Environmental education centre CAT was one of four live bases for the live Science and Nature documentary series, providing TV audiences across the UK with an insight into the habitats of some of the country’s most fascinating species
Caring for and respecting our environment continues to move up the global agenda, and CAT and the wider UNESCO Dyfi Valley Biosphere is the epitome of environmental and sustainable tourism.
Rob Bullen from CAT tells us: "It is well-documented that there have been environmental benefits to the 2020 lockdown across the world, ranging from less traffic and congestion, to less litter in beauty spots. People have also taken more of an interest in their surroundings and wildlife as they’ve been exploring more of their local areas. This has brought sustainable tourism and environmental responsibility to the front of many people’s minds.
"Being sensitive to our impact on the locations we visit has become a priority for many. We’re gaining a better understanding of our mental and physical wellbeing, and of the benefits of a strong connection to nature."
For future visitors, Mid Wales offers more than its fair share of experiences and activities to embrace these connections with the natural environment. When visits to rural communities can once again be enjoyed, pay a visit to one of these sustainable tourism options:
Centre for Alternative Technology
A visit to the star of Winterwatch itself, The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), is a must for all visitors when safe to travel once again. Nestled in the foothills of South Snowdonia, in the north of the Dyfi Biosphere, CAT is a world-renowned eco centre that demonstrates practical solutions for a sustainable future. Once a barren slate quarry, the team at CAT have managed the site’s regeneration to create an oasis of organic gardens and woodland habitats with thriving biodiversity.
New for 2021, CAT will be launching bookable, day-out experiences on a range of nature-based topics. Try your hand at gardening or have a day-out on the wild side on the family Nature Detectives experience.
Red kites at Gigrin Farm, Rhayader
The reintroduction of red kites has been one of the big success stories of conservation in Wales. While they were extinct almost everywhere in Britain, they survived, just, in remote pockets of Mid Wales. Nowadays they’re a common – but never commonplace – sight all over Mid and West Wales. For the best display of all, the daily feedings at Gigrin Farm, which are run every afternoon except Christmas Day (during times when no Covid-19 restrictions are in place), attract up to 600 of these stunning birds as well as a supporting cast of buzzards and ravens.
Severn Farm Pond Nature Reserve
Severn Farm Pond is an urban nature reserve where plants and animals can live in safety, despite the busy industrial estate surrounding them. Many different species have taken to this new home. Meandering boardwalks take visitors on an amazing journey around the reserve; suspended above pools and marshy wetlands stuffed full of damselflies, dragonflies, frogs, newts and toads.
In late spring and early summer breeding birds such as Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Little Grebe and Reed Bunting set up home on and around the pond, wetland areas and reedbeds specially created on the reserve.
RSPB Ynys-hir Nature reserve
Ynys-hir Nature reserve has miles of trails, seven view hides and has been awarded Ramsar, Natura 2000 and SSSI status. A haven for bird-watching, a host of different birds can be seen from various sections of the bird feeding station. The range of habitats ensures a variety of birds can be seen, and the trails provide enjoyable walks throughout the year.
Bwlch Nant yr Arian
Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre sits at the head of the dramatic Melindwr valley with commanding views of Cardigan Bay and the Cambrian Mountains. It's an established Red Kite feeding site with multiple outdoor trails to suit everyone.
The red kites are fed by the lake at Bwlch Nant yr Arian every day. The Barcud Trail (an easy access route around the lake) and the café offer fantastic views of this spectacle. There is also a bird hide overlooking the feeding area.
Visitors can expect to see as many as 150 kites coming in to feed – and there are often more during winter months. They are mostly local birds and they come to feed from within a 10 mile radius.
Falconry Experience Wales, Powys
A visit to the award-winning falconry experience to learn about the birds of prey in mid Wales is highly recommended, when it’s safe to do so. Iolo Williams has strong connections with the organisation and runs experience days for guests when possible. The organisation is home to a range of birds including Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Goshawk, Hen Harrier, Merlin and Red Kite species.
Falconry Experience Wales is now approaching its 19th year and is proud to provide one to one outdoor activities for all ages nestled within 120 acres of the beautiful Dyfi valley with panoramic views of the Cambrian mountains and Snowdonia mountain ranges.
Coed Rheidol National Nature Reserve
Coed Rheidol is situated about 12 miles east of Aberystwyth. It occupies parts of both banks of the Afon Rheidol, upstream, and the south bank downstream of Devil's Bridge. This is a magnificent stretch of ancient sessile oak woodland, protected largely by its inaccessibility, hanging precariously on the flanks of the gorge of the Afon Rheidol.
The naturally high rainfall and the local micro-climate at the foot of the narrow gorge contribute to high humidity, and a resulting abundance of the non-flowering plants – mosses, liverworts, lichens and ferns.
The steepness of the valley sides means that guests are often getting a tree-top look into the forest to find those characteristic inhabitants of Welsh oakwoods, the redstart, pied flycatcher and wood warbler, along with the resident blue and great tits.
North Wales Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve
Abercorris Nature Reserve is one of 36 in North Wales, and its members and volunteers connect wildlife sites across Wales and inspire local communities and young people to care for wildlife where they live.
Its mission is to bring the value of wildlife to local communities, showing how a naturally connected landscape is good for wildlife and society. Through educational events, guided walks, and talks by local experts, the North Wales Wildlife Trust educates its visitors on protecting and nurturing the wildlife and land around them.
Dyfi Osprey Project
In 2007 the conservation site erected an osprey platform on the Cors Dyfi reserve in response to an increasing number of osprey sightings each spring and autumn and the Dyfi Osprey team have been working to protect and look after them ever since.
Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust carries out conservation projects, including “large area” projects such as the Pumlumon Project, to create and restore habitats for wildlife, to ensure that the county's wild creatures have secure places where they can feed, shelter and breed.
Covid-19 restrictions mean many of these activities are currently on hold – so please check the latest before setting off, and if it’s not possible to visit right now then please come back when it’s safe to do so – it’s well worth the wait.