Gwent Wildlife Trust member and volunteer Andrew Cormack on some highlights of a lesser-known natural haven in Abergavenny – Strawberry Cottage Wood Nature Reserve.
From home in Abergavenny to Strawberry Cottage Wood was just beyond the lockdown driving limit. So we walked! Usually we’d visit once a month on a Gwent Wildlife Trust work party, but by late June we just wanted to relax in a favourite place. Sadly, we just missed the pied flycatchers and redstarts visiting the nestboxes, but the dipper and spotted flycatcher were in their usual places by the River Honddu, the green woodpecker was calling in the field above the wood, and a passing hobby brought my site bird list to 58 in four years.
The wood climbs steeply up the valley side; its history makes it surprisingly varied. The south end seems always to have been oakwood, though replanted in the nineteenth century. Further north veteran pear and yew trees mark an old cottage garden; two wild service trees may be the only remnants of a past orchard. Higher up, birch and hazel grow where there used to be fields. Here we have been coppicing hazel and laying hedges to improve the wood for dormice. In these cleared areas, wood anemones now appear in spring; bluebells have always grown inside the top fence.
Now you can drive, why not pay the wood a visit? There are two loop paths up the slope. Strong shoes are recommended. There is one steep climb, but you can recover on the bench at the top. Spend some time on the footbridge, too. You should see dipper and grey wagtail: if you’re really lucky you might even see an otter!
To discover how to get to Strawberry Cottage Wood and more Gwent Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves visit gwentwildlife.org/nature-reserves