A GROUP campaigning to secure the future of Cwmcarn Forest for visitors and local people is appealing for support ahead of a public meeting next week.

The Friends of Cwmcarn Forest Drive wants to see Cwmcarn Forest Drive re-open to visitors once work to fell 150,000 trees to prevent the spread of disease is completed.

Natural Resources Wales began a two-year major tree felling operation at the forest to slow the spread of Phytophthora ramorum, a disease which is attacking larch trees, in 2015 and closed the Forest Drive as a result.

Despite the extensive felling work, the visitor centre, run by Caerphilly County Borough Council and all other facilities at the site will remain open.

Natural Resources Wales is understood to be exploring options for the future of the Forest Drive road and has previously held workshops to ask the local community what they would like to see in the forest once work has finished.

Robert Southall, founder and chairman of The Friends of Cwmcarn Forest Drive, wants to see the drive re-open to cars in 2017.

Mr Southall, a full-time lecturer at Coleg Gwent’s Crosskeys campus, fears that without enough support from the community, businesses and interested groups getting together, the recreational resource could be lost to all but the mountain biking community and local walkers if there is not enough money to re-open the site.

Eighteen months ago he launched an online petition against the closure of the drive, which gained 2,000 signatures and support from 5,000 in a Facebook page

He said: “We had a lot of support from people who wanted the drive to re-open. We have yet to get a definite indication from the NRW as to when, or if it is likely to re-open and have been left in limbo.”

Mr Southall, a keen rambler himself, added: “The closure of the drive is already a dreadful loss.

"We need help from outdoor enthusiasts and local people to guarantee the site re-opens to the public again in future.”

“To bring back some of the fabulous wood sculptures, barbecue sites, picnic areas and zip wire, the future of this stunning outdoor venue depends on the group finding people to help work together to access funding and make it better than it ever was.”

The meeting takes place at Cwmcarn Working Men’s Club at 7pm on January 25.

A representative of NRW and several local politicians are due to attend.

To find out more visit Friends of Cwmcarn Forest Drive on Facebook or e-mail friendsofcfd@gmail.com

The Argus contacted Natural Resources Wales for comment.