Visitors really rate award-winning forest centre

An award-winning forest visitor centre has enjoyed a rebirth since being devastated by the spread of a disease which affects larch trees.

Some 12,000 native trees including sessile oak, rowan, birch, field maple, wild cherry, hawthorn and blackthorn have been replanted by Natural Resources Wales at Bwlch Nant yr Arian, near Aberystwyth.

They have replaced the 10 hectares of larch felled to help slow down the spread of Phytophthora ramorum, a disease which has infected over 6 million trees in Wales since its discovery in 2010.

Gareth Owen, Visitor Centre Manager for Natural Resources Wales, said:

"The whole site has come on fantastically well since the replanting.

"The felling provided us with an unexpected opportunity to create better, more resilient forests for the future by replanting more diverse native trees

"We began the felling last October, completed it by December and carried out the replanting in February.

"We are pleased with the progress so far as the ground flora, including bracken, bramble, grasses and bilberry are already well established and the hill sides are greening up nicely."

Despite the felling programme, the forest's most famous visitors – its red kite population - continue to thrive with more than 150 birds showing up for the daily feeding sessions.

The popularity of the red kites and the centre's other attractions, including mountain bike trails and scenic walking routes, has led to Bwlch Nant yr Arian winning a series of prestigious tourism awards.

Travel website Tripadvisor placed the centre in the top 20 visitor attractions in Wales and number one in the Aberystwyth area and it was Highly Commended in the Aberystwyth First Awards 'Best Visitor Attraction' section in May 2014.

And in 2013 it was runner up in the Visit Wales Regional Tourism Award.

Now all of the centre's mountain bike, walking and orienteering trails have re-opened, visitor numbers are on their way back to their pre-felling high after a dip in winter 2013.

Gareth added:

"As well as our existing attractions, visitors can enjoy our new red kite hide, fantastic new children's play areas, wood carvings created using the felled trees and, of course, the amazing views of the Cambrian Mountains."

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