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Magor Marshes - a summary of ecological information

The Major Marshes a part of the Gwent Levels, an area of low lying land south of Newport. The Gwent Levels is one of the largest surviving areas of ancient grazing marshes and reen (drainage ditch) systems in Britain. It is the largest area of its kind in Wales, of acknowledged UK-wide significance for its wildlife and archaeology. The proximity of the site to the internationally important Severn Estuary and River Usk add further value to this wetland complex.

The Major Marshes reserve is last remnant of fenland on the Gwent levels and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is a prime example of the succession of plant communities from open water to marsh and scrub woodland. Bronze age pottery fragments have been found and the present layout of reens (drainage ditches) dates from the 14th century.

Geology

The soil is mostly peat with a depth of around 15 feet. Under this is alluvium laid down in the river Severn estuary. The water level must be kept near the surface to preserve the peat.

Hay Meadows and Pastures

Two hay meadows are maintained using traditional methods. They are only grazed during autumn and winter. The hay crop is mown in mid-summer to provide winter feed. By late spring the fields are a mass of flowers including Yellow Flag, Meadow Thistle, Marsh Marigolds, Yellow Rattle, Ragged Robin and Lesser Spearwort. Snipe and Reed Buntings breed in the rough pasture and the Cuckoo can be heard in the summer.

Ponds and Reens

The pond has a large bed of Comman Reed (Phragmites) which provides cover for the many bird species which can be seen from the hide. Birds seen include Heron, Kingfisher, Water Rail and even the rare Marsh Warbler. Migrant birds such as Garganey and Green Sandpiper pass through to their winter feeding grounds. Over wintering birds include numerous Teal and occasionally Spotted Crake.

Reedbeds and Willow Carr

Ungrazed pasture allows natural succession to Willow Carr. The dense cover provides home to many small mammals and birds including Sedge, Reed and Grasshopper Warblers.

Link: Gwent Wildlife Trust