Information boards and/or leafletsToilets onsite or near entrance

Newborough Warren and Llanddwyn Island National Nature Reserve, Newborough, Anglesey

Designations: Newborough Warren and Ynys Llanddwyn SSSI, Glannau Môn Intertidal SAC, and Abermenai to Aberffraw Dunes SAC

Below: New sand dunes form at the edge of Newborough Warren NNR - picture courtesy of Graham Williams, NRW
The unstable dune fringe

This reserve is situated on the western coast of Anglesey. The reserve comprises a large expanse of dunes, a tidal island (cut off for several hours each day during spring tides), saltmarsh, mudflats and a freshwater lake.

Part of the dune system is afforested and is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission; this area is not included in the NNR.

The nearby village, now called Newborough, was originally called Rhosyr and only became known as 'New Borough' following the Norman conquest.

The reserve is managed by Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

Directions

Grid Ref: SH378650

Once on Anglesey follow the A4080 west towards Newborough. Newborough Warren NNR can be accessed from two entrances.

Below: The 'lawnmowers' arrive at Newborough Warren car park! Picture Graham Williams, NRW
Car park and ponies

One entrance is off the A4080 at a mini-roundabout just before the village of Newborough (Niwbwrch) and gives direct access to the sand dunes - at the roundabout drive straight ahead and proceed down a narrow lane with houses on the left-hand side.

The other entrance is a turning (signed 'Llys Rhosyr') in the centre of the village of Newborough; it leads to Newborough Beach near to Llanddwyn island.

Newborough Warren reserve car park is free of charge, but the car park at Newborough Beach, which is larger, currently (2011) has a charge of £3 (coins only) payable at a barrier.

Access:

Open all year round.

There are good, well-defined paths throughout the reserve and the going is easy.

Please keep to the paths at all times to minimise damage to the plants and to avoid disturbing breeding birds in the grassland and shrubland of the reserve.

Facilities

There are interpretation boards at the nature reserve car park and also further along the path that leads into the gated entrance to the dunes themselves, which are fenced off.

There are no facilities at the main entrance to the reserve, but there are toilets in the village of Newborough. There are toilets at the Forestry Commission car park at Newborough Beach. An unstaffed museum and information centre, housed in the Pilots’ Cottages on Ynys Llanddwyn, is open only in July and August.

As it can be very hot in the sand dunes in summer, be sure to take something to drink with you if you plan on having a long walk. There is a bird hide beside the freshwater lake (Llyn Rhosddu), which is close to the reserve car park.

Description of Site

Below: Wild orchids in a clearing in Newborough Forest
Orchids growing in the forest dune slacks

The landscape that we see today at Newborough Warren NNR came about as a result of a series of exceptionally violent storms that buried much of the rich farmland around Newborough town under sand during the fourteenth century.

The growth and spread of Marram Grass was the main stablising element in the dunes. Indeed, the colonisation by Marram Grass in the area was so successful that the nearby villagers made a living from harvesting it and then using it in what became a thriving weaving business.

It was not long, however, before rabbits began to colonise the area bringing about the change of name from 'town' to 'warren'.

The rabbit population was so successful that, at one time, more than 100,000 rabbits were taken from the Warren each year - a valuable resource for the local population which continued until the outbreak of the Myxamatosis in the 1950s. The decline of the rabbit population allowed vegetation to spread more widely in the dunes, and in 1947 some of the shifting sands close to the village were planted with Corsican and Scots Pine to further aid stability - despite fears about the toll that such a forest would take on the water table of the surrounding area. To alleviate some of these concerns clearings have been created in the forest, and consultation continues on the future management of Newborough Forest.

Below: Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris) at Newborough Warren
Epipactis palustris at Newborough Warren NNR

A walk around the nature reserve today will inevitably result in a meeting with some of the ponies and the two kinds of cattle that are kept there to graze the site and keep the sward in the condition needed by the remarkable plants that grow there. The sturdy Welsh mountain ponies are well equipped to cope with the harsh conditions that occur sometimes at Newborough Warren, but all the animals there receive regular health checks to ensure that they remain fit and healthy.

Another factor that affects the flora is that during the winter the dune slacks become partially submerged after prolonged rainfall. This creates ideal conditions for Marsh Helleborines (Epipactis palustris) which carpet the ground each year in early July when the surface rainwater has eventually dried up. This orchid is considered by many to be the most beautiful of our wild species, because its flowers closely resemble those of the exotic pot orchids, particularly the Cymbidiums, widely available through plant nurseries.

Marsh Helleborines occur in two flower colour variations. The more common form has brownish-purple veining and tinting of the sepals and petals, but there is also a form in which the flowers lack the purple pigment. Plants with the latter colouring are sometimes referred to as Epipactis palustris var. ochroleuca.

Below: Early Marsh-orchids (Dactylorhiza incarnata)
Early Marsh-orchid, white form

Other orchid species present on the reserve include the Northern Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza purpurella), Early Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata), Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata) and Common Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). In late June and early July, the Dune Helleborine (Epipactis dunensis) grows among the dwarf willow in the dunes with particularly fine specimens in the forest close to Newborough Beach car park, which is accessed via the village of Newborough.

The elusive Western (or Broad-leaved) Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza majalis var. cambrensis) also grows in part of this reserve, but you will need to be there in May to see it in flower.

Both in the open dunes and the forest, increasing populations of two species of Wintergreen grow. Round-leaved Wintergreen (Pyrola rotundifolia) is the one that appears in the dune slacks. The rare and curious-looking Yellow Bird's-nest (Monotropa hypopitys) also pops up in the dune slacks; its food is obtained from leaf mould, as the bright yellow waxy looking plantlacks the chlorophyll that would enable it to produce its own nutrients.

Below: Nail Fungus (Poronia punctata,) one of the rare fungi at Newborough Warren NNR
Poronia punctata

The reserve is home to many birds as well as butterflies and other insects in spring and early summer, when walks at Newborough Warren are accompanied by the lovely song of the Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) that nest there in considerable numbers.

Later in the year the Kingdom of Fungi takes over. Dune Waxcaps (Hygrocybe conicoides) appear in the dunes, while brittlegills (Russula species) and many other kinds of mushrooms and toadstools, brackets and puffballs appear in the forest.

The tidal mudflats and saltmarsh areas are important for wildfowl and waders; they support more than one percent of the British breeding population of Pintail (Anas acuta).  Llanddwyn island also has a breeding population of Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo).

The geological features of the reserve are also of great interest. Llanddwyn Island itself is formed from pre-Cambrian rocks, and on the approach to the island there is an area of pillow lavas; these structures were formed when red hot lava blobs cooled quickly when forced out of underwater volcanoes.