The Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve is managed by Natural Resources Wales and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Covering 438 hectares on the south coast of Wales, it provides a haven for the abundance of species that live amongst the reedbeds and mudflats. Much of this coastline is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
A section of the Wales Coast Path passes through the nature reserve and alongside the Gwent Levels making this an excellent destination for a coastal walk to suit everyone. The route I followed was twelve miles long but there are many different trails available. A walk in this location can be as gentle or challenging as required.
The visitor centre is a convenient place to begin. There is a charge for the car park (although it is free for RSPB members).
The reserve is a setting of contrasts where urban meets wilderness. There are plenty of intersecting footpaths which pass alongside the lagoons. A power station acts as a reminder of the industrial landscape. Despite the close proximity to the city of Newport, this is an area of tranquillity with the peace broken only by the sounds of curlews, coots and grebes.
One of the paths passes the East Usk Lighthouse. Constructed in 1893, it marks the entrance to the River Usk and still remains in operation today providing a guiding light for ships.
The Wales Coast Path is clearly signposted and easy to follow from here. It heads in the direction of the Gold Cliff headland which is named after the glittery golden effect that can be seen from the Bristol Channel in sunlight.
There are a number of bird hides along the route allowing visitors to access the best views of the many species of wading birds. It is a photographer’s paradise.
Upon reaching the village of Goldcliff, the route returns to the edge of the coastline and provides an opportunity to follow the sea wall. Originally constructed by the Romans, the sea wall holds back the second highest tidal range in the world. The rebuild of the present sea wall was completed in 1974.
This is the where the circular walk reaches the turning point to head back to the Newport Wetlands Reserve. The route leaves the Wales Coast Path and goes inland, crossing a number of fields to return to the main road in the village of Goldcliff.
Eventually, the route links up with the Wales Coast Path once again (in the opposite direction from previously) and leads back to the visitor centre where there is a café – perfect for a well-earned treat.
This is a superb nature reserve that constantly changes depending on the season. In spring the migrating birds return from Africa. The impressive starling murmuration takes place in late autumn and early winter when thousands of starlings flock together for safety and warmth.
There will always be something spectacular and unique to see, whatever the time of year.
A version of this article first appeared in ‘Bwrdd’ – The Newsletter for Mensa Cymru, June 2019.
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