IT'S THE WEEKEND: Gwent's greatest spectacle - the turning of the leaves
2:30pm Saturday 5th October 2013 in News
THE woods of Gwent are about to burst into a riot of red, gold and bronze.
There are some beautiful sites in Gwent to witness the change in our trees – from Wentwood Forest (though there is a programme of felling of diseased larches there) to Silent Valley nature reserve and the Clydach Gorge’s Pwca Trail.
The Natural Resources Wales-run Welsh Forestry Commission has many scenic woodlands among its competitors for best autumn leaves in Gwent, including the Wye Valley, Cwmcarn Forest Drive, Chepstow Park, Trellech Common, Beacon Hill and White Stone.
But Gwent people don’t have to far afield to see the leaves turn. One of the best places to admire autumnal foliage could be the local park. Pontypool park, Abergavenny’s Bailey Park and Newport’s Belle Vue Park all have spectacular colours. So why do leaves change colour? What makes a maple leaf turn fiery red, a beech become golden or an ironwood transform through a rainbow of colours to deep plum purple?
Simon Toomer, a Forestry Commission director explains: “During summer the leaves are packed with green chlorophyll, which harnesses energy from sunlight to combine water and CO2 to create sugars (plant food). However, once the tree shuts down as it prepares for winter, the chlorophyll breaks down and other chemicals take over. Carotenoids (which give carrots their colour), anthocyanins and tannins give the recognisable colours of autumn, making leaves appear yellow, red and gold.”
With a number of fantastic forest sites displaying the sensory delights of autumn, we’ve found some of the best Forestry Commission Wales sites to visit in Gwent: l Wye Valley – The woodlands of the lower Wye Valley are some of the most beautiful in Britain. Every season offers something special: bluebells in spring, lush summer leaves, and, in particular, fantastic autumn colour.
Rhyd y Gwern – This woodland is a mixed woodland with a network of easy walks and a car park and picnic site situated at Llwyn Hir. The woodlands can be accessed via public rights of way from Machen and from Draethen, opposite the Hollybush pub. Rudry and Draethen are the nearest villages. The car park at Rhyd y Gwern is 500m beyond the Maenllwyd Inn.
Chepstow Park – In the Wye Valley, This park covering over 300 hectares survives intact as the Forest Commission’s Chepstow Park Wood. The wood is 7km north-west of Chepstow Castle.
Whitestone – Whitestone is in Wye Valley Forest. See historic viewpoints while admiring the foliage along the ‘Wonders of Whitestone’ trail overlooking the Wye gorge and river. This wood is 10 miles north of Chepstow and 12 miles south of Monmouth just off the A466.
Lower Wyndcliffe and Uppe Wyndcliffe – You can get to the ‘Eagles Nest’ lookout from here – one of the best viewpoints in the Wye Valley. The view across the bend in the Wye includes the rocks of Wintours Leap, the Severn bridges and estuary. You also get a great view of the unique ‘hanging’ woodlands which cling to the sides of the gorge. Follow the Eagles Nest Trail to experience it.Parking at Upper Wyndcliff car park allows you to enjoy the viewpoint avoiding steep gradients and the haul up the 365 steps. This is a superb example of the lower Wye Valley Gorge Woodlands with hanging beech and yew as well as lime, ash and hazel coppice. Enter this woodland from the Upper Wyndcliff car park at Grid.
Cwmcarn Forest Drive – Cwmcarn has a beautiful showing of autumn colours due to the prevalence of larch trees. However, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is currently looking into a fatal tree disease which has infected the larch trees at Cwmcarn Forest.
Neil Stoddart of Natural Resources Wales said: “Taking a stroll in one of our woodland trails is not only good for the body, but lifts the spirits as you take in the breathtaking scenery of nature in all its kaleidoscopic glory.”
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