Larches to be felled after tree-killing disease found in Gnoll Country Park
A DEADLY tree disease has struck at Neath's award-winning Gnoll Country Park.
Felling operations are being planned following the discovery, but the park will remain fully open to visitors until the axe starts to fall later this year.
Areas will then be closed off to the public.
The Forestry Commission has advised park owner Neath Port Talbot Council that the fungal disease, Phytophthora ramorum, has been found in the larch plantations.
As a result, the authority is legally required to take action to manage the situation and prevent the disease from spreading. This will entail a felling and removal programme for all the larch within the country park.
"The disease, which is not harmful to humans or animals, has also led to the current felling operations in Craig Gwladys Country Park, and previously in the Afan Valley," said a council spokesman.
"The authority will be having further discussions with the Forestry Commission over the extent of felling works required.
"However, advance notice can be given that the bulk of the felling will be scheduled to commence in September, to minimise disruption to visitors.
"Until the felling work starts the public will still be permitted to use the park but are advised to follow three basic rules."
These rules are to keep to pathways, to brush off any loose mud and dirt from footwear and clothing in the car park, and to thoroughly clean all footwear at home before the next visit.
"When the felling programme commences, areas of the country park will be closed to members of the public for health and safety reasons," added the spokesman.
"The work will aim to ensure as much as possible of the regenerating broadleaf trees are protected, and the council will be applying for grant aid to replant the felled areas with further native broadleaf trees."
Thousands of trees have already been felled in the Afan Valley, while Neath Port Talbot Council had to close Neath's Craig Gwladys Country Park in December when the disease was found there.
Council leader, Councillor Ali Thomas, said: "Felling and removing these trees is an unfortunate but necessary step which the council has to take in order to manage the disease.
"Gnoll Estate Country Park has been awarded Green Flag status for the past three years in a row and remains popular with residents and visitors alike.
"The felling operations have therefore been scheduled to avoid the busiest months of the year."