Spring Events!

We are pleased to announce two fantastic Spring events at Cefn Ila that will launch you into a wild world of nature on your doorstep.

Flowers and Foraging – On Sunday 26th April we will be hosting two guided walks that will lead you to discover the species of wild plants found at Cefn Ila as well as a what foods can be foraged locally. Our biodiversity expert will show you a range of flowering plants to be found, including rare and unusual species. Then a local foraging aficionado Kate Jones will show you how to access nature’s larder and cook up some foraged delights to try.

The day will run from 1-5. Although the event is free, donations are invited on the day, please book in advance.

Birds and Bats – Our May event takes place on Saturday the 16th. Visitors are invited to join our Site Manager and bird expert Barry Embling on a guided to soak up the sounds of the evening chorus. You can learn to identify birds by their call and discover some of the less well known wildlife on your doorstep. The evening continues into the dark to find out which bats can be found at Cefn Ila. Steve Wadley, bat ecologist will tell us all about the mysterious nocturnal creatures. This event runs from 7:30- 9:30.

Again please get in touch to book a place, contact Amelia on 08437705566 or email Cefnila@woodlandtrust.org.uk.

Returning Wildlife to Cefn Ila

At Cefn Ila we are working on lots of mini projects to improve the site for people and wildlife. Perhaps one of the most aesthetically pleasing is the creation of a wildflower area. An area of the old walled garden will be utilised as a wildflower patch to host annual and perennial wildflowers which were once common.

Lesser celandine as about to forma blanket of colour in the walled garden.

Lesser celandine as about to form a blanket of colour in the walled garden.

With thanks to our volunteers and Monmouthshire Meadows Group a large section of the walled garden will be nurtured into a wildflower area containing local seed. As many readers will know, the nettles and brambles currently dominating the walled garden indicate rich soils. This is no surprise as the soil is a rich dark colour, splattered with shells and pebbles from the seaweed used to improve its nutrient levels. The very experienced Stephanie Tyler of Monmouthshire Meadows Group advised that we should strip the soil of much of its nutrients to prepare it for wildflowers.

Volunteers prepare the ground for potatoes

Volunteers prepare the ground for potatoes


So this year we will be planting potatoes to do just that. Having turned the soil we will also get the chance to see what is lying dormant in the soil. Having possibly never been treated with herbicide the soil in the walled garden may already be host to an array of interesting wild plant seeds just waiting for their chance to germinate. So we’ll be keeping an eye on what comes up and keep you posted.

Come and find out about the wild flowers at Cefn Ila and learn which native and naturalised plants you can eat at our event on the 26th April 1-5. Be guided by foraging and wildflower experts to discover a range of plants you may have never noticed and taste some local wild delights. To find out more or book contact AmeliaLake@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Graft Your Own Fruit Tree

On Sunday the 29th March we will be inviting people to Cefn Ila to learn the skill of grafting fruit trees. We have a beautiful orchard on site which needs repopulating. So why not come and help us graft new apple and pear trees for our orchard and take home a tree of your own!apples

We will be grafting our own scion material from local varieties lead by Woodland Trust staff and supported by our fabulous volunteers. You will get the chance to learn the techniques required and practice them. We’ll provide a lovely fire and hot drinks so just bring some lunch, your favoured tools and dress up warm. The day will run from 10-3, meeting in the car park.

There are limited spaces for this event so please book by emailing your name, contact number and number of people attending in your vehicle to: AmeliaLake@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Roaring success!

On Wednesday and Sunday last week Cefn Ila welcomed over 30 new volunteers! During the two work parties teams of people worked hard to transform an area of the arboretum. Previously smothered by invasive laurel and Rododendron ponticum an area of the orchard was cleared to reveal the specimen pines.

Clearing bramble around a specimen Rhododendron

Clearing bramble around a specimen Rhododendron

Each day started with a small tour of this historic and beautiful site with Site Manager Barry Embling. Important work commenced, using bow saws, loppers and machetes to claim back the arboretum from invasive plants.

Fuelling the fire with laurel

Fuelling the fire with laurel

Volunteers learnt new skills including felling very large shrubs safely, plant identification and starting a fire with wet material. We all enjoyed a warming cup of tea from the popular Kelly kettle at lunch time and a good fire to clear the laurel foliage.

Team takes lunch

Team takes lunch

We look forward to seeing new and familiar volunteers on the 4th February, 10-3 to continue work in the arboretum and make a start on other projects.

Contact: Cefnila@woodlandtrust.org.uk or 07774786514

Let the Work Begin!

Next Wednesday sees us launch our regular work parties at Cefn Ila. At 10 am we will be pleased to welcome everyone who wants to do practical work on site. We will be clearing invasive rhododendron and preparing for grafting our apples and pears. All the work parties are aimed at getting people involved in the conservation and restoration activity at Cefn Ila.

Rhododendron ponticum - invasive species

Rhododendron ponticum – invasive species

The work parties will run every 1st and 3rd Wednesday 10-3 and every last Sunday of the month 10-3. Everyone is welcome and free to come along to as many or as few as they like. We ask that you let us know you are coming, bring lunch and wear appropriate clothing. We’ll provide tools, guidance and importantly hot refreshments!

If you would like to join us or know more just get in touch on 08437705566 or email Cefnila@woodlandtrust.org.uk

Explore the Arboretum this Winter

Work is underway to restore Cefn Ila’s arboretum to its former glory. You may have notice the sound of chainsaws on site recently signalling work on site. A walk around the arboretum over Christmas will be rewarded with a view of some very unusual an beautiful trees and features the were previously obscured by ash, willow, ivy and bramble.

Site Manager Barry Embling has been over seeing the works and is pleased with progress made by Countreecare in the arboretum and other areas of the site. Clearance of ivy on this Wellingtonia has revealed a lovely bark which just invites you to touch it.

Matt of Countreecare hanging around in the Wellingtonia

Matt of Countreecare hanging around in the Wellingtonia

Original features such as this double row of Irish Yews are being uncovered and cared for. These yews are now much taller than originally intended which was as a low hedge which sliced through the terraced lawn.

Ash removed to allow Irish Yews to flourish.

Ash removed to allow Irish Yews to flourish.

A real gem of the site is the large monkey puzzle which could barely been seen from any point before works began. Trees have been removed to make the most of this majestic specimen whose size and beauty can be more easily appreciated.

View of the monkey puzzle

View of the monkey puzzle

Explore the arboretum this winter when work is not taking place and look out for guided walks coming up that will give you expert information about the trees and site.

Get involved! Volunteer at Cefn Ila

Photo by Carole Sutton

Photo by Carole Sutton


As part of the Heritage Lottery Project we are excited to be able to offer lots more opportunities to get involved and support the work at Cefn Ila. Regular work parties will take place to restore this wonderful site. This includes maintaining the orchard, creating paths, restoring the gardens and revealing rare trees and shrubs. We will work as a group to improve the site for wildlife and people. This is an opportunity to get outside, get active, learn and share new skills, meet new people and help us care for this important and beautiful place.

We are also looking for people to help out with events, to be our resident photographer, to work on the oral histories project and more. So if you know someone who might be interested tell them to get in touch for more information.

Work parties will run:
Every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month (10-3)and
Every last Sunday in the month (10-3)

Our first date will be the 21st January (to let you get over that Christmas bloated feeling!)

You don’t need any experience, all training required will be provided.
Under 16’s are welcome providing they are accompanied by and adult.

Bring some lunch and we’ll provide hot drinks and all the tools needed.

To let us know you are coming or for more information contact the Community Development Officer Amelia Lake on AmeliaLake@woodlandtrust.org.uk or 08437705566