Afan Valley Riders Voice Concerns Over Latest Round of Tree Felling

Sep 30, 2019
by Ed Spratt  
British Enduro Series - Round 3 - Afan

The Afan Valley is set to be hit by more tree felling later this year, with The Masts (Foel Fynyddau) trails set to be affected by the latest round of forestry work.

The Welsh Gravity Enduro Instagram account brought the issue to light last week when they posted to Instagram in protest at the news that more trees were to be removed from the area and that is might destroy a network of trails that have been around for the last 20 years.

bigquotesHeads up, we are just about to lose one of the most valuable Mountain Bike assets in the Afan Valley, South Wales.

"The Masts", also known as Foel “Foel Fynyddau” is to be felled before Christmas if we don’t ACT NOW (road widening works have already started.) The trails on this hill are over 20 years old and have been meticulously maintained by the locals for that time. The impact on local businesses in the Afan Forest Park and the tourism in the area will be hit so hard that some will undoubtedly have to close. This hill is also used by so many people, not just mtbers, walkers, runners and horse riders will all be affected.

Natural Resources Wales are so out of touch with their own policies, procedures and responsibilities to the people of Wales that they have taken no account of the huge effect this operation will have on them for years to come.

The timber from this site will go to a Bio Mass plant and probably fuel it for a week or so but the cost to local businesses, tourism and riders will last for decades to come if you don’t do something to help save the trails NOW!
Welsh Gravity Enduro

The news has sparked outrage for local riders and those who frequent the area with some resorting to a petition to make NRW (National Resource Wales) rethink their plans to remove Pine trees from the Foel forest. Currently, nearly 4,000 people have signed the petition which asks for NRW to rethink their plans as they believe that more thought needs to be paid to the impact that the tree felling will have on the local community.

Upon hearing this news we reached out to NRW who had this to say about their tree felling in the area.

bigquotesThe Afan Forest Park, which nestles on the slopes of the Afan Valley, is one of the narrowest and most beautiful valleys in Wales. We manage a fantastic network of trails and paths for people to explore on foot or by bicycle, and there are official waymarked mountain biking trails which we also manage.

Unfortunately, the pine trees in upper parts of the Foel forest are dead or dying due to disease and need to be removed as they’re dangerous to people using the forest. The felling work is due to start in December and to do this safely we will have to close off the area. This is to protect people during dangerous felling operations. To enable this work to commence, we have started to undertake work to improve timber haulage tracks within the woodland itself.

Unfortunately, the felling will impact on some unofficial mountain biking trails in this area, which we know are very popular, but this is unavoidable because we have to remove these trees and protect people in doing so.

We will not intentionally damage or remove these trails during the work, but our priority is to carry out the work safely and we cannot guarantee that they won’t be impacted. We plan to fully engage with the local community and businesses to explain why the work is necessary and we are happy to continue speaking to the local mountain biking group to look at the long-term management of these mountain bike trails.”
Huwel Manley, Operations Manager for Natural Resources Wales

The Afan Valley is no stranger to tree felling with thousands of trees removed over the past few years as Afan Forest has had widespread disease issues amongst its trees. A BBC News report from 2015 states that 1.600 acres of Larch trees were removed because of Phytophthora ramorum (a fungal disease which kills the tree) but NRW were determined to plant more trees in the area.

Andy Schofield, operational resources manager for Natural Resources Wales told the BBC: "Like so many of the south Wales forests, this disease has had a significant impact on the forest resulting in the felling of thousands of infected trees.

"However, we are now implementing ambitious long-term plans for the recovery of the forest, which we believe has huge potential to improve the economic and social well-being of the area."

Despite NRW stating that no trails will be removed or damaged in the process, it will force riders to find new routes in the area as works take place in the forest and once the trees are removed the landscape will not be the same again for quite some time. But if the trees are disease then the best option is to remove them to ensure the whole forest is not destroyed.

