Have you ever been on Google Maps and picked up the yellow ‘Pegman’ to explore an area in Street View, only for the imagery to stop at the end of the road? Well the area of Wales on Google Maps has just got a little bit bigger. Natural Resources Wales teamed-up with Google to allow us to take Street View off the streets and into our nature reserves, protected sites and forestry. The aim of the project was to collect imagery from a selection of our sites to create a virtual tour, allowing anyone to explore a site before they visit in real life. The imagery also creates a snapshot in time of our sites from many different angles, allowing change to be monitored and its use as an educational tool. Our hope is that by reducing some of the uncertainty of exploring the outdoors, we can encourage more people to visit, enjoy and learn about, the wonderful Welsh outdoors. Trekker-ing around Wales With the sites chosen and a network of keen staff volunteers ready to go, it was time to get out and start walking in some of Wales’ most spectacular countryside with the Street View Trekker. Choosing from so many fantastic potential places was difficult. We only had one summer and could only trek when it wasn’t raining - which, being Wales limited our total trekking time. But we still managed to capture most of our key special sites and places of interest. You can see the full list of sites here. From Newborough Warren to the Wye Valley woodlands we trekked over forty different paths across Wales, totalling over 200km. Trekking causes quite a stir - walking around with 23 kilos of batteries, cameras (15 of them) and GPS units in a backpack is certainly a way of attracting attention to yourself! This was one of the great things about the project, most people who saw this strange looking device couldn’t resist coming to ask about it. It was great for trekkers to hear first-hand how much people loved visiting these sites. I also got a great opportunity to also explore sites I’d never been to before, and to meet the people who manage them. It was hard work, but definitely worth the effort! There are some places we wouldn’t have been able to trek without the help of our partners including Wildlife trust of South and West Wales, Swansea University, Merthyr Mawr Estate, the RSPB and the City and County of Swansea. Ben Sampson of Swansea University manages Crymlyn Burrows says, “The sand dunes and saltmarsh of Crymlyn Burrows is the last remaining pocket of natural habitat around the coast of Swansea Bay and it is very exciting that people can explore the area with this technology. Hopefully it will whet people’s appetite to get out and see (and hear and smell) it in the flesh too.” Have a look for yourself! The images are published today on Google Maps, with a selection of our walks available in this gallery. NRW will also be embedding these views into our website in the coming months so you can plan your trip before you visit, more information can be found here.
With over 70 National Nature Reserves in Wales, we are all only a few miles away from a special place to discover nature. Our colleagues working to look after the National Nature Reserves (NNR) have got together to write a blog, bringing you the latest news and goings on from a different site each month. This month's blog is from Rhodri Dafydd, Senior Reserves Manager for Morfa Harlech and Morfa Dyffryn, North Wales... Sit back, close your eyes, and imagine standing on sand dunes. I’m sure the majority of you would imagine an idyllic scene of white sand, a few wisps of marram grass, blue skies and balmy temperatures – the quintessential summer experience. How wonderful it must be to work in such an environment… Now, close your eyes again, and imagine yourself there in January. Wind-chill is -2 and all that wonderful sand which you usually feel between your toes is now being blown into your eyes, and indeed through any gap in your carefully selected Personal Protective Equipment! The sand beneath your feet is frozen so that the slopes are like sculpted concrete. Instead of floating through those flower-rich dune slacks of midsummer, you’re wading through freezing water that will inevitably overtop your wellies and ensure your feet are like two blocks of ice by the time you get back to the van. I jest of course! (Although I’m not exaggerating the weather conditions, they can of course be quite harsh – and all of the above happens to me on a regular basis!) The sand dunes of our National Nature Reserves are wonderful at any time of year There is never a dull day, and in fact some of the most memorable wildlife experiences can be had in winter. Coming across a flock of feeding chough for example, disturbing a grazing hare, or perhaps catching a glimpse of an overwintering hen harrier hunting the periphery of the saltmarsh. The added bonus of course is that they’re more or less devoid of people in winter - so enjoying some solitude, and a sense of open, wild space, is more possible than ever. Yes, winter in the