2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the work of WTSWW in the west of its patch, and the opening of our newly refurbished Parc Slip Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre in Glamorgan. This month, in our series of items exploring our archive, we head back twenty years to the birth of the Welsh Wildlife Centre in Pembrokeshire.
Dyfed Wildlife Trust Bulletin No. 64, April 1994
Welsh Wildlife Centre
On 25 March the Welsh Wildlife Centre opened its doors to the media for the first time since Sir Wyn Roberts laid the foundation stone last autumn, but there had been times when it looked as though those same doors would remain firmly closed until the early summer.
During the intervening months, atrocious winter weather and higher than average rainfall had considerably slowed construction. The
completion date had been the end of December and during the autumn this still looked a possibility, albeit a remote one, but protracted storms throughout October and November made the end of the year look distinctly optimistic and by early December work was almost at a standstill. The logistics involved in getting heavy lorries on and off the site was exacerbated by a deteriorating track that was not worth repairing until all heavy traffic had ceased. The mud even defeated four-wheel drive vehicles on occasions and the meadow leading to the Centre began to look like a battlefield. Mowlems worked hard to restrict damage to the immediate vicinity of the building but as time went on and it proved more difficult to get deliveries in to the dropping off points, contractor impact widened and it looked as though the site would never be the same again.
The frosty days of December and January never materialised for long enough to dry the track out and the projected completion date was further delayed at each fortnightly architects site meeting.
The turning point came when the heating was turned on for the first time in early January, wet plaster was applied and appeared to miraculously dry overnight, rough, reinforced concrete ceilings were clad in plasterboard and the paint transformed the dark interior to one of light and space. At last it was possible to envisage what the architect had so clearly had in his mind all along. The oak flooring was laid and once down it as heavily protected from damage by layers of plywood. The electrical work was completed and for the first time the lights were turned on. Final coats of paint were applied and the plumbing completed so that at last we could use the lavatories, a great improvement on the blue plastic hut that rocked in the wind. After many delays the kitchen was delivered and eventually commissioned just before the end of the month, carpets were laid and the first furniture began to arrive; we almost had a Centre.
The final two weeks leading up to the media day were, true to form, beset with minor problems. Coleg Ceredigion had agreed early in the year to manufacture our exhibition stands. With construction work underway a storm caused the roof to collapse in their workshop, but a supreme effort by the staff and students produced complete stands in time for the media day which looked superb.
Lynne Denman and Sean Connel produced the interpretation panels, and three dimensional tactile displays which, although not complete for 25 March were seen being worked on and generated considerable interest from the press. A small exhibition of bird photographs by George Reszeter included our most famous species, Cetti’s Warbler, while Catrin Howells displayed some of her most recent sculptures depicting the wolf and wild boar from local mythology.
Landscaping the surroundings to the Centre fell to Glen Rogers and his team; they were effectively given a week to complete what turned out to be a gargantuan task and made a superb job of it. On 22 March the ground around the building looked a complete mess but by the evening of the 24th a a new road had been laid, huge piles of soil moved into position and then at last the Centre could be seen as it should. By the time the press arrived on the following morning all major tasks had been completed both outside and in. We could proudly boast that the Welsh Wildlife Centre was about to open.
Finally a word of thanks. To David Saunders and everyone at the Trust headquarters for their support throughout the last eighteen months. To David Wheeler of Wheeler Consultancy without whom it would not have happened. To the various funding bodies that contributed sums, both large and small, to the project. To my advisory committee. Volunteers, you know who you are, those who gave a few hours to those who gave a few months, thank you all. Although they were only brought in at the very end, my recently appointed staff worked so hard in the weeks leading up to the media day that I have nothing but praise for them. Days off were forgotten and even going home at night became uncertain. My sincere thanks to them all.
Now let’s make it work, and to do this we need you and your friends to pay us a visit.
February was a mixed month, with both mild, wet weather and very cold dry conditions, the former encouraging bird song and the latter freezing the many small pools so that species such as Kingfisher and Little Grebe were scarce. However, wildfowl numbers increased on the unfrozen estuary and Pentwd Pool with Teal number speaking on the 10th with 257, Mallard on the 19th with 74 and Wigeon on the 25th with 103. A female Shoveler and single Goldeneye were seen on the 17th and a male Pochard was present from the 25th. Two Pintail were seen just off the reserve on the 20th, 4 Shelduck on the 22nd, and two Canada Geese form the 17th. Wader species were poor with up to 250 Lapwing on the 19th, 43 Curlews on the Teifi near Rosehill Farm, a flock of 40 Snipe on the 28th and 4 Oystercatchers on the 19th. A Great Crested Grebe was seen on the river from the 28th, Water Rails and Cetti’s Warblers heard daily with peaks of 3 Cetti’s on the 10th and up to five Water Rails throughout the month. Evidence of small passerine movements was shown by increasing use of the reserve by Redwings, Meadow Pipits, Grey and Pied Wagtails. Other records of note are a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the 9th, Tawny Owl on the 10th, Barn Owl on the 23rd and 12 Bramblings on the 27th, the Ravens had built up the nest at Chaw Gigfran cliff by the 10th.
Mammal sightings were thin, but Otter activity increased with tracks and spraints seen almost daily, the only sighting was one at Pentwd on the 12th. Three Sika Deer on the 9th. Both Badger and Fox activity were observed throughout the month and Rabbits were occasionally seen. Two new Badger setts were found in the gorge, one of which has been very active with up to half an acre of woodland dug up in search of Bluebell bulbs.
With milder conditions, many plants had begun to flower early and these included Lesser Celandine, Red Campion and Dog’s Mercury.
Stop Press: The Gorge Woodlands
We are pleased to report, just as we go to press, the successful completion of our purchase of the Cilgerran Gorge woodlands which extend from the boundary of the existing nature reserve at the Welsh Wildlife Centre far into the gorge. A magnificent area both scenically and for its nature conservation interest, of which more will be reported in a future Bulletin. This purchase would not have been possible without the sterling support of both the Countryside Council for Wales and the National Heritage Memorial Fund to both of which we are extremely grateful. Additional support was provided by a bequest made by the late Mrs A.M. Warren of Bryberian towards the purchase of a nature reserve in Pembrokeshire.