Celebrations are to take place at Gregynog near Newtown, as it becomes Wales’ newest National Nature Reserve (NNR). The Reserve will be designated by the Countryside Council for Wales in a special event on Wednesday 6 March 2013 (11.00a.m.).
Gregynog is a large country hall in the village of Tregynon, near Newtown. Owned by the University of Wales, the Hall is surrounded by 750 acres of grounds.
The NNR designation confirms the estate of Gregynog as one of Wales’ most important sites for ancient parkland and wood-pasture habitats, veteran trees, and nationally important lichens, insects, and other wildlife, supported by these rare habitats.
Dr Maggie Hill, CCW’s Director for South and East Wales said: “Gregynog is designated because of the rich mosaic of parkland and ancient woodlands in the grounds of the hall. Gregynog has one of the largest examples of ancient woodland in Wales, aptly named the Great Wood. Some of the oak trees here are over 350 years old.
“But it is not just the trees themselves that are important; rare lichens cover the bark of the gnarled ancient oak and ash trees. One of these is the lichen Lecanora sublivescens which can be found on the sunlit tree trunks at Gregynog. This species is scarce on a world scale – and is only known to be here in the UK and in Southern Sweden.”
The insects also make the Gregynog estate a very special place for wildlife, with the larvae of many beetles and flies living in the dead and decaying wood of Gregynog’s large trees and standing and fallen dead trees. There are some strange creatures living this way of life; including a small oval brown beetle known as the cobweb beetle (Ctesias serra) which only feeds on the dry remains of dead insects that have been caught in spider webs under very dry bark! Many of these insects then emerge from the wood as adults and some of the brightly coloured longhorn beetles and hoverflies can be seen feeding on the nectar and pollen of the blossoming hawthorns and other shrubs and flowers.
The NNR declaration also highlights Gregynog as a place where the public can come to enjoy the countryside. There are a number of footpaths through the parkland - walking routes that have recently been mapped, upgraded and way-marked, through a partnership project between Gregynog and CCW, to make it easier for everyone to enjoy walking here.
Visitors can see a vast range of wildlife – from hares to breeding birds like the wood warbler, pied flycatcher and redstart; to great crested newts and dragonflies in and around the many ponds. Gregynog also supports good numbers of bats, and provides feeding areas for the important lesser horseshoe bat. Interpretation panels full of information about the wildlife are dotted around the estate.
Karen Armstrong, Director at Gregynog said: “We are very proud that Gregynog has become a National Nature Reserve. Over the years visitors, and students have come to enjoy our estate - through studying its wildlife and ecological interest or simply relaxing in the peace and tranquillity of their surroundings.
“Work has already begun to remove all invasive Rhododendron to improve the woodlands, and also to explore options for enhancing the existing parkland areas by restoring nearby conifer blocks to native broadleaf woodland and ensuring that the next generation of trees in the parkland can become established.”
The event will also mark the final NNR declaration made by the Countryside Council for Wales before Natural Resources Wales is established on 1st April 2013. There is information on the suite of NNRs in Wales on CCW’s website – www.ccw.gov.uk