Day out: Pentwyn Farm, Penallt, Monmouthshire
Visit a Welsh meadow, where wild orchids and golden buttercups grow amid graceful quaking grass on centuries-old farmland, high above the River Wye
Vestiges of a distant era thrive at the rim of the Trellech Plateau, within the Wye Valley AONB just south of Monmouth. Here, in a deeply bucolic landscape peppered by hamlets and villages, lies Pentwyn Farm.
Owned by Gwent Wildlife Trust, the 12-hectare traditional sheep and cattle farm is a SSSI, recognising the significance of its relict, species-rich fieldscape.
Wildlife at Pentwyn Farm
A jigsaw of irregular little hay meadows – a riot of colour throughout spring and summer – spills below secluded Penallt’s cosy Bush Inn and handkerchief-sized village green. Beautiful, blowsy byes threaded by mellow drystone walls slumber above the wooded depths of the Wye’s cavernous gorge. On the farm’s waymarked trail, the first thing to take the eye is the view across to the woodland domes of the Forest of Dean. At your feet, swathes of oxeye daisy, hawkbit, knapweed and yellow-rattle bloom profusely, while venerable hedge-banks glisten with stitchwort and glow with campions.
Notable here are many types of orchids that grow alongside common milkwort, delicate quaking-grass and showy bistort spikes. Over 80 species of flowering plant are found here – a rich food-
source for bees and insects that, in turn, are food for summer’s swallows and rare spotted flycatchers hunting from nearby Prisk Wood.
It’s best visited (free) between April and July; the meadows are then mown once seed has been set. The walking trail circles from the small parking area at Pentwyn’s old barn, built in-part around a medieval holy well, wayside chapel and hospice. The paths are gently sloping; the pastures interlinked by hand gates.
Alternatively, there is a glorious three-mile circular walk – largely along quiet lanes and old railway – from Redbrook village, deep in the Wye’s chasm. It’s steep outwards; but ample rewards include intriguing industrial heritage and verges billowing with cow parsley, buttercups, foxgloves and meadowsweet. Visit wyevalleyaonb.org.uk to download a walk leaflet.
Neil Coates is a Manchester-based writer with nearly 40 walking/guidebooks published.