Mid Wales & the Brecon Beacons - Nature Reserves
MID WALES RESERVES
Roundton Hill National Nature Reserve, Montgomery
Roundton Hill to the east of Montgomery is a promontory of volcanic rock capped by its Iron Age hill fort, dominating the surrounding countryside and offering outstanding views from the summit. Old adits, formed by lead and barites mining, plunge deep into the hill; this barren landscape includes areas of scree and is home to ash, oak, rowan and gorse.
The Montgomery Wildlife Trust owns and manages the reserve. Unimproved lowland acid grassland is now a rare feature of the countryside. The types of grassland associated with volcanic rocks support a great variety of specialised plants and animals that are well adapted to nutrient poor conditions and cannot survive in intensively managed pastures.
Approaching from Newtown, as you enter Churchstoke, turn first left after the bridge signposted towards Old Church Stoke (Brown Duck sign). Follow the road for a mile, turn right, follow the road for another mile, then turn right and follow this lane until you come to the reserve entrance gate and turn into the small car park.
Llyn Clywedog, Llanidloes
Majestic views across Mid Wales and a 72m high dam holding back 50,000 megalitres of water make Llyn Clywedog one of Severn Trent Water's most spectacular visitor sites. The reservoir can be accessed from the B4518 Machynlleth road from Llanidloes.
Llyn Clywedog's appeal lies in its unspoilt and openly accessible environment. Wander at will and discover all that the area has to offer. Two marked trails show the visitor the best that Llyn Clywedog has to offer in terms of breathtaking scenery and stunning views of the dam itself.
Red kites and buzzards are an almost daily sight; peregrine falcon and osprey have also been seen around the lake. Goosander, teal and great crested grebe are common on the water while in the hanging sessile oak woodland and more exposed open hillsides can be seen numerous flocks of long tailed tits as well as bullfinches, pied flycatchers and stonechat.
There is a popular trout fishery on site and a member’s only sailing club for visitors wanting to get out on the water.
The facilities at Llyn Clywedog are basic and in keeping with the unspoilt nature of the site. Refreshments are available from the Red Kite Kiosk, situated in Y Dremfa Deg car park; it provides outdoor seating with some shelter. The site is accessible all year round and the car park is open from Easter to October.
Carngafallt RSPB Reserve, Elan Valley, Rhayader
The reserve is open all year round and the main access point is at Elan Village where there is an RSPB information sign at the eastern end of the village where the road enters woodland at a cattle grid. Elan Village is just off the B4518 3 miles south west of Rhayader.
Spring is the perfect time to come and see migrant birds like redstarts, whinchats and tree pipits. Woodpeckers, pied flycatchers, red kites and buzzards also make the reserve their home, and you may see badgers and hares too. From early May, the beautiful spring woodland foliage has an accompanying bird chorus with scarlet redstarts singing from the treetops. And watch out for the first of the springtime butterflies.
In the summer, look out for birds of prey and colourful moorland heathers and gorse from July. This is the best time for finding wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies and a host of other invertebrates. Carngafallt is a wonderful place to see birds or simply enjoy the view; the moorland landscape looks especially colourful in late summer.
The woodlands and moorland at the Carngafallt reserve in the Elan Valley become quiet places as winter approaches. Birds of prey are always present and include red kites, buzzards and peregrines; ravens, too, are easily seen. Winter thrushes, redwings and fieldfares feast among the berried rowan trees, sometimes with ring ouzels. Look out for jays collecting acorns for the long winter ahead. Carpets of mosses and lichens are at their best at this time and enhance the mystical feeling one experiences in the ancient woodlands.
Stunning winter scenery makes up for the apparent scarcity of birds at this time. Red kites are easily found but it takes skill to find the mostly silent nuthatches, treecreepers and woodpeckers that are always there somewhere. Frost and snow pick out the textures of the landscape and its varied habitats.
Cors y Llyn National Nature Reserve, Newbridge-on-Wye
The Cors y Llyn reserve is one of several mires in Radnorshire. This fascinating area consists of two basins which were carved out of the bedrock by glacial action surrounded by wet woodland with fields of grassland beyond.
