ANNOUNCED in the spring, the National Forest will be a long-term project matching the scale and ambition of the Wales Coast Path, linking together a network of woodlands across Wales.
As well as improving existing woodlands to meet the National Forest standard, plans will also see more trees planted by Welsh Government in collaboration with partners such as communities, farmers, foresters and public bodies.
Along with providing spaces for leisure and nature, new managed woodlands created for the National Forest will also help to capture and store carbon – and the timber will provide a sustainable resource for construction.
The 14 new sites announced today are part of the Welsh Government estate, and are managed and maintained by Natural Resources Wales.
The branding marking the National Forest has also been unveiled, with the logo and other materials revealed today.
The announcement comes as part of Climate Week Wales, during which representatives from Welsh Government and partners will discuss the route to COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow next year – and Wales’ first carbon budget.
Next year, Welsh Government will also work alongside partners to discuss the features and benefits which new and existing woodland could provide before they can form part of the National Forest – with good existing infrastructure and connectivity including bridleways, pathways and access.
The National Forest would also create connected woodlands across the length and breadth of Wales.
Alongside establishing the National Forest, earlier this year also saw Welsh Government launched a new window of the Glastir Woodland Creation scheme, with a fourfold increase in the budget to £8 million.
The scheme received more than 350 expressions of interest from people wanting to plant new woodlands in Wales and contracts have now been offered to successful applicants.
A further £9m window of the scheme will also open this month, leading to more than £17m allocated to woodland creation this year – the largest such allocation since devolution, and more than the first eight windows of the Glastir Woodland Creation scheme put together
Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “I am delighted to announce the very first sites which will form part of our National Forest.
“They are among the very best woodland in Wales, and will serve as exemplars for the benefits we would expect from other sites and new woodlands before they could become part of the National Forest.
The Minister added: “I am pleased that we will also be unveiling the brand for the National Forest – it represents the enthusiasm shown for this project, and the logo chosen reflects the views of people from across Wales.
“We are keen to build on that enthusiasm, collaboration and sense of collective ownership as we look to incorporate not just existing forests into the National Forest, but also push forward to create new expanses of woodland.”
Welsh nature and wildlife broadcaster Iolo Williams has also recorded a short video to mark the announcement for the Natural Forest, showing his support.
Iolo said: “I’m very pleased to support the Welsh Government’s plans for a National Forest, which will connect our ancient and new woodlands and celebrate Wales as a land enriched by our woodlands and natural heritage.
“Through the National Forest we can restore, enhance and create woodlands and habitats in a connected way across the length and breadth of Wales, with the right species of tree planted in the right place. It will also inspire well-being through creating a love for the outdoors in future generations, and establish strong, sustainable landscapes and habitats, firmly rooted to protect our country in a number of ways from the impact of the climate emergency.
“And this will be our National Forest – I would encourage all those with an interest to get involved and be a part of its creation as the project progresses.”
Also announced today is the first project to be backed by the Community Woodlands programme – a Wales-wide initiative run jointly by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Welsh Government,
Craig Gwladus Woods, in Neath, will receive a £125,000 grant via the Community Woodlands programme – as part of a larger £155,000 grant package with further support from Natural Resources Wales.
Andrew White, Director of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales said: “It has never been more important to look after nature, to aid its recovery and help people to understand its significance. This is why funding landscapes and nature is one of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s key strategic funding priorities in Wales.
“As part of this commitment and in partnership with the Welsh Government, we launched the ‘Community Woodlands’ programme – a capital grant scheme that offers funding of £10,000 to £250,000 for restoring, creating, connecting and managing woodlands in Wales.
“Projects funded by this grant scheme will also help inform the Welsh Government’s thinking on the long-term development and resilience of the National Forest of Wales – the national ecological network which is protecting nature and addressing the loss of bio-diversity.”