Great Traston Meadows Nature Reserve, Newport


★★★★

Southern marsh orchid
Loop path

91 acres of marshy grassland crossed by drainage ditches, on the Gwent Levels near the Bristol Channel coast; habitat for several rare plant species
Location
Along Nash Road, 3 miles southeast of Newport; NP18 2BW
Great Traston Meadows Nature Reserve (formerly known as Solutia Meadows) protects part of the Gwent Levels - flat, often marshy land just a few feet above sea level, southeast of Newport near the edge of the Bristol Channel. Though easily reached by several paths, the seashore is not in view, hence the immediate scenery is not so interesting, just level, long grass fields separated by ditches, hedgerows and rows of willow trees, the only more distant features being several wind turbines and pylons. Instead it is the plants, birds and insects that provide the main reasons to visit, and although wildflowers are neither especially numerous nor widespread, there are a number of rarer species here including meadow vetchling, southern marsh orchid, lesser spearwort, parsley water-dropwort and fine-leaved water-dropwort.

In many areas the grass grows too tall for smaller plant species to become established, but shorter grass alongside the paths and ditches allows some variety. The various fields are lined by shallow channels known as grips, which in turn link to larger ditches generally carrying slow-moving water, known as reens. A 0.9 mile loop path winds through the eastern half of the reserve, passing through five of the eleven fields, while other routes access more areas.



The Nature Reserve


The meadows are reached via Nash Road, south of the A48 and just beyond the south edge of Newport - this passes through an industrial estate then enters the countryside, reaching the signed parking area for the reserve a short distance south of Pye Corner. The loop path, also well signposted, heads west to a junction in the middle of a field, with the coast path, turns south through two more fields, the second particularly good for orchids, then runs east alongside a patch of trees and finally north back to the start. Most of the other fields have some kind of path along the edges, beside the drainage ditches, but the loop is sufficient to see a good selection of the wildflowers, for which the best months are May, June and July. The meadows are grazed by cattle during the first half of the year, and are cut for hay in late summer.