Memorandum submitted by Coed Cymru and
Tir Coed (H 6)
We wish to bring to the attention of the Committee
a particular problem relating to farm woodlands in Wales.
Wales is a land of small family farms usually
a close mosaic of pasture with hedgerows and copses. About 80
per cent of all surviving native woodlands in Wales are to be
found on farms often along stream sides and in steep gullies.
They are considered of national and international importance for
the plant and animal communities they support. Their future is
threatened by overgrazing, which removes the herb and shrub layers
and prevents the succession of young trees, and fragmentation
which isolates surviving plants and animals. Traditionally these
woods were used as foddering areas for livestock, but in a controlled
way. Stock were excluded for period of five or 10 years to allow
the next generation of trees to establish. This has not happened
in most woodlands since the Second World War and this has left
a legacy of middle-aged woods with a limited future.
The majority of farmers recognise this problem
and there has been a remarkable response to our campaign encouraging
them to exclude stock. This campaign has been supported with grant
aid from Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission and
the National Assembly. However, no sooner is stock excluded, but
the land must be removed from the forage area. This in turn reduces
the farmer's entitlement to support payments. For the majority
there is no access to compensatory payments and, where these exist,
(Farm Woodland Premium Scheme and Tir Gofal for instance), their
levels are unattractive. We have here a case of two strands of
administration working in opposition to one another and the farmer
caught between wanting to do what is best for everyone but being
penalised heavily if he does.
There may be a solution. Under forestry grant
schemes (which include EU funding) up to 10 per cent of the productive
area can be allowed as ponds, grassy rides etc provided there
is a clear conservation benefit. Grant is still paid on the whole
area. If this 10 per cent rule could apply in reverse in respect
of pasture land we would greatly simplify the administrative process
for farmers and civil servants who presently have to change boundaries
every time a field corner is fenced off to plant a few trees.
It would also encourage the protection and enlargement of an important
element of the Welsh environment at no additional cost to the
We would welcome the opportunity to give evidence
to the Committee and extend an invitation to visit Wales to see
the problems and discuss our ideas for improvement.
Coed Cymru is an initiative to use, protect
and enhance the native woodlands of Wales. It is funded by CCW,
FC Local Authorities, National Park WDA, WWF EU and supported
by many others including the farming unions.
Tir Coed is a similar broad group of organisations
working for appropriate new woodland in Wales, which fits landscape
character, creates habitat networks and involves local people.
31 October 2000