The next phase of work to reopen Cwmcarn Forest Drive begins today (Monday, June 15).
The forest drive has been closed since 2014 due to a tree disease, which led to around 70% of its trees having to be cut down.
Landscaping work, which is expected to take around 12 weeks, begins today, with three new play areas set to be installed, along with eight waterless toilets.
Repairs to the surface of the drive are also underway, in order to fix the damage caused by timber haulage trucks removing diseased trees.
Secluded seating areas and a wooden cabin offering panoramic views are included in the plans, which were announced in December.
Information signs will also be placed around the site, explaining the history of the area and local wildlife.
By November last year, all trails along the forest drive had been reopened for cyclists.
However, the visitor centre and mountain bike trails have been closed since the coronavirus lockdown.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has asked visitors to the forest drive to follow safety notices and path diversions while heavy machinery is operating on site.
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NRW project manager Geminie Drinkwater said: “This is an exciting time at Cwmcarn Forest as developments get underway to give a new lease of life to an attraction already loved and valued by many.
“Our plans for the forest have been shaped by ideas shared with us by the community and will offer something for every type of visitor – from adrenaline seekers to those looking for moments of peace and tranquillity.
“Unfortunately, like many other construction projects, our progress has been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic. This has been unavoidable, but we are constantly reviewing our plans and are doing everything we can to move swiftly towards reopening the drive.”
NRW said it has carried out inspections at its car parks to ensure its sites are ready for the safe return of visitors in the near future.
It also said that some coronavirus restrictions will remain in place, and urged visitors to observe social distancing measures.
Rhianon Passmore, Senedd Member for Islwyn, said: “Since lockdown measures were introduced in March, the value of Cwmcarn Forest Drive as an outward space of natural majesty and a place of release has been appreciated more than ever before.
“I welcome the work that begins this week to radically enhance the visitor engagement to one of Wales’ most stunning landscapes.
“As Islwyn’s representative in the Senedd I will continue to champion that the Welsh Government do all they can to revitalise one of Gwent and Wales’ greatest treasures to ensure that future generations can enjoy and explore the terrain together.”
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