Citizen Science in Frenni Fawr Woods

Updated: May 19, 2021

Introducing Frenni Fawr Wood

Photo taken by Huw Denman

Frenni Fawr, known by some as Brynnan Mawr, is an iconic feature in the landscape of North East Pembrokeshire. Rising to 395 metres above sea level, the hill is home to numerous cairns, barrows, and folklore, some of which involves the Tylwyth Teg.

However, if you happen to walk on the west side of the Frenni Fawr, you’ll notice habitat, which at first glance looks like overgrown bracken or gorse. Upon closer inspection, you’ll realise that you’re gazing at extremely stunted oak trees, so small, that you’re able to touch the canopy.

Photo taken by Huw Denman

This oak woodland extends to an altitude of 375 metres, it is the highest semi-natural woodland in Pembrokeshire, 180 metres higher than Ty Canol, Pembrokeshire’s only other upland oakwood. Little is known about the Frenni Fawr woodland, it seems to have been forgotten by regulatory bodies. There is no record of it in the Ancient Woodland Inventory, although it certainly appears to be ancient, with uncertainty and conjecture around the oaks stunted growth. Why are the oaks so small? In the absence of acorns, do these trees clone themselves to regenerate? What is causing the main stems to die back?

Photo taken by Marc Pell

To answer some of these questions and ask a few more, a group of intrepid citizen scientists ascended the summit of the Frenni Fawr on a fine October morning in 2020. Their purpose, to take part in Growing Better Connections’ first ever citizen science activity, in collaboration with the aptly named ‘Frenni Fawr Research Group (FFRG for short).

The Frenni Fawr Plan

FFRG, a group of like-minded environmental experts, are working to ensure Frenni Fawr’s upland oak woodland achieves the appreciation it deserves. To become a recognised and conserved habitat area. FFRG believe the ancient woodland characteristics, combined with the unusual growth forms, as well as the differing age classes, make this wood a unique and interesting habitat for study. Growing Better Connections are working collaboratively with FFRG to measure different variables across the oak woodland. With plans to coordinate a series of citizen science events, where relevant data is collected, through a variety of sampling methods. The results of which, will help us put forward a strong case to achieve ‘Ancient Woodland’ classification.

Activities to Date

Photo taken by Marc Pell

On 13th October 2020, our group collected oak leaves and acorns from the woodland, in an attempt to answer the question “In the absence of acorns, do these trees clone themselves to regenerate? as well as propagate some of the valuable acorns found. FFRG member and Aberystwyth PHD student Becki Bristow led the activity. Her aims for the session were to collect leaf ‘samples’ and introduce the importance of implementing a robust sampling design.

Photo taken by Marc Pell

To do this the group were split into 4. The 1st group