Welcome to my blog. If you live in Surrey and birding is your obsession (to get out of bed at some ridiculously early time of the morning, no matter what the weather, to go and look at birds isn't normal behaviour, believe me) and you're still a bit of a novice (like me) then, hopefully, this blog is for you.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Graham James, Holmethorpe birding guru, asked me if I could post this feature of his recent stay in Wales on the blog, which I was more than happy to do. Graham, who finds it hard to walk long distances these days, doesn't have internet access but instead has invested in a decent camera. It was a pleasure to let someone else, particularly a fine birder like Graham, write a post on the blog for a change!

Nestled on the north-west edge of the Brecon Beacons, Llandovery, Carmarthenshire is a quaint drover’s town where herdsmen gathered from all over South Wales to make their huge cattle drives to London. With a monthly farmers market and a weekly produce market, a good selection of interesting shops to browse, several public houses and a large tourist information centre, it offers most facilities and the King’s Head, the Castle Hotel and the Bluebell Inn are all recommended locally as good places to eat. There is also a very good fish and chip restaurant, a baguette shop, a burger and kebab establishment and a couple of tea-rooms if you prefer. 

The town also boasts a ruined Norman castle with a magnificent statue of Welsh hero Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (photo below). A pair of Red Kites are usually over the Castle car park for most of the day.

The River Towy, the River Bran and the River Gwyndderig all flow through the town and Dippers and Common Sandpipers appear to be most abundant near the bridge on the road that leads to Myddfai (photo below).

My wife and I stayed for the first week of June at a bed and breakfast at Henllys Estate a mile or so outside the town. This was our third visit to Henllys B & B and I cannot imagine that there is a better place to stay in that part of Wales. The owners are James and Sarah McGill and you couldn’t wish to meet a nicer, more charming and friendly couple. 

James cooks the best breakfast I have ever had the pleasure to have eaten (apologies to my wife) and all the produce used is sourced locally (sausages and bacon to die for). The breakfast menu is varied and it sets you up for the day ahead.

The accommodation is first class with bright en-suite rooms, spotlessly clean, quality modern furniture, TV and super-comfortable double bed.

The beamed breakfast room (photo below) is roomy and, yet again, spotlessly clean.

The cost of bed and breakfast at Henllys is, at present, a very reasonable £70 per night per room (including breakfast) and you can contact James and Sarah on 01550 – 721332 or write to them at Henllys Estate, Llandovery, Carmarthenshire SA20 0EW.

The grounds of the estate are superb, with a Woodland Walk that takes you past a lake (photo below) and through a wood that was carpeted with bluebells when we were there (bluebells in June?). 

Much of the walk through the wood is board-walked and it hosts breeding Common Redstart. Garden Warblers are everywhere and there were also two pairs of breeding Spotted Flycatchers, a female Pied Flycatcher and a pair of nesting Marsh Tits within a hundred yards of our room. Red Kites and Common Buzzards are present in the area and were seen every day from the estate.

Just down the road from the estate is a bridge over the River Towy and here there are Dippers. We regularly found an adult and a juvenile bird near the bridge.

A few miles to the north is Lyn Brianne Reservoir (photo below) with its spectacular views. 

Nearby to this is RSPB Dinas (photo below). This is a fantastic birding site with Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Wood Warblers, Common Redstarts, Marsh Tits, Nuthatches, Red Kites, Common Buzzards and Ravens in abundance. Siskins and Marsh Tits visited the feeders near the car park and it worth spending a while here to see what drops in. 

A word of warning though: the path is very rocky and steep in places and makes for difficult and treacherous walking. Should you be unfortunate enough to have a mishap, it is impossible to get a mobile phone signal from here.

Goshawks and Goosanders are said to be seen at the reserve but, unfortunately, we failed to see either species on our two visits during the week.

Further to the north-east between the Elan Valley and the edge of Snowdonia National Park is a gem of a reserve called Gilfach Nature Reserve. It is managed by Radnorshire Wildlife Trust and is spectacular for its scenery and wildlife. Here we found Pied Flycatchers and Grey Wagtails, Tree Pipits, Common Redstarts and Ravens. Wood Warblers were heard but not seen. Otters are said to frequent the river and there is a hide on the bankside for those who have the patience to wait for them. The hide is also good for woodland birds and Nuthatches gave some very close views. Further on from the hide is a visitors centre and toilets and outside the centre there are various bird feeders that attracted Lesser Redpolls in good numbers. I also found a Green Hairstreak butterfly on the heathland part of the reserve, which was a first for me.

Another site, a few miles south of Llandovery, that is well worth a visit is the Red Kite feeding station at Llanddeusant. There is a café by the road (appropriately called the Red Kite) and the owner feeds the kites in a field about 150 yards down the road at 3pm each day during the summer months and at 2 pm during the winter. There is a hide to watch from and close views are guaranteed. Apart from the 30 or more Red Kites present at feeding time, there were also a couple of Ravens and a passing Common Buzzard.

I have to say that it was a fantastic week’s birding in stunning scenery and staying in superb accommodation. Also, the weather couldn’t have been better – not a drop of rain all week and very warm and sunny, which is unusual for Wales.

If you have the time and the inclination, a birding visit to this area will be rewarding and I don’t think you could find anywhere better that Henllys Estate B&B for your stay. We are definitely heading back there later this year.

1 comment:

  1. Well done you for hosting a reprise of Graham's holiday. The scenes and birds definitely brought back some wonderful memories of ny past visits to that area.

    Please pass on my best wishes to him and compliments on his superb photos.