One year since becoming custodians of the Foel landscape, National Trust Cymru, partner organisations and members of the local community will create a hedgerow super-highway to boost wildlife.

Red listed bird species set to benefit include including tree sparrow and cuckoo. Hedgerows and broader conservation will also help to reduce impact of flooding on local communities.

Forty people including members of the local Cwm Penmachno community, National Trust staff, and representatives from Natural Resources Wales, Eryri National Park and Llais y Goedwig gathered earlier this month to plant a mix of native broadleaf hedges on the hillsides. Stretching the length of 30 football fields once finished and established, the hedgerows will benefit nature, people and climate by connecting habitats, capturing carbon and helping to reduce flooding in the local area. They will create corridors that connect the landscape at Y Foel to larger woodland spaces and offer a lifeline to a host of woodland species such as Lesser Horseshoe Bats who use hedgerows as ‘commuter routes’ to find feeding areas and roost sites.

The remote 1,600-acre site in the historic slate landscape of north Wales was brought into the care of National Trust Cymru a year ago to boost wildlife populations, help tackle the climate emergency, and safeguard the landscape’s remarkable cultural heritage.

Twelve months on, Will Bigwood is settled into his new position as farm manager at Foel.

Reflecting on his first year, Will said: “My role here at Foel is about both farming and conservation in an extraordinary landscape. We continue to graze sheep and cattle while also making more space for nature. There is huge potential for nature to thrive and our aim is to create a rich mosaic of grass and heath lands, meadows and blanket bog.

“Since beginning work at Foel, I have been re-establishing fence boundaries across the farm’s lower fields and we’ve now started creating a network of hedgerows. We are putting native trees like silver birch, sessile oak and hawthorn in the right places to provide shelter for livestock, homes for wildlife and become a wonderful food source for many species as the hedges grow.

“Along the upper reaches of Foel, we’re planning to improve the heath and moorland habitats. These places will become an ideal nesting and feeding place for other Red List birds like the hen harrier, golden plover and red grouse.

“On the ffridd fringes we plan to introduce cattle to graze the slopes. The cattle are experts at keeping vegetation like bracken low, allowing for other plants to grow. This is a great and natural way to maintain the habitat and ensure a wider variety of wildlife.”

Trystan Edwards, general manager for Eryri (Snowdonia) at National Trust Cymru said: “Foel provides a canvas for us to heal climate harm and create wonderful spaces for nature to thrive at a time when our society needs it most. The new hedgerows will criss-cross the landscape, echoing the historic land boundaries, and have huge benefits for wildlife.

“An exciting future lies ahead for Foel, with plans for nature-friendly grazing, blocking man-made ditches in deep peat allowing them to function naturally to store carbon rather than release it, and restoring rivers.

“Our close working relationship with the community and partner organisations paves the way for Foel to play a leading demonstrative role in land management. Creating hedgerows is just the beginning, and I want to thank everyone who came to join us for the hedge planting day.”

The saplings were given to Foel through the My Tree Our Forest initiative. In partnership with Coed Cadw, the Woodland Trust in Wales, and Llais y Goedwig, the Welsh Government are offering a free tree to each household in Wales.

Through the Plant a Tree for Me scheme, the Trust is planting trees on behalf of people who don’t have the space to plant their own.

The hedgerows at Foel, and other projects taking place through My Tree Our Forest, will also contribute to the National Forest for Wales.