Penllergare Valley Woods

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Restoration Update: November 2014

We are delighted to welcome Lee Turner to the team who has been appointed as our new General Manager. Lee officially started his new role on 3rd November and will be the senior on site manager with responsibility for the overall operational management of Penllergare as well as for supporter and volunteer development and revenue generation.

Lee Turner, our new General Manager

Lee Turner, our new General Manager

Lee has most recently been working as Director of Operations for Groundwork. With a history in Horticulture, Arboriculture, Environmental Management and Forestry, Lee has a wide range of experiences to bring to Penllergare Valley Woods

It will take some time for Lee to meet everyone but do pop in to introduce yourself and to say hello if ever you’re passing our lovely green cabin office in the car park. As you can imagine, it’s starting to feel somewhat cramped in there!

UPPER LAKE

The restored lake has become the subject of dozens of fantastic photographs from visitors – many of which have been featured on our Facebook page. It has been suggested that the main purpose of the lake was to reflect the gnarled and ancient oak trees on the eastern bank as part of the plan to create a picture of the landscape. Unfortunately, many of the ancient oaks are gone.

We’re planting oaks once again on the east bank, and in time – in our children’s time more likely – and with support, this picturesque scene and landscape will be recreated!

Reflections at Upper Lake. Photo by Philip James (Nov 2014)

Reflections at Upper Lake. Photo by Philip James (Nov 2014)

CARRIAGE DRIVE

Despite the rain, Selwyn Jones the stonemason and his team, have made good progress with the masonry repairs to the carriage drive wall. Although this work is largely unseen, several of the fine masonry arches that support the carriage drive have collapsed leaving the drive vulnerable to slippage down the bank.

Several large trees that are growing in the wall are due to be removed in the next couple of weeks to prevent further damage and to open up the views out across the valley. Once this phase of work is completed, a metal railing fence is planned alongside the carriage drive against the steep drop – there is evidence of an earlier railing fence here. Larch cleft fencing is also proposed for a substantial section of the carriage drive. This feature became a popular photographic subject of John Dillwyn Llewelyn in the 19th century. Many views survive of the drive itself and of views from it.

Carriage Drive. Photo by John Dillwyn Llewelyn. 19th Century.

Carriage Drive. Photo by John Dillwyn Llewelyn. 19th Century.

The carriage drive would have been an important picturesque feature that would have at one stage been very visible from the bottom of the valley. The work we are doing now is only the tip of the iceberg and gives us a good feel for the extent and cost of work involved at some stage in the future. There are several very fine stone arches, the purpose of which can only be guessed at.

Carriage Drive Retaining Wall. Photo by Philip James (Nov 2014)

The stonemasons also discovered an interesting feature in the wall. As they were cleaning back the ivy and moss to repair the masonry, they came across a vertical joint in the wall, where there didn’t appear to be a need for one. So far, we haven’t been able to explain why this is here – it doesn’t appear to relate to any steps or a path – Penllergare Valley Woods is really full of surprises!

Interesting Feature. Photo by Philip James (Nov 2014)

Interesting Feature. Photo by Philip James (Nov 2014)

COFFEE SHOP

The bad news! Contractors returned on 1st December to rectify some of the defects to the drainage in the car park and also the slabs on the coffee shop terrace. Regrettably, it was decided to close the coffee shop for 5 days during the week from 1st – 5th December. Thank you to you all for your cooperation.

The good news! We are now back open as usual and thanks to the dedication of our wonderful volunteers, our coffee shop will be open over the Christmas and New Year period too. Here are our Christmas opening hours. We’d love to see you over this festive season!

Everyday up to 23rd December: 10.30am – 3.30pm
Christmas Eve: 10.30am – 1pm
Christmas Day: Closed
Boxing Day: 10.30am – 3.30pm
27th December: 10.30am – 3.30pm
28th December: 10.30am – 3.30pm
29th December: 10.30am – 3.30pm
30th December: 10.30am – 3.30pm
New Years Eve: Closed
New Year’s Day: 10.30am – 3.30pm
2nd January onwards: 10.30am – 3.30pm

WOODLAND VOLUNTEERING

We’ve said it before, but it really is amazing the progress our woodland volunteers are making with clearing the invasive rhododendron and felling larch in the former Ancient Woodland site at the bottom of the Red Ash track. It’s already possible to see how these areas will look as the years pass with many native trees and other woodland plants now able to flourish. A lot of the larch is to be used for the cleft fencing proposed for the carriage drive over this winter too.

