In the 1960s as part of a planting program undertaken by the forestry commision, a 300 year old Shepherds Cottage in Nercwys Forest was demolished. Explosives were used to destroy the cottage the explosion must have rumbled through most of denbighshire.
After the demolition the cottage was left abandoned as a heap of rubble and in this condition it had been until several years ago when the AONB, along with the Forestry Commission and volunteers began works on cleaning the mess left behind all those decades ago.
The first step of the clean up began when the trees and stumps around the cottage were harvested to make way for a wildflower meadow just in front of the cottage. A dry stone wall was rebuilt and the rubble inside the cottages walls was removed to show the original layout of the cottage.
A couple of months ago I joined the AONB volunteering team at the cottage to help out with the conservation it was a hot day and our first job was to dig out the invasive plants in the wildflower meadow. This would give the flowers more of a fighting chance to flourish. ‘Easy job’ I thought a bit of weeding in the sun what could be easier? This is what I said to myself before I knew how long and deep the roots of a Dock leaf go. Seriously, you could have the smallest leaf and the roots would go so deep you’d need a shovel to get them out.
After weeding the meadow we headed up to the Cottage, It was my first time seeing the Cottage and the immediate question raised is why the cottage was just left in the state it was for all those years? The work already undertaken by the AONB was evident, a wall had been raised to emphasize the original layout of the cottage and to give visitors a feel of the place.
Speaking to one of the country rangers the next stage of the project was to continue more limestone walling. An orchard is to be planted inside the walls of the cottage.
Our job on the cottage was cleaning up one of the rubble piles and separating the old rocks with the original bricks of the cottage, a glamorous task, thats made even more difficult with the sun glaring down on your back! We pushed on and managed to dig out quite a large mound of earth and rubble all overlooked by a nice pile of bricks we managed to stack (it’s the simple things in life) The bricks are to be used to make a path that will wind through the orchard, pretty resourceful!
On the 18th of June I joined the volunteers again at the Nercwys Cottage. After working there just once I felt attached to the place and want to see the area in its full potential. The cottage is a hidden gem in the middle of the forest and the plans in mind for the area are well thought out. To make something pleasing out of the destruction of an old building is a long yet rewarding process and feels something great to be a part of.
Anyway, it was a Wednesday on my second visit to the Cottage I hadn’t been back since the last volunteer day in April we walked up past the meadow and headed to the cottage. The wildflowers in the meadow had bloomed over the weeks and it looked great. The job this time was to clean some of the walls of the cottage to get them prepared for some limestone walling.
Wire brushes and trowels were our go-to tools on this day, essentially scrubbing all the overgrowth off the walls. After a couple of hours cleaning the area we took a step back just to have a look what we’d done, you don’t really notice the bigger picture until you take a breather. We had made quite a difference you could see the original brick floor of the cottage and the walls were now ready for the Limestone walling.
We had an early finish at the cottage that day, I will also be heading up there again soon to take part in the Limestone walling. I think the more volunteers that could help the AONB the sooner work on the cottage can progress – it’s all for a good cause.