Very heavy rain throughout December and over Christmas and the New Year here in South Wales means the weather hasn’t really been good for anything. We have been lucky to miss the flooding that has hit the North of the UK, but it has still been so miserable that it has put a damper (or dampener) on our seasonal gallivanting.
Usually we make it to West Wales, but this time the highlight was just the Newport Wetlands nature reserve on Boxing Day.
The reserve was established to compensate for the loss of wildlife habitat when the Cardiff Bay Barrage was built on the River Taff, just along the coast. The barrage protects the capital city of Wales from flooding and has led to the creation of a maritime quarter for luxury development where the old docks used to be.
The Newport site is owned and managed by Natural Resources Wales and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) opened a visitor centre here in 2008, with help from Newport City Council.
The reserve includes areas of Uskmouth, Nash and Goldcliff and covers more than 1,000 acres of low-lying land that we call the “levels”, alongside the Severn Estuary. Part of the area is a reclaimed fuel ash disposal site from the nearby Uskmouth Power Station.
We walked from the visitor centre in the direction of the shore.
We chose to go around to the right, but either way we were on the Wales Coast Path, which now goes all the way around our country.
The trees and shrubs along this wild coast are stunted, but at least I now find I recognise a couple of trees in winter. Some make it easy.
Now we were coming around to the area where the power station stands…
I think the new buildings we could see must be the gas-fired power station built at a cost of £600m by DONG Energy in 2011 and later sold to a finance consortium. I assume it is still generating.
The old power station, built in 1959, was coal-fired and closed for a year or so when a buyer couldn’t be found for it. But in mid 2015 Hong-Kong based SIMEC Group took it on and reopened it. The intention is to convert it to generate all its power from biomass but it is currently in a transitional stage.
As we walked along the path we could hear the pylons and overhead lines buzzing and I couldn’t help singing the Wichita Lineman to myself…
I am a lineman for the county
And I drive the main road
Searchin’ in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin’ in the wire
I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita lineman is still on the line
See Glen Campbell singing it much better than me here. And yes, I do realise he is singing about someone up a telephone pole, not an electricity pylon!
I was also looking around for anything other than reeds…
Well at least the walk in the fresh air blew off the cobwebs, and we had a snack lunch of “Croque Casnewydd” at the very friendly RSPB cafe. It’s like a Welsh rarebit, cheese on toast, but with added ham and wholegrain mustard. Casnewydd is the Welsh for Newport.
Here’s a link to the RSPB Newport Wetlands website. My dream would be to spot a bearded tit (Panurus biarmicus) there in Spring, which is apparently a possibility…