Day out: Cors Caron, Ceredigion

A huge wetland jewel forgotten in the heart of Wales – what an opportunity for adventure with a marvellous cast of wildlife

Cors Caron, Wales

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Lost in the seldom visited tranquillity of inland Ceredigion, this wilderness of bogs, reed grasses, woods and deep, dark lagoons comes as a huge surprise to travellers venturing along the road north of the ancient farming town of Tregaron.

On the OS map, Cors Caron National Nature Reserve appears as a huge, intriguing area of wiggling blue lines and marshy tufts but when you see it for the first time, the strange vastness appears to stretch to distant smoky hills – the view punctuated by the silhouettes and cries of waterbirds. In fact, it’s actually three bogs surrounded by pools and streams and feels like a place of Welsh myth and mystery.

Lythrum salicaria or purple loosestrife
Purple loosestrife’s blooms at Cors Caron from July to September.
Getty

Wildlife at Cor Caron National Nature Reserve

This otherworldly atmosphere is somewhat dispelled on a sunny summer’s day when the sheer intensity and volume of life is heartening rather than disquieting. You’re surrounded by hopping, buzzing, whirring, skating and bugling hordes, as Cors Caron is home to myriad insects.

Dragonflies are the summer stars: 16 species dwell here as does the super-rare large heath butterfly. Otters stalk the waterways, hunting eels and trout, while summer birdlife ranges from resident wildfowl to an orchestra of redstarts, sedge warblers, meadow pipits and a host of other more familiar species. Cors Caron is also a stronghold for adders, slow worms, frogs and newts.

Curlew wading in water
The curlew’s haunting, bubbling cry is best heard in April
Alamy

Perhaps the most dependable summer joy comes from the wetland plants. You can’t miss the handsome spikes of purple loosestrife flowers, and the complex creamy puffs of bogbean flowers belie the plant’s rather prosaic name. The exotic and intricate red petals of marsh cinquefoil seem from another, more tropical swamp.

Dragonfly
Alamy

Habitat and landscape

The bog itself was formed over many millennia as the river meandered slowly through a broad upland valley, creating marshes that turned to ‘raised’ bog, as countless generations of plants and trees lived, died and turned into peat. The River Teifi lives a rather topsy-turvy existence compared to most of its Welsh cousins. Instead of racing noisily from the uplands to finish gently by the sea, the Teifi oozes slowly from its source through Cors Caron and it is only later on its journey that it dashes into rocky gorges on its way to Cardigan Bay.

Close up portrait of European River Otter (Lutra lutra) in pond covered in duckweed
Otters ply the Teifi and larger lagoon pools in search of eels and trout.

Walking at Cor Caron National Nature Reserve

Wild it may be but Cors Caron is not inaccessible. Two miles of boardwalk from the old trainline to the car park mean that wheelchairs and prams can easily reach the moody heart of the southern end of the reserve – and the bird observatory. For those wanting a longer exploration, you can leave the boardwalk and cross a rushy meadow (the path is marked by red-topped fence posts) to reach the river. Check the Riverside Walk is open as it is sometimes closed for cattle grazing.

Follow the river and the red-topped posts upstream to enter the heart of the fen. Cross several bridges before reaching another boardwalk at the north of the reserve, which returns you to the old trainline and a potter back to the car park. 

Find out more about Cors Caron.

Map of Cors Caron

Cors Caron map
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Words: Fergus Collins