A MAJOR restoration and replanting of the Elan Valley’s ancient natural woodlands has taken place over the winter thanks to funding from the Forestry Commission Wales.

The 27,000 trees were planted to help create a variety of habitats for the 80 different species of birds which breed in the Elan Valley each year. The planting of the oak, hazel, downy birch and ash was made possible thanks to a grant from Forestry Commission Wales’s Better Woodlands for Wales (BWW) scheme.

Plans are also in-hand to create a new network of paths and the publication of a range of woodland walk leaflets to help people get the most from their visit.

Head ranger at the Elan Valley Visitor Centre, Pete Jennings, said: “Different birds make the most of the cycle of work in the woodlands here. When we fell an area of conifers, tree pipits and, sometimes, nightjars move in.

As grass comes back, swallows and house martins feed on the insects that start to breed while young birch scrub and bramble provide an abundance of insect life for food and safe nesting sites for garden warbler, blackcap and willow warbler.

“As the trees and shrubs grow, they provide safe sites for breeding, for example, the redpoll - a type of finch whose numbers are declining - particularly likes young alder, birch and conifer.”

The BWW grant scheme ensures that the woodlands are managed, both to improve the commercial value of timber harvested from the trees and to maintain and improve wildlife habitats.

The management plan also allows for the removal of some conifer trees to allow more light into the forest. The increase in light boosts the growth of the remaining trees and makes the resulting timber more valuable.

Extra light also encourages the growth of flowers and shrubs on the forest floor, improving feeding and nesting areas for birds and other wildlife.

Upcoming events at the Elan Valley include an evening event on Saturday, May 15, to celebrate National Moth Night, and Bird-watching safaris which can be booked in advance for Sunday mornings until June 27. For more information on walks and events at Elan Valley, visit www.elanvalley.org.uk.