North East Wales Countryside Officer Forum
On 23 September last year, the North East Wales Countryside Officer Forum (NEWCOF) reconvened for its second meeting of the year, this time hosted by the National trust at the beautiful Chirk Castle estate.
NEWCOF was established as an opportunity for networking and the sharing of best practice between the Countryside Officers of Wrexham, Denbighshire, Flintshire and Conwy County councils. The Forum has now expanded to include a number of other public and third sector organisations such as the RSPB, Welsh Water, Natural Resources Wales, Arc (Amphibian & Reptile Conservation), North Wales Wildlife Trust, WildGround and the National Trust - who hosted the forum for the first time this year.
Historically these meetings have been hosted all throughout North East Wales, with different authorities and organisations taking turns to host. In the last two years alone, it’s travelled to Plas Newydd House Museum and Gardens, Great Orme Country Park, Wepre Park and Loggerheads Country Park. Because of this, the forum is a great opportunity to learn about other areas and the projects that different organisations are working on. The meeting in September was kicked off with presentations from both the Halkyn Mountain and the Landscape Solutions Projects and in the afternoon, one of the Chirk Castle rangers lead a tour around the castle’s 480 acres of estate parkland.
The travelling nature of the forum also affords varied training opportunities, generally offered by one of the rangers to share skills across the countryside services. In the past we have had heather burning, moorland management and tree safety training, to name a few. Next season we will be looking at best practice controlling invasives, assessing the quality of ffridd habitat, and habitat management for Reptiles.
Having these regular forum meetings means we can not only share skills between all of our services, but also exchange knowledge and ideas. At the last NEWCOF back in March we had an equipment demonstration of a new Flailbot on Moel Famau, and in September we heard from the Halkyn Mountain rangers on their trials of different methods to convert areas of thick bramble back to limestone grassland. Furthermore, these meetings have the added benefit of creating cohesion. Through regular contact and communication, we create a more connected countryside service throughout North East Wales.