Priory Wood Nature Reserve, Monmouthshire


Path through the wood
Fallen tree

Ancient, mixed woodland on a steep slope above the River Usk, crossed by a 0.4 mile loop path
0.7 miles east of the B4293, along an unnamed lane; NP25 4JS
Priory Wood Nature Reserve contains 11 acres of ancient, broadleaved woodland on the east side of the shallow valley of the River Usk, 4 miles north of Usk town centre; mostly oak and beech, plus cherry, yew, ash, birch and elm, spread across a relatively steep slope. Access is via a quiet lane off the B4598, and from the entrance, marked by an inconspicuous sign, a half mile path loops through the trees, which allow fleeting views of the wider landscape, across the river towards the hills above Pontypool.

The ancient, undisturbed character of the woods is shown by abundant indicator wildflowers, in particular bluebell, violets, wood sorrel, wild garlic and yellow archangel, blooming between March and May, after which the canopy closes in and other plant life is restricted to shade and moist-tolerant species of ferns, lichens and fungi. Wildlife is mostly limited to insects, which support a population of noctule bats The wood is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The Reserve

The entrance to Priory Wood is 0.4 miles east of the B4598 river crossing via Chain Bridge (an arched, single-lane structure built in 1905, replacing an earlier chain-supported suspension bridge), directly opposite a crumbling brick pill box at the edge of the adjacent field. There is parking space for couple of vehicles, at the start of an overgrown track that forms the southwest edge of the reserve; to the south is more woodland, similar in appearance. The path climbs via many steps then runs alongside the upper edge of the wood, part of which is delineated of a row of old beech trees, marking the course of an ancient boundary - the land beyond was once also woodland but now forms part of Usk Golf Course. The trail continues northeastwards past a good variety of trees, both live and fallen, then turns back west, through a group of especially large beech followed by a closely spaced-cluster of pines, whilst descending back to the start.