Penllergare Valley Woods

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Restoration Update: August 2014

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After over 100 years of neglect, 14 years of planning and 2 years of hard graft and physical work by our staff, volunteers and contractors, we’re pleased to announce that the Upper Lake has finally been completed! It really is a sight to be seen. Look at those reflections!

Upper Lake (Sept 2014) - Photo by Faye Maher

Upper Lake (Sept 2014) – Photo by Faye Maher

It’s hard to believe that only 2 months ago it looked like this…

Dredging the Upper Lake (Aug 2014) - Photo by Faye Maher

Dredging the Upper Lake (Aug 2014) – Photo by Faye Maher

Over 12 months ago it looked like this…

Upper Lake in 2013 - Photo by Jeremy Douglas-Jones

Upper Lake in 2013 – Photo by Jeremy Douglas-Jones

And over 100 years ago, it looked like this!

Upper Lake - Summer Evening.

Upper Lake – Summer Evening – Photo by John Dillwyn Llewelyn (19th century).

What’s more – the waterfall is back running again! So what happens next? Well, restoration of the main track from Middle Park (the silt site) alongside the Upper Lake to the north of the estate and alongside the eastern bank has now started and will be completed in the next week or so. This will include the recreation of a lakeside promenade. A big thank you goes to Heritage Lottery Fund and Veolia Environmental Trust in particular for funding this element of the project.

The silt that has been transported to Middle Park will gradually dry out over the winter and next spring before being landscaped with bulldozers next year. We plan to complete the new fencing and gates for this area over the coming winter – opening up a new path and re-aligning other paths.

You may have noticed also that reeds have now been moved to the eastern margin of the upper lake. It is anticipated that this area will rapidly become a conservation area and wildlife haven as the shallow water will allow a wide range of aquatic plants to grow providing a nesting area for birds and a breeding area for amphibians and insects. The kingfishers have already been seen skimming the upper lake.

Kingfisher at Penllergare - Photo by Keith Cooper

Kingfisher at Penllergare – Photo by Keith Cooper

ARCHIMEDES SCREW

As for the Archimedes screw hydro turbine, some large boulders have been bought in, which, along with some smaller boulders from the woods, will be placed around the turbine housing as the first stage of landscaping. Earth will then be placed around some of the boulders and shrubs planted to embed it sensitively into its environment.

The hydro turbine installation was also re configured last week to ensure that it is properly set up to the new lake shape. It may take a little while until we get the controls working smoothly to ensure a balance between electricity generation and water for the waterfall. Please bear with us while we do this. We’d be interested in hearing from anyone who may be interested in getting to know the ins and outs of the turbine as a maintenance volunteer – if you think you could help, do get in touch.

To read more about the Archimedes screw, click here.

Our secret and magical place

The waterfall is back running again

WOODLAND VOLUNTEERS

Woodland volunteers have made fantastic progress clearing the rhododendron on the eastern bank of the upper lake and have also started clearing rhododendron in the ancient woodland site by the red ash track. Not an easy job! Soon we’ll need to invest in training, harnesses and ropes to tackle the really steep areas!

Rhododendron Clearance on East Bank Slopes - Aug 2014 (Photo by Janet Butt)

Rhododendron Clearance on East Bank Slopes – Aug 2014 (Photo by Janet Butt)

What’s more, a team of volunteer gardeners have been putting in the hours to develop and maintain the area around the coffee shop – aren’t they doing a fab job!

Sue Thorndycraft and woodland gardening volunteers (Sept 2014)

Sue Thorndycraft and woodland gardening volunteers (Sept 2014)

OBSERVATORY

It’s pleasing to see that the Observatory now has a new door and new windows. New soak-away drains have also been installed to try and take water away from the building – it’s thought that this is one of the reasons why the building is in such poor condition. A couple more trees that are too close to the building will be removed shortly. This work is expected to be completed by the end of September.

COFFEE SHOP

The coffee shop is going from strength to strength and we are proud to be celebrating our 1 year anniversary in September! With little publicity, we have become known in the local area as the place to go for a warm and friendly welcome, a beautiful setting, good quality proper coffee and delicious homemade cake! More importantly, we are no ordinary coffee shop – we are run by over 30 volunteers who are giving their time freely to support the future protection, restoration and maintenance of Valley Woods. If you would like to join us, please do get in touch.

