We have always tried to run the sanctuary in ways that respect our rural environment and retain the character of a Welsh Hill Farm. Although we are pleased to welcome visitors to see our animals and the work we do we are not a zoo and caring for animals in need is our primary function.
For this reason we have always resisted using concrete and tarmac for our paths and viewing areas in favour of less permanent but functional tree bark chippings. These have to be supplemented and renewed every year as they slowly breakdown into soil forming products, but we have always believed they are more in keeping with our environment.
We also use tree bark chippings in many of our animal enclosures and here they have to be renewed even more regularly.
Good quality bark chippings are now becoming hard to get however, as power stations are burning ever increasing quantities and the Larch Disease that is decimating a lot of forestry in South Wales means that the bark from Larch trees, our most common type of local tree, can no longer be used for spreading on paths as this would also help to spread the disease.
In recent months this has become a major problem for us. We are having to use all the good bark chippings we can get for the animal enclosures, and although we have tried numerous other sources, most are poor quality with lots of sawdust and very little bark. This is not so good for the animals and is hopeless for paths as it quickly becomes a soft mulch and turns to mud.
Just when we thought we would have to forego our principles and start laying concrete or asphalt paths everywhere however we found a good compromise that will not only help us to retain our rural perspective but should significantly reduce maintenance costs.
The answer to our path problem may be shredded vehicle tyres. These come in the form of one inch (25mm) pieces of irregular shape which soon settle to form a porous resilient layer. They have been processed to ensure their cleanliness and are certified as fit for the purpose. They allow rain to pass through, just like bark chippings, but are much longer lasting. They look good and are nice to walk on.
Although not cheap to buy initially, a 26 ton load cost us £ 2,500, they should work out to be a good investment in the long term.
Hopefully we will now be able to find enough bark chippings just to meet our requirements for the animal enclosures.