A MINISTER has seen the wood for the trees... and squirrels!

The Minister for Environment Hannah Blythyn AM visited Clocaenog Forest, managed by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), to find out more about the red squirrel conservation work taking place there.

Red squirrels are rare in Wales. In addition to Clocaenog Forest, other populations are found on Anglesey and in mid-Wales.

The red squirrel is threatened by the non-native grey squirrel, through disease - specifically the squirrel pox virus - and competition for food.

To try and protect the red squirrel population from their grey counterparts, the Welsh Government is consulting on a draft grey squirrel management action plan, produced with NRW and squirrel specialists.

NRW has also produced a forest management plan for Clocaenog, which dictates when and where trees can be felled without causing detriment to protected species there.

The minister then went to Chirk, where she was given a tour by Rob McBride, a self-declared “tree hunter”, of some of Wales’ ancient and most famous trees.

This includes the great oak at the Gate of the Dead in Chirk, which is believed to be more than 1,000 years old.

The tree gets its name from when Welsh forces ambushed an invading English army in 1165 and the dead were buried nearby.

Hannah Blythyn AM said: “Our woodlands are some of our greatest natural habitats.

“The environments they create offer opportunities for people, businesses and biodiversity.

“They make a big difference, not just to our lives but, as I have seen today, to rare populations like the red squirrel.

“I was interested to hear the history of the great oak at the Gate of the Dead. Through our ground-breaking Environment Act and our recent consultation, we are taking important steps to ensure their protection.”