Volunteer Bonfire. Nov 2014. Photo by Philip James.

Volunteer Bonfire. Nov 2014. Photo by Philip James.

We always know when our woodland volunteers are at work because of the smoke rising from the bonfires at various points in the woods. The work carries on in all weathers, though the woods offer good shelter from rain and wind and a good work out and a bonfire are a great antidote to the cold as well! We’re delighted to welcome new volunteers on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Talking about bonfires in November, did you know that one of the earliest surviving photographs of a Guy Fawkes bonfire in Wales was taken at Penllergare Valley Woods? A John Dillwyn Llewelyn bonfire photograph was exhibited in the early 1850s and Queen Victoria even requested a print for her collection. Check out a couple of the historic bonfire photos here:

Remember Remember the 5th November. Photo by John Dillwyn Llewelyn. 19th Century.

Remember Remember the 5th November. Photo by John Dillwyn Llewelyn. 19th Century.

Earliest surviving photograph showing a Guy Fawkes bonfire in Wales?

Earliest surviving photograph showing a Guy Fawkes bonfire in Wales?

ARCHIMEDES SCREW HYDRO TURBINE

Our volunteering family continues to grow and expand! We now have two volunteers assisting with the management and maintenance of the hydro scheme and they came together this week to carry out the monthly maintenance check. We really are most fortunate in having so many people willing to join in with our restoration journey – thank you to everyone. Can you believe that the archimedean screw was installed a year ago this month!?!

Archimedes Screw in Action. Photo by Philip James (Nov 2014)

Archimedes Screw in Action. Photo by Philip James (Nov 2014)

We’re receiving quite a few questions about the turbine, including how fast does the Archimedes screw rotate and how many ‘blades’ are there on the screw – well we can confirm that at full power, the screw rotates at around 25 revolutions per minute, and there are two blades on the screw.

Landscaping works around the hydro scheme have started. Some small trees have been relocated from elsewhere in the woods. More works are planned in the coming weeks and over the winter. If you’d like to know more about the turbine, then please don’t hesitate to ask!

MARKETING AND FUNDRAISING

We are delighted to be working with a local Swansea agency, Copper Bay Creative, to improve our online presence and develop a brand new website for Penllergare Valley Woods – which will go live in the next month. The new website will enable everyone to join us on our restoration journey by providing lots of interesting information about the stories, history, wildlife and people that make Penllergare so special! What’s more, it will provide more opportunities for the people of Swansea and beyond to support us in our ambitions to save, protect and restore Penllergare Valley Woods for everyone to enjoy.

Ben Wheeler from Copper Bay Creative and Faye Maher Business Development Manager at Penllergare. Photo by Copper Bay Creative. Nov 2014.

Ben Wheeler from Copper Bay Creative and Faye Maher Business Development Manager at Penllergare. Photo by Copper Bay Creative. Nov 2014.

Penllergare Valley Woods turned into a TV production location for one day in November with the car park full of cast, crew, catering and make-up trailers as well as film equipment.We can’t tell you anymore at this stage but we’ll share all when this popular TV series is aired next Spring. Don’t forget that Penllergare will also be featured on Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys series in January. We’ll remind you about this closer to the time.

Not only do TV appearances such as this bring great publicity to Penllergare Valley Woods on a local as well as international stage, but we are also pleased to receive a kind donation for hire of the site – all of which goes towards the future maintenance of Valley Woods. Keeping the balance between raising funds through projects such as this as well as meeting the needs of our regular visitors and protecting and conserving our special place and wildlife will always be the biggest challenge in achieving our long term ambition.

On a similar note, we have been presented with a vehicle, for free, from the Earth Science Partnership, an engineering consultancy firm in Cardiff. One of the Directors lives in Parc Penllergaer and is a keen supporter of the Trust and wanted to help. We’re most grateful for this generous gift.

