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Environmentalist to oversee Parc Taf Bargoed restoration project

  • Categories : Press Release
  • 09 Mar 2020
Rachel Moreton

An Australian environmentalist has been appointed to oversee the ambitious restoration of land and waterways surrounding one of Merthyr Tydfil’s most picturesque green spaces.

Rachel Morton has been appointed to manage the Taf Bargoed Catchment Restoration Project, a £½m clean-up initiative aimed at restoring the river’s banks and local habitats, protecting against erosion and making the area’s biodiversity and ecosystems sustainable.

At the lower end of the catchment area, the 140-hectare Parc Taf Bargoed was once the site of three former coal mines, with regeneration turning the park into a haven for wildlife.

But its 3.6 hectares of lakes are affected by silt and sediment build-up having an impact on the local community, events, leisure activities and the economic viability of the park.

The project will use measures like tree planting, fencing and changes to the river bed and banks to reduce silt levels, improve habitats and potentially reduce flood risk downstream.

Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council was last year awarded a grant for the project of £417,000 from Welsh Government’s Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 Sustainable Management Scheme, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government. The funding went towards the total project costs of £507,287, matched by £60,000 from the Council and £30,000 from Natural Resources Wales.

Councillors were told the river catchment area had been an ‘important part of the lives of the people it served for generations’ and that local farms, leisure businesses and the communities of Trelewis, Treharris and Bedlinog would be the key beneficiaries.

Rachel, who is qualified in Australian Environmental Studies and is currently studying for an HNC in Environmental Conservation Management, previously worked on European-funded grant programmes for Bridgend County Borough Council and managed the Rural Economy Action Project, a £1.7m grant fund for rural businesses. In her spare time, she’s also an environmental volunteer at Bryngarw Country Park and local woodlands.

Rachel said work on the ‘Restore the River’ project would involve her engaging with local landowners, commoners, residents, businesses and schools and encouraging them to take on a role as ‘community guardians’.

“We hope to see local people getting involved in river surveys and volunteer activities,” she added. “The rivers of South Wales are such an important part of the area’s history and vital for the future.”

The project is a collaborative scheme also involving Natural Resources Wales, South Wales River, Friends of Taff Bargoed Park, Merthyr Tydfil Biodiversity Partnership, Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd, Gelligaer & Merthyr Commoners’ Association, Aberfan Canoe Club, Rock UK Summit Centre, Taf Bargoed Angling Association, Taf Bargoed Development Trust, Cardiff University and Caerphilly County Borough Council.

Leila Thornton of Natural Resources Wales said: “We welcome Rachel’s appointment and are very pleased to be a partner in this exciting project which will improve the environment and improve the river and lake quality for local communities to use and enjoy.”

Merthyr Tydfil Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Public Protection Cllr Geraint Thomas said: “We’re delighted to have appointed someone with Rachel’s experience and enthusiasm for the environment to manage this extremely important initiative.

“It’s very much a community project which will involve as many people as possible connected with the river catchment learning about the importance of healthy rivers and the biodiversity within them - and ensuring their sustainability for many years to come.”

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