Penllergare Valley Woods

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Restoration Update: July 2014

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We’ve been getting quite a bit of publicity about the restoration of the Upper Lake this month and everyone is so excited to see the work progressing at a rapid pace. The contractors are working 12 hours a day, seven days a week and only stop to refuel the machines and for occasional repairs (and food of course!). We’re pleased to see so many visitors coming to see them at work too as they painstakingly dig the silt out and cart it down the valley to be spread on the old parkland area.  Crossed fingers the rain will keep away in August so that we can finish ahead of time.

Upper Lake from East Bank. Photo by David Jeffrey (July 2014)

Upper Lake from East Bank. Photo by David Jeffrey (July 2014)

 

Isn’t it strange to see the waterfall with no water flowing over it? Seeing it so exposed makes us appreciate the vision of John Dillwyn Llewelyn and the quality of Victorian engineering. There were no JCBs or dumper trucks to move and position these massive boulders of sandstone to create this man-made dam in the 19th century.

 

Dry Waterfall. Photo by Christine Clarke (July 2014)

Dry Waterfall. Photo by Christine Clarke (July 2014)

Top of the Waterfall. Photo by John Dillwyn Llewelyn (19th century)

Top of the Waterfall. Photo by John Dillwyn Llewelyn (19th century)

Now that the waterfall is dry, we’ve inspected the top of the dam and taken a closer look at the iron straps that have been the source of much interest. We’re now fairly certain that the arrangement of iron work on the crest of the waterfall is an ingenious device to prevent damage to the fine capping stones by logs and other debris coming down the lake. The iron spikes are firmly anchored into the structure and were designed to hold a strap to clamp down the capping stones. Selwyn Jones, stonemason, who has also been working on the upper terrace walls, is carrying out the repair to reinstate this arrangement.

 

Iron Straps. Photo by Philip James (July 2014)

Iron Straps. Photo by Philip James (July 2014)

Repairing the Waterfall. Photo by Philip James (July 2014)

Repairing the Waterfall. Photo by Philip James (July 2014)

To find out more about the dredging of the lake, click here

OBSERVATORY

There has been some progress ‘off site’ with the observatory this month. The design detail for the observing tower drum has been signed off and is now with the contractor. The existing drum framework that dates from the 1980s will be repaired and upgraded and covered in zinc sheet before being lowered into position again on the observing tower.

Existing Drum Framework. Photo by Philip James (July 2014)

Existing Drum Framework. Photo by Philip James (July 2014)

The Bathstone capping blocks have also been replaced on the top of the observatory tower by a specialist stonemason from Cross Hands. New ceramic ‘slips’ have been made to repair the facing brickwork on the laboratory of the observatory. The roof repairs are next, before the internal joinery is carried out.

Hasn’t the style of scaffolding changed? 🙂

Building the Observatory by John Dillwyn Llewelyn

Building the Observatory. Photo by John Dillwyn Llewelyn (19th century)

WOODLAND VOLUNTEERING

Our woodland volunteers have been hard at it cutting Himalayan Balsam on the old Lower Lake bed for several weeks now – not an easy job, but what a big difference they have made. This will have to be repeated for several years, cutting the balsam before it sets seed, to try and control this invasive plant. A recent study carried out by Masters students studying at Swansea University recommended that the priority for controlling balsam is in the semi-shaded areas i.e. woodland friges, and also in areas of new installation.

Clearing Balsam. Photo by Christine Clarke (July 2014)

Clearing Balsam. Photo by Christine Clarke (July 2014)

Work is progressing apace with the new road into what we call the ‘PAWS’ wood. PAWS stands for ‘Planted Ancient Woodland Site’ – it’s an area of woodland that was once native, but has been planted with non native trees. In our case, some of the woods on the eastern side of the river used to be rented by the Forestry Commission in which time they were planted with a variety of non native conifers. The Trust, as with many other land owners, has decided to try and restore the native woodland in these areas. This new road will give access to fell and remove most of the larch trees in the coming months before encouraging natural regrowth and also some new planting.

Volunteers at work. Photos by Meryl Thomas

Volunteers at work. Photos by Meryl Thomas

A big thank you to woodland volunteers, John, Janet, Meryl and Peter, who took a Penllergare stand to the Royal Welsh Show. We were invited to join the Llais y Goedwig tent – a network of community woodlands throughout Wales. The information boards were designed especially for this event using some bang up to date images of what’s going on taken by volunteer photographer, Meryl.