Earth Science Partnership donation of van. Photo by ESP (Nov 2014)

Earth Science Partnership donation of van. Photo by ESP (Nov 2014)

EVENTS

Did you see us at the Green Fayre at the National Waterfront Museum at the end of November? Thank you so much to all of our wonderful volunteers for offering to help man our stand. It was a great opportunity to promote what we do and why. Thank you also to Swansea’s Environment Centre for organising it.

We are getting more and more groups coming for a stroll (or hike!) in Penllergare Valley Woods – it’s great to see so many people enthusiastic and astonished by the progress and coming back time after time to see how things are going. If your group intends on visiting us, we would be most grateful if you could give us a quick ring or email in advance to let us know. Here’s a lovely photo of regular visitors Mike (centre) and Mali the dog with members of U3A enjoying their walk in Valley Woods.

Mike, Mali and U3A. Photo by Julie Cook via Facebook (Nov 2014)

Mike, Mali and U3A. Photo by Julie Cook via Facebook (Nov 2014)

SEASONS

Did you know that a Girdled Knight and a Burnt Knight were found in the woods last week? No it’s not another TV production, but two species of fungus found by the Glamorgan Fungus Group on their recent fungi foray. In all they found 33 different species of fungus with some wonderful names like ‘Blusher’, ‘White Brain’, ‘The Deceiver’ and more…If anyone would like the full list, then please get in touch.

Check out also these beautiful early morning photos from Nyddfwch by Carey Beor. If you haven’t had a chance to walk up to the old medieval site to take in the views across the valley, towards Fforestfach and Blaenymaes and towards Mynydd y Gwair – it’s definitely a must!

From Nyddfwch - Last sunrise of the month. Photo by Carey Beo (Nov2014)

From Nyddfwch – Last sunrise of the month. Photo by Carey Beor (Nov 2014)

Misty Morning from Nyddfwch. Photo by Carey Beor (Nov 2014)

Misty Morning from Nyddfwch. Photo by Carey Beor (Nov 2014)

SALE OF THE COUNCIL OFFICES

We’re sure you’ve heard the latest news about the sale of the Council’s Penllergaer Civic Centre, including the site of the former Penllergare estate house, in the local paper recently. This is a reminder of the ongoing threat from development to Penllergare Valley Woods.

We’re not against development in principle, and fully understand the need to build more houses and places to work, but we strongly feel that in the process of development, special places like Penllergare Valley Woods need to be protected for future generations to enjoy.

Many historic features have already been lost – the old park that graced the now demolished Penllergare house has been built over for housing; the M4 motorway and the A48 have truncated the beautiful John Dillwyn Llewelyn designed landscape garden; the A483 was constructed over the old Home Farm site and balancing ponds that once served the water features in Valley Woods and the Walled Garden, and a Business Park has been built right next door to Valley Woods.

Clipping from the South Wales Evening Post - April 1974

Clipping from the South Wales Evening Post – April 1974

The sale of the Penllergaer Civic Centre and surrounding land raises more questions and concerns about the impact on Valley Woods and also the future of the historic Observatory, presently being restored back to working condition.

Now, more than ever, we need your support to protect this secret and magical place and to campaign hard to ensure that the inevitable developments on adjacent land, such as on the Civic Centre site do not further erode the special qualities of Valley Woods. We are appealing to anyone who shares our love for this special place to show support by becoming a member of the Friends of Penllergare. This is a powerful way that we can demonstrate the ‘value’ that local communities place on Penllergare Valley Woods, and will strengthen our voice with the local planning authority in the planning process.

To find out more about the Penllergare Trust’s stance on the matter, you can read our full press release here. You can also sign up to become a member in our coffee shop. In a few weeks you’ll be able to sign up online too on our new website.

ANNUAL VISITOR SURVEY

It’s that time of year again. We would be most grateful if you could support us by filling in our annual Visitor Survey. Not only is it an opportunity to share ideas and to get your feedback on our restoration journey at Penllergare Valley Woods but it also provides us with valuable information to improve for the future. We would really appreciate 5 minutes of your time (even if you filled in a similar one last year). Thanks so much for your continued support. It means a lot to us.

