The swift rivers and streams that run down from the mountains have long been a fascination to the naturalist. In the spray of waterfalls that drop in to deep, clear pools, on mossy walls grow rare and beautiful ferns that were an obsession to Victorian collectors: filmy fern, hay-scented buckler fern, the notably rare Killarney fern are all to be found in the area, in places of astonishing intimate beauty.
As the rivers meet the sea, another marvellous range of habitats opens up. Go down to The Spinneys at Aberogwen, or Gwaith Powdwr on the gorgeous estuary of the Dwyryd, to see kingfishers, water-rails, mergansers and great crested grebes. You might see the whiskery muzzle of an otter forging its way upstream, or the ospreys that nest on the Glaslyn and the Dyfi fishing among the tidal channels. Adders warm themselves after the chill of winter on shaley slabs at Gwaith Powdwr and seals often swim up the channel by Borth y Gest right into the harbour at Porthmadog. In the woods of sessile oak – gnarled and mossy, mysterious as the magicians’ tales that originate here – the bird-life is wonderfully varied. With the spring come the warblers, the air resounding with the song of blackcaps, and the flycatchers dancing on filtered beams of sunlight that set aglow the woodland’s floor of bluebells and the pale anemones. It’s easy, then, to see how stories of magic were appropriate for these small provinces of natural beauties and wonders.
Jim Perrin, writer
© Prif Lun / Main image: © Damian Hughes - dphphotography.co.uk. Lluniau bach / Small images: Ganllwyd; Lôn Las Peris © Ray Wood
Gwaith Powdwr nature reserve (81 acres), on the Dwyryd estuary is a gateway to the hanging oak woodlands of the Vale of Ffestiniog. Gnarled and ancient trees clad with mosses, liverworts and lichens support pied flycatchers and redstarts, while the rivers and streams are home to otters and sewin (sea trout).
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