Regions in Article
Afan Forest Park

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Industry News


  • 18 3
 In fairness these trails are built in what is essentially a tree farm and its harvest time. Be grateful the trails have lasted so long. The landowner could have stopped building at anytime of they chose. I understand the sadness when great trails are lost but it is a farmed crop
  • 2 0
 Sad news atm but the trees will grow again and the trails will be built again , it’s possible they’ll be better !
  • 1 0
 @Matt115lamb: seeing as half of them have been smashed by the mx bikes that won't be hard
  • 1 0
 @Matt115lamb: only the lower slopes will be restocked. The rest left as heathland.
  • 1 0
 Not exactly harvest time when it's forced felling because most of the trees are diseased
  • 10 0
 They are illegal trails and the forestry could easily bulldoze the trails and stop you riding there completely, moaning about them doing what is needed to meel the forest alive is only gonna potentially make it less likely to allow trails been built there
  • 6 0
 This is what people arent thinking about, from now on, nrw could just destroy all illegal trails so that they dont have to go through this fuss again.
  • 3 0
 @motojames: I was thinking the same thing.
  • 6 0
 Bit of a tough one, there is a national felling order on larch (gov directive - legal obligation-by land owners and managers) and due to the soil conditions and spacing of these trees lots of trails have been carved through larch plantation. The outcome of this is largely dependant on how sympathetic the contractors are when moving about the hill with harvester and forwarder. As the team from NRW in south Wales are proactive - pro MTB you may find the impact is kept to a minimum, but before anyone goes blowing a gasket over this its just an unfortunate time for trees and trails alike. Fingers crossed.
  • 10 5
 For all those who've never ridden Masts - it is loads of steep tech tracks that have been built by riders for trail centre rubbish.

Please sign the petition and help keep some of the best trails in Wales from getting destoryed
  • 4 0
 Every single place that I have called ‘my local trails’ has been logged at some stage to my dismay. Once the loggers have gone, out comes the saw and the trails are recovered.
Logging is a farm harvest. If it were not for this you would not have a place to build the (unofficial but ignored) trails in the first place. Rough with the smooth and all that....
At least we can generally build and ride where we like. That appears not to be the case in some countries from what I read on here.
However, I feel your pain. See it as like your kid going into hospital. Its hard, its emotional, they come out with a scar and months of heeling time. But then they are better than ever. Dont sweat it.
  • 3 0
 Unfortunately those trees are getting chopped down. If NRW have decided they are diseased, then they are going. End of story. It’s a shame that trails will be damaged, or even destroyed, but it’s not your forest.

How much damage will your petition do? If you cause enough hassle, for enough people, will NRW continue to turn a blind eye to these trails that you build? Or will they think that allowing people to ride there, has come back to bite them? And it’s easier to just not have trails there. And never be in this position again?
  • 10 4
 Gutted. Place has been raped enough.
  • 2 1
 You have my sympathy. They totally destroyed trails I had been riding for nearly twenty years. They were part of me. I was in actual tears when I saw what they had done. Some trails will survive, some will be rebuilt and I know these forests are commercial concerns but I would love to have seen these trails preserved for the next generation and their kids.
  • 1 0
 I'm sorry to say guys- this is a pack of lies! I met the main man from the felling company whilst on a ride there and he told me that there's NO LARCH AT ALL! It will all go into biomass and as already mentioned, be burnt up in no time, probably heating a huge half empty warehouse. Our crazy government gives large sums of money to people that use the biomass systems- even if they are burning it away in empty premises...check it out people, we are living in weird times.
  • 1 0
 The Biomass boilers are at the 3 largest hospitals in South Wales.
  • 1 0
 Also last time I was there there was plenty of Larch trees around.
  • 1 0
 You are right about most Biomass boilers. Farmers around me and all doing it.
  • 1 0
 This happens in every working forest, whether as part of planned logging or in this case, to remove dead or dying trees. My 'local' the FOD has seen it too and in fact two of my favourite areas look likely to see some work done shortly as orange dots have appeared on trees in the area. Both of these areas are long standing, but unofficial trails.
  • 2 3
 Loggin in the winter = trails trashed by large logging equipment. Locals put off going for good. Natural rescources wasted by those who dont use them.

The blokes driving the logging machines wont give a toss about where they drive them, they wont know what a mtb trail is sadly.
  • 6 0
 It has to done in winter because of how the fungus spores spread.
  • 6 0
 @deli-hustler: to be fair, they did drainage work along the forest roads a little while back and they didnt touch the openings of any of the trails, in fact they made one trail exit better
  • 9 0
 That's where your completely wrong, as a builder and rebuilding what once had loads of natural trails and speaking to the loggers they actually do care and they are as careful as they can be to not destroy the hard work builders put in. Builder also expect logging to take place and are will to take a chance and sacrafixe their riding time to build The problem is that there are to many people who like to visit these natural trails and not out in the hard work to local areas, these are the people that generally moan and bitch when the forestry are doing what they have done for many decades. It is all spurred on by social fucking media blowing everything out of proportion.
  • 1 0
 @reallyreally: sounds like you've been lucky. As I understand it most felling is done by contractors, and from my experience they don't care about not damaging trails. That said, they don't seem to go out of their way to damage them either.
  • 3 0
 @reallyreally: We as the mountain bike community, trailbuilders and bike companies need to get in with the logging unions and offer all loggers a free trail bike, plus a starter mtb for children and families. Might be a bit of a busman's holiday for them but if they ride, maybe they will understand. Hearts and minds
  • 2 0
 @browner: like it! A six pack for every trail that gets left unscathed.

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