Posted: 06.04.21 at 13:38 by Alex Jones
The open meadow areas of Cwm George and Casehill Woods are set to be closed to visitors for a currently undetermined period beginning "towards the end of next week".
The Woodland Trust, the charity who own the Site of Special Scientific Interest, say they have been forced to take action due to the trampling and widening of paths following a period of increased footfall.
Although large areas of meadow will be made unaccessible, most of the site (including the Cwm itself and all public rights of way) will be unaffected.
Site manager Chris Watts revealed this in an email sent to community councillors last week.
Speaking to Nub News today, Mr Watts said he cautiously hopes to reopen the routes "by the end of summer" or within "three months at the earliest".
Sent on 26 March, Mr Watts' email states the following:
"It is clear that the effects of lockdown and displacement of visitors from closed public services such as from Cosmeston country park have had a negative effect at Cwm George, meaning much of the site's paths are badly affected and have become very muddy with paths widening to 5+ metres in places, so losing valuable habitat and causing environmental damage.
"Apart from the obvious visual and safety issue, this also wastes 20+ years of conservation work to maintain open meadows within the valley and reduces our tenant ability to manage them. Impacts of compaction on tree roots created by people avoiding the main path will be seen in time," it continues.
"Therefore, I have made the decision to close off the meadow areas on site where possible to allow them to recover. I appreciate this isn't great news, but they need time to recover and to allow us time to undertake work to them where possible.
"As I'm sure you can appreciate, this comes at a cost to us, and unlike those closed off public parks and spaces, we are not publicly funded so it will take some time to carry out improvements.
"Signage and barriers will be installed next week, as well as discussing with the Vale rights of Way department who I feel should be working with us to resolve the matter."
Although the email was sent over a week ago, signage is yet to be installed and visitors were still using the meadow areas as of this morning.
Mr Watts says the measure will likely begin "towards the end of next week", following a meeting with community councillors.
Local Plaid Cymru councillors have called on the Woodland Trust to "engage with the public to seek ways to avoid such drastic action".
"Many people will be very upset by these proposals," said Councillor Richard Grigg.
"The Woodland Trust is an excellent charity and people really have welcomed being able to walk in the woodland and fields over the last year.
"Plaid would urge the Vale Council to work with the Trust to find an acceptable solution."
"The public rights of way are unaffected. Most of the sites will remain open, apart from temporary closures while work is done."
In response to Cllr Grigg's comment, Mr Watts said:
"I agree, but I'm scratching my head as to what other options there are. We've tried to find ways to keep visitors on the straight and narrow as it were, but they haven't really worked.
"It might not happen. For all we know, someone could come up with an alternative solution before our meeting next week, but there really aren't that many options."
The Woodland Trust has previously laid down temporary surfacing, but say this option is too costly.