Fall for Mid Wales as the nights draw in

The entire west of Britain was once a temperate rainforest, parts of which remain untouched in Wales, and they look especially beautiful at this time of year. With red kites wheeling in the sky and wildfowl beginning to fill the lakes, it’s a great time to visit.

  • A mini waterfall on the Afon Marteg, which runs through the Gilfach Nature Reserve, Rhayader
    Afon Marteg, Gilfach, Mid Wales

    November is peak season for salmon-spotting, when these magnificent fish swim home to their birthplace in shallow streams, deep in the countryside. You can see them on most rivers, but we love watching them leap up the waterfalls of the River Marteg at Gilfach Nature Reserve, a gorgeous 410-acre hill farm nature reserve, owned and managed by Radnorshire Wildlife Trust for the benefit of wildlife, with its own Nature Discovery Centre.

  • Large groups of red kites swooping for food at Gigrin Farm, Mid Wales
    Red kites at Gigrin Farm, Mid Wales by Allan McMillan

    The reintroduction of red kites has been one of the big success stories of conservation. 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, which are run every afternoon except Christmas Day, attract up to 600 of these stunning birds, as well as a supporting cast of buzzards and ravens.

  • Starling murmurations above Aberystwyth pier
    Starling murmurations above Aberystwyth Pier, Ceredigion by Henry Patton

    The seaside town of Aberystwyth has around 16,000 residents, a further 8,000 students, but more than 50,000 starlings, who spend their winters roosting underneath the pier. It’s one of our greatest winter spectacles, as the birds gradually gather at dusk, one small flock at a time, until they form a mighty black cloud that wheels over the waterfront, making fabulous shapes in the air. The show takes place every evening, and it’s absolutely free. 

  • A bird seen resting at Sarn Gynfelyn in Mid Wales

    Sarn Gynfelyn, Mid Wales

     by Adam Vellender

    Half-way between the resorts of Aberystwyth and Borth is a curious shingle spit called Sarn Gynfelyn which, according to local legend, led to the fabled sunken kingdom of Cantre’r Gwaelod (actually, it’s debris left behind by a glacier, one of three similar reefs that stretch out miles into Cardigan Bay). The reefs attract fish, which in turn attract dolphins, porpoises, seals – and major colonies of great crested grebes and red throated divers.

  • Llanerchaeron's grounds during autumn
    Llanerchaeron, Ceredigion by Andrew Green

    They love autumn at this small 18th-century estate, which has survived virtually unaltered since it was created by local gentry. Llanerchaeron is an elegant John Nash house which complete with its own dairy, laundry, brewery and salting house, walled kitchen gardens, and a working organic farm. There’s an apple festival each October, which is a lovely time to enjoy the blaze of colours in the woodlands that surround the ornamental lake and parkland.

  • Llangorse Lake with the hut, Pen y Fan can be seen in the background, Brecon Beacons
    Llangorse Lake with Pen y Fan in the background, Brecon Beacons by Paula J James

    The largest natural lake in southern Wales was gouged out of the Brecon Beacons by glaciation, and as well as being a watersports centre it’s an important refuge for wintering waterfowl like mallard, teal pochard and tufted duck, some of 20 species that arrive for winter. Hundreds of water voles were recently released into the area, to help revive the fortunes of this cute (but sadly, increasingly rare) animal.

  • We didn’t invent the term ‘boggy heaven’ – that’s how Llyn Mawr is described by the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, who manage this 12-hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest. This upland lake is one of three dotted among the moorland, which all attract lots of feathered winter visitors. For the best vantage point, walk up the sleeping-monster spine of Garreg-hir for bleakly stunning views.

  • Ynys Hir Nature Reserve
    RSPB Ynys Hir Nature Reserve, Mid Wales

    The RSPB Ynys-hir reserve was the perfect location for the BBC’s hugely popular Springwatch series, thanks to its array of habitats, ranging from saltmarsh to grassland to ancient woodland. It also helps that it’s gorgeous to look at, of course. Autumn and winter is just as busy, as ducks, geese and waders arrive – and try and avoid the attention of the marsh harriers. 

  • A red kite flying over the Elan Valley in Mid Wales
    A red kite over the Elan Valley, Mid Wales by Sean Weekly

    We get a bit sniffy about Welsh places being called ‘the middle of nowhere’ - everywhere is close to somewhere, after all – but this 70-square-mile wilderness of reservoirs, lakes and woodland called the Elan Valley, is the ultimate getaway. Ten species of birds of prey are regularly seen here - kite, buzzard, peregrine, merlin and goshawk are common. What you probably won’t see is other people.

More information on wildlife in Wales