The Estate falls within the Cambrian Mountains Environmentally Sensitive Area. Nearly all of the farms on the Estate have signed up to the scheme which aims to conserve the natural beauty of the area and its flora and fauna.
The Estate also forms the major part of the 30,000 hectare Elenydd-Mallaen Special Protection Area under the European Wild Birds Directive. It also has three Special Areas of Conservation under the European Habitats and Species Directive. One is for the woodlands and two are for the upland bogs, which together total over 6,000 hectares.
Most of the Estate is vested in the Elan Valley Trust whose charitable objectives include the preservation, maintenance and enhancement of the Elan Valley including its animal and plant life as well as encouraging access to, and study of it, by the general public.
On the Elan Estate there are 350 hectares of coniferous woodland and 100 hectares of broadleaved woodland. The coniferous woods have been planted over the past 200 years whilst the broadleaved woods, mostly sessile oak, are known as “semi-natural ancient woodlands” and have been present for about 8,000 years.
The broadleaved woods have a much greater variety of wildlife associated with them but the conifers are also essential for some species of bird. All the Estate’s broadleaved woods are Sites of Special Scientific Interest and even one coniferous wood is included. Some of both types are also included in a Special Protection Area under the European Wild Birds Directive.
The Elan Estate Woodland Biodiversity Project is being undertaken to enhance the biodiversity of our deciduous woodlands. The aim of the Project is to improve the biodiversity of our woodlands, to increase the variety and numbers of all groups of animals and plants wherever possible in line with the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Also to improve facilities for access and education as well as enjoyment of the woodland environment.
The main task ahead over the next twenty years is to replace at least 70 hectares of what is now coniferous woods with broadleaved species. Large areas of conifers will need to be clear-felled and then replanted with thousands of small oak, birch, rowan, hazel and ash which are being grown for us from seed gathered on the Estate.
Some areas will be replanted with mostly conifers so as to create a much wider age range of trees in the permanently coniferous areas. This will greatly increase their populations of a number of birds, insects and wild flowers.
Throughout the Project the changes in the wildlife of all the wooded areas will be closely monitored by the Elan Estate’s Countryside Ranger Service both by a detailed photographic record and by scientific wildlife surveying.
An important part of the work has been to improve access to the woodlands partly via two new car-parks and 40 kilometres of woodland walks.
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water are committed to improving nature conservation, access and recreation on their lands whenever possible. They have been financially helped in this Project by the Forestry Commission via its Woodland Grant Scheme.