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Spring Walks: Llyn Briann, Tywi Forest and New Quay.

on Mar 15, 2012 | General | 0 comments
This Blog entry was published in the spring of 2013 in Lampeter’s Grapevine magazine which is part of the town’s transition movement http://www.transitionllambed.co.uk ; it is a modified version of an earlier blog article that I originally wrote in the previous spring. 

Spring is now here, hopefully (I am writing this at the beginning of March), but whatever the weather is doing when you read this feel assured that there is no lack of wildlife and places to visit in our neck of the woods. You may feel the need to escape, get away from it all and certainly have a break from the weather but never forget that Lampeter enjoys a privileged geographical location; there cannot be many places in the world that have been placed so perfectly between the mountains and the sea and that are so close to both.

I personally think that West Wales is one of the best places in Britain for wildlife. It is the diversity of habitats here that amazes me, from rugged coastline and marine habitats to a variety of woods and forests, moorland, hills and mountains, we have it all.

Perhaps one of my favourite locations is the area around Llyn Brianne, this lake, secluded in the midst of the Cambrian Mountains is overlooked by four separate peaks; Mynydd Trawsnant, Cefn Fannog, Pen-Y-Gurnos and Cefn Coch. There are also other joining mountainous and forested areas that means there are literally hundreds of square miles to explore here.
LlynBrianne, view from the dam.
 
I recommend driving up from the south leaving the A482 (just a few miles outside of Llambed), by the Dolaucothi Gold Mines and heading north on a small single track road that follows the River Cothi up a steep and wooded valley. The scenery here is stunning, this must be one of the prettiest valleys in Wales, a small area of farm land is hemmed in by the mountains and woods and there is a sense that this is somewhere remote that only increases as the valley deepens. You travel through a number of small hamlets and a couple of villages until you cross a bridge and head almost due north, up a separate valley, now following the River Towy. The mature oak woodland here is amazing and almost fills the valley, giving you an unbroken canopy and some sense of what most Britain must have looked like a thousand years ago. By this point you are almost at Llyn Brianne but there is still one more treat in store in the form of the RSPB reserve of Gwenffrwd-Dinas.
http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/g/gwenffrwd-dinas/
Gwenffrwd-Dinas reserve entrance.

The reserve offers you the opportunity to explore the full range of terrain that this part of Wales has to offer in the form of an hour long trail that starts at the river’s edge. You can enjoy an area of wetland by following the trail on the reserves well maintained boardwalks and then a more challenging but fascinating walk through broadleaved woodland. Here you have to climb over boulders as the river cuts its way through the valley to your right forming rapids as it goes. Look out for the birds such as Dippers and Tree Creepers as you pass through this woodland. The walking does get steadily easier again as you come back around to the beginning but for the more adventurous it is quite easy to add this short walk onto others and make a more substantial hike. I have crossed the river on a bridge just below this reserve and then climbed the mountain above, passing first of all through grassland and then exchanging the earlier oak’s for pine trees that make up the Tywi Forest which surrounds much of Llyn Brianne. Many people discount pine forest because it is normally managed for commercial purposes. However these trees support their own unique wildlife such as the Hairy Wood Ant and bird’s such as the Cross Bill but perhaps most interesting this is the last refuge of the West Wales Red Squirrel. This is one area where the Red’s can out-compete the Grey Squirrel because the Grey’s struggle to get enough food from the pine cones and prefer broadleaf woodland. However their future is not certain and much work has to be done in order to re establish a stable population. For all things red squirrelly have a look at: http://www.wwbic.org.uk/red-squirrel/
The lake as viewed from the forests edge

If you still have any energy after exploring this area, you could leave by driving around the lake (I wouldn’t try to circumnavigate the lake on foot unless you have a couple of days and a tent, it is quite some distance) and then head north and bear left heading for Tregaron, from here it’s not too far to the coast and New Quay. If you are lucky you should reach it in time for the sun set and some Cetacean spotting on the pier. All you will need is a pair of binoculars and some chips.

Cardigan bay and within that New Quay is one of the best locations in Britain for Bottlenose Dolphins and they will be just returning to these waters in April after wintering out at sea; the area’s population is estimated at 200 to 300 strong. It might also be possible to see Short-beaked Common Dolphin’s, Harbour Porpoises and Grey Seal’s.

After this you can sit back, relax and eat some fish and chips! For all things ‘Sea Mammal’ I can highly recommend the book ‘Britain’s Sea Mammals’ by Jon Dunn, Robert Still and Hugh Harrop.
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