Thank you so much for your support! Enjoy the festive activities in the run up to Christmas. Do you think we’ll have a white Christmas? 🙂

Walking in a Winter Wonderland by Carey Beor

Photo by Carey Beor

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Further development threats to Penllergare Valley Woods (Press Release)

The sale of the Council’s Penllergaer Civic Centre, including the site of the former Penllergare estate house is a reminder of the ongoing threat from development to Penllergare Valley Woods, say the Penllergare Trust.

Damage has already been done to Penllergare Valley Woods through adjacent developments and this latest sale of development land by the main entrance and surrounding the nineteenth century Equatorial Observatory raises concerns for the integrity of the designed landscape.

The Penllergare Trust was established in 2000 in response to the wanton demolition of historic features adjacent to the Walled Garden when contractors set up their site compound to build the houses at Parc Penllergare. The adjacent woodlands had also suffered from careless and unsympathetic ‘improvements’, none of which have stood the test of time.

Penllergare Valley Woods is currently being rescued from obscurity, vandalism and dereliction and brought back to life by local people, in what is becoming one of the biggest community driven landscape restoration projects in the country.

Terry Jones, Chair of the Penllergare Trust says “We’re not against development in principle, and fully understand the need to build more houses and places to work, but we strongly feel that in the process of development, special places like Penllergare Valley Woods need to be protected for future generations to enjoy.

Many historic features have already been lost – the old park that graced the now demolished Penllergare house has been built over for housing; the M4 motorway and the A48 have truncated the beautiful John Dillwyn Llewelyn designed landscape garden; the A483 was constructed over the old Home Farm site and balancing ponds that once served the water features in Valley Woods and the Walled Garden, and a Business Park has been built right next door to Valley Woods.”

The sale of the Penllergaer Civic Centre and surrounding land raises more questions and concerns about the impact on Valley Woods and also the future of the historic Observatory, presently being restored back to working condition by the Penllergare Trust.

Now, more than ever, the Penllergare Trust needs support to protect this secret and magical place and to campaign hard to ensure that the inevitable developments on adjacent land, such as on the Civic Centre site do not further erode the special qualities of Valley Woods. Terry Jones goes on to say “The Penllergare Trust is appealing to anyone who shares our love for this special place to show their support by becoming a member of the Friends of Penllergare. This is a powerful way that we can demonstrate the ‘value’ that local communities place on Penllergare Valley Woods, and will strengthen our voice with the local planning authority in the planning process.”

For more information about Penllergare Valley Woods and to find out more about how you can support us, please contact Lee Turner on 01792 344224 or contact@penllergare.org

Coffee Shop 5 day closure from 1st December

The autumn officially ends on Sunday and after a really successful season at the coffee shop we’re taking the opportunity to carry out some essential maintenance.

From Monday 1st December for five days, contractors will be lifting the paving slabs on the coffee shop terrace and relaying them to make sure that the rainwater drains away from the building, after one or two problems with water coming into the building under the doors. We’ve made the decision to close the coffee shop for these five days rather than try and work round the builders.

We apologise to all our customers and supporters for any inconvenience caused and hope that everyone will come back and see us again once the works are completed.

Our coffee shop, run by our wonderful team of volunteers, supported by Julie and Lydia, has been a runaway success since it opened in September 2013. Not only have the team provided a warm and friendly welcome to visitors, but all the profits are being ploughed back into essential maintenance in the woods for us all to enjoy.

Thank you so much for your support!

Photo by Meryl Thomas. Aug 2014

Photo by Meryl Thomas. Aug 2014

Newsflash: Installation of Archimedes Screw

The Archimedean screw destined for Penllergare Valley Woods is arriving on Monday 25th November! Please join us to witness this special event.

Following months of preparation on a site next to the waterfall, the Archimedean screw hydro turbine will be delivered and installed next Monday.  It’s difficult to predict precise timings, but a large crane is due to arrive in the woods around 8am at the A48 entrance and will proceed down to the prepared site next to the waterfall. The Archimedean screw will arrive on a low loader shortly after. The crane will lift the screw with the gearbox and generator attached, into the specially built housing anytime after 9.30am.

