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The Minister for Environment, Hannah Blythyn visited some of North Wales’ most scenic woodland today where she saw up close some of Wales’ oldest trees and one of our rare red squirrel populations.

First published:
29 November 2017
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

Hannah Blythyn paid a visit to Clocaenog Forest, managed by Natural Resources Wales, to find out more about the red squirrel conservation work taking place there. Red squirrels are rare in Wales. In addition to Clocaenog Forest, other populations are found on Anglesey and in mid-Wales. 

The red squirrel is threatened by the non-native grey squirrel, through disease, specifically the squirrelpox virus, and competition for food. 

To try and protect the red squirrel population from their grey counterparts, the Welsh Government is consulting on a  draft Grey Squirrel Management Action Plan, produced with NRW and squirrel specialists. NRW has also produced a Forest Management Plan for Clocaenog which dictates when and where trees can be felled without causing detriment to protected species there.

The Minister then went to Chirk, Wrexham where she was given a tour by Rob McBride, a self-declared "tree hunter", of some of Wales’ ancient and most famous trees. This includes the great oak at the Gate of the Dead in Chirk which is believed to be more than 1,000 years old. 

The tree gets its name from when Welsh forces ambushed an invading English army in 1165 and the dead were buried nearby. The oak is thought to date to the reign of King Egbert in 802, and is near the 1165 Battle of Crogen site.

Last year’s Environment (Wales) Act provides the means to monitor the sustainable management of ancient, veteran and heritage trees and the opportunities for them to meet local priorities and challenges In addition, the Welsh Government’s recent consultation ‘Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources’, revealed widespread support for better protection of ancient and veteran trees. 

Hannah Blythyn said:

“Our woodlands are some of our greatest natural habitats. The environments they create offer opportunities for people, businesses and biodiversity. They make a big difference not just to our lives but, as I have seen today, to rare populations like the red squirrel.

“Our trees also have a fascinating tale to tell about our nation’s past. I was extremely interested to hear the history of the great oak at the Gate of the Dead. Through our ground-breaking Environment Act and our recent consultation we are taking important steps to ensure their protection so future generations can continue to experience the many benefits our trees and woodland have to offer.”