The Stitch in Time project aims to target invasive non-native species (INNS), namely Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and rhododendron ponticum, which are all known to be present in the Gwaun Valley.
They also feature among the priorities for action in the Pembrokeshire INNS Grouped Species Action Plan.
The project was orignally funded by the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) and has been extended thanks to funding from the Welsh Government.
The Stitch in Time Project Co-ordinator can provide advice outside the project area but stresses that dialogue, cooperation and commitment is key for all parties involved with INNS issues. PCNPA is keen to hear from interested community groups and landowners where a cooperative coordinated approach can be delivered.
Getting to the root of the problem: Non-native Himalayan balsam is cleared in the Gwaun Valley as part of the Stitch in Time project.
INNS can out-compete native UK species; physically change ecosystems and damage property. Some, like giant hogweed, can be extremely harmful to human health.
Piecemeal treatment of INNS rarely addresses sources of infection, which implies that treatment will need to continue indefinitely. Treatment is not cheap - the cost of managing INNS has been put at £1.7 billion per year in the UK - so prevention is better than cure.
As many invasive species spread along water-courses, a joined-up, catchment-based response to control, and subsequent defence of the catchment, would seem to be a cost-effective approach.
The project, which is being managed by the National Park Authority, will test just such an approach in the Gwaun Valley.
The Gwaun Valley catchment.
A central aim of the project is to increase awareness among organisations, individuals and communities about INNS and to build capacity in local communities to monitor and manage them and any re-infestation.
The project will apply learning from other initiatives, including the Cemaes Himalayan Balsam Eradication Project, also funded by the Sustainable Development Fund.
The Clydach catchment, which is a sub catchment of the Nevern located to the east of the Gwaun Valley catchment, has been included in the project focussing on Himalayan balsam control. This followed
interest and concern for the Nevern catchment from Newport Paths Group. Led by Chairman Richard Hughes, the group works closely with the landowners, other volunteer groups, a contractor and the Stitch in Time Project Co-ordinator.
The Friends of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park adopted a site in the Gwaun Valley in 2015. Since then the site has seen a dramatic recovery. Time spent at the site has reduced from a day event to a couple hours, which has enabled the group to start to assist with other strategic areas identified by the project.
Additional groups such as Llais Llanychaer and students from Pembrokeshire College’s Environmental conservation course have been working with the project. Volunteers have been key to the project and to date have contributed more than 400 hours between April and December 2017 alone.
Stitch in Time and The Valley at Trecwn continue to work together in tackling invasive rhododendron. In 2017 and 2018 trainees from the National Park Authority’s Skills in Action scheme put their newly acquired skills in to action. Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water has also been participating in the project.
2017 was the first season that the whole Afon Gwaun was able to be included in control and source areas including areas of Lower town Fishguard and Mwsland are in progress. This was repeated in 2018 in partnership with Pembrokeshire County Council and Natural Resources Wales.