NATURAL Resources Wales (NRW) is looking into a fatal tree disease which has infected larch trees at Cwmcarn Forest.

The Welsh environmental organisation is reviewing its options for managing Cwmcarn Forest after an aerial survey in May revealed widespread infection by Ramorum disease of larch. Areas of the forest will have to be closed temporarily for work to be completed.

Cwmcarn Forest Drive is a seven-mile long scenic route through one of Wales’s largest urban forests, containing car parks, picnic areas and a visitor centre, and attracts more than 70,000 visitors a year.

A large amount of the forest, which is made up of 78 per cent larch trees, will need to be felled over the next few years to remove dead or dying trees that have been infected with the fungus-like pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, which causes the disease.

Infected trees produce airborne spores that can spread the disease, which is not harmful to humans or animals, to other areas and other tree species.

Sally Tansey, of NRW, said: “We are currently reviewing our options for the Forest Drive as we plan how this essential work to try to slow the spread of Ramorum disease will be carried out.

“We will be working closely with Caerphilly County Borough Council, which runs the visitor centre, to minimise the economic and other impacts on the area and will keep visitors and local communities informed of how we aim to proceed.

“Inevitably, this essential work will require areas of the forest to be temporarily closed for safety reasons while forest operations take place, but we’ll do all we can to ensure that felling proceeds with minimal disruption to the footpaths and mountain bike trails.

“Felling the trees will present us with an opportunity to look again at this important attraction and consider how its appearance can be enhanced by planting a variety of different trees which will make the area more resilient to attack by pests and diseases in the future.”

Ken James, Caerphilly council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said: “Cwmcarn Forest is one of our key visitor destinations in the county borough and we want to ensure that any disruption is kept to a minimum.

“We will work closely with Natural Resources Wales to ensure that appropriate work is undertaken to address this problem in the best interests of this fantastic countryside attraction.”

NRW has given more than £2m this year to fight Ramorum disease throughout Wales and has drawn up a Disease Control Plan for Larch.

A spokesman said: “We’re doing everything we can across Wales to both contain the disease and reduce its impact on local economies and people’s enjoyment of areas such as Cwmcarn Forest.”

The Forest Drive and mountain bike trails will remain open to the public as usual throughout the winter and next summer.

But visitors will be asked to observe biosecurity signs and help prevent spreading the disease by taking some simple actions such as removing any mud, plant material or leaves from clothing, boots, dogs and car tyres.