The site is situated about 1.5 miles south of Newbridge-on-Wye, off the A470.
From the car park, a fully accessible linear route on grass mesh and boardwalk runs for 500 yards, through gates, fields and parts of the mire and takes in a herb-rich meadow and an extensive area of open water before reaching the mire entrance gate.
BRECON BEACONS RESERVES
Usk Reservoir, Brecon Beacons
A large upland reservoir, Usk is surrounded by forest and moorland and is situated in the upper reaches of the Usk Valley in the Brecon Beacons National Park to the west of Sennybridge and Trecastle off the A40.
There are Public footpaths and a cycle track around the reservoir. Common woodland and wildfowl bird species include tufted duck and pochard. The remote upland location of Usk reservoir provides undisturbed habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna and red kite are fairly common.
Beacons, Cantref and Llwyn Onn Reservoirs, Brecon Beacons
The Beacons reservoir, Cantref reservoir and Llwyn Onn reservoir are all situated south-west of Brecon; Beacons is located by the junction of the A470 and the A4059 and Cantref and Llwyn Onn are south of here.
The Beacons reservoir is situated at the head of the Taff Valley; access to the Navvies Line and the Taff Trail paths are from the car park below the dam. Some interesting passage birds can be seen and common wildfowl, woodland and moorland species are present as well as the occasional visiting osprey in spring and autumn.
Mature conifer plantations on the north, east and west banks of the Cantref reservoir have been felled and replaced with mixed woodlands of native broadleaves and some conifer species. A Public footpath crosses the dam and links with Navvies Line and the Taff Trail paths.
A variety of guided walks or way marked routes are available at the Llwyn Onn reservoir offering splendid views and with a number of picnic areas. There is a bird hide and interesting species such as kingfisher, dipper and over-wintering water rail can be seen. Passage periods can produce uncommon species including waders when water levels are suitable.
Brecon Beacons National Park Visitor Centre (Mountain Centre)
The National Park Visitor Centre overlooks the central Brecon Beacons, including Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du. The information desk, shop, displays, audio-visual room and toilets can all be found on the entrance level; various events, exhibitions and displays are held throughout the year both inside and outside. It is signposted off the A470 close to the village of Libanus, 6 miles south of Brecon and has a ‘pay and display’ car park.
The Visitor Centre has staff to provide information and includes an exhibition, shop and a tea room which serves breakfast, lunch and light refreshments; open every day except Christmas Day from 9.30 to 16.00/17.30 depending on the season.
Garwnant Forestry Centre near Brecon
As the southern gateway to the Brecon Beacons National Park, Garwnant Visitor Centre is situated just off the A470, 14 miles south of Brecon and 5 miles north of Merthyr Tydfil.
Visitors can explore over 400 acres of beautiful woodland and experience the tranquil nature trails, the kids' mountain bike course or the fishing on the nearby Llwyn Onn Reservoir.
The Mini Mountain Bike Skills Park has a series of child-friendly obstacles designed especially to improve skills and build confidence. The Rowan trail is designed to be suitable for ‘First Timers’ and the aim of the Spruce trail is to improve riding skills.
Just a stone’s throw from the main visitor centre and the picnic area, the play area is a great place for children aged below 8 years to enjoy the great outdoors and children aged between 7 and 15 can enjoy the Forest Frenzy low ropes course.
Visitors can buy fishing permits on site for fishing rights at the nearby Llwyn Onn Reservoir. The meters are located at the entrance of the car park, by the Dwr Cymru Welsh Water notice board and take £15.50 in coins only for a day pass.
Garwnant visitor centre is open 7 days a week, throughout the year from 10.00 to 16.00 and there is a Forestry Ranger service during these hours. The Terrace Restaurant is normally open daily from 10.00 or 11.00 to 16.00 or 17.00.
