A project to tackle invasive species such as Japanese knotweed in and around the Gwaun Valley is scaling new heights.
The Stitch in Time project aims to rid the area of non-native species and has most recently focused on clearing rhododendron from the steep-sided Trecwn Valley.
Getting to the root of the problem: Non-native rhododendron is cleared from the steep-sided Trecwn Valley as part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Stitch in Time project.
Rhododendron ponticum, Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed can out-compete native species, altering habitats and causing damage to property.
The plants tend to spread along watercourses, so the project identifies drainage basins and works from the top down. To date, invasive species have been found at 120 sites, thanks to volunteer effort.
The Stitch in Time project is funded by the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF), which is administered by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, and has received further support from Natural Resources Wales.
During the winter, efforts centred on rhododendron clearance at the northern end of Trecwn Valley.
Matthew Tebbutt, the Park Authority’s Project Co-ordinator for Invasive Non-Native Species, explained: “The valley was established as a Royal Naval Armaments Depot in 1938; today, woodlands clothe the valley’s steep sides and it is home to a wealth of wildlife.
“We’ve worked with the site managers, Renewable Developments Wales, who have provided access and their staff have kindly volunteered their time to help out. With our contractors, we’ve cut and processed dense rhododendron cover on the steep slopes at the head of the River Aer, which flows northwards into the Afon Gwaun, part of the ecologically-sensitive Gwaun Valley catchment area.”
As well as identifying sites, volunteers are also helping to tackle the spread of the invasive species.
Matthew said: “Last year, work parties strove to uproot hundreds of Himalayan balsam plants before the seed pods could mature, and cleared vegetation near stands of Japanese knotweed to make them accessible for spray and stem injection treatment.
“More than 50 volunteer-days were donated to the Stitch in Time project in the 2015 treatment season. We’ve also been able to draw on expertise kindly shared by the Cemaes Himalayan Balsam Eradication projects, which were also funded by SDF.”
Throughout the project to date, interest and assistance from landowners, local communities and businesses has been vital, Matthew added.
Trecwn Valley Site Manager Nial Rees, the Chief Regeneration Officer of Renewable Developments Wales, is responsible for the operation and redevelopment of The Valley and Admiralty Park, in the Haven Enterprise Zone. He welcomed the support from officers of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Natural Resources Wales, highlighting the evolving relationship as part of broader woodland initiatives.
He said: “This project is an excellent and practical example of landowners working in successful partnership with public sector bodies in North Pembrokeshire. Renewable Developments Wales and Trecwn Valley are committed to sustainability and biodiversity of the unique woodlands on site. Our regeneration team is currently assessing feasibility for further woodland management and restoration schemes in the valley.”
To get involved or find out more about the Stitch in Time project, contact Project Co-ordinator Matthew Tebbutt on 01646 624800 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.