The Cardiff Bay Wetlands Reserve was officially opened as a wetland reserve in July 2002. It is an area of approximately 8 hectares located on the northern edge of Cardiff Bay, between the St. David’s Hotel and the mouth of the River Taff. This was previously an area of raised salt marsh until the closure of the Cardiff Bay Barrage in April of 2001.
The construction of man-made features at the Reserve include a large reed-fringed pond in the northern area of the site which aims to attract a diverse range of invertebrates and other wildlife and is used by school groups for pond dipping and for naughty dogs like me to chase sticklebacks in.
A reen or ‘moat’ which runs the entire length of the reserve has been constructed to separate the public open-space and the wildlife-orientated part of the reserve. The reserve south of the reen consists of lagoons, scrapes, islands and floating bird refuges. An excellent place for observing birds in these scrapes and lagoons is from the viewpoint by the St David’s Hotel. Or you can just pile on in and see what’s about – that’s what I do.
To the south of the reserve, within the waters of the Bay is a 360 metre long stone bund which runs the entire length of the Reserve shoreline and is intended to reduce erosion via wave action. In addition to the stone bund, a reed bund has been created which will also prevent erosion whilst offering habitat to birds and invertebrates. Beyond the bund is a purpose built litter boom to prevent the wetlands being inundated with water-borne debris during periods of high river flow.
A gravel walkway runs from the car park adjacent to the St. David’s Hotel, past the reservoir and the reen, to the west end of the reserve where there is a 105 metre long board-walk. The board-walk viewing area is another great spot for bird watching.
Since the closure of the barrage in 2001, the reserve has been undergoing steady succession, in terms of both flora and fauna, from the previously estuarine habitat. At present the vegetation is characterised by willow and alder carr, reed beds, tall herb fen, grasses and sedges; it has already attracted a great diversity of invertebrates and vertebrates, of both terrestrial and aquatic origin. Although the wetlands are still undergoing succession, there is markedly less dominance by typical saline vegetation, such as sea couch or hemlock water dropwort, with a shift towards a more freshwater based diversity of grasses and herbs.
The Wetlands Reserve is managed through a Service Level Agreement with Cardiff Council’s Parks Services department. Active, adaptive management of the reserve is undertaken in accordance with the management plan to maintain a mosaic of habitat types and maximise biodiversity. This includes coppicing trees, cutting back reed, or treating invasive non-native species.
Anyway, it’s a great place to take the doggie for half an hour and it beats the hell out of shopping or wandering around the awful development of Cardiff Bay.