Coed Obry

Table of Contents

    The Role of Woodlands in Health & Wellbeing

    Some would argue that humans have been losing their connection with nature. Some authors, such as Richard Louv (2008), have even used the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe American children who no longer play outdoors and have been disconnected with nature.

    Louv, R. (2008). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Algonquin books.

    This statement was made by a University student after staying in Coed Obry for two nights

    How do forests improve our wellbeing ? Link to Forestry England “Forests for Wellbeing” website.

    Oh et al. (2017) conducted a systematic review of the health and well-being benefits of spending time in forests, concluding that forest therapy may play an important role in health promotion and disease prevention. Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing as it’s known in English, is gaining attention in the UK as a highly effective path to physical and psychological wellbeing. At its simplest, Forest Bathing is spending time in the forest, immersing yourself in the sensory experience. Wen et al. (2019) carried out a systematic review of medical empirical research on forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) concluding that forest bathing activities may significantly improve people’s physical and psychological health.

    About Coed Obry

    Coed Obry is a 5 1/2 acre woodland on the edge of Snowdonia National Park.  Purchased by Tim Stott in 2016, it is being managed to increase species diversity and benefit wildlife. It is also used as a base for Bushcraft courses for Snowdonia Outdoors.

    Rhododendrons and bluebells in Coed Obry flower in Spring

    We share our 5-acre woodland with a host of natural inhabitants. Over 70% of the wood remains relatively undisturbed and in the other 30% we try to encourage nature by carefully managing the woodland to increase species diversity, putting up nest boxes and creating a pond. As such, it is an ideal location to get close to nature and to build bonds with it. By spending time in our tree canopy platform and bird hide you get closer to the birds and hear their songs and learn their habits. Peering into a nest box in May you will see the eggs and young hatching and fledging. Dipping your net into the pond you can immerse yourself in the diversity of insects and larva. In late summer and autumn you can find numerous species of fungi. All year round, the mosses and lichens are abundant.

    Coed Obry is an ideal Welsh woodland in which you can build bonds with nature and ignite the life-long desire to learn and understand more about our wonderful natural world.

    Inside nest boxes in Coed Obry in May

    Natural History & Nature in Coed Obry

    The peaty natural woodland soil has originated from the Glaslyn estuary before it was dammed by the Cob at Porthmadog in 1811, after that the land was reclaimed from the sea and farmed. More recently, some of the land has been returned to woodland. Observations of Google Earth images show that prior to around 2000 Coed Obry was mainly commercial evergreen forest (probably largely Sitka spruce) which was clear-felled around 2000 and since then birch (Betula pendula), which is a pioneer species, has dominated.  These aerial images show how Coed Obry was cleared of all its sitka spruce just before 2006, though you can see that a number of oaks on the southern and eastern boundaries remained, and you can see that by 2016 it had a full cover of silver birch.

    Coed Obry in 2006Coed Obry in 2009
    Coed Obry in 2016Coed Obry in 2020
    Google Earth images of Coed Obry 2006-2020 showing changes in the woodland cover

    Tree Diversity & Carbon Capture

    Tree Diversity: The eastern and southern margins of the wood have plenty of oak (Quercus petraea, commonly known as the sessile oak). Other species found in the wood include rowan (Sorbus aucuparia, also known as mountain ash); holly (Ilex aquifolium, known as European holly); western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla, or western hemlock-spruce); hazel (Corylus avellana, or Common hazel); willow (Salix spp., also called sallow and osier); elder (Sambucus nigra); and, there are three patches of rhododendron, an invasive species which we are keeping under control. The primary aim for a well-managed woodland is to achieve a good species mix.  This is because if a disease arrives (such as the recent ash dieback in the UK, or Dutch Elm disease that we had in the 1980s) then all that species affected by the disease dies out. Here in Coed Obry, if a disease arrived which affected the birch, there would be few trees left.  So, the aim is to get a mix of at least half a dozen different species to give the wood disease resilience. It’s also good for wildlife as there will be more insects and food sources for birds.

