‘An Absolute Joy’ by Sandra Davies
Ten whole months passed between the awakening of my interest in this project and finally ‘making my debut’. Presenter Steve Brown’s visit on behalf of Countryfile was the spur I needed to contact the Woodland Trust. I had previously read the board which explains the concept of the “Plant!” project (a clever title which works equally well in both English and Welsh) and it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Unfortunately, Covid meant that no new volunteers were being recruited; but, when the time was right, my friend Mary and I followed the online training sessions and were given clearance to set foot on Coed Cadw land. (To date we have managed to take part in the same session only once!)
After an initial false start (I turned up at the wrong black gate!) I joined the happy band on 9th October 2021. However, it was with some trepidation that I took part in the first task. Chris Matts (the site manager) said something like, “We’re looking very good for numbers today, so we’ll walk up to where the cattle are and try to encourage them to go into the neighbouring field. … It’s not something they’re generally keen to do.” (Gulp!) Having reached the field and negotiated a large muddy patch, Chris issued his next instruction: “We’ll walk down in a police line …” “But they’re in a police line!” quipped one of the volunteers! To cut the story short, the cattle initially ran in the opposite direction from the connecting gate; then, for some reason known only to themselves, they turned and trotted through it ‘like lambs’, if that doesn’t sound ridiculous. The rest of the morning was spent preparing their new feeding area, with one of the seven standing close by, undeterred by our movements, ensuring that he would be first in the queue when dinner was finally served.
I write as a veteran of eight sessions. During that time it has been a privilege to have taken part in a variety of activities: wildflower seed sowing, led by Emily of ‘Bug Life’; clearing Rhododendrons; reducing a mature Corsican Pine which had been blown over in a storm; planting, staking and guarding tiny saplings on the slopes below Preswylfa (Personal planting tally: 55 Beech & Alder. Just saying!) I also plan to have some involvement in the Heritage project by speaking with at least one former resident of either Brynau or Preswylfa, when they were working farms.
Of course, everything at Brynau is a team effort, ably led by Ed (Tucker) and/or Chris (Matts). Not that we are bound together – there is often an element of choice. I have yet to attend a session where I don’t meet at least one ‘new’ person (new to me, that is) which makes for very interesting conversation during the breaks. Several are committed to similar work in other parts of the locality, which is a great inspiration.
Spectacular views across the hills to distant Mumbles Head make the steady climb from town worthwhile. Naturally, such an exposed hillside leaves no hiding place from rattling wind and sharp showers. As a few of us discussed one day, we are more than lucky to work in such a beautiful environment – we are blessed. Without hesitation, I would describe my first four months as a volunteer at Brynau as “an absolute joy”, as I tell anyone who cares to listen. I look forward to more opportunities which ensure the long-term future of flora and fauna here.
Many thanks to Sandra for sharing her first impressions of volunteering at Bryanu. And huge thanks to the ongoing efforts of all our fabulous volunteers at Brynau and elsewhere for your contribution to the Woodland Trust goals and for sharing your enthusiasm and passion for the trees and woods we know and love.