12 August 2021

Steenbergs Small Woodland in Wales – Environmental Benefits

Steenbergs Small Woodland in Wales – Environmental Benefits

Steenbergs Small Woodland in Wales – Environmental Benefits

We have a small wood in Wales.  This has reduced our net carbon footprint to zero.  But there are many other environmental problems that our woodland will help us do our part in tackling – however small that part may be.

For us, the key environmental issues are as below, all of which interlink.  Clearly, there are many environmental problems caused by humans, and everyone will have their own lists of concerns, but this is our list of the priorities for Steenbergs:

Environmental IssuesLinked Environmental Issues
Biodiversity LossLand Use Changes (Farming, Gardening, Housing), Overfishing
Climate Change (Carbon Cycle)
DeforestationClimate Change, Land Use Changes
Impacts on Nitrogen and Phosphorus Cycles
Pollution (Including Plastics)Air, Soil, Water Contamination
Waste (Including Plastics)
Water Flooding

The “tree” concept of the wood is to plant new native broadleaf trees to enrich the trees that are already present, so we have planted over 35,000 new trees and are allowing another 20,000 trees in the hedgerows, self-sown trees and some small areas of established woodland to grow, develop and mature.  These will sequester over 18,000 tonnes of carbon as the trees grow and, also, make space for wildlife.  Advice on woodland management is being given by John Searl, a chartered forester in St Asaph.

But it is about more than trees and addressing climate change and deforestation:

  • Biodiversity Loss: Rowing back on biodiversity loss by making space for nature through converting farmland back into natural space, then leaving the habitat to develop in its own way, because there is a biodiversity emergency.  The photo at the top shows some of the floral biodiversity, May 2021;
  • Water: Reducing flooding by slowing down the water that runs off the hillside and through the woodland.  We will, also, look into whether to build leaky dams in the streams to create temporary storage during periods of high water flow.  There was terrible flooding in South Wales in 2020 – brought home on a personal level when Sophie’s brother was evacuated when his Crickhowell home was flooded after the Usk burst its banks.  The photos below show the woodland in wet winter months, December 2019;
  • Pollution: Redressing air, soil, and water pollution through using no chemicals on the land, letting the soil microbiome and plants clean the water as it flows down the hillside, and the trees and plants filter the air as it passes in and out of their leaves.

The “biodiversity” concept is to create a local space for nature by (as far as practical) letting the land develop itself with as little intervention as possible, trusting in nature to do what is best for it by itself – nature knows best!

We are in the early stages, as we only bought the wood in mid-2020, so are still trying to get a handle on what we’ve got – the good and the bad. 

This year we are mapping the different habitats with the help of the local wildlife charity for the Amman Valley, Menter Cadwraeth Natur Cymru (The Initiative for Nature Conservation Cymru), to get a deeper understanding of its soil and habitat types.  As we learn about the land, we will tell you more about it, then, as we work it through, we will explain how we intend to get the best out of the woodland for biodiversity and climate change – it is going to be a difficult balancing act.  If you've any practical thoughts that can help us as we analyse the information we get, then please chip in.

The size of the wood is small, perhaps too small to make a big difference.  However, Steenbergs’ limited resources are no excuse for us doing nothing – you have to start somewhere, with something, and this is our thing.

Our vision is that we can link our woodland up with other natural spaces in the Amman Valley to build a bigger wild space that can start to replace the wildlife deserts that are unfortunately found throughout Wales, then as time goes by and the woods develop to open up this natural space to local people to enjoy and benefit from.

A Full Stream at Olaf Wood, with Mossy Willow, Dec 2019.

A Full Stream at Olaf Wood, with Mossy Willow, Dec 2019.
Wet grassland, with alders and standing water, Dec 2019.
Wet Grassland at Olaf Wood, with Alders and Standing water, Dec 2019.