This National Nature Reserve was created as mitigation for the loss of habitats in the area of the Taf/Ely Estuary SSSI when the Cardiff Bay Barrage was constructed to create a massive freshwater lagoon on the estuary of the Taff river system.
This is a relatively young nature reserve. It was officially opened in 2000 and received its National Nature Reserve designation eight years later, on 16th April 2008.
The reserve covers some 865 hectares, and already it is one of the best sites in Wales to visit if you want see birds.
Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve is managed jointly by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in partnership with Newport City Council and RSPB.
The entrance to Newport Wetlands NNR is off West Nash Road between the village of Nash and Uskmouth Power Station.
From the M4 exit at Junction 24 and then follow the A48 in a southwesterly direction, passing Llanwern. Continue until you pick up the 'brown duck' nature reserve signs.
The reserve is open throughout the year, and entry is free of charge. There is a network of excellent, gentle paths throughout the site all of which are suitable for wheelchair users and for prams and pushchairs.
There is a visitor centre with a car park, public toilets, a RSPB shop and a café with tables inside the centre and outside on a large decking area that overlooks one of the ponds.The Visitor Centre is open every day of the year (except Christmas Day) from 9am until 5pm. The café is open from 10am until 4pm. There are excellent information boards throughout the reserve and a leaflet with a map of the various trails can be obtained from the Visitor Centre. RSPB run a number of events at Newport Wetlands throughout the year. More information...
From May 2011 Newport Wetlands NNR have three mobility scooters available for loan - free of charge. The introduction of the scooters means that 7.5 kilometres of the well-surfaced paths are now accessible to disabled visitors. Advance bookings can be made by contacting RSPB at the Wetlands Centre on 01633 636363.
A visit to Newport Wetlands at any time of the year is a good day out, and it's not just about seeing birds. The Gwent Levels are home to a number of very interesting plants including Rootless Duckweed (Wolffia arrihiza), which is thought to be the smallest flowering plant in the world. The Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) throughout the Levels are designated in part at least for their plant species, which include Blunt-flowered Rush (Juncus subnodulosus), Arrowhead (Sagittaria sagittifolia) and Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellattus). The reens (ditches found throughout the Levels) hold 25 rare water plant species, and the area is renowned for its range of aquatic liverworts.
Throughout the Levels there are large stands of Yellow Iris (Iris psuedacorus) in spring, and the Celery-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus scleratus) blooms there from May to September. The name of this buttercup, whose distribution is rather localised, is a reference to its basal leaves, which are divided into three lobes and which resemble the leaves of celery. This wildflower is further distinguished by the elongated fruits that appear once the flower has died back.
From the Newport Wetlands Visitor Centre it is possible to follow the 'Orchid Trail' from which, at the right time of year, you can see up to six wild orchid species. Southern Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) blooms there at the end of May and well into June. Later in the summer you can expect to see the Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera), Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii), Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata), Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) and Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris).
Insect life on the Levels is prolific and includes several Nationally Notable or Red Data Book species. Water beetles, dragonflies and damsleflies are qualifying features of the SSSI designations. Among the many pecies that can be seen at Newport Wetlands are Ruddy Darter, Emperor dragonfly, Hairy Dragonfly, Ringlet butterfly, Marbled White butterfly, Small Copper butterfly, Clouded Yellow butterfly and Painted Lady butterfly. There are also day-flying moths such as the Scarlet Tiger Moth, Cream Spot Tiger Moth, Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet Moth, Six-spot Burnet Moth, Cinnabar Moth and the Burnet Companion Moth. In the second half of June a large number of Scarlet Tiger Moths can seen along the the cycle path at Uskmouth which you can find by following the Orchid Trail from the Visitor Centre.
Throughout the reserve and along the edge of the tracks there are vast tracts of reeds. As well as providing a winter home for the rare Bittern (Bitaurus stellaris), the reedbeds are also used by Otters (Lutra lutra). Another seldom-seen and increasingly rare mammal seen from time to time in the grasslands on this nature reserve is the Brown Hare (Lepus capensis).
Most people will be visiting Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve to see the birds, and there are four main habitats which will be of interest: the reedbeds; the saltmarsh and mudflats; the wet grassland areas; and the saline lagoons. There are also some small areas of woodland, which you can get into by following the so-called Woodland and Estuary Trail, which links in to the other tracks that start at the Visitor Centre.
The huge reedbeds at Newport Wetlands NNR provide an important breeding habitat for Bearded Tits (Panurus biarmicus), Water Rails (Rallus aquaticus) and Cetti's Warblers (Cettia cetti). Other birds that you are likely to see there in spring are Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) and Sedge Warblers (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus).
The saline lagoons are the only breeding location in Wales for Avocets, and five other species also breed there: Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), Redshanks (Tringa totanus), Ringed Plovers (Charadrius hiaticula) and Little Ringed Plovers (Charadrius dubius). In the spring and summer more than 20 species of migrating waders visit the lagoons.
The wet grassland areas are where you can see large numbers of wintering wildfowl and waders. Large flocks of Wigeon (Anas penelope) and Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) arrive, and both Shovelers (Anas clypeata) and Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa) are present in significant numbers. In spring Redshanks (Tringa totanus) and Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) breed in the grasslands, and Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) can be heard singing overhead.
The saltmarsh and mudflats at Newport Wetlands NNR are part of the Severn Estuary Ramsar, SPA and SAC and are best known for the 8,000 or so Dunlins (Calidris alpina) that visit the reserve.
Cuckoos and Great-crested Grebes breed in the reedbeds at Uskmouth.
If you would like to know more about the wildlife of this wonderful area, the Countryside Council for Wales run a number of events. More information...