Coed Cwm Elan
Elan Valley Woodlands is one of several sites representing old sessile oak wood in central Wales.
The Elan Estate and the surrounding area was covered in oak, birch and hazel woods until man’s clearances for agriculture started about 4,000 years ago. On the Elan Estate there was 20 years ago 350 hectares of coniferous woodland and 100 Hectares of broadleaved woods. Most of the woods are owned and managed by Dwr Cymru Welsh Water, first and foremost for their wildlife. The broadleaved woods are all in Sites of Special Scientific Interest and known as “semi-natural ancient woodlands”. The dominant species is sessile oak. It differs from pedunculate oak in having short stems on the acorns and long stems on the leaves; in pedunculate oak this is reversed.
The most important wildlife of the ancient woodlands is the mosses, lichens, ferns and fungi. They have rich lower plant assemblages including bryophytes such as Bazzania trilobata, Plagiochila spinulosa and Saccogyna viticulosa, and the lichens Arthonia vinosa, Catillera sphaeroides and Thelotrema lepadinum. They often grow all over the trees because of the damp climate and the comparative lack of air pollution. The range of plants found in the ground layer varies according to the underlying soil type and degree of grazing from bluebell-bramble-fern, bilberry communities through grass and bracken dominated ones to heathy moss-dominated areas.
The woods are also notable for their bird-life. The Elan Valley Woodlands are a very important habitat for the Pied Flycatcher which returns to breed each year. Other birds you will find in the woodlands are wood warbler, Redstart, Tawny Owl and Spotted Flycatchers (edge habitat).
Woodlands with structural diversity will provide a much richer invertebratehabitat than stands of trees of uniform age and height. Unfortunately,non-intervention is now rarely likely to provide adequate diversity in themajority of surviving British woodlands, so active management is needed.
Dead wood is an essential component of woodland and can be easilyoverlooked and cleared away as unsightly or on the grounds of safety orneatness. As a result, invertebrate species that rely on dead wood are now someof the most threatened in Britain. In the Elan Valley we try to retain as muchof the dead wood habitats within the woodland. This can include dead branches,stems and standing trees.
The Estate has been awarded anInternational Dark Sky Park Award and it is indeed filled with a wealth ofnocturnal Wildlife which thrives under these very dark skies.
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