|An illustrated guide to fishing, walking, wildlife conservation and other attractions in and around the Brecon Beacons National Park, South Wales, the country of the Red Kite|
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Kite Country and the remainder of Mid Wales has one of the lowest population densities anywhere in the British Isles, although the absence of human beings is more than made up by the thousands of sheep to be seen everywhere. Whilst man and his sheep have undoubtedly changed the landscape over the centuries, even these have failed to touch a number of inaccessible cliffs, gorges and gullies along the North faces of the main Old Red Sandstone escarpments that are the distinguishing features of the Brecon Beacons National Park. These continue to protect numerous wild, rare plants, which in turn provide food for a variety of insects and birds. At the top of the chain are the ravens and peregrine falcons, frequently seen by walkers in the hills.
Wild ponies are seen grazing almost everywhere on the high moorland and the limestone outcrops to the South of the National Park are host to a variety of other plants. Those of you who have read through my Fishing section will know that water, both still and running, is a most significant feature of Kite Country. As well as a variety of fish, especially trout, sea trout and salmon, the rivers, lakes and reservoirs attract large numbers of wading birds and wildfowl at various times of the year. The otter, practically extinct in Wales in the 1970s, has been successfully reintroduced and is now sighted regularly in most of the rivers in Kite Country.
The ancient art of hedge-laying is widely practised and drives or walks along quiet country lanes in the Summer months will reveal a wide variety of scented and flowering plants in the hedgerows. These truly are havens for wildlife and it is always a tragedy to see any old hedge grubbed out in the interests of agriculture, industry or housing. Thankfully, this sort of behaviour is now much rarer.
I do not propose to go into detail on the wildlife to be seen here, as there are many other sites better qualified to do this. You will find details of these on my Links page.
A great deal of wildlife is to be seen throughout Kite Country, especially by those who have the patience, knowledge and experience to seek it out. However, you can improve your chances by visiting one of the numerous nature reserves controlled by specialist organisations, such as the Countryside Council for Wales, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the National Trust, the Woodland Trust and the Wildlife Trusts. Membership of these organisations will give you access to many other reserves, as well as various other benefits, and you should consider making the effort to join. The small subscriptions involved will all be for the benefit of wildlife in general.
I can particularly recommend a number of reserves. To provide easy directions I have given the Ordnance Survey map references in each instance. Indeed, if you want to make the best of any of these reserves, or of any of the walking trails in the National Park, you should obtain one of the large scale maps produced by the Ordnance Survey in advance. Also, bird-lovers should equip themselves with an excellent paperback book by David Saunders called simply "Where to Watch Birds in Wales", published by Christopher Helm. This will tell you everything you need to know.
Craig y Cilau
At map reference SO 190158, near Crickhowell. Controlled by the Countryside Council for Wales. An unusual and spectacular reserve comprising limestone escarpment, woodland, grassland and bog. Part of this was formerly a quarry and you can clearly see the line of an old tramline in the photograph above. Rare plants to be found here include a unique species of Whitebeam and the Alpine Enchanters Nightshade. The rocks also conceal one of the largest cave systems in Europe, although you will need to be suitably experienced and produce a permit before you can access this.
Craig Cerrig Gleisiad
At map reference SN 958225, South of Brecon. Controlled by the Countryside Council for Wales. This seems to me almost a hidden world of upland moor, overshadowed by menacing crags that are home to a wide variety of arctic/alpine plants, rarely seen at such Southern latitudes. Do not try to climb the crags, which are dangerous. This will also ensure that the delicate plants survive. If you want some exercise you can climb to the top of the crags via a trail to the East. Alternatively, take the steep path up to the summit of Fan Frynych nearby, from where you will enjoy superb views of the central Brecon Beacons.
At map reference SN 788472, North of Llandovery. Controlled by the RSPB. Beautifully situated in the wild upper valley of the River Towy, the reserve comprises some 111 acres of oak-covered hill at the junction of the Towy and Doethi rivers. The reserve is particularly renowned for its summer birds such as the pied flycatchers, redstarts, tree pipits and wood warblers, although nuthatches, woodpeckers and treecreepers will also reward the patient observer. The Red Kite and the more common buzzard are also frequently seen hunting in this beautiful place. Although only the relatively agile should undertake it, the walk along the numerous waterfalls and rapids of the Towy here is quite superb.
At map reference SN 967256, South of Brecon. Controlled by the Brecknock Wildlife Trust. This is a most interesting reserve comprising some 150 acres of boggy moorland on the much larger open common land of Mynydd Illtud. The whole area is much visited because of the Brecon Beacons National Park Visitor Centre situated nearby and because of the ease of access from the comfort of one's car to the open moorland and the superb 360 degree views of the Brecon Beacons and adjoining ranges. However, relatively few people make the effort to walk more than 100 yards from their cars and you will soon find peace and quiet amongst the mosses and sedges of this reserve. The numerous ponds attract visitors such as snipe and herons. Wild ponies are almost always to be found here. Do not stray too far from the obvious trails, as the wetter bog land can be dangerous. Be sure to look in at the Visitor Centre, where you will find interpretative information, refreshments and a shop.
Go to the Red Kite page for more information on the Red Kite. To find out what the rest of my site can offer, please see the Introduction. Alternatively, for a quick guide check the Site Map. Anglers should head straight to the Fishing section.
Thank you for visiting. I hope to see you in Kite Country soon!
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