Leanne Visits - Welcome to Our Woods

Read about Leanne's visit to one of our members, Welcome to Our Woods.

Published: 07.09.2023 ( 10 months ago )

As new co-leader with Ynni Cymunedol Cymru | Community Energy Wales, I have a lot to learn. What better place to start that with the experts - our members?

Ynni Cymunedol Cymru are a membership organisation. We were set up to meet a need from small, largely volunteer-led community organisations who were trying to set up or had set up community renewable energy projects. Our members share good practice, ideas, skills and knowledge and learn from each other. Collectively, we try to change the political landscape so that community renewable energy and community run schemes which save energy are made as easy as possible. We want different levels of government to prioritise and support these schemes. In short, we are a union or an umbrella organisation for the climate change doers in our communities.

We now represent more than fifty different organisations and we have branched out to cover energy saving and efficiency and low carbon transport as well as renewable energy generation.

Many of our members carry out numerous activities to contribute to the vast effort that’s needed on the climate emergency.

Welcome to our Woods were set up as a community woodland management company and to support the work of the wider partnership in Treherbert. They enable access, put on events, walks, and make good use of the timber in a large section of forestry owned by Natural Resources Wales at the top of the Rhondda Fawr. They own the old brewery site, just behind Treherbert railway station and among other things, in the summer, hosted a local play group to put on Shakespeare in the woods, at midnight. Its popularity ensured plans for more events there next summer.

They have plans to use the electricity from their hydro electric generator that has been producing clean electricity for years to power more activities on the site in the future, including training opportunities.

On my visit I met Gwynfor, who is undertaking an apprenticeship there. He is learning woodland management skills, how to use various tools, wood construction as well as horticultural skills - they also have a food hub on a derelict petrol station site, and they plan to sell nutritious greens to local people and businesses, as well as plug plants for gardeners. They are hoping to create another job plus training opportunity with an electric-bike hire service, which would be a low cost, carbon free transport solution not available at present. The e-bikes will be powered via a private line from their hydro generator. Isn’t that fantastic?

They are also plant and growing trees – including SRC willow (short rotation coppice) as heat fuel and local heritage variety fruit trees for a community orchard. I can’t wait to taste my first apple or pear from there - that promise guarantees that I’ll be back.

Welcome to our Woods want to do more with hydro energy and with partners have commissioned numerous feasibility studies to see where the hydro schemes could best be installed. They hope to pursue this again soon, but have recently decided to spend their energy and resources on these other developments after their experience of getting their first hydropower unit installed took a long time and lot of work.

We all hope that the conditions for creating micro energy of this kind are made easier for community groups like Welcome to our Woods to create more renewable energy. We also want them to be able to sell it at a reduced rate to local consumers. That’s difficult too at the moment. While there may be barriers, they are not insurmountable. If it’s not made as easy as possible for community groups to create cheaper renewable energy now, when exactly would be a good time?

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