“ Address: Llandudno Junction / Conwy / LL31 9XZ / Wales „
Conwy Nature reserve is a small, but beautiful reserve on the banks of the Conwy Estuary, overlooking Conwy Castle and the mountains of Snowdonia. The reserve was created using spoil from the excavation of the Conwy tunnel in the 1980's and is owned and managed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Millions of people will have passed Conwy RSPB Nature Reserve without realising it. The entrance to the reserve is on the roundabout for the Deganwy junction on the A55 (it's signposted on the A55, so if you're looking for it, you can't miss it). Since the entrance is practically on the A55, it's one of the easiest nature reserves to get to.
The reserve is split into two parts, an estuary walk, and circular paths surrounding a pair of lagoons.
The estuary walk is extremely picturesque. If you pick a nice day, it's very pleasant walking the half mile or so along the banks of the estuary, looking over the saltmarsh, to the castle and beyond. There are seats placed every few hundred yards; this is a lovely place to sit for half an hour or so in the sunshine. Stoats frequent the saltmarsh edge, and if you're really lucky, you could glimpse an otter making its way along the river.
The main part of the reserve consists of a network of paths and bird hides. These cover about two miles in total, so it does not take too long to cover the whole reserve. The paths wind through reed beds and grassland; in summer butterflies abound and you'll be accompanied on your walk by some of the 22 species seen on the reserve.
Birds are, of course, everywhere. The site's location near the coast means that almost anything can (and does) turn up, and an enviable list of rarities have been seen here.
The regular birds are as interesting, however. Little Egrets are common; these pure white, heron-like birds, can be seen hunting on the estuary for fish, or flying over the reserve, looking like a mobile advert for a washing powder (they're VERY white!).
Mute swans glide silently and majestically across the lagoons, whilst the tiny little grebe scuttles along behind, its strange call sounding like a whinnying horse!
The fish-eating red-breasted merganser can usually be seen hunting in the lagoons or on the estuary; this strange looking duck is worth looking out for. Mergansers are one of the few birds to have teeth which they use these to hang onto the slippery fish they catch in their long bills.
Many species of bird breed on the reserve, such as skylark, shelduck, and lapwing. Seeing the lapwing and shelduck chicks is always a treat; they look like little balls of fluff, faithfully following their parents on feeding trips whilst trying to avoid the predations of the local crows and buzzards.
In summer, the sound of singing birds is ever present (drowning out the faint drone of the nearby A55). Willow warblers, chiffchaffs, sedge warblers, and reed warblers, will all be giving their all, seeming to try to out-compete each other demonstrating their suitability for a mate.
The facilities on the reserve are excellent. There's a superb RSPB shop selling everything from clothing, telescopes and binoculars, and bird food, to books and DVD's. The café is also excellent. The managers try to source local and organic produce and the food is of very high quality. As with all RSPB café's the prices are not cheap, but the quality is worth a bit extra. There's even a farmers market on the last Wednesday of every month.
The best part of the café is the viewing area. The tables by the huge full length windows overlook one of the lagoons and a bird feeding area. You can enjoy a nice cup of tea whilst watching the ducks and geese gliding across the water, or seeing the secretive water rail skulking through the reeds, completely oblivious to the audience observing its every move.
Disabled visitors are well catered for here. There's dedicated parking bays and a toilet, a ramp and tarmac path take visitors to the café and viewing area. Wheelchair access is recommended only for the first kilometre of trail, however.
Telescopes are even provided so that visitors can get a close look at the birds that are present, and binoculars can be hired for your visit. There's a small charge for entry into the reserve, but RSPB members get in for free.
In summary, this is a lovely reserve that's well worth a visit. As it's placed at the side of the A55, it can be a great place to stop off for lunch or a walk round if you've been somewhere else first. If you're on the A55, and you notice the brown RSPB sign, pop in and have a look around, it just might round off your day perfectly.