Strawberry Cottage Wood Nature Reserve, Monmouthshire


Steps on the path
Afon Honddu valley

Ancient oak woodland on a southwest-facing slope at the mouth of the Afon Honddu valley, crossed by a 0.6 mile loop path
Strawberry Cottage Wood is one of the few nature reserves within Brecon Beacons National Park, and is managed by Gwent Wildlife Trust; an infrequently visited site which is not signed from the adjacent road. The ancient woodland covers 15 acres across the southwest-facing slope of a minor sandstone hill above the Afon Honddu, near Llanvihangel Crucorney, at the mouth of a long valley between much higher ridges extending ten miles north towards Gospel Pass. The reserve is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest, on account of the mature trees; a fine example of broadleaved semi-natural woodland.

The trees are mostly oak and ash, with smaller stands of silver birch, yew, small-leaved lime and beech, plus a few specimens of the wild service tree, a particularly rare species. These trees are found beside a tiny stream along the north edge of the woods, along with a slightly different range of plants, more moisture-dependent; the majority of the site is fairly dry. The understory is relatively light, mostly hazel, hawthorn, holly and several types of fern, and the sunlight reaching the floor allows a good range of wildflowers to grow. The reserve is also home to a variety of birds and butterflies, while grass snakes may occasionally be spotted.

The Reserve

The wood is reached from a small layby along the road, on the west side of the river, with space for a couple of vehicles. A sign indicates the start of a footpath which crosses the waters on a footbridge and traverses a grassy field to Strawberry Cottage (an old house, still occupied), vehicular access to which is via an adjacent track that fords the river. Entry to the reserve is a little way northwest along another track, through a gate, beside which is a faded Gwent Wildlife Trust notice. The path climbs the hillside, passing a small stone ruin and soon exits to a field which gives good views across the Afon Honddu valley towards the Black Mountains, while a narrower path forks off southeast, rising further through more open woodland, then descending quite steeply towards the far end, down via two flights of steps to a gate, where it meets another route that returns to the cottage, creating a loop of 0.6 miles. This runs along the edge of a plantation of younger trees, and the sunnier aspect means that wildflowers are more abundant.