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Usk Reservoir

on May 28, 2012 | General | 0 comments
I am still amazed by the amount of beautiful, natural and hidden locations in West Wales. There seems to be an huge amount of valleys, not all of them grand, sweeping and between mountains (although there are quite a few of them) many are small, often wooded, between hills and hiding some of the most picturesque landscape in all of the British Isles. Others still are shallow and open with miles of upland moors and places like Usk.
The Usk Reservoir is located just south east of the town of Llandovery next to Mynydd Myddfai and over looked by Carmarthen Van (a mountain to the south). The reservoir is an attractive spot in its own right, open and a good spot for walks and for fishing, it is possible to walk around the whole of the reservoir and pass through a number of different terrains (woodland and grassland).
An image looking out over the Usk Reservoir with"Carmarthen Van" mountain in the background.
The walk is only about 7 miles and so quite easy, we did it ourselves (my walking group) at quite a gentle stroll, with quite a bit of stopping; some people like to go a bit faster and I know one couple who like to do two circuits! I mention this because it is a nice easy walk, some lakes and reservoirs in Wales are deceiving; Llyn Brianne which I mentioned in an earlier post doesn't look too far, especially when standing at the south dam but there are many hidden spurs off the main part of the lake and the whole circuit is around 50 miles! Many people have fallen foul of this, walker beware!
 
However it is not really from the walker point of view that I write this post but rather as the ecologist and from the point of view that there is often something hidden within the landscapes of Wales. We started off on our circuit of the reservoir, by heading away from it slightly in the south east corner and then heading up the south side. This area has been planted with conifers, but the trees are quite mature, and large areas look like they have been left to encourage species diversity, there are also quite a few felled trees that have been left lying on the ground and a number of large tree stumps. The other interesting points about this area are that this is a sand stone area and it is criss-crossed by small streams flowing into the reservoir. The reason why the sand stone is worth mentioning is because it is an isolated vein only about 2 miles wide that runs through an area otherwise dominated by shale and slate. I have mentioned these environmental factors because they possibly gave rise to the succession of amazing clearings that were populated by dozens of species of wild flower and fallen trees covered in all kinds of different lichens. People often think of conifer plantations as being boring, but this just goes to show that you can find an interesting and diverse habitat where you least expect it.
Lichen Stump
It is still early days for my plant ID skills but if anyone wants to email me with suggestions then that's fine. There were all kinds of lichens (I'm not sure what the species is in the photos but they were all over the tree stumps) and wild flowers. I have some photographs here of orchids that were quite prolific in this area, interestingly they started out white in one area, and changed through (with some of various in-between shades) to purple in another. I think the purple version is Narrow Leaved Marsh Orchid, Dactylorhiza traunsteiner, from looking at it in Francis Rose's 'Wild Flower Key'.  However I'm not sure why we have a white version, is this another species or genetic variation in the same species? Both white and purple plants look very similar. If anyone has any ideas then please do let me know.
Orchids in a meadowWhite Orchid

I go on these walks with 'walkers' they are lovely people and it is always a lot of fun, but they don't tend to want to stop and look at plants and animals. It may well prove worth revisiting this area next year at the same time.
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