Healthy Hillsides Project

Healthy Hillsides Project

Healthy Hillsides Project

Bracken Leaves by Chris Maguire

Bracken Leaves by Chris Maguire

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales has partnered up with local organisations to support local wildlife and reduce wild fires. The Rhondda Valleys make up one of the most scenic and wildlife rich areas in Wales. It is a landscape shaped by people, and local people are at the heart of keeping it that way for wildlife.

The Healthy Hillsides Project is a partnership between numerous organisations, including Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW), Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council (RCTCBC) and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS). This exciting new partnership in is aiming to better manage our hillsides for wildlife, and in doing so, better support the local communities in the Rhondda.

Wildlife in the Rhondda is supported due to there being lots of different habitats, from heathland and acid grassland, to Oak woodland and coal spoil. The dominant habitat in most places however is Bracken. Bracken is one of the reasons the valleys support so much wildlife, but the plant is highly competitive and without management can easily outcompete other important plants and habitats. Perhaps most noticeably in the Rhondda is that Bracken is one of the main sources of wildfires, which wreak havoc throughout the valley each summer. Wildfires not only destroy large areas of wildlife habitat, but also encourage more Bracken to grow on the bare charred soils, giving it a further competitive advantage.

Craig Hope Watch Commander for SWFRS said "by joining the partnership it has given us the opportunity to get a greater understanding of the land management techniques that can be used in the valleys, by carrying out these techniques we hope that we can reduce the size and impact of these deliberate fires."

Most recently, the Partnership has taken to an old traditional means of controlling Bracken – Bracken Bruising. Bruising the bracken damages the stem, affecting the supply of nutrients. This weakens the plants and reduces their cover allowing more light to the ground for other plants to grow and the true diversity of the Ffridd/valley sides to flourish.

Sarah Woodcock – Wildlife Sites Officer for the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales said “Bracken bruising, which doesn’t rely on harmful chemicals is a great way to encourage lots of different habitats and wildlife on the valley sides. Through the partnership we hope to show that by doing more for wildlife can also be beneficial to local communities as well”.

For more information about the project or how to get involved, please contact Rob Parry on r.parry@welshwildlife.org.