Penllergare Valley Woods

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Restoration Update: May 2014

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What a difference the weather makes! The woods have really come alive in the past couple of weeks – the trees are getting fuller and greener, the woodland floor is covered in bluebells and the rhododendrons are splashing the valley pink! What’s more, it’s lovely to see so many people enjoying walks, picnics and dips in the river! The coverage that we had on BBC Wales News at the end of April has no doubt inspired many to visit us too and to find out more about the magical hidden gem on their doorstep. If you missed the TV feature, you can see it here:

Filming for the BBC Wales News feature (April 2014)

Filming for the BBC Wales News feature (April 2014)

Rhododendron by Christine Clarke (May 2014)

Rhododendron by Christine Clarke (May 2014)


We have been awarded the top food hygiene rating of 5 out of 5 (Very Good) in our first ever environmental health inspection! Well done to all of our fantastic coffee shop volunteers for achieving this fantastic score! You may have also noticed that a new stone wall has been built alongside the path to the coffee shop and a hand rail is in the process of being installed along the disabled access ramp.

Stonemason and New Coffee Shop Wall. Photo by Philip James (May 2014)

Stonemason and New Coffee Shop Wall. Photo by Philip James (May 2014)

Our new range of freshly made sandwiches, homemade scones and of course Joe’s Ice Cream have gone extremely well in the past few weeks. Don’t forget that we are open everyday Monday to Sunday from 10am – 4pm. We are always on the look out for new volunteers to join the team too, especially as we get busier in the Summer months to come. If you can spare 3 hours per week or fortnight to help us “play shop” and become “professional baristas” in a lovely community-run cafe, do get in touch by calling 01792 344224 or emailing All profits from the car park and coffee shop are pumped back into the running of Valley Woods.

Terry (Chairman of the Penllergare Trust and Coffee Shop Volunteers Gill, Rebecca and Gaynor (from left to right). Photo by Philip James (May 2014)

Terry (Chairman of the Penllergare Trust) and Coffee Shop Volunteers Jill, Rebecca and Gaynor (from left to right). Photo by Philip James (May 2014)


With funds raised from Asda’s community token scheme and gifts made online, volunteers have planted over 50 shrubs in the new woodland garden area in front of the coffee shop. This is not the instant garden that you might see on the TV garden makeovers – we’ll have to be very patient to see the full results but this is in the true spirit of John Dillwyn Llewelyn (the creator of Penllergare Valley Woods) – he was fully aware that he would never live to see the trees in all their magnificent glory that he planted in the mid 19th century, but what a wonderful legacy he left to us to enjoy. We’re just doing the same thing! Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far.

Ray Butt Planting. Photo by Philip James (May 2014)

Ray Butt Planting. Photo by Philip James (May 2014)

Don’t forget that the second fundraising Potting Shed Sale organised by the Friends of Penllergare is being held on Saturday 24th May at the Woodland Centre (near the A48 entrance) from 11am to 3pm. There will be bedding plants galore as well as small trees, shrubs, herbs, filled hanging baskets, bamboo canes and wood products. There will be a book stall specialising in gardening and wildlife and a craft area with many unusual objects from bird boxes to walking sticks. Refreshments will also be available as well as a large selection of home baked cakes for sale. Families can take part in the ‘Name the Scarecrow’ competition and win their very own scarecrow! ‘Horticultural heaven in a woodland setting’! As a local community event entirely run by volunteers, all proceeds will be going to the future maintenance of Valley Woods. We hope to see you there!

Potting Shed 14(1)


It’s a real boon to have the new path completed that runs from the middle terrace down the slope to near the waterfall. Following more or less the line of an historic path, this gives easier access to the waterfall, without having to go down the long steps, and it also gives excellent views out across the lake as you descend into the valley. Thanks to our woodland volunteers for clearing so much overgrown laurel on the steep banks either side of the path to open up the views.

Young students from Dylan Thomas Community School have also come up trumps this month by laying over 60 tonnes of stone to improve the path between the waterfall and the Llewelyn bridge – over 100 students wheel-barrowed the stone in relays to lay the stone along its 200m length under the watchful eyes of several volunteers and staff from the school. Visitors can now enjoy this part of the woods free of mud and slipping and sliding on sloping ground. In completing this work the students have fulfilled their volunteering requirement of the Welsh Baccalaureate. You may have seen this feature in the South Wales Evening Post this week:

Feature about Dylan Thomas School in the South Wales Evening Post

Feature about Dylan Thomas School in the South Wales Evening Post


The Archimedean screw and hydro turbine is now operational, though for much of the last month, there has been insufficient water for it to operate! If anyone with a mechanical or technical background or interest is interested in helping one of the current volunteers to keep an eye on it and ensure maintenance, then please get in touch – it’s fairly straightforward, but needs regular TLC to ensure it is running efficiently. The installation engineers will return in the late summer when the rest of the lake has been cleaned out to fine tune it, as the turbine is still drawing water from the temporary lagoon on the side of the lake. The turbine is attracting quite a bit of interest – a European delegation from the EU Economic and Social Committee visited in early May as part of a tour of renewable energy installations in south Wales.

