THE RE-OPENING of Cwmcarn Forest Drive has moved a step closer after Caerphilly council agreed to enter into a partnership with Natural Resources Wales.

Senior councillors gave their backing to the local authority taking on the operational management of the visitor attraction for a trial period of two years at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Accusations of ‘electioneering’ were also made at the meeting after Independent group leader Cllr Kevin Etheridge – who is also standing as a candidate for Islwyn in the Senedd election – questioned proposed admission prices.


The visitor attraction, which is owned and managed by NRW, has been closed since 2015 to allow for the felling of about 150,000 trees affected by the disease Phytophthora Amorum.

But NRW is looking to re-open the Forest Drive this spring, following investments to enhance facilities and for resurfacing work.

Admission prices of £8 per car, £11 for minibuses and £25 for coaches – which includes parking fees on council operated car parks at Cwmcarn – are being proposed as part of the plans.

The prices were questioned by Cllr Etheridge who called for the cabinet to reconsider the charges.

Cllr Etheridge asked whether concessions for vulnerable people and education parties would be offered, as well as for local residents who may visit the attraction regularly.

But Cllr Colin Gordon accused Cllr Etheridge of ‘electioneering.’

“I do not understand why Cllr Etheridge is on here asking questions about Cwmcarn Forest Drive,” he said.

“The only thing I can think of is that he is standing for the Senedd election and this is electioneering.

“I do not think this should have been allowed this morning.”

Christina Harrhy, chief executive, said Cllr Etheridge had been given permission to speak at the meeting as an elected member on the report.

Cllr Sean Morgan, deputy leader and cabinet member for economy and enterprise, said the proposed admission prices were ‘reasonable.’

He said the previous fee was £5 or £6 in 2015, but that this did not include parking.

The meeting also heard that the possibility of offering a season ticket to enter the Forest Drive is also being discussed with NRW.

Council leader, Cllr Philippa Marsden said the re-opening would boost the county borough’s tourism offer.

“This will have a knock-on effect for people staying in the area longer,” she said.

“It’s going to be part of a much bigger offer.”

Cllr John Ridgewell said the proposal, as part of wider plans for the area, would help attract visitors from across Wales.

The partnership will be reviewed after a two-year trial to decide whether it will be extended.

Islwyn Senedd Election candidates:

  • Gavin Chambers – Conservative
  • Kevin Etheridge – Independent
  • Michael John Ford – Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party
  • Mostyn Neil Hamilton – Ukip Scrap the Assembly/Senedd
  • Rhys Mills – Plaid Cymru
  • Rhianon Passmore – Labour
  • Oliver Benedict Townsend – Liberal Democrats
  • James Freeman Wells – Reform UK