A GROUP of volunteers will celebrate their 10th anniversary of caring for a community woodland in Ceredigion later this month.

With the agreement and considerable help from the then Forestry Commission Wales and later from Natural Resources Wales, this 25-hectare (60 acre) woodland has been cared for by the Coed Y Bont Community Woodland Association since 2014.

The very first volunteer session took place on 12 April of that year.

The initial job they tackled was clearing stones from the forestry track through the woodland to create a smooth surface suitable for walkers and wheelchair users – the essential first steps to ensuring the woodland was accessible to all.

Coed y Bont
Coed Y Bont volunteers 2024 at end of volunteer session (Coed y Bont)

Since then, a wildlife watching hide, wooden carvings and information boards, bridges and culverts, fencing and a picnic area with benches have all been added. New paths through the trees have been created, undergrowth cut back, and ponds cleared to encourage wildlife.

Coed Y Bont is situated on the edge of the village of Pontrhydfendigaid, and is made up of two adjoining woods, Coed Dolgoed and Coed Cnwch. Coed Dolgoed is a lower level, flat woodland of native broadleaf trees, mainly willow and downy birch with rowan, hazel, aspen and oak.

Coed Cnwch is an ancient woodland situated on the adjacent hillside, with old oaks and hazel coppice and areas planted more recently with native broadleaved species following the felling and extraction of conifers. The woodlands that make up Coed Y Bont were once within the grounds of the Cistercian abbey of Strata Florida, one of the largest abbeys in Britain. The abbey ruins are an easy walk from the woodland.

Owain Edwards one of the longest standing volunteers said: “I really enjoy working in the woodland. I look forward to our volunteer sessions. I was at the very first session with my father.

“I remember we had a good turnout of people, all armed with garden rakes and wheelbarrows. Some of the same volunteers are still with us today and I think all of us, past and present, deserve credit for our hard work and what we have achieved over the years.”

Over the years the woodland has received many awards. In 2015, the project to create new paths and ponds was selected for a Mineral Products Association / Aggregate Levy Fund for Wales Award.

In 2016 Coed Y Bont received a ‘Highly Commended’ Award from the Countryside Management Association for making an 'outstanding contribution to countryside and green space management'.

Since 2017 it has been a regular recipient of the Green Flag Community Award.

In 2020 it was selected as one of the 14 sites that will be the starting point for a new National Forest across Wales and since 2019 it is a designated Dark Sky Discovery Site.

The work of the volunteers over the last decade has increased the diversity of habitats and species as well as improving access to the woodland for local people and visitors. Volunteers meet on the third Sunday of each month from 10.30am to 12.30pm.