The River Marteg meets the River Wye at Pont Marteg, three miles north of Rhayader.
From the car park, a winding path traces this rocky river through Gilfach Farm Nature Reserve. For years, the farm has been worked traditionally and organically, creating a landscape rich in wildlife.
Take the path through the wooden arch, passing picnic tables and stone carvings depicting the many species that can be found here. The bloody-nosed beetle, one of the more unusual animals to inhabit the grassland around the River Marteg, ejects a foul red liquid from its mouth to deter predators. Continue on the path for half a mile to the nearby lane and turn right.
Walk under water
Shortly, take a path downhill to the river. Butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies dance beside the water on summer days. Look out for demoiselle damselflies and the small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. Observe the grey wagtail perched on a boulder and wonder at the dipper that can walk and swim under water. Lamprey, trout and bullhead are also present.
As you walk on, the ‘zee-zee-zee’ call of a willow tit may catch your ear. Small heath butterflies flutter by, wall browns bask on the path ahead and bloody-nosed beetles scuttle across the grass. Mountain pansies, eyebright and lady’s bedstraw thrive on the hillside, while glowing globe flowers and pretty heath spotted orchids favour damp patches.
The roar of the waterfall ahead intensifies at a path leading to the viewing platform where, in autumn, you can watch salmon leaping to spawn. Those with patience or a bit of luck can see otters.
On reaching a lane, cross the bridge to the otter hide, a great place to watch dippers, wagtails and otters. Walk up the lane to the visitor centre in the 18th-century stone barn. From here, a short wheelchair-friendly trail leads to a viewpoint. In the byre of the longhouse opposite the visitor centre, you will find facilities for making hot drinks, handy if the centre is closed, as well as a small museum.
Look to the skies
Retrace your steps over the river and turn right to a higher lane, and then left. If you are feeling energetic, you could take the path looping right around the heather and gorse hillside. Whichever route you choose, you are likely to see red kites in early afternoon on their way to Gigrin Farm in Rhayader – at 3pm all through the summer, the farm serves these raptors their daily meal. Look out for peregrines, wheatears, stonechats and hares as you return to the car park.
Learn more about Gilfach Farm Nature Reserve.