EU Delegation. Photo by Philip James (May 2014).

EU Delegation. Photo by Philip James (May 2014)

A few days later, the Minister for Natural Resources and Food paid a visit – Alun Davies AM was particularly interested in seeing how people and communities are getting practically involved with looking after the environment on their doorstep and was impressed with the scale of our undertaking and the extent to which the project is engaging people. Both sets of visitors also enjoyed the wonderful hospitality offered in the coffee shop!


The contractors will soon be returning to complete the removal of the decades of silt that has built up in the upper lake. Their plan for how they propose to do this is in negotiation with us and Natural Resources Wales, the regulatory body. The work will cause disruption to access along the bottom track, but with fair weather, the work should be completed within 6-8 weeks and we can look forward to the track being upgraded and restored as a picturesque lakeside walkway. As soon as we know the details of the plan, we will share them with you all.


The repairs to the Equatorial Observatory, originally constructed in 1851, are progressing well.The rotating drum has been stripped right back and lifted off its runners – it is currently suspended from the scaffolding! The good news is that the drum frame, although not original, is repairable. The not so good news is that the Bath stone blocks on which the drum sits and which forms the distinctive architectural feature at eaves level is in a worse condition than at first suspected, and more, larger stones are needed to repair it.

Exposed Drum. Photo by Philip James (May 2014)

Exposed Drum. Photo by Philip James (May 2014)

As the damaged and decayed parts of the structure are revealed, more questions are being raised as to how the building functioned when new – are there any Victorian Observatory experts / detectives out there?!!!

There are some curious ‘slots’ in the brickwork lining of the Observing Tower that are so far unexplained.

What could they be? Photo by Philip James

What could these slots be for? Photo by Philip James

Also some holes right through the stones in the Observing Tower at a low level – function unknown. Then there are the thousands of gallons of water at the base of the Observing Tower – below ground level? Despite pumping out, this sump refills very quickly – why was a sump built and why was a ladder constructed down into it via a trap door in the Observing platform?

Photo by Philip James

Photo by Philip James

The method by which the mechanism that controlled the rotating drum operated is also a mystery. We’d love to hear from anyone who may be able to throw some light on these questions.


With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Catalyst grant scheme, a team of three fundraising experts have been appraising the experience, skills and capability of the Trust in this area, with a view to helping to devise a fundraising plan for the future. We’re working hard to generate revenue from a variety of activities in the woods, and we’re eager and keen to look at other ways to generate even more support for the long term viability of the project to keep the woods as a special place for everyone to enjoy. We’ve got lots of ideas – if you know of anyone who has experience in this area or who might be interested in helping out or getting involved then please ask them to get in touch. On the back of the fantastic support from shoppers in Asda Gorseinon, we were delighted to hear that we have been awarded over £600 as a share of the South Wales Evening Post Cash for Communities scheme sponsored by Western Power Distribution. Thank you so much to everyone who collected coupons for us – it was worth it!


Numerous talks are given to external organisations on a regular basis to not only raise awareness about Valley Woods but also as a means to raise money for the work of the Trust. This month organisations who have been lucky enough to have talks by volunteer and Trustee, Jennie Eyers, have included Swansea Probus at Sketty Hall, the Abertawe National Trust and the Trinity Morning Club at Sketty. If you would like to organise a talk for your group, please do get in touch.

The first of three annual “Introductory Guided Walks” took place on the 10th May. In spite of high winds and heavy showers, 17 walkers enjoyed their visit and were extremely appreciative of what the Trust was achieving in the valley. Also, Bat and Moth Nights as well as an Otter Survey were organised in conjunction with South West Wales Wildlife Trust while bird experts and volunteers Brian Meredith and Jeremy Douglas-Jones organised a Dawn Chorus Walk to celebrate International Dawn Chorus Day. All were a great success (despite the 5am start for the latter!!!)

Talk by South West Wales Wildlife Trust before heading out into the woods Photo by Ed Tucker (May 2014)

Talk by South West Wales Wildlife Trust before heading out into the woods Photo by Ed Tucker (May 2014)

Bat Detector. Photo by Ed Tucker (May 2014)

Bat Detector. Photo by Ed Tucker (May 2014)


Restoration Walk (organised by the Penllergare Trust)
Wednesday 28th May and Wednesday 25th June. 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.

Gower Walking Festival – Guided Tour of Penllergare Valley Woods
Sunday 15th JuneSOLD OUT

And finally we’ll leave you with this fantastic comparison of the waterfall as taken by John Dillwyn Llewelyn in the 19th century and as taken by volunteer photographer Jamie Morris this month. Thanks Jamie for sharing this!

By Jamie Morris (May 2014)


Hope to see you at the Potting Shed Sale on Saturday!

Thanks for your support!





  1. Anthony says:

    Wasn’t the water at the base their first attempt of making their own reflective telescope?

  2. Chris says:

    A very interesting report of the great work being done in the valley.


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