Introducing Carys Solman.
I recently started working for the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, becoming the first ever full-time warden for the beautiful and well-hidden Taf Fechan Nature Reserve in Merthyr Tydfil. My job over the next few years will be to implement the reserve’s new management plan, aiming to maintain and enhance the reserve’s habitats and rich biodiversity, and promote use of the site as a recreational and educational resource.
The area became a Nature Reserve in 1975, when the Wildlife Trust leased the land from Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, who own and jointly manage the reserve. Stretching along the wooded limestone valley of the River Taf Fechan, the reserve covers 42Ha of land just north of the Taf Fechan and Taf Fawr confluence, where the River Taff is formed, and is the Borough’s one and only officially designated Local Nature Reserve.
Taf Fechan Nature Reserve is primarily semi-natural broadleaved woodland, which forms part of the Cwm Taf Fechan Woodland SSSI, with areas of calcareous and acid grassland, limestone cliffs, and a dramatic fast flowing river. Otters are present and occasionally spotted on the reserve, and dippers and grey wagtail are a frequent sight as you walk along the riverside paths. The valley is at times very narrow and deep-cut, creating thundering bottle-necks for the river and maintaining a damp atmosphere for the reserve’s nationally notable assemblage of bryophytes.
Quarried limestone cliffs tower over a calcareous meadow at the southern end of the reserve, where a Scheduled Ancient Monument Tramway and Leat link the reserve to Cyfarthfa Park and Furnaces, where they fed water and limestone to the famous Cyfarthfa Ironworks at the height of the industrial Revolution. The northern end of the reserve opens into the Brecon Beacons National Park and is bounded by a Roman road crossing point, overlooked by the ruins of Morlais Castle on its Iron Age Hillfort.
Despite its impressive beauty, interesting wildlife and geology, and considerable historical importance, the reserve is underused, and at times misused by people who are no doubt unaware of the site’s importance. A lack of funding has thwarted our efforts to manage the reserve however thanks to Biffaward we are now able to really focus on this gorgeous reserve.
One of the biggest and possibly most important challenges over the next few years will be to reduce antisocial behaviour such as littering and fires, and increase the amount of positive use of the reserve. This will be achieved through promotion, education, fun events, volunteer tasks, and by encouraging Universities, schools, and conservation groups to use the reserve as a base for study and research.
Being local and having a long-standing affection for the reserve means that this isn’t just a day-job, and it isn’t just about the very important task of nature conservation. I want the reserve taken care of so that I can enjoy it, and so that my friends and neighbours can enjoy it, and so that we can be proud when visitors from outside Merthyr come to enjoy it. It’s a stunning place, and I will never get tired of hearing people say “Wow, I never knew this was here!”.
If you would like to know more about Taf Fechan Nature Reserve or wildlife in the Merthyr area, please contact Carys Solman
on 07896 798371