Cambrian Wildwood is set in the uplands of Mid Wales, near the River Dyfi. It is a place and a project – restoring the habitats and species of this landscape and giving people deep nature experiences in a wild setting.
Bwlch Corog is a 350 acre site which was acquired for Cambrian Wildwood by our partners The Woodland Trust in May 2017 and is on a 125 year lease to us. It is predominantly moorland dominated by purple moor grass called Molinia, with a small area of ancient woodland alongside two upland streams in the northern corner of the site.
At first, we concentrated on the extensive land work, all the internal fencing was taken down and we blocked drainage grips which had been placed across the site. This resulted in 1,000 small ponds being created which has re-wet the land and now large swathes of purple moor grass will revert to blanket bog and heather moorland.
The aim for Bwlch Corog is for native woodland to colonise naturally, which is being assisted by planting thousands of native trees in small groups across the site using ‘no fence’ planting methods. This provides a seed source in the relatively treeless upland landscape and brings back tree species that used to grow here.
We’ve also introduced wild horses to encourage biodiversity though their grazing and now have a herd of nine beautiful horses roaming the land. During the summer months, Highland Cattle join the horses to assist with grazing. Many other amazing creatures, can be found at Cambrian Wildwood including roe deer, otters and hen harrier. We also hope that other species will re-colonise naturally here in the future.
Through our education specialist we offer a three-year nature connection programme to local primary schools and hold youth camps for vulnerable and disadvantaged teenagers in our ancient Celtic Rainforest at the lower end of the site. Here they learn about natural habitats, discover the stories behind some of the species on site, take part in bush craft skills and enjoy creative activities led by a local artist.
We want as many people as possible to explore and enjoy all that Bwlch Corog has to offer and, as well as holding monthly volunteer days, we run programmes for groups from a diverse range of backgrounds –including asylum seekers, recovering addicts and young carers. The wildwood is freely available for quiet enjoyment such as walking, and wild camping is permitted as long as the leave no trace principle is followed.
At the start of our project, we invited our neighbours from the farming community to visit the site and talk to us about what we were planning to do. We found through these conversations that the concept of ‘rewilding’ was problematic. In this area of Wales, the term is perceived as synonymous with land abandonment whereas our management of the site is very active and involves restorative interventions and nature connecting educational programmes. Therefore, we decided relatively early on that we would not promote Cambrian Wild Wood as a rewilding project, which I think was a sensible decision.
Connecting people- young and old - with wildlife and wild places is something we are passionate about and having an education specialist on board for projects like ours is invaluable. During the COVID 19 pandemic, we were unable to welcome school groups to Bwlch Corog, which was a great shame. However, as a group, we are very adaptable, and we were determined to continue with this area of our work. So, we teamed up with Arts Drop to create 600 nature bags in order to support children and young people in the region during this challenging time.
We also keep a log of how many schools, groups and volunteers use our programmes and services and ask participants for feedback, which is useful in shaping our future.