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Cemlyn Bay Nature Reserve (Anglesey)

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“ Cemlyn is one of North Wales Wildlife Trust’s star reserves and regarded by the Anglesey County Council as the “jewel in the crown” of its Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is valued both for its scenic qualities and its unique range of wildlife, and is as popular with general visitors – local people, holidaymakers, walkers etc. as it is with birdwatchers and naturalists. „

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      17.11.2009 08:02
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      Lovers of the seaside should ensure that they visit here at least once.

      Hidden well off the beaten track, almost at the north westerly tip of Anglesey is the beautiful Cemlyn Bay and its associated nature reserve. Managed by the North Wales Wildlife Trust, the area has a wealth of conservation designations: Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Area, and a candidate Special Area of Conservation. Perhaps most importantly for visitors, it is described as the "Jewel in the Crown" of the Anglesey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

      With all these conservation 'accolades' the reader of this review will be expecting the site to be something special. I can confirm that it is, and more.

      The reserve is not terribly easy to get to. Signposted from the A5025 near Tregele, Cemlyn Bay is found by travelling along two miles of very narrow single track roads. I always feel a sense of occasion having reached here successfully and in one piece!

      There are two large car parks, one at each end of the bay. The beach itself is unsuitable for wheelchairs, but the view from the car parks is stunning. Here, the visitor can hear the sound of the restless waves moving the pebbles back and forth to the ebb and flow of the tide. The scenery really is beautiful, with the blue sea, grey beach and green hills as a backdrop, it's pleasant just to sit and stare at nothing in particular.

      Cemlyn Bay is a secluded horseshoe shaped inlet set into the rocky Anglesey coast. The cool blue waters of the Irish Sea stretch out from the bay, uninterrupted for about 100 miles until the coast of Northern Ireland is reached.

      The beach is steep and consists not of sand, but of shingle. Upon leaving the car park, it looks like a gentle stroll to reach the other side of the bay, 600 yards distant. Do not be fooled. The shingle is loose and moves underfoot with a lovely rasping noise. Progress is slow, so that 'gentle stroll' turns into a delightfully hard slog as you take two steps forward and one step back!

      There's plenty to see as you crawl across the pebbles, however. Seals are often present just offshore, staring curiously at the antics of the humans on land. If you're lucky, a porpoise or even a bottle-nosed dolphin could be cavorting in the water within the confines of the inlet.

      As you struggle along, keep a sharp eye out for ringed plovers. These gorgeous little birds are really hard to see, and lay their eggs directly onto the pebbles. If you see a bird struggling with an apparent broken wing, take extra care. This is a feint, designed to lure predators away from the eggs, so watch where you put your feet!

      Behind the beach is a shingle ridge that hides a brackish lagoon. In summer the ridge will be packed with maritime flora such as Sea Kale, Sea Holly (which does look like holly), gorgeous pink thrift, and Sea Campion. These make a lovely display and really stand out against the smooth grey rocks.

      The biggest wildlife interest is in the lagoon. Here, during the summer, is a colony of terns. These elegant birds, known as the "swallows of the sea", nest here every year. Three species nest; common tern, sandwich tern, and arctic tern. Several thousand of these birds will be present; one of Britain's best wildlife spectacles. Occasionally, all the birds will take flight at once, swirling around in the air, calling and diving as they perform what's known as a 'dread'.

      The chicks are fed on fish by the parents and the adult birds have to fly over the shingle (and over the visitors' heads) in order to get back to sea, so you're assured really close views. My girlfriend likes to lie on the smooth warm shingle, looking up at the birds flying overhead.

      Butterflies are common here and a bright summer's day will see colourful examples of many species floating above the ridge and shingle. Very lucky (and quiet) visitors may encounter a common lizard basking in the sunshine.

      The bay has more to offer the visitor than wildlife and stunning scenery, however. The Anglesey Coastal Path passes through the bay, offering the walker miles of Anglesey's starkly beautiful coastline to explore. Less energetic visitors can walk to the headland at the west of the bay where waves from the Irish Sea crash against the rocks. This is a great place for a picnic.

      Fishing is popular in Cemlyn Bay and anglers are often to be seen with their fishing rods propped up waiting for a 'bite'. The terns always seem to catch more than the humans though!

      There are no facilities at Cemlyn Bay, but this is a great excuse to visit the nearby "Jam Factory". Located only a mile or so away (see www.jams.co.uk), this converted farmhouse offers jams, preserves, and local honey for sale. There is also a lovely café (with some great outdoor tables) which serves excellent, if slightly expensive food. A visit here is the perfect way to replenish the calories burnt off traversing the bay's shingle beach.

      A visit to Cemlyn Bay on a lovely summer day is a treat that's not to be missed. With the scenery, the walks, and the wildlife to enjoy, I recommend that all visitors to this part of Anglesey stop by to have a look. You won't be disappointed.

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