Rhododendron was planted in Coed Llwyn Rhyddid about 100 years ago probably to provide cover for pheasants on the former Hensol estate. When in 1990 the Wildlife Trust acquired the wood because it was the site of the Hensol heronry, rhododendron smothered about a third of the 5 hectare (12 acre) wood. One of the first tasks was to eradicate it.
A final working party finished 19 years of clearance work on 9 December 2011 with the help of winches, chainsaws, mattocks, saws, loppers, fires and occasional use of stump killer.
Approximately 7000 hours of labour was required to finally banish the problematic plant. All that remains is to hunt out the few rhododendrons that regenerate over the next few years. Holly, ash, oak, yew, brambles and other native plants are already colonising cleared areas but the ground layer of bluebells and wood anemones is very slow to spread.
Thanks are given to the volunteers from Cardiff Conservation, Cardiff University, a local school.
Thanks are particularly due to Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers Meirion Jones and Richard Loosemore who started on this reserve 17 years ago and to Nigel Moss who saw the whole task through as volunteer warden.
Wildlife Trust Officer Tim Jones was pleased to be one of the many Trust staff to work on the wood and see the job through to the finish. Help was also given by local landowners.
Financial support came from Forestry Commission clearance grants and from an inheritance from one of the earliest members of the Trust, Norman B Lloyd, whose name is carved on the gate of the north entrance.
The next main management task is to improve access with better paths and bridges so that it is easier to visit during the September to December period when the herons are absent.
Herons have bred around Hensol for at least 150 years and have been recorded on the present site since 1946. The number of breeding pairs has more than halved over recent years to about 15 breeding pairs but other local heronries have shown a corresponding increase. This happens sometimes and may not be a cause for concern.