This trip took us to explore the area in and around the National Nature Reserve of Coedydd Aber in north Wales, roughly halfway between Conwy and Bangor. We started our walk from the small village of Aber (or, to give it its full name, Abergwyngregyn – you can see why it’s shortened to Aber!) which lies just off the main coast road and was once the seat of the last native Prince of Wales. We walked steadily uphill towards the Carneddau mountains through delightful woodlands and past the remains of Bronze Age settlements including an excavated roundhouse and smithy. We eventually reached the spectacular Aber Falls, a 120 feet high cascade plunging down from the mountains above us.
The light rain required us to don our waterproofs, but the natural history interest along the route made up for this dampness. The abundant woods, mainly of oak and alder, were, our printed guide told us, once used to produce clogs which were sent from Wales to Lancashire, including no doubt to Rochdale.
A wide range of over 40 species of flora was noted as we made our way gradually gaining height, including scarlet pimpernel, ragged robin, foxglove, herb robert and marsh thistle.
Bird life was somewhat limited, but a number of relatively uncommon and welcome species were seen, such as pied flycatcher, no doubt recently arrived from its wintering grounds in Africa. Overhead a buzzard soared and a pair of ravens croaked noisily. In the stream a dipper and grey wagtail went about their watery business. Among the trees various finches, tits and warblers made their presence known through their delightful songs. A number of different mammals were also spotted, including stoat, grey squirrel, brown hare and rabbit. Despite the earlier drizzle, butterflies, dragonflies and moths were seen to take to the wing, such as large skipper, speckled wood, common darter and chimney sweeper.
Some members of the party returned the way they had come, whereas others took a longer route back over higher ground and were rewarded by panoramic views over the coast, Menai Strait and Anglesey as the clouds parted and the warm sun lit up the scene.
The café back in the village of Aber did a roaring trade in tea and cakes as the party waited for the departure time, reflecting on an interesting day of natural history in and around a lovely valley. As a quote from a Mr A. Thomas, hung up on the café wall, said, “The Aber valley is the most beautiful feature of the North Wales coast which would put new soul into the painter and poet” – and, it could also be added, the naturalist.