Taf Fechan – Merthyr Tydfil

Taf Fechan Nature Reserve by Chris Lawrence

Taf Fechan Nature Reserve by Chris Lawrence

Please note: The footpath that runs alongside the Cyfarthfa leat is closed due to scheduled repair works on the retaining wall. This part of the footpath is physically closed but the rest of the footpath through the reserve is still accessible.  Apologies for any inconvenience.

Grid References O.S. Explorer map 166 Rhondda and Merthyr Tydfil. Main entrance: SO037076, Site centre: SO035085

Status Part of the Cwm Taff Fechan Woodlands SSSI, and a Local Nature Reserve.

Tenure Acquired in February 1975, under a 99 year lease. The site is managed jointly by the Trust, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and a tenant farmer.

Size 42 ha (102.5 acres).

A downloadable version of this leaflet is available.

Location and Access Notes

Situated in the Taf Fechan valley, between the Old River Bridge at Cefn Coed y Cymmer and the river bridge at Pontsarn, it is about 2.5 km north of the centre of Merthyr Tydfil. Access is gained in three places, at the southern end of the site at Cefn Coed bridge (SO037076), in the middle by way of a footpath north of Trefechan village, and at the northern end by Pontsarn bridge at a car park (which is currently kept locked due to fly-tipping) and picnic site near the Blue Pool (SO045097). Not accessible to wheelchairs.

Public Transport

Train station at Merthyr Tydfil from where bus numbers 25 & 26 go to Cefn Coed y Cymmer and numbers 40, 33 & 24 go to Pontsarn

Description: Ancient broadleaved woodlands, calcareous grasslands, river, and cliffs.

Taf Fechan Gorge by Carys Solman

Taf Fechan Gorge by Carys Solman

The Taf Fechan LNR comprises about 2.5 km of river with steep valley sides of Carboniferous limestone. The river has eroded the limestone into a narrow gorge in the centre of the site. A mosaic of deciduous woodland on the slopes with a canopy of Beech, Birch and Ash, gives way to Alder and Grey Willow closer to the river, together with Hawthorn scrub, calcareous grassland, heathland, wet flushes, and tufa formations. The valley is one of the best recorded sites for bryophytes in Glamorgan.

The area of grazed grassland to the south on the east bank of the river is particularly rich in flowers such as Wild Thyme (5-8), Common Spotted Orchid (6-8), Rough Hawkbit (6-9) and Mouse-ear Hawkweed (5-8). On the western bank, the limestone is overlain by acidic soils where heathland and Birch woodland is developing, and Bracken, Heather (7-9) and Small Scabious (7-9) occur.

The woodland attracts a variety of birds such as Tawny Owl, Buzzard, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Nuthatch, and Treecreeper, while Dipper and Grey Wagtail are frequently seen, and breed, on the river Taff Fechan.

The grassland and heathland provide a habitat for butterflies such as Common Blue (4-9), Meadow Brown (6-9), Small Copper (5-9), and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (5-7).

Of archaeological interest are the old tramway to Cyfarthfa Ironworks, which makes up part of the footpath on the eastern bank, the feeder to the Cyfarthfa Park lake at the southern end of the site, and remains of fulling and corn mills on the river bank.

Please note that the river next to the Gurnos quarry may contain unseen hazards and as a result the Trust does not consider the site suitable for wild swimming or play.

This beautiful video by Robin Davies-Rollison gives you an insight into this special reserve.

Taf Fechan