Uskmouth Nature Reserve


Uskmouth Nature Reserve

We parked at the RSPB nature reserve, which is in the Gwent levels near Nash, on a very cold but sunny morning. There was still ice on the ground as we set off at 10a.m. We went east across fields and then northeast towards Nash passing close to power lines. Walking around Nash and then across the road we passed under another two power lines to return to

the road and head northeast to Henton farm where we spotted some gorgeous calves in a barn and geese gesturing at us from behind a wire fence.

This area is called Swaplands covering 2138 acres it contains Uskmouth reed beds, salt marsh grasslands, Goldcliff lagoons (saltwater lagoons where waders nest in spring and early summer) and the foreshore – mudflats connecting the other areas and providing feeding areas for ducks and waders. There is a network of drainage ditches, ‘reens‘, all dug by hand across Swaplands.

Now we turned southeast towards Goldcliff and its picturesque 14th C church which has a plaque recording the great Bristol Channel flood of 1606/07. We continued west along the estuary. It was lunchtime and we found a bird hide, offering shelter from the biting wind and large enough for each of us to look out at the marsh spotting swans in the estuary. Very luxurious compared to our usual lunch settings.

A short stretch north took us to Moorlands where there was a wood carving of a pair of boxing hares, about 6ft high. We headed west and then southwest across fields to the sea wall.

Beautiful views of the Severn estuary greeted us with the low winter sun piercing the clouds. From the sea wall can be seen the remains of Putcher baskets, traditionally made from hazel rods and willow plait, they are set out in wooden ranks. They trapped salmon at high tide to be retrieved by fishermen at low tide.

Following the coastal path we came to the East Usk lighthouse, one of two either side of the river Usk at the Severn estuary. Built in 1893 by Thomas Williams it is still operational and forms part of the sea wall. We took a brief diversion on a floating pontoon into the reed beds – an interesting sensation.

Ahead loomed the power station with its many power lines radiating inland. The land from Goldcliff to Uskmouth was originally covered in ash from the power station. In 2000 the wetlands reserve was created, removing the ash and re-landscaping the site, to mitigate the loss of wildlife habitat in the Cardiff Bay barrage area.

Soon we returned to the RSPB wetlands centre for tea. The flat walk covered 8miles, our steepest climb of the day being the ramp up to the bird hide. Map OS 152