Ecotricity planting trees at RSPB Lake Vyrnwy
RSPB Lake Vyrnwy in Wales is a magical site. The reservoir was created in the 1880s and is now owned and managed by Hafren Dydrdwy. The RSPB work in partnership with Hafren Dydrdwy to manage the uplands to make the lake and the surrounding area a haven for wildlife.
Giving land back to nature and protecting Britain’s wildlife is a key part of our mission.
Some of the trees being planted will take centuries to mature, leaving a long-lasting legacy from a simple action taken today.
To find out more, we spoke to Mike Perks, Site Manager, about the habitats, wildlife and the future of the reserve.
What’s so special about Lake Vyrnwy?
“It's amazing not only because of the natural landscape but you've got this mix of pioneering Victorian engineering which sits in front of that backdrop, so it's a unique place.
“The scale is impressive. It's 10,000 hectares, the entire catchment of the reservoir. We manage it for conservation but it's also a valley which provides economic opportunities for the local community through tourism, farming, forestry – there are a lot of dynamic relationships within the valley.”
Tell us a little about the habitats and wildlife
“Lake Vyrnwy is a Site of Special Scientific Interest so it's an important chunk of land. The vast majority of this is upland habitat. We've got blanket bog on the top and as you come lower, we've got dry heath, ffrid & woodland.
‘Ffridd’, is a Welsh word describing the in-between habitat between the uplands and lowland farmland. It’s a unique habitat with key species. Lower down the valleys we've got ancient oak woodlands, so there’s a real mosaic of habitats that make up Vyrnwy and a huge variety of wildlife.
“Up in the blanket bog and dry heath, we have hen harriers – one of the rarest and most protected raptors in Britain. We also have merlin and black grouse, which are fantastic birds.
“Coming lower down into the ffridd, we have ring ouzels. It’s a super bird, like a blackbird with a white chest. The ffridd habitat is absolutely critical for them.
“We also get Welsh clearwing moths in the ffridd. It’s got an amazing life cycle: it lays its eggs in old birch trees and the larvae stay there for three years before emerging as a day flying moth. It’s fantastic and there are very few populations left in Wales.
“Then even lower down in our oak woodlands, we have a really important population of pied flycatchers. It’s a little black and white bird that arrives from Africa in April and May.”
What’s the best time of year for spotting wildlife?
“May is the time when all the migratory birds come back. They're all displaying because they're trying to find a mate and settle down. For the woodland species, the trees aren't fully in leaf then so they’re easy to see.
“Autumn is beautiful here. It was a Victorian estate – these days we’d build a concrete dam but the Victorians went for gothic architecture. It just looks spectacular. They planted the estate with trees and they planted it with aesthetics in mind, so come the autumn you get fantastic colours around the lake.”
How has the reserve and the wildlife been affected by the climate crisis?
“We’re right on the southern range for some of the species’. With the warming climate, those species in the uplands will be moving north as the climate warms. Looking at species like black grouse, the numbers are declining and that's the same everywhere.
“The other interesting thing is that blanket bog is a great counter to climate change. There’s some exciting work going on at the moment to restore some of that blanket bog, to block up some of those ditches, to re-wet it.”
Why are RSPB and Ecotricity planting trees together at Lake Vyrnwy?
“Hopefully, the tree planting at Lake Vyrnwy will show the impact that even a few hundred people can have by taking one small action. The scheme is about improving the quality of the different habitats by planting appropriate trees at the right scale within them.
“The ffridd is a mix of low quality grazing, scrub, birch, rowan and hawthorn. It's about ensuring the next generation of trees are coming through. It’s particularly important for our Welsh clearwing moths because they need mature birch trees.
“Rhiwargor at the top end of the lake is a man-made environment, planted by the Victorians, so there's a lot of mature trees already. We'll be planting oak, sycamore, lime. That’s not going to be dense, it's planting specimen trees in the right places.
“The other areas we're looking at planting are on the fringes of oak woodland to give them more natural edges and help connectivity, linking up hedgerows with areas of trees. This allows species to move between nesting and feeding areas within the protection of the corridor.“
What are you most looking forward as a result of this scheme?
“You know, we're drawn to Lake Vyrnwy partly for the wildlife but also for the opportunity to be out in the wild and feel connected to it. If we have that love for nature and love for a place, we’ll then go out of our way to protect it.
“What I’d like to see is more people who have that connection, even if it’s something as simple as – I planted a tree at Lake Vyrnwy.”
Switch to Ecotricity and we’ll plant a tree at Lake Vyrnwy
If you’re not already with us, you can still join, and we’ll still donate up to £50 (£25 per fuel) to the RSPB, plus we'll repeat that donation for every year that you’re with us, and we’ll plant a tree at Lake Vyrnwy.
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