Pontygwaith Nature Reserve
Pontygwaith Nature Reserve lies alongside the River Taff straddling the Taff and Trevithick Trails. The land is owned by the Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association who own the fishing rights along this stretch of the Taff. They have given the SE Wales Rivers Trust permission to develop this formerly fallow area into a nature reserve. This is a big challenge as over the years bracken and other invasive plants have taken over large areas of the reserve. However, with the help of the Volunteer group huge improvements have been made and much of the original grassland is returning.
Why not check out our time lapse videos to see the progress we have made in the reserve. The first video show the results of the effortsin just a year of management
The second more updated video showing the progress made in the reserve over the entire management period
History of the Reserve
Throughout the centuries Pontygwaith Nature Reserve has had many uses. Records show a small forge based in the area from the early 16th century, presumably placed to take advantage of the plentiful supply of wood in the area. The area is thought to have been sparsely populated with scattered small forges until both Pontygwaith farm and bridge were built in the early 18th century. The area that now forms the reserve was used as grazing land by the farm and the growing community.
The development of the Glamorgan canal system, to transport industrial produce from Merthyr to the docks in Cardiff, in the beginning of the 19th century, prompted further growth of the small Forest and Taff & Cynon hamlets; seeing the construction of a small number of terraced houses to house the canal and railway workers.
Sadly, due to the closure of the heavy industry and canal systems and the construction of the A470 Truck Road these houses were demolished in 1980 leaving only the farms at either end of the reserve and the growing town of Treharris on the other side of the railway line. Pontygwaith farm, at the northern end of the reserve, stopped grazing the area and the reserve entered the period of neglect that has seen the extensive invasion of many alien species.
The Reserve was purchased by the Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association in 1998 and Pontygwaith Nature Reserve was born. In 1998 several fenced tree nurseries were installed on the top field, but were sadly smothered by the extensive bracken growth. Despite the area being designated as a SiNC (Site of interest for Nature Conservation) by Merthyr Council in 2008 the site continued to suffer neglect due to a lack of dedicated care. However, in 2013, as part of the South East Wales Rivers Trust project Gwyl Taf, a volunteer group was established to care for the area and return it to a species rich grassland and nature reserve. After only one year of work the area is already showing great improvements and is attracting interest from many organisations keen to further the improvements.
Natural History of the reserve.
The wildlife in the area is clearly flourishing too with regular sightings of slow worm, common toad, rabbits, a variety of shrew, voles and mice. The bird life is also benefitting from the increased number of insects and butterflies, as a result of the higher number of flowering plants in the area. buzzard, woodpecker, and many small songbirds frequent the area.
Slowworm Common Toad
Tiger moth Common field grasshopper
Common poppy Buff-tip caterpillar
New fruiting trees, including Hazel, Elder, Blackthorn, Crab apple and Dogrose, have been installed into some of the fenced areas, which when they reach maturity will produce a rich harvest of berries for the local birds and small mammals. For more information about the wildlife in the reserve check out the Biodiversity of Pontygwaith Nature Reserve.
The health of the river Taff, that flows along the western boundary of the reserve, has improved greatly since the closure of heavy industry in Merthyr; to allow the river to support a wide range of wildlife including Atlantic Salmon, brown trout, otters, kingfishers, heron and dippers.
For more information about the reserve check out the Pontygwaith Leaflet.pdf
Photos by Jen and John Pilkington