Volunteer activity in North Wales
There was lots of activity at Parc Mawr, Conwy, in February 2020. Volunteers from the Snowdonia Society were involved in making steps, respacing around young oaks, installing bird and bat boxes.
Parc Mawr occupies a steep easterly facing side of the Conwy valley, hence the need for installation and maintenance of quite a few steps! It is an ancient woodland, historically, the wood was probably managed as high forest, with a mixture of oak, ash and elm with a hazel understorey.
The woodland, however, has been much modified over the years. A busy lead mine was established in and around the northern tip of the property, finally closing in 1956. The bat communities on site benefit from the well maintained grilles over entrances to Trecastell Mine which allow them access but prevent people disturbing them.
The high ground offers fabulous views, Photo: Ed Midmore.
The planting of beech and conifers in the 1960s drastically altered the character of the site and in the 1970s Dutch elm disease devastated the elms that were once common in the wood, though you can still see occasional mature examples onsite. The management plan for the site aims to increase the percentage of oak present. Around ten years ago, parts of the site were cleared of conifer and replanted with native broadleaf species plus allowing natural regeneration. Oak grows very slowly, the volunteers are clearing around young oak trees making space for light to allow them a better chance of growing to maturity.
Oak is an important native species as it often survives to a great age and large size, frequently forming cracks and crevices as the tree ages which wildlife can take advantage of.
More mature trees are great for attaching our sturdy bird boxes. Photo: Ed Midmore.
Remnants of the original woodland have endured, with the survival of many mature canopy trees, providing important habitat for other wildlife e.g. bats and birds. This site has been identified as an excellent area for nest boxes. This is partly due to the relatively small number of trees with natural refugia and partly because the woods are well connected to the rest of the landscape with hedges and other woodlands. This connectivity means that birds and bats can travel to these woods within the safety of natural corridors to forage and use the boxes installed by the volunteers. These boxes were made from sustainable timber sourced from another of our sites in North Wales.
According to the volunteer site warden, one of the bird boxes was nested by a blue tit this summer…Success!
From left: Snowdonia Society leading a safety briefing, a volunteer in action, a well earned break and vista and a room with a view! Photos: Ed Midmore.
Author: Ed Midmore, North Wales Site Manager