Saturday, 31 March 2012

74 NNRs in the big parade ...

Wales has more nature reserves per capita than any other country in the UK or on mainland Europe. This says a lot, not only about the outstanding landscape, scenic beauty and wildlife diversity of Wales, but also about how its people value being close to nature and want to protect their natural heritage.

Each year millions of visitors enjoy nature reserves in Wales; many more would do so if only these special places were easier to find. Once off the beaten track exploring the countryside can be confusing, even for local people - much more so for holidaymakers, for many of whom nature reserves are high on the list of reasons for coming to Wales. Few reserves are signed from main roads. Many are down confusing networks of lanes where it is all too easy to get lost, wasting precious leisure time.

This spring a comprehensive guide to every National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Wales - plus dozens of our finest RSPB, Wildlife Trust and other nature sites - is being launched. is online now, with maps, directions, photographs of difficult junctions or hard-to-spot landmarks on the way to each reserve, plus details of facilities onsite and nearby as well as pictures of landscape features, habitats and species to look out for. It helps people to decide where to go and when, whether they are birders, wildflower lovers, fungi fanciers or fossil fans – or whether the priority is for somewhere safe for the kids, or suitable for Auntie Jenny who now can’t manage stiles and rough ground.

The author, Sue Parker, is a keen naturalist with a lifelong interest in wildflowers, and wild orchids in particular. Sue says, ‘It has been almost a full-time job for the past three years, visiting hundreds of reserves, some several times to record the changing seasons. This online resource would fill a thousand pages in book form, but it’s a labour of love, and I am continually updating and adding new information.’

A Wildlife Trust volunteer herself, Sue has dedicated the website to … ‘the hundreds of volunteers who work for the wildlife of Wales. Every wildlife conservation organisation in Wales is dependent on an army of people who turn out in all winds and weathers to work on our nature reserves for the benefit of plants, fungi, animals, birds and insects - and us. They also staff the offices, man the telephones, support special events for the public, and carry out a multitude of other tasks including the all-important one of fundraising. Thank you!’ 

With more than 70 National Nature Reserves and as many Local Nature Reserves funded by and managed on behalf of the people of Wales, it is hardly surprising that these special sites receive several million visits a year by locals and visitors. Added to this the Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, Plantlife, RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and other charitable and voluntary bodies also maintain a wealth of wonderful wildlife sanctuaries where people can get close to nature.

Sue Parker’s family came from Cardiff, but she was born in Tenby and has lived in many parts of Wales including Bridgend, Anglesey, Carmarthenshire and now Ceredigion. She is the author of several books about wildflowers, including Wild Orchids in Wales, and she co-authored the series Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales. As well as occasionally contributing to Radio and TV programmes on nature topics in Wales, Sue Parker is often called upon to give talks on wildflowers. Sue can be contacted via

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