9:29am Saturday 17th May 2014
THE environmental body which runs one of Gwent’s biggest tourist attractions has insisted that nearby footpaths, mountain bike trails and “glamping” will remain open, despite plans to close the seven-mile car track on November 2.
Three-quarters of the trees at Cwmcarn Forest could be felled due to an incurable disease affecting larch.
This will mean the seven-mile Forest Drive will be closed to cars while the work takes place.
Despite this, Caerphilly council and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have stressed it will be “business as usual” at the site, with all footpaths, bike routes, the Visitor Centre, 10 “glamping” pods, play area, gift shop and Raven’s café staying open.
The Argus reported last year that an aerial survey had revealed widespread infection by Ramorum disease of larch at Cwmcarn Forest, which is made up of 78 per cent larch trees.
Dead or dying trees will need to be felled over the next few years and replaced by oak, rowan and beech to make the area more resilient to disease.
The area is one of Wales’ biggest urban forests which attracted 253,000 visitors to its Visitor Centre last year. 25,000 visited the Forest Drive.
Argus readers like Liz Neumann contacted us yesterday concerned about the plans.
She wrote: “We go several times a year. It is a beautiful drive and great for those older less active citizens.
“Felling trees is one thing, doing it when tourism is low a good thing. When we walked part of the Wales coast path there were diversions because of tree felling and that worked well.
“It should not close permanently because of its importance, because of the money already spent on the tourist facilities at the bottom.”
It is not yet clear how walkers will be prevented from walking across the road, or how much revenue could be lost from the closure. It costs £5 per car or £25 per season ticket to access the track.
The forest, which is a plantation producing timber, is managed by NRW on behalf of Welsh Government.
The closure will allow more than 50,000 tonnes of diseased timber to be removed from 400 acres of forestry - a measure required by law.
Curig Jones, a spokesman for NRW, said the nearby council-run facilities will not be affected by the road closure, which is happening because heavy machinery used for felling is expected to churn up the road making it unfit for cars to drive on.
In a statement the body said they will keep visitors informed of planned trail closures or diversions via their website, newsletters, social media and the visitor centre.
“No decision has been made about the future of Forest Drive yet as it will require considerable investment to repair following our felling and haulage operations,” said the statement.
“However, we are keen to reopen it if feasible and we’ll be exploring all possible funding options to do this.”
To stop the spread of Ramorum disease, the organisation must either fell the affected trees or inject them with a chemical which kills the tree but leaves it standing.
Councillor Ken James, Caerphilly council cabinet member for sustainable development said the council is determined to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.
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