In the far corner of Wales, nestling beneath the Rhinogydd Mountains, sits a rainforest. Not a tropical rainforest of course, but a temperate one, created and sustained by the consistent high rainfall in the hills of Meirionnydd.
The forest in question is Llennyrch, a 222 ha patchwork of ancient woodland, pasture and heathland near Llandecwyn in the Snowdonia National Park. Llennyrch is a magical secret with a story to tell. Parts of the spectacularly sheer gorge are untouched by human hand and this ancient oak woodland, which has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, dates back to the last ice age 10,000 years ago. Some of the lichen that grow here are found nowhere else in Wales.
In August the Woodland Trust launched an appeal to acquire the site. The aim is to protect and improve its unique wildlife by creating a some new native woodland, while maintaining the holding as an attractive and functional mosaic of woodland, meadows, woodland pasture and moorland. The Trust will carefully open up parts of the site for the public to enjoy, allowing access from the visitor centre at Llyn Trawfynydd.
Llennyrch is not just a natural, wild environment. It’s been farmed for centuries and the Trust wants to see this continue. The hefted flock of sheep on the property are well adapted to this historic agricultural landscape and light grazing is essential to maintaining the conditions in which the rare lichens and bryophytes can thrive. The Trust’s vision for the site is for a robust and regenerating woodland with scattered trees integrated across this landscape, part of a resilient mosaic of different habitats.
Beccy Speight, the Trust’s Chief Executive says: “Llennyrch is a magical place, where primeval woodland stands on the banks of the cool, rocky Afon Prysor. But it is also a working agricultural holding and if we are successful in purchasing the land, we intend to work with the current farmer to demonstrate the many benefits of trees on farms, showing that productive farming and woodland conservation can go hand in hand. The total cost of the project will be £1.5 million, though, due to an extremely generous legacy, we only need to raise a portion of this. We do, however, need to raise £750,000 simply to secure the purchase and we cannot do this without the generous help of our supporters.”
The campaign is being supported by the TV naturalist Iolo Williams. He says: “I’m delighted that the Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw) is seeking to acquire Llennyrch. Its western location and elevation make it quite literally a rainforest, and one which needs very special care. I’m also delighted that the Trust intend to make use of the site as a demonstration project to show the many practical benefits that native trees, in the right place, can offer to the farmer.”
The Woodland Trust has established a web page about Llennyrch, which can also be used to support the campaign, at woodlandtrust.org.uk/rainforest