It has felt like the ‘calm before the storm’ this week. Contractors have returned to site in the last few days to set up their equipment and facilities in readiness for the final stage of de-silting the lake. We have now agreed the most suitable approach to be installation of pumps at the head of the upper lake. The water will be pumped in pipes to below the waterfall to allow the remaining silt to be worked in a semi dry condition. This will speed up the operation and should result in easier carting of the material to the silt site. Subject to the weather, this work should take about 8 weeks to complete, once they get started. The waterfall will also run dry during this period as the water is pumped around it – allowing us to view and inspect the structure.
Temporary notices and signs have been finalised and erected. They alert everyone to the planned closure of the lakeside track down to the silt site, whilst the remaining silt is carted in dump trucks down the valley. We’re also encouraging people to explore the other many and varied walks in the woods while the work is going on – there are after all over 7 miles of paths and tracks in the woods. Three crossing points have been agreed – the first at the M4 culvert, to retain access between the car park and the east side of the valley. The second is at the bottom of the sloping path from the terraces – to give access from the coffee shop to the waterfall and on to the path to Llewelyn bridge and beyond. The third is by the yew grove downstream of the Llewelyn bridge, where the path crosses and climbs up the slope to the Carriage Drive. These crossing points will be carefully monitored to ensure that they are working safely.
The end of this major project is now in sight – the lake hasn’t been fully dredged like this for near on 100 years and we can’t wait to see it back to the form that John Dillwyn Llewelyn created in the mid nineteenth century. We’ve already had a glimpse of what the lake might look like when it’s completed. It’s tantalisingly close now and will we’re sure be a huge draw for people once it’s completed later in the summer.
A new Coffee Shop Manager, Julie Osbourne, has been appointed to take on the running of the Coffee Shop in liaison with our fantastic team of volunteers. We are delighted to have attained a reputation for our “proper” coffee, delicious homemade cake and a friendly community atmosphere. Have you tried our new range of cakes yet…lemon drizzle, lemon and poppy, lime and coconut…delicious! We’re also selling baguettes now too as well as sandwiches so do pop in to try some and say hello. We welcome Julie to the team and can’t wait to see this successful hub go from strength to strength. A big thank you to everyone who has made this possible so far!
We’ve decided to trial opening the car park later into the evening now we have the longer daylight. The barrier will be locked shut at 7.30pm until further notice. A big thanks goes to all of our ‘barrier volunteers’ who help with opening and closing 7 days a week.
In case you’re wondering why the short length of post and rail fence has been erected on the culvert track just down from the car park – it’s a trial fence using cleft larch from the woods and was built by staff and volunteers under the expert instruction of David, our Site Manager, who has experience of this sort of fence construction. It is planned to erect about 100m of this fence alongside the carriage drive between the view point and the quarry bridge later this year, as an echo of a fence that is shown in several of John Dillwyn Llewelyn’s photographs. We originally planned to use oak or sweet chestnut, but we wanted to experiment with larch, as we’ve plenty of it! What do you think?
Work has also continued clearing rhododendron at the PAWS (Planted Ancient Woodland Site) site with the aim of restoring the area to native broad leaf woodland. Jason Phelps from BBC Radio Wales visited the woods this month too and recorded interviews with several of our volunteers. The item, broadcast on Monday 23rd June, focused on voluntary rangers and the valuable work they do for the Trust. You may still be able to catch it on BBC iPlayer.
The stonemasons are progressing well with rebuilding the upper terrace wall. As it is revealed, the backing material for the wall appears to be sound – it is just the face that has collapsed in places. We’ve agreed not to alter too much the niche that is about halfway along the wall. Still not fully explained, it’s been decided to leave it as it is, though we will rebuild the facing arch over the top of the recess. Work to the rockwork garden is not included in this contract. We plan to carefully assess this once the upper wall has been repaired.
New hand rails have also been erected on the steps down to the cascade and also on the steps where the old sycamore once stood. These are not only intended to make the steps more accessible for people, but also act as a barrier against steep drops.
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales have expressed an interest in visiting to record the Observatory while it is stripped back and before it is repaired. It was repaired once before in the 1970s by the then Lliw Valley Borough Council. The contractors have been cutting out the damaged stone of the Bath stone slabs at the top of the Observing Tower wall in order to cut new pieces in. Some information has come to light on how the building and apparatus functioned, but there are still some mysteries to be solved.
