacent to a busy road. We’ll be working very closely with the Council to minimise disruption. The contract is due to last for 24 weeks, so it’s aimed to complete it around the end of September.  It’s great to see this work underway.

EDUCATION

Having visitor facilities at Penllergare as well as our woodland centre (education classroom) means that Valley Woods is more accessible for all and is growing in popularity for groups to visit for leisure and educational purposes. This is great news given that one of our key aims is to promote knowledge and appreciation of Penllergare, its history and biodiversity. This month we have hosted visits for a range of groups including students from Gowerton School studying A Level photography as well as students from Gower College studying the Welsh Baccalaureate and Geography.

Geography students from Gower College. Photo by GCS Geography.

Geography students from Gower College. Photo by GCS Geography.

It’s great to see teenagers working with local charities like us and getting involved in learning about and reviving their local green space.

What’s more, we welcomed over 20 cubs and their parents from Penllergaer who enjoyed a walk in the woods followed by a talk by Helen Thomas (Trustee) about John Dillwyn Llewelyn and his interest in astronomy and photography. They were learning about local heroes as part of their community badge.

Penllergaer Cubs Visit - Photo by Jessica Williams (April 2014)

Penllergaer Cubs Visit – Photo by Jessica Williams (April 2014)

FUNDRAISING

The end of the financial year at the end of March brings with it a considerable amount of administration and paperwork – the Trust’s annual report and accounts need preparing, outstanding accounts need chasing and most of our grant partners require either end of year claims or progress reports submitted – this work is largely unseen, but without the financial support and without good systems in place, it would make our work impossible. Thanks to Helen for everything she does as a volunteer and Treasurer in seeing that ‘the books’ are in order.

Having attained the leases for Valley Woods in 2012 and committed ourselves to an annual rent for the next 100 years or so, fundraising and developing sustainable income streams will always be a priority for the Penllergare Trust. We are completely independent, nearly entirely run by volunteers, and are not linked to Swansea Council. We are in other words a privately run public park! We cannot and will not always be able to rely on grants, but yet we will need funds in order to not only restore other potential features of the estate but to also maintain the 260 acres of cultural landscape for everyone to enjoy. With this in mind, from a financial perspective, it is a massive achievement to see our community coffee shop and car park up and running and the archimedean screw commissioned this month – all of which will hopefully generate stable revenue streams and continue to provide free, safe and welcome access for everyone to enjoy Swansea’s hidden gem. Inevitably, the need to be more enterprising and to dedicate more time to fundraising in the future will feature strongly in our future plans. If anyone is interested in getting involved with any form of fundraising then please get in touch – from raising our profile with local businesses, to helping to organise fundraising events or any other ideas that you would like to pursue. If you would also like to contribute by joining our membership scheme, the Friends of Penllergare, for just £10 per year, we would be delighted to hear from you. Membership forms are available in the Coffee Shop.

Talking about fundraising, thanks to shoppers at ASDA Gorseinon for supporting us in their fundraising community token scheme. We were awarded a £200 cheque this week to go towards our woodland gardening project. We’ll be spending it on more plants such as rhododendrons and azaleas to colour and revive our beautiful terraces. Thank you to all who supported us in the scheme.

 

Thank You ASDA - Photo by Peter Jones (ASDA Gorseinon Community Champion)

Thank You ASDA – Photo by Peter Jones (ASDA Gorseinon Community Champion)

EVENTS IN MAY

Restoration Walk (organised by the Penllergare Trust)
Wednesday 30th April. Join Site Manager, David Connick, for an early evening stroll and learn about the progress of one of Wales’ biggest landscape restoration projects. Meet at the Penllergare Valley Woods Car Park. 6pm. Free / Donations always welcome. Sturdy footwear will be required.

Moths and Bats of the River Llan (organised by the Wildlife Trust)
Saturday 3rd May. Join a Wildlife Trust Officer and The Penllergare Trust for a night-time talk and walk with bat detectors about the Bats and Moths that make their home in Penllergare Valley Woods. We will also be setting a moth trap so be prepared to get up close and personal with these wonderful creatures! 7.30pm – 9.30pm. Meet at the Penllergare Valley Woods Car Park. Please wear suitable outdoor clothing and bring your torches! Limited places, book in advance. For more info or to book, please contact Rhi: email r.bevan@welshwildife.org or phone 07974742585

Dawn Chorus Walk (organised by the Penllergare Trust)
Sunday 4th May. To tie in with International Dawn Chorus Day, we’ll be organising a Dawn Chorus Walk leaving from the A48 entrance (woodland centre) at 5am. You’ll need to wear sturdy footwear and waterproofs. Refreshments will be available and donations are welcome. Limited spaces available. For more info or to book, please contact Ed: email edward.tucker@penllergare.org

Introducing Penllergare Guided Walk (organised by the Penllergare Trust)
Saturday 10th May. A guided walk of Penllergare Valley Woods to learn more about its history and wildlife and the major restoration project underway. Lasts approx. 2½ hours. Meet at Penllergare Car Park. 2.15pm. Please wear stout footwear and be prepared to walk two miles with stops. Donations welcome.

Otter Survey at Penllergare (organised by the Wildlife Trust)
Saturday 17th May. Join Wildlife Trust Officers and Penllergare Trust to help us survey for this elusive mammal. We will begin with a brief talk.11am—2pm. Meet at Penllergare Valley Woods Car Park. Please wear suitable outdoor clothing. Limited places, book in advance. For more info or to book, please contact Rhi: email r.bevan@welshwildife.org or phone 07974742585

Potting Shed Sale (organised by the Friends of Penllergare Valley Woods)
Saturday 24th May. Back by popular demand! Everything for the garden. Plants, seedlings, shrubs, herbs, books, crafts and refreshments. All proceeds will go to the future maintenance of Valley Woods. 11am – 3pm. Woodland Centre (near A48 entrance).

We hope to see you soon! 🙂

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3 Comments

  1. lee golding says:

    are you going to allow people to come up and go fishing

  2. Marcus says:

    I do like that idea Lee 8)

  3. Marcus says:

    perhaps, angling could be granted, if the person joins the trust and purchases a “ticket”. That could ensure, those anglers act as eyes and ears for the woods, leading to further improvements to the security and environment. With a side benefit of further income to the trust.

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