Springdale Farm Nature Reserve, Monmouthshire


★★★★

The view northwest
Stream and ferns

Working farm with meadows, pasture, streams, boggy areas and ancient deciduous woodland; good for wildflowers, and views
Location
Llanllowell Lane, 2 miles southeast of Usk; NP15 1NF
Photo Tour (13 images)
Springdale Farm Nature Reserve was established in 2001 after the purchase by Gwent Wildlife Trust of 111 acres of meadows and woods, in hilly terrain on the east side of the valley of the River Usk, 2 miles southeast of Usk town centre. The grassland is still part of a working farm, but the public may visit all areas, at all times of the year. Attractions are primarily the wildlife and associated insects, inhabiting varied habitats of grassland (neutral and calcareous), woods, streamside and bog, but also the views, which extend westwards towards the Black Mountains of Brecon Beacons National Park.

The reserve contains ten main fields plus a sizeable area of ancient, deciduous woodland, enclosing sometimes steep terrain sloping down to several streams, and crossed by various trails that allow loop walks of up to 1.5 miles. Some of the fields are used most of the year for grazing, by British white cattle and Welsh sheep, so have only limited plant life, while others are maintained as hay meadows and support much more abundant wildflowers, up until the hay cut in the summer. There do not in general appear to be any particularly rare species here, but plenty of the more usual varieties can be seen including common spotted orchid, Dyer's greenweed, field scabious, common knapweed, pepper saxifrage, tormentil and bird's-foot trefoil. The woodland flowers peak in late spring, when violets, bluebells, wood anemones, sweet woodruff and wild garlic are most abundant, though in summer when the sunlight is much more limited, a few more usual plants appear including two orchids, common twayblade and broad-leaved helleborine.




The Reserve


Parking for the reserve, which is not obviously signposted, is a small enclosure on the west side of LLanllowell Lane just south of the junction with Alltybella Road, opposite an old almshouse - a 4 mile drive from the Usk intersection along the A449, the nearest main road. The southern half of the reserve is mostly pasture, sloping gently down to a valley (Llewelyn's Dingle), and has less of interest to see - instead most people walk to the meadows, in the north, at higher elevations either side of the wooded area. There are three to the northeast, and the larger Miskey's Meadow in the northwest, this originally covered entirely by bracken but recently partly cleared to create more diverse habitats. The hay meadows are reached via a path northwest from the parking area, over two fields and across a thin belt of trees. Two contain seeps and boggy areas, along the western edge, habitat for a rare flower, blue-eyed grass, which previously in the British Isles was native only to western Ireland, though appears in other locations as an introduced species.

Woodland


One path into the woods branches west off the route to the hay meadows, descending 150 feet through the shady trees to the brink of a stream, enclosed by steep, overgrown slopes with a few rocky outcrops, and flowing down steps and chutes, creating little pools and cascades, all fringed by ferns, moss and other rainforest-like plants. At a junction, one fork of the trail follows the stream northwards, exiting the woods near one of hay meadows, while the other goes south, soon crossing another branch of the creek and returning to the parking area across the southern pastureland.

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