    Carbon capture: The UK will have to plant 1.5 billion trees if it is to meet its pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – and this needs to “happen quickly”, government advisers have warned. In December 2020 I planted 100 Norway spruce saplings (30-50cm tall), 100 Sitka spruce saplings (20-40cm tall) and 20 Scots Pine in an attempt to increase the species diversity and add some fast-growing trees to increase the biomass in the wood faster and therefore capture more CO2.    So, by planting some fast-growing evergreens here again we are doing our bit to help carbon capture in the short-term (ie., the next 50 years).  However, in order for these to grow effectively we will need to slowly remove some of the silver birch from around them.  The birch will mature and start to die out when they reach ~80 years old. There are a few fallen mature birch in Coed Obry and these are left to become ‘deadwood’ and provide an excellent habitat for fungi and insects which in turn provide food resources for birds. So, in the longer-term, then, birch is not going to be a long-term carbon store.  The best tree species for carbon capture is the oak, since, although it’s one of the slowest growing species, it will lock up carbon for perhaps hundreds of years, as well as hosting up to 280 insect species.  So, over the next 100-200 years Coed Obry and the surrounding birch woodland will gradually transform naturally into a temperate oak woodland.

    Plant Life in Coed Obry

    Male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas, also commonly called wood fern, or buckler fern) is common throughout the wood and bracken is prevalent on the south side of Coed Obry. The other common species is blackberry (Rubus fruticosus aggregate). Sphagnum moss is prevalent in the damper low lying areas of the wood. Sphagnum is a genus of approximately 380 accepted species of mosses, commonly known as “peat moss”.

    Birds & Mammals in Coed Obry

    The most commonly sighted birds are Great Tit, Blue Tit (which use the nest boxes in Coed Obry) and robin. We have found a Chiff-chaff nest on the ground. Also common are Wrens, Blackbird, Wood pigeon, Jay and Buzzard. We see Woodcock taking shelter on the woodland floor in winter, and have had occasional sightings of Tree creeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher and Barn Owl. Several species of geese regularly fly over the wood on their way to the coast or to feed in the fields next to the nearby Glaslyn river. The Osprey nest which the Glaslyn Osprey Visitor Centre monitors is just over 1 km north of here. Live streaming of the osprey nest can be seen online in spring and early summer. The visitor centre is approximately 2 km NW of here –turn left in Garreg Llanfrothen. Tawny owls can be heard most evenings and a tawny owl nest box has been sited on the southern border of Coed Obry, and two Barn Owl nest boxes have been set up in the middle of the wood, so we are hoping to attract some interest in future ! Pipistrelle and other bats can be seen feeding on insects around the pond most evenings, and two bat boxes have been set up. Mammal sightings include: fox and grey squirrel.

    Tree creeper nestbox (left) and hole nestbox (right). Holes are 25mm, 28mm and 30mm to attract different species. Some boxes are open fronted.
    Owl boxes set up in Coed Obry in January 2021

    There is an automatic weather station situated in the wood (collecting hourly data) and a further 9 temperature sensors and rain gauges are monitoring climate change under different tree species.

    Coed Obry Maps and Plans

    Birds seen at Coed Obry

    The following birds have been recorded in or over the wood:

    Robin, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Blackbird, Carrion Crow, Raven, Jay, Chiffchaff, Wood Pigeon, Tree Creeper, Buzzard, Woodcock, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Little Egret, Stonechat, Tawny Owl, Kingfisher and Barn Owl.

    Nestboxes at Coed Obry

    Around 30 nestboxes have been set up in Coed Obry since 2017. Below are some photos of the various designs and a plan

    Photo Gallery of Coed Obry

    Recommended Reading

    Louv, R. (2008). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Algonquin books.

    Oh, B., Lee, K. J., Zaslawski, C., Yeung, A., Rosenthal, D., Larkey, L., & Back, M. (2017). Health and well-being benefits of spending time in forests: Systematic review. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine22(1), 1-11.

    Wen, Y., Yan, Q., Pan, Y., Gu, X., & Liu, Y. (2019). Medical empirical research on forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku): a systematic review. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine24(1), 1-21.