A Site of Special Scientific Interest hidden in North Pembrokeshire
Sometimes you find the most unexpectedly wonderful places to walk quite by chance and very close to home – driving from Mathry to Castlemorris (B4331) I had spotted a gap in the hedges and a small parking place – after several months wondering what was there I finally stopped and discovered this unspoilt place.
A tiny reserve is nestled in between two areas of higher land and another section can be found near the bridge along the lane on the left in Castlemorris. The 411 bus passes every two hours and there is a small amount of parking too. The nearest postcode is SA62 5ET and the OS reference in SM904319.It is so easy to pass this by unnoticed and I am a little hesitant to actually share this too widely as it is so seldom that you cannot have it completely to oneself!
Managed jointly by the Welsh Wildlife Trust and the West Wales Rivers Trust, these unique places are the remnants of the once huge floodplain which had drained out to the sea at Abermawr. During the Ice Age, glaciation blocked off this route and left behind just the central meandering waterway that you can see today. Trapped between the higher land this has formed a mire ( a low trough between 2 slight rises in the landscape) resulting in a very rare habitat supporting numerous species and providing a delightful , tranquil area to explore. Due to its position, you soon lose the sound of the occasional car on the nearby lanes and the air has a certain still quality – scented by the abundant plantlife. Surrounded by pasture and farmland, these fens should remain protected and valued for all time – some species are now only found here. This fen is one of the designated flagship sites of the Freshwater Habitats Trust as a pond to protect and value.
The fen on the Mathry road has a circular boardwalk (partially path and quite overgrown in high summer ) with a hide for birdwatchers, while the Castlemorris path goes in several directions , but you need to retrace your steps. Designated as SSI s since 1984 the fen supports tall fen, fen meadow, wet heath and carr communities of plants including Marsh Cinquefoil, Yellow Flag, Purple Moor Grass, Meadowsweet, Greater Tussock-sedge and Water Dock plus many more lichens, grasses, ferns and flowers. The common reed was once used for thatching locally and is becoming popular again, while the glorious swathes of guedler rose provide all year round beauty with white flowers throughout the summer followed by red berries in autumn and then these turn black in winter (and were once used as a source of ink).
The streams and waterways, which are so near the source of the Western Cleddau in Croesgoch, support trout, bulhead, river and brook lamphey. Mammals thriving here are diverse too and include otters, water voles, polecats, badgers and water shrews. In summer the air is buzzing with bees and dragonflies and there are flourishing reptiles and amphibians, particularly lizards. If you do stray off the boardwalks, then be sure to have long trousers and good footwear as warning signs indicate that adder enjoy this wildlife area in large numbers.
Foremost though, these rare fens are home to an astonishing variety of birdlife and the hides over look the largest expanse of water. Species to be found here are listed as corncrake, quail, spotted crake, grasshopper warblers, hen harriers, snipe, water rail, sedge warbler and barn owls who relish the water shrews. The sedge warblers have a striking cream stripe, which helps identify them and you are more likely to hear the winter squealing of water rail than to ever spot one. Dragonflies are everywhere in summer, including unusual demoiselle damselflies. Llangloffan Fen is also a prime site to spot the bright scarlet tiger moth.
This is a magical place and I would defy anyone not to spot something wild and wonderful they have never seen before , whether it be flying about or growing here – how fortunate Pembrokeshire is to have such a treasure to protect, enjoy now and cherish for future generations.