The barrier to Garwnant car park opens at 8am daily, allowing access to the visitor centre, Garwnant forest, trails and outdoor play areas. Throughout the winter the barrier will close at 16.00, and in the summer this extends to 18.00, but the barrier does not block you in, so you can leave whenever you are ready.
Pontsticill, Pentwyn (Dol-y-Gaer) and Talybont Reservoirs, Brecon Beacons
Pontsticill reservoir is a large reservoir set in a wooded valley in the Brecon Beacons National Park to the north of Merthyr Tydfil, Pentwyn reservoir is immediately north of Pontsticill with Talybont reservoir to the north-east-just south of Talybont-on-Usk off the B4558 Llangyndir to Brecon road.
A bridleway along part of east bank of the Pontsticill reservoir links with the Taff Trail path, there are picnic areas/viewpoints on the west bank and at Llyngeren and for bird watchers, common wildfowl and woodland species are in the area. The Brecon Mountain Railway runs to the southern end of the reservoir.
Set in a wooded valley, Pentwyn reservoir has a picnic area at Pentwyn car park with views over the Pontsticill reservoir. The north end is designed as a conservation area; wildfowl are present in winter and some interesting passage birds including tufted duck, goldeneye, goosander and teal.
There is a Public right of way across the Talybont reservoir dam and footpaths link with the Taff Trail path adjacent to the east bank; viewpoint at the west bank car park. It is designated as Site of Special Scientific Interest and a local nature reserve. This is an important area for wintering wildfowl and passage migrants which can be viewed from the road.
Gwenffrwd-Dinas RSPB Reserve near Llandovery
The Gwenffrwd-Dinas Reserve is 10 miles north of Llandovery on the road to Llyn Brianne; it has a boardwalk and footpath that takes you through oak woodland on steep slopes and the trail continues to a fast-flowing river. Red kites can be seen frequently and look out for jays in the autumn collecting acorns for the long winter ahead.
In spring, listen to the dawn chorus, see carpets of beautiful bluebells and watch pied flycatchers visiting nestboxes; in summer, you can see dippers, pied flycatchers, common sandpipers and grey wagtails.
Watch the leaves turn golden in the autumn light and hear the roar of the river Twyi as it rushes through the reserve; look out for jays collecting acorns for the long winter ahead.
In winter, watch dippers bobbing on the rocks in the river and ravens tumble during their dramatic aerial displays; see colourful redwings and fieldfares gorge on plump rowan berries.
Dinefwr Park National Nature Reserve, Llandeilo
Dinefwr Park, a mile from the centre of Llandeilo and just off the A40, is owned and managed by The National Trust. It has a long and colourful history owing to its status in medieval times as a regional capital of the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth. The old castle stands on top of a steep hillside overlooking the Tywi valley while its successor, Newton House, is surrounded by rolling parkland.
Dinefwr’s woodland is home to some of the oldest groups of trees in Britain, whilst those in the parkland, being able to spread their branches, have grown to enormous size. The estate slopes down to the level fields forming the river floodplain where small lakes on the plain’s edges add more beauty and interest to the landscape. There is a visitor reception together with a tea room and a gift shop.
Craig y Cilau National Nature Reserve, Crickhowell
Craig y Cilau is a spectacular limestone escarpment, which stands some 400ft high near the southern border of the Brecon Beacons National Park. It is one of the largest upland limestone cliffs in Wales and this limestone supports its own characteristic flora, which is unusual in Wales; the reserve also boasts an extensive cave system. The reserve is located on the south side of the upper Usk Valley, 3 miles south of Crickhowell; to reach it, follow either of two minor roads through the village of Llangattock for about 2 miles.
Fiddlers Elbow National Nature Reserve, Monmouth
Fiddlers Elbow is a steep sided, woodland reserve located in the Upper Wye Valley just to the north-east of Monmouth. Bisected by the A4136, access to the eastern section of the reserve is via a steep path from the lay-by on Hancock Road; access to the Western section is limited to entry at the Offa’s Dyke path. This is a good example of semi-natural broadleaved woodland; the canopy is dominated by oak and lime with ground flora of canopy seedlings and flowers.