Click here to find out more about the Archimedean Screw

The A48 entrance will be shut off to all but construction traffic, so if you’re planning on coming along, please use the new car park from where volunteers will guide you to the best viewing points on the west bank.

The cafe will be open throughout the morning if you fancy a cup of coffee before proceeding to the viewing points.

We look forward to seeing you on Monday.

Suspension of the lake desilting until 2014

Dear all,
You will all know that it was planned to complete the lake desilting by the end of October and to restore the silt deposit area in the middle park next summer. The end of October target was to coincide with the start of the salmon and trout migration season, when all works in rivers is suspended across the country to allow these wonderful and increasingly threatened fish to come up our rivers and streams to lay their eggs in the gravel beds, and for the eggs to hatch. The river works embargo runs from Mid October (normally) to mid April each year (for more information about this, please see – http://www.wildtrout.org/content/trout-facts)

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New Car Park & Visitor Centre Open

We are delighted to announce that the new car park and refreshment area in Penllergare Valley Woods has opened today (Friday 20th September). This new, much anticipated facility will be open every day, for the time being, from 10am to 4pm. The opening of the refreshment area will be followed shortly by an information / exhibition display in the upper level of the new visitor centre.

Run by local volunteers, visitors will receive a warm welcome and will be able to enjoy a cup of tea and fantastic coffee on the open terrace overlooking the upper terraces of the former Dillwyn Llewelyn landscape garden, with glimpses of the upper lake, currently undergoing restoration. Light refreshments will also be served.

The pay and display car park will initially be open from 9am until 5pm. Receipts from the car park will be ploughed back into the management and maintenance of Valley Woods to ensure it remains the much loved and valued local amenity that it has become in recent years, thanks to the Penllergare Trust and all its supporters.

Whilst there is still work in progress on the surrounding landscape restoration, and there are some visitor restrictions there are several new, accessible paths from the car park with some really good viewing points over the lake restoration project in the valley bottom. A visit is highly recommended! The car park and visitor centre can be found off the entrance drive to the Swansea City Council offices at Penllergaer close to J47 of the M4 motorway on the Llangyfelach A48 main road.

This new facility has been made possible through the dedicated support of local volunteers, the Heritage Lottery Fund, through its Parks for People programme and is also part of the ‘One Historic Garden Project’ that links heritage, gardens and opportunities across South Wales, part-funded by the EU Convergence European Regional Development Fund through ‘Visit Wales’ and the Welsh Government.

For further information, you can either visit us, email contact@penllergare.org or call 01792 344224.

We look forward to welcoming you!

Penllergare Trust appeals for volunteers to help transform Swansea beauty spot

A group working to transform one of Swansea’s finest beauty spots is looking for volunteers.

Penllergare Trust has come up with a volunteer wishlist to help with its massive restoration project at Penllergare Valley Woods.

The list comprises film-makers, photographers, researchers, rangers, surveyors, guided walk leaders, marketing assistants, and admin assistants.

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Deal to breathe new life into historic observatory

An iconic Swansea building where a pioneering scientist took one of the earliest ever photos of the moon will soon be brought back to life.

Swansea Council has signed a 25-year lease with the Penllergare Trust for the 19th Century equatorial observatory and laboratory at Penllergare Valley Woods that once formed a local hub for stargazing.

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ITV Wales News Feature (March 2013)

Just in case you missed it, here’s another chance to see the report about the restoration project at Penllergare Valley Woods that was featured on ITV Wales News in March 2013 thanks to the One Historic Garden project.

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Thieves target hand tools in Penllergare Valley Woods

Volunteers and staff working to restore the landscape and to make Valley Woods a haven for wildlife for public benefit were bitterly disappointed on Monday morning (15th April 2013) to find someone had broken into their tool store and stolen hand tools, wheelbarrows and some paint. Police officers have visited to collect any evidence, but are not optimistic about recovering any of the items, together worth over £1,000.

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