dunes has its own magic The very extremities of winter on the coast – strong winds, stormy waves, and flooded dune slacks after the rains – are of course what create and help to maintain this most dynamic of habitats. I think experiencing them should also be an integral part of understanding these complicated areas. Working with others for research Whilst we regularly gather some environmental data ourselves, our National Nature Reserves are particularly important as sites where research of international importance regularly takes place. At Morfa Dyffryn is a great study site and we are currently involved in developing a research project with Hope College, Michigan, and Liverpool Hope University. We are looking at sand dune ‘blowout dynamics’ (i.e. looking at the impact wind has in shaping our dunes). A team of researchers from the U.S. are preparing to visit the site in June to begin conducting numerous experiments, and gather a range of environmental data. Morfa Dyffryn has also been identified as one of the only sand dune systems left in Wales with a large amount of natural bare sand conditions (which basically means open sand, without or with only sparse vegetation). Many special dune plants and invertebrates require 'open' conditions within the sand dune system. We have lost this from other dune systems over the years as dunes have become vegetated, and bare sand is a feature which we have realised is of prime importance in European terms. We are now seeking to emulate this feature on other dune systems through artificial means. Duncan’s blog from May 2016 talks about some of the work carried out at Merthyr Mawr for example. I’m looking forward to seeing this site continue to contribute to the world knowledge on sand dunes, and the processes that affect them. Morfa Harlech is forming part of the ‘Sands of Life’ NRW bid for European LIFE funding to restore our dunes to favourable conservation status. We should shortly expect to hear whether it was successful or not! There is also a possible partnership with Natural England to secure funding for conservation projects. There are certainly exciting times ahead for Welsh sand dunes which are more relevant than ever on the world stage! Visiting Morfa Dyffryn and Morfa Harlech We welcome careful visitors to these nature reserves - find out more about the area via our website. We also have a beach clean taking place at Morfa Dyffryn this spring, so come and help us clear this wonderful beach of rubbish and plastics. Gloves, bags and litter-pickers will be provided on the day. Please wear suitableclothing/footwear – and don’t forget to bring your own lunch! When: Saturday 4th March 2017 Where: Benar Car Park, Dyffryn Ardudwy Time: 10:00am - 15:00pm
Last summer Coed y Brenin visitor centre, near Dolgellau, hosted their first wedding reception. Our Visitor Centre Assistant, Grace Sanderson, will tell you more about this new service... Last year we decided to branch out and try something new by offering the visitor centre as a unique reception venue. We thought that this would be a perfect location for couples who are looking to celebrate their special day amongst the beauty of the natural environment. Our venue has a modern design and a covered balcony space which is set among the tree tops of North Wales. With breath-taking views of the forest and Cadair Idris, this is a really special setting for the bride, groom, and their guests to enjoy. We’ve held two weddings this summer and both couples were able to head out and take advantage of the beautiful scenery for their wedding photos. We have space to seat up to 70 guests, and we are licensed to sell alcohol and play recorded or live music until midnight. Couples choose the catering to suit their taste by hiring external caterers to prepare and serve food and drinks. There is also ample parking here, with access and facilities for all guests. Elizabeth and Jason celebrated their special day with us at Coed y Brenin and they said, “I always wanted to get married outdoors, so when Jason proposed I knew I wanted our reception in Coed y Brenin. “This is a good choice of venue for an outdoorsy, nature loving couple to get married. “Our friends and family had a wonderful time enjoying the scenery during our reception, and everyone commented on how beautiful the venue was.” If you would like to find out more information about Coed y Brenin our wedding reception facility you can call us directly at the visitor centre on 01341 440747.
The Marloes Peninsula is a must-visit for wildlife watching, heritage hunting, coastal walks and outdoor adventure.
The landscape here is incredibly diverse; craggy cliffs and coves make way for sandy bays and neighbouring islands, whilst further inland, coastal heath and thriving wetlands sit alongside agriculture.
There’s plenty to see, do and explore, so get the binoculars, bucket and spade, and walking boots ready and make the most of Marloes.DISCOVER MORE OF OUR VIDEO BLOGS
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