ANNUAL POTTING SHED SALE
Considering the weather the second Potting Shed Sale organised by the Friends of Penllergare was a roaring, albeit slightly damp, success! During the space of four hours the sales topped last year’s total bringing in over £2,000. Such was the generosity with donations of bedding plants, vegetables, perennials, shrubs & young trees; as well as crafts, books and cakes – that it was decided to have an informal sale of surplus produce on the car park on Bank Holiday Monday. Sunshine brought out visitors to the woods, sales were brisk and we made new friends too. The fundraising total is over £2,300 but – with GiftAid – this rises to over £2,800; a really splendid achievement!
We not only have to thank the Friends, but also volunteers and staff who worked tirelessly to make it all possible, as well as visitors who heard about the sale and wanted to contribute. As one lady said when she brought in a load of amazing cakes ‘Walking in the woods saved my sanity when I was studying for a degree and I became very stressed – I would now like to say thank you’. All the proceeds will go towards the restoration and upkeep of Penllergare Valley Woods.
Did you know that regular events, trips and activities are arranged for the subscribing members of the Friends of Penllergare Valley Woods? In June, many enjoyed a private visit to Stradey Castle hosted by the owners, Claire and Patrick Mansel Lewis. Knowing of the Friends’ interest in ‘all things horticultural’ they were delighted to give a guided tour of the grounds that are not normally open to visitors. This was followed by tea and a tour of the house. Next month, a walk has been organised to explore the old estate land north of the M4 motorway. If you would like to join the Friends on this walk on Saturday 12th July, please meet at 2pm at the Penllergaer Forest car park, next to Melin Llan. The walk will last approximately 2½ hours. Strong shoes/boots recommended. Free for Friends. £2 for non-members.
MARKETING, FUNDRAISING AND EVENTS
We’re receiving a steady flow of enquiries from groups to visit the woods and see the progress of the restoration project. This month we have led walks for the Gower Walking Festival, the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust, Swansea Council Tourism team, the DVLA photography club and more. We also had a visit from Mr Peter Black, Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for one of the South Wales West regional seats. If you would like to help us keep up with demand by helping as a guide on a voluntary basis, then we’d be very pleased to hear from you.
We’re thrilled that Penllergare Valley Woods is getting such great exposure on the Visit Swansea Bay website too. We are the third most popular listing in Swansea behind Rhossili Bay beach and Gower Getaways. See the website here: http://www.visitswanseabay.com/The Chief Executive of Visit Wales (Manon Antoniazzi), the Welsh Government’s agency for tourism in Wales also paid a visit in June too with the Chairman of the Government’s Tourism advisory group (Dan Clayton Jones). They were very impressed by the ambition of the Penllergare Trust and the scale of the project we have taken on.
As we try to lay the foundations for a sustainable organisation in this final year of the restoration project, Trustees and volunteers attended a fundraising training workshop this month delivered by two professional fundraisers. This is part of the support offered by the Heritage Lottery Fund to assist heritage organisations like us to make the most of the funding opportunities out there. It was a really useful opportunity to understand the wide range of funding available and also to better understand what we need to do to be successful. If anyone else would be interested in finding out more or would like to help in any way, then please do get in touch.
If you haven’t had a chance to visit recently, then you’re missing the spectacle of the prolific foxglove display this year. The foxgloves are thriving in the ground recently cleared of rhododendron and laurel and just go to show how these shrubs shade everything out.
We’re delighted to say that a pair of lapwing that nested on the silt deposit site have hatched and reared two youngsters successfully. These delightful and now endangered birds are a sight to be seen.
EVENTS IN JULY 2014
Moth Night 2014 (organised by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales)
Saturday 5th July. Join officers from the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and staff from Penllergare Trust for an evening of moth trapping and bat detecting as part of Moth Night 2014. http://www.welshwildlife.org/events/moth-night-2014-penllergare-valley-woods/ Please wear suitable outdoor clothing, and bring your torches! Limited spaces, book in advance. For more info or to book, please contact Rhi on email or phone 07974742585
Narrow Road to the Deep North (organised by the Friends of Penllergare)
Saturday 12th July. A guided walk to explore the old estate land north of the M4 motorway. Please meet at 2 pm at the Penllergaer Forest car park, next to Melin Llan, at 2 pm. The walk will last approximately 2½ hours. Strong shoes/boots recommended. Free for Friends. £2 for non-members.
Restoration Walk (organised by the Penllergare Trust)
Wednesday 30th July. 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.
We look forward to seeing you soon!
Thanks for all of your support!