I and a few neighbours with the valued support and guidance of the Transition Monmouth group, are looking to get your views and help, on potential management and improvements to the local claypatch woodland, for the community as a whole. To facilitate this there is a possibility of being able to apply for funding from a number of sources, but before we can get to this stage we want to know what you want.
I have had initial discussions with the site manager at Monmouthshire County Council (landowner), and he is receptive to the ideas put forward so far, with further discussions needing to take place regarding the final details. To get things started we have set out these initial ideas below, and on the ‘your say’ page I have set up a questionnaire to gather your opinion on them and any further thoughts that would be worth exploring.

Idea 1 path surfacing:
The current paths, one main one round the outside and one through the middle are currently unsurfaced , comprising of a clay mud surface which when wet is extremely muddy and slippery to use. We propose that a stone to dust path be created on these paths to a width of around 1.5 meteres. The positives of this would include allowing year round use of the woods, allow the sides of the paths to recover with essential edge habitats (currently eroded due to walkers trying to avoid the mud) and allow improved access to persons with disabilities. The potential disadvantages of this include relatively costly, rolling closures whilst being installed, additional maintenance liability for the council/possible difficulty in securing permission from the council. A possible less expensive alternative would be to instead lay wood chippings on the path improving access but over a shorter period of time. Finally whether all paths would be surfaced or just the one around the outside is open to debate.

Idea 2 pond construction:
Creation of a pond habitat in the wood would provide an excellent asset for both the community and the environment, a large pond with open water, path and dipping platform would be a priceless educational tool, any pond project would be done in consultation with the council who have staff experienced in just this sort of activity.
However with a pond will come health and safety responsibilities, at the bare minimum a barrier would need to be created to prevent anyone falling in and also to deter dog fouling in the area of the pond (especially if the local school were to make use of the pond), erection of signs, and regular monitoring would also be required in case of any damage.
Should a pond prove to be to much of a concern there is a softer option that could be undertaken instead, creating a lined shallow scraping and partially backfilling will create a very boggy area that would fulfill a vital habitat creation need but be of limited educational value.
As regards location this is currently open to discussion, but my favoured site is currently in the main wood body about 40 meters from the gate nearest to the church, a natural bowl already exists and would require minimal works.
NB. A barrier could consist of a fence bought and installed, a fence made out of felled timber from within the woodland itself, or planting of a hedge, such as holly, with a temporary fence until mature.

Idea 3 installation of basic amenities
possible ideas include:
Replacement or newly positioned benches around the woodland of a more robust design capable of with standing wet conditions and potential vandalism. the original benches had lyrics from well know songs enscribed on them, this could again be made use of for any of the replacements
Repair/replace or install additional dog bins and/or litter bins at the site entrances/exits, discussions would also need to be held with the council and Monmouth town council regarding future emptying and maintenance of these.
Creation of interpretation boards for the site to include a map for example, designs could be carried out by the local school or as a community competition.
Creation of a fitness trail around the woods, this could be simple structures with instructions or more elaborate machines.
creation of and installation of an art trail or some works of art around the woodland site, plenty of potential community involvement for this sort of project

Idea 4 long-term woodland management
After discussions with the councils tree, ground maintenance and biodiversity officers the current woodland is overdue a thinning operation to allow more light to reach the woodland floor., An operation of this type would allow the remaining trees to have space to grow, create a more diverse range of habitats on the ground and remove any dead or dying trees that could present a risk to any persons using the woodland. 
A long-term woodland management plan would need to be drawn up with professional help in order for this to be undertaken, the number of trees to be taken out could be as high as 1 in 3, due to the tight planting spaces originally carried out.
If this work were to be undertaken, then new trees could be planted to give a more varied age of woodland and a large amount of wood could also be generated. This wood could be put to a number of uses, it could be used in the woodland to create barriers, such as around a pond, to create piled wood habitats, used as firewood to be given to the community, sold by the council or sold to the contractor carrying out the works.
A further step could be to create a small coppice area, that could produce a small amount of wood if managed well every 6 or so years, providing sustainable firewood, or wood for use within the site itself.

Idea 5 management of the field
The field at the centre of the woodland is what looks to be a semi improved grassland with a small mix of species, this could be greatly improved to create a  more diverse wildflower meadow. I have been sent a factsheet by Gwent Wildlife Trust  that helps explain what this would involve, however  please be aware that this is a guide only and the services noted in the sheet are for other projects:

 Seed Receptor Sites FACTSHEET

Idea 6 create a community growing project
There has been a lot of discussions within Monmouthshire about opening up council land to allow persons or groups to manage them as growing projects, to grow fruit, veg or flowers. This could also be undertaken at the woodland site primarily either in the main field or near the bus stop. there ar plenty of positives in regards to this, but there is concern that as the site is out of sight it could invite potential vandalism.

Idea 7 creation of recreational facilities
With so few parks with play facility in Wyesham then creation of a park in the main field or near the bus stop could be an asset, or alternatively a smaller facility such as a puzzle trail, or the previously mentioned fitness trail could be put in place throughout the woodland site instead. As with the community growing project there is concern that as the main field is out of sight it could invite potential vandalism.

Idea 8 other possibilities
Other possible ideas put forward include, installation of a site boundary fence for planting of a boundary hedge, use the site as a forest school or similar.
All of the above  will need a steering group to take this all forward, bring forward more ideas, to share the load and help shape the future of the woodland for the community today and going into the future. If you would be interested in helping with this please let me know and I can start to put this together.

Thankyou for taking the time to read through this blog, please can you fill in the survey on the ‘My say’ page as this will be used to guide the project going forward.

Thanks Again

Richard Garner
E-mail: RHG1983@hotmail.com
11 Wyesham Avenue, Wyesham, Monmouth, NP25 3NE

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  1. Pingback: Welcome to the site | Wyesham Community Woodland Project

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