Janet Childs, woodland volunteer at the Royal Welsh Show. Photo by Meryl Thomas (July 2014)

Janet Childs, woodland volunteer at the Royal Welsh Show. Photo by Meryl Thomas (July 2014)

With the school holidays underway, there has been an influx of people, young and old, to enjoy the woods, especially the waterfall area and the river. With this has come an increase in litter – why do people leave their litter behind spoiling such a beautiful place? Thanks to those who have voluntarily picked up litter left by others and brought it to the coffee shop for disposal – wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to do this?!! If you have any ideas on how we can encourage more people to take their litter home with them, then please let us know.

UPPER TERRACE WALL

Selwyn Jones and his team are progressing well with the repair of the upper terrace wall. They have now reached the niche mid way along the length and are carrying out sensitive repairs to the arch and side stones. We still believe that this niche was where an old set of steps led up to the top of the terrace gardens and to the Big House at the top. It has also been speculated that this could have been an entrance to an ice house! We’ve not found any map or other evidence to support this though.

COFFEE SHOP

It’s great to see new faces joining the longer serving coffee shop volunteers to help give our visitors a warm welcome and refreshments. This is and will continue to be at the heart of our work in the future as we welcome more people to Valley Woods to enjoy the special qualities that we may take for granted from time to time – the feedback we receive is a reminder of just how lucky we are to have this fantastic place on our doorstep.

Volunteers, Mags and Danielle, in the Coffee Shop. Photo by Julie Osbourne (July 2014)

Volunteers, Mags and Danielle, in the Coffee Shop. Photo by Julie Osbourne (July 2014)

FUNDRAISING

Thanks to Moto Community Trust for their most generous grant of £1,000 towards our work in Valley Woods. We are their local charity of the year, 2014, and as such we’re eligible to apply to their community trust for this grant. This sort of local help is hugely important to our work and ongoing success. If you know of any other local business that you feel might like to be associated with our projects, then please get in touch!

As we head into the final months of this phase of our restoration project, more than ever our minds are turning to how we can be sustainable in our ambition to protect and restore Penllergare Valley Woods for everyone to enjoy. With a need to generate some £100,000 per year to pay the rent, maintain and manage the estate and save it from housing/business development, finding ways to develop support, generate core revenue and not be too reliant on the stop/start legacy of grants is a priority. Emphasising our image as a community woodland – a secret and magical place being brought back to life by a local charity run by volunteers, and focusing on supporter development and supporter fundraising has therefore become integral to our business strategy.

With this in mind, the Penllergare Trust has appointed Paul Baker as its first Managing Director, as well as vice Chairman. This is an entirely voluntary role in which Paul will take on management responsibility for the Trust’s activities and operational business. The Trustees naturally remain responsible for the Governance of the Trust under the chairmanship of Terry Jones. Paul has set up an executive management group of staff and volunteers who met for the first time in July to make plans to respond to the opportunities and challenges facing the Trust in the future.

The Penllergare Trust is also in the process of recruiting a new General Manager.  For full details including a Role Profile / Person Specification and Application form, contact: philip.james@penllergare.org

EVENTS

We had a brilliant first two sessions as part of our Summer Activities! We made bird food, created mini beast mansions, learnt how to use a saw, went on bug hunts and butterfly spotted!

Birdies and Beasties. Photo by Abbie Jebson (July 2014)

Birdies and Beasties. Photo by Abbie Jebson (July 2014)

There are still spaces left on the morning Dens and Campfires session on Thursday 14th Aug. Book now by contacting abigail.jebson@gmail.com to avoid disappointment. Find out more here: www.facebook.com/valleywoodsadventurers

We had a great bat and moth night in the woods in July too, run by the South West Wales Wildlife Trust. The woods were alive with bats at dusk and everyone also stayed late for moth trapping as part of National Moth Night.

Moth Night. Photo by Meryl Thomas (July 2014)

Moth Night. Photo by Meryl Thomas (July 2014)

The Friends of Penllergare enjoyed a two-hour exploration around the old estate land north of the M4 motorway on Saturday 12th July. The walkers stood on the late 18th century road bridge that once took travellers across Penllergare land and heard about Melin Llan Mill (the origins date back to 1326) and the later Melin Llan House. If you would like to help us look after and learn more about the protection and restoration of Valley Woods, click here to find out more about joining the Friends of Penllergare.

SummerActivities2014

Have you joined us on one of our restoration walks yet? The next one is on Wednesday 27th August at 6pm. Meet in the Penllergare Car Park and don’t forget to wear sturdy footwear. Hope to see you there!

A big thank you to Brian Meredith for summing up Penllergare in one lovely photograph.

By Brian Meredith

By Brian Meredith

Thanks so much for your support. Hope you’re having a great summer!

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