Coffee Shop August 2014 - Photo by Meryl Thomas

Coffee Shop August 2014 – Photo by Meryl Thomas

FILMING AND PHOTOGRAPHY

Michael Portillo and his film crew spent nearly three hours by the waterfall in August whilst filming for his BBC programme Great British Rail Journeys. The crew had hired in Tony Richards, a wet plate collodian photographer, to take a picture of the waterfall with and without Michel Portillo – it all worked very well. The item is due to be broadcast in January – the featured journey is Milford Haven to Cambridge stopping off in Swansea to explore early photography.

Michael Portillo at the waterfall. Aug 2014. Photo by Ray Butt.

Michael Portillo at the waterfall. Aug 2014. Photo by Ray Butt.

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Tony Richards – Wet Plate Collodion Photographer. Aug 2014. Photo by Ray Butt.

Did you know? John Dillwyn Llewelyn, the creator of 19th century Penllergare, was recognised as one of the foremost British pioneer photographers. He was a founder Council Member of the Photographic Society of London (now the Royal Photographic Society) and he tried all the known processes, initially using Henry Fox Talbot’s Photogenic drawing, Daguerre’s Daguerrotype on silvered copper, Talbot’s newer Calotype process, the Wet Collodion process and his own variant of the latter, the Oxymel process. He has left a large archive of material, principally to be found in Swansea Museum, the National Library of Wales and the National Museum of Wales that is considered central to the development and spirit of photography. His work includes pictures of Scotland, Yorkshire, Cornwall and Bristol, and of friends and places in and around Swansea; but it is the photographs he took of the landscape and gardens at Penllergare and of his young growing family that possibly remain his most evocative, showing a particular passion for his own private world. We are so lucky to have these photographs to help inform how we protect and restore Penllergare Valley Woods now and into the future.

John Dillwyn Llewelyn - 1853

John Dillwyn Llewelyn – 1853

EVENTS

Congratulations to Abbie Jebson and helpers, who bravely volunteered to organise three days of summer fun activities for 8-11 year olds in Valley Woods with the aim of getting children outdoors in their summer holidays. Abbie, a teacher herself gave up part of her summer break to run these fun sessions. They were extremely successful with positive feedback and many parents wanting more.

Enjoying marshmallows on the fire. Aug 2014. Photo by Abbie Jebson

Enjoying marshmallows on the fire. Aug 2014. Photo by Abbie Jebson

Abbie and helpers - the damp weather didn't dampen the mood! Aug 2014. Photo by Abbie Jebson.

Abbie and helpers – the damp weather didn’t dampen the mood! Aug 2014. Photo by Abbie Jebson.

Volunteer, Adele Cunningham, guided 41 Friends around her ‘Penllergare Wanderland’ in August. It was a hugely enjoyable tour of her favourite places and spaces in Valley Woods that she punctuated with folklore stories associated with the wild flowers passed on the way. A big thank you to Adele for arranging the walk.

Adele's Wanderers - Aug 2014. Photo by Christine Clarke.

Adele’s Wanderers – Aug 2014. Photo by Christine Clarke.

WHAT’S ON IN SEPTEMBER?

Car Boot poster

Don’t forget also, that our Site Warden, David Connick, will be running his monthly guided walk of the restoration progress at 6pm on Wednesday 24th September. Sturdy footwear required! We’re also running guided walks and woodland volunteering sessions as part of Swansea Open House and Love Your Countryside Festival. Check out the programmes by clicking the images below:

Swansea Open House

LoveYourCountrysideFestival2014

Hope to see you soon and thanks a million for your support!

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3 Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Well done to all involved in the work and effort needed to get the woods to this stage. Let us hope that we all can continue to enjoy all the hard work that everyone has done. I am sure it will. Get the good news out there. Word of mouth is the best form of recommendation.

  2. len says:

    the work being done is outstanding , its looking amazing, cant wait for it to all settle in. and grow into itself, PS, coffee is great too.

  3. Mel says:

    Looked great when my daughter, grand daughter and myself visited last week. Just hope some of the paths will be pushchair friendly as we were in trouble with ours due to steps and tiny bridges.Fabi f it`s made truly family friendly. Lovely coffee and Welshcake at the cafe. Thanks x

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