North East Wales - Nature Reserves
Berwyn National Nature Reserve
The Berwyn National Nature Reserve boasts vast areas of moor-covered upland totalling nearly 20,000 acres within the magnificent Berwyn Mountain range. The Reserve is made up of seven separate locations on the mountain with the Pale Reserve, which is managed by the Council, covering over 9,000 acres across the main Berwyn Ridge.
While the Berwyn is important for its habitats and wildlife, it also has a very rich archaeological heritage with ancient remains, ring cairns, platform houses and sheep folds scattered across the landscape.
The moorland is all open access but please note that the ground can be difficult to walk on, with steep areas covered in thick heather and wet bog. Visitors are asked to be aware of ground-nesting birds in spring and summer, and to keep dogs on a lead.
There are a number of access points and routes to and across the Pale reserve including Pistyll Rhaeadr (at 240ft high, the tallest single drop waterfall in the UK) which is located 5 miles north west of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, on the B4580, at the end of a minor road; there are parking and cafe facilities here.
Llandrillo is located on the B4401 between Bala and Cynwyd; parking is available and a popular walk up ‘Heol Y Berwyn’ starts here.
Milltir Gerrig can be accessed via the B4391 some 12 miles east of Bala, at the highest point in the road; parking is available. Visitors can follow the track to the boardwalk and will be led out onto the mountain ridge. For Hendwr, travelling east on the B4410, turn left at the telephone kiosk opposite Hendwr caravan site a mile north of Llandrillo, drive up the hill and travel for about half a mile where it is possible to park.
Lake Vyrnwy RSPB Reserve
The RSPB Visitor Centre at Lake Vyrnwy is open all year round. Although the hillside makes for difficult terrain, one of the hides in the reserve is accessible by wheelchair.
The Centre has a well stocked shop and a cinema with regular showings of a film featuring the reserve. To get there, take the B4393 from Llanfyllin to Llanwddyn and at the Lake Vyrnwy dam, turn left and then left at the end of the dam and the Centre is on the right.
You should be able to see and hear pied flycatchers and redstarts, while dippers nest by the lake and rocky streams, great crested grebes and goosanders bob on the water, and above you ravens, buzzards and perhaps a peregrine soar in the skies. There's plenty for children too, including nestbox trails and bat and owl walks.
With the lake, surrounding hills and woodlands in their spectacular autumn colours, visit the blanket bog and search out cottongrass, sundews or colourful Sphagnum moss. There are five nature trails ranging from 2 to 5½ miles. You can hire a bike and set off on the 12-mile lakeside road, visit the spectacular waterfall in the Rhiwargor valley at the head of the lake or enjoy a ramble in the countryside along a choice of eight walks.
In spring, migrants such as pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers arrive and you may see the mating displays of great crested grebes. Common sandpipers, dippers and grey wagtails are often to be seen around the pool below the dam.
In the summer, watch the fledglings at the feeding station, including great spotted woodpeckers and siskins; golden-ringed dragonflies can be found in the forest clearings.
Visitors to the Reserve in the autumn can see dabbling ducks such as mallards and teals arrive at the lake, along with little grebes and possibly waders such as oystercatchers.
In winter, migrants like redwings, bramblings and fieldfares arrive and the evenings will often see large roosts of lesser black-backed gulls. On a walk through the conifer forests, you could find a flock of siskins; ravens may be seen beginning their mating displaying.
Llyn Brenig, Denbigh
A large lake, surrounded by heather moorland and spruce forests Llyn Brenig is located to the north of Cerrigydrudion east of the B4501. The Visitor Centre with a walk through exhibition telling the story of Llyn Brenig is open all year, with extended opening during the fishing season; the cafe and shop have panoramic views of the lake.
The viewpoint at Bryn Maen has outstanding views of Snowdonia and the Berwyns, and there is a stream by the side of the picnic site at Pont y Brenig. A round the lake circuit walk is available (allow 4 hours for the 10.5 miles) and half a mile and 1.25 mile nature trail provide glimpses of Llyn Brenig’s wildlife.
Most of the moorland around Brenig is in the Mynydd Hiraethog Site of Special Scientific Interest a moorland management scheme is regenerating black grouse. Mallard, teal, goldeneye and goosander can be seen in October and November plus hen harrier, merlin and peregrine. The site has a 2 mile archaeological trail and the sailing season is from April to November; the extended clubhouse has storage and mooring facilities nearby.
Alwen Reservoir, Denbigh
Alwen reservoir lies in a narrow heather and tree lined valley high on the Denbigh moors to the north of Cerrigydrudion to the west of the B4501. There is a cycling and walking trail around Alwen (7.5 miles), or for the more adventurous, the opportunity to combine a circuit of both Alwen and Brenig (see above) which is 15 miles. Start from either the car park at Llyn Brenig Visitor Centre or at the Alwen dam.
A picnic site with tables overlooks the impressive masonry dam which was completed in1916. The herb-rich grassland with its southerly aspect supports some unusual butterflies and moths.
Alwen has a water-ski training centre and the club offers opportunities from April to October to ski and train using a pollution-free gas powered boat.
Hafod Elwy National Nature Reserve, near Denbigh
Hafod Elwy is an upland heather moor in the Hiraethog district between the lakes of Llyn Brenig and Llyn Alwen. There is a bridleway which passes through the reserve from east to west. The moor is open access. However, off the bridleway the ground can be difficult to walk on, with thick heather and wet patches. Visitors are asked to be aware of ground-nesting birds in spring and summer and to keep dogs on a lead.
From the A543 between Denbigh and Betws-y-Coed, take the B4501 south towards Llyn Brenig for just under a mile; by Pont y Brenig, a bridleway leads to the right through conifer plantation and out onto the moor. Access is also possible via a footpath from the A543 itself, near the bridge at Pont y Clogwyn. There is no safe parking here at either access points and it is recommended that visitors park at the Brenig visitor centre.
Point of Ayr RSPB Reserve, Prestatyn
The RSPB reserve at Point of Ayr on the Dee estuary is open all year round and is located at the end of Station Road, Talacre, which is reached off the coastal A548 road, 2 miles east of Prestatyn.
Terns and other seabirds can be seen at the Reserve in the spring together with passage waders and small spring migrants such as wheatears, wagtails and warblers; skylarks perform their famous song-flights.
In the summer, roosting terns and passage waders will be present and the sandhill rustic moth and flowering sea aster can be seen. Natterjack toads breed close by and have occasionally been seen in the dunes.
Autumn brings waders and wildfowl including regular pale-bellied brent geese, skuas offshore, passage migrants and, in the right wind conditions (from the north-west) Leach's petrels.
Roosting waders, hunting peregrines and merlins can be seen in the winter and redwings and fieldfares feed in bushes along the seawall.