Day out: Coedwig Pen-bre and Coed Pen-y-Bedd, Carmarthenshire

There are few better ways to experience the dawn chorus than to wake in a tent among woodland, your hidden presence allowing the birds to sing undisturbed. Discover the dawn and more at this quiet wood on the south coast of Wales.

Woodland path and trees
Published: January 20th, 2022 at 6:28 am
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Gold light floods the grazing land between the two woodlands, saturated by an avian soundtrack so tangible it is almost visible – a cloud of chirrups, whistles, warbles and trills. Dawn-fresh dewy grass shimmers.


You might not expect these tired old interwar plantations on Carmarthenshire’s south coast to be the setting for such an ebullient dawn chorus. The Corsican pines in Coedwig Pen-bre (Pembrey Wood) are diseased and wind-stunted, while those in its nursery wood, Coed Pen-y-Bedd (Penybedd Wood) are as ivy-swaddled as jungle-swamped temples.

There are many great forests and woodlands in the UK, and this is one of them - perhaps at its most glorious in spring.

Low sun and forest
Planted between 1929 and 1954, Coedwig Pen-bre is one of Britain’s few sand-dune forests/Credit:
Jeffrey Moreau, Getty

Wildlife at Pembrey Wood and Penybedd Wood

But even these veterans provide homes for greater spotted woodpeckers, blackbirds, owls and common crossbills. More importantly, as forest management continues to evolve (with a Coedwig Pen-bre Recovery Plan), they are belted by broadleaf coppice and scrub, from which the majority of the birdsong emanates. 

Furthermore, both woodlands lie between dune slacks and saltmarsh, estuary, wooded hills, glades and sands (on which Pembrey Sands Air Weapons Range is active on weekdays and the atmospheric noise much less musical). Such a diversity of habitats makes for a richness of species. Sparrowhawks bomb down long rides and reed warblers croon in the ditches. 

Bird in soft light
The melodious song of the linnet consists of warbling whistles and trills. Red-listed, small, streaked brown birds (males boast pink head and breast), they gather in coastal habitats and arable farmland, feeding on seeds/Mike lane, Alamy

Camping and cafe in the forest

Porth Tywyn (Burry Port) is your access point to these woods and their sandy paths. You can take the coast path through to Cydweli (Kidwelly) past harbours and dunes redolent with distant seabird gobbles and squabbles. 


To experience the dawn and dusk symphonies, I recommend camping at Coed Bach campsite, where you can let the dew dry from your canvas and later sup a brew from Daisy’s Little Coffee Shop at the edge of Coed Pen-y-Bedd. Here, with spring sun on your face and the air swollen with song, you can gaze on the farmland between the two woods, where lapwings display, curlews pipe, horses snuffle and over which pigeons and jackdaws make forays. Where geese honk, shelducks slip out of a pond, and an orchestra of small voices greets the day. 


Julie Brominicks is a landscape and travel writer who lives off-grid in a caravan in a mossy Welsh valley.


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