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Woodlands History

by Stephen Upson

The possibility of community ownership of the Talley Woodlands was first raised in a submission to Talley Community Council in 1997 by Mr. Colin Cooper, then living at Talley House. At that time the forestry known as Allt y Plas and Allt yr Arian, together with Allt Parc y Dilfa and other woodlands in the Talley area, had been put up for sale by Forestry Commission Wales (FCW) as mature woodland and, if bought commercially, would almost certainly have been clear felled.
In December 1997 the Community Council wrote to FCW Regional Land Agent to express an interest and, following a positive response, passed investigation of the practical possibility of community ownership to the newly formed Talley Community Association (TCA). With the help and guidance of Antur Cwm Taf (ACT), engaged by the Carmarthenshire. County Council (CCC) to assist communities in such activities, funding was obtained from CCC for a feasibility study to be carried out to explore all aspects of possible purchase.
It should be noted that at this time the County administration was undergoing dramatic changes with the replacement of the old Dyfed, Dinefwr and Carmarthen County Boroughs by the new Carmarthenshire Unitary Authority, bringing new possibilities for community involvement in accessing funding not previously available. The assistance of experienced facilitators, such as ACT was vital at this time in negotiating the administrative path to successful completion of the woodland project.
At this time ACT, under the chairmanship of Mr. Wyn Williams, a widely respected advocate of community enterprise, was operating to the west of Carmarthenshire and negotiating with the County to operate in the eastern areas which included Talley, after which they became Antur Cwm Taf Towy (ACTT). Sadly Mr Williams died suddenly before the woodland project was completed.
In August 1998 ACTT commissioned a feasibility study and together with the inclusion of reports by Archaeoleg Cambria Archaeology and West Wales Wildlife Trust, the ‘Talley Historic Landscape and Community Project’ was finally produced in July 2000.
This study investigated the possibility of the purchase of the woodlands from FCW and their management by the community also, as there was at that time no viable access for maintenance, the purchase of Cae Porth Selu and adjacent fields. This was obviously a far more ambitious proposal than that which eventually evolved.
Following a presentation (based on this study) to the community an application was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for funding. Despite an initially positive acknowledgement it became obvious after some months that approval would not be received before a sale deadline set by FCW expired. It was therefore proposed by the then Chairman of ACTT, that the Welsh Development Agency (WDA) purchase and hold the woodland and fields for the TCA until lottery funding became available. This was accepted by the WDA land agent, but before purchase of the woodland was completed FCW withdrew their offer of sale and proposed as an alternative a joint initiative between the community and FCW.
At this stage WDA owned the land (approx 20 Hectares) and FCW the woodland (approx 40 Hectares), and it became apparent when the HLF rejected our application for funding that political considerations would affect the community’s plans.
Since the study was first made, the value of timber – an essential element in the plans for maintenance of the woodland – had dropped considerably, so the retention of ownership by FCW was perhaps a fortunate development. FCW offered a joint collaboration to the community involving guidance in preparing an application for funding by TCA from a newly established body, Cyd Coed, to implement all the essential elements contained in the feasibility study (with the exception of community ownership of the woodlands and their maintenance) and further to include the woodlands to the east known as Parcydilfa Woods in the project.
In January 2002 it was agreed that, in order to limit the legal liability of the TCA committee members, the Talley Community Amenity Association (TCAA) should be formed and, through ‘Business in the Community’ the ‘Pro Bono’ services of Morgan Cole, solicitors, were engaged to handle all legal matters including advice relative to the negotiations for the woodland project. When TCAA was established all matters relating to the woodland project were passed from TCA to TCAA.
TCAA is now a limited liability company with charitable status registered at Companies House and the Charity Commission. Eight trustees, elected from the community, manage the association in accordance with rules contained in the governing ‘Articles of Association.’

Natural Resources Wales (WelshCyfoeth Naturiol Cymru).

On 1st April 2013 NRW was created from a merger of the Countryside Council for WalesEnvironment Agency Wales, and the Forestry Commission Wales. It took over the management of the two areas of forestry on the mountain (Mynydd Cynros) in Talley ( Allt y Plas and Allt y Arian)

In 2017 Natural Resources Wales felled the large areas of Larch as part of their fight against  Phytophthora Ramorum, an infection which is fatal to Japanese larches in Wales and elsewhere. The area which runs to the west of the lakes (called Allt y Plas) has mostly been replanted with mixed deciduous trees. The other area (Allt yr Arian ) to the south has mostly been replanted with forestry conifers.