Updated date:

Cardiff’s Howardian Nature Reserve has dormice, amber snails and bee orchids

Amber Snail

The Amber Snail (Succinea putris)

The Amber Snail (Succinea putris)

From Rubbish Dump to Wildlife Reserve

A rubbish dump in Cardiff has been transformed into a thriving nature reserve with many different natural habitats all included in its 32 acres of land. Howardian Local Nature Reserve (LNR) began life back in 1973 when pupils at Howardian High School were asked by Cardiff City Council to help run the site as a nature reserve.

After the closure of the school a team of local residents and enthusiasts carried on the management and improvement of the area and this work has continued ever since. With a varied selection of habitats including deciduous woodland, hedgerows, grassland, reedbeds, marsh, ponds and scrubland the reserve can boast an incredible flora and fauna with more than 500 species recorded on the site. Amongst these are dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius), the amber snail (Succinea putris) and the very unusual bee orchid (Ophrys apifera).

The Bee Orchid

Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)

Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)

How to get to the Howardian Local Nature Reserve

Situated just a mile and a half from the bustling city centre of Cardiff, Howardian Nature Reserve is off Colchester Avenue with entrances on Ipswich Road and Hammond Way. It is easy to get to by bus with services that run along Newport Road or Colchester Avenue and is within a short walk from the bus-stops.

There are two ways in from Ipswich Road and a choice of footpaths to follow. One of these is a real wildlife corridor and runs between the busy Southern Way and the David Lloyd Leisure Centre on the other side. Although the modern world, traffic and industry are never far away the Howardian LNR is truly a haven for wildlife.

To contact the Howardian LNR get in touch with Nigel Ferrand, Chairman of the Friends of Howardian Local Nature Reserve. His email is nigel.ferrand@virgin.net or by phone on 029 20255937

Entrance to Howardian Local Nature Reserve

Roger Gilbert who works on the reserve standing at one of the entrances

Roger Gilbert who works on the reserve standing at one of the entrances

Birds to be spotted on Howardian Nature Reserve

With its varied range of habitats the Howardian Nature Reserve has attracted many species of birds either to pass through or to live and breed on the site. Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea), Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) and Kingfishers (Alcedo atthis) have all been seen at the reserves ponds and Sedge Warblers (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) and Snipe (Gallinago stenura) have been sighted in the extensive reed-beds.

The Blackcap, (Sylvia atricapilla) Green Woodpeckers (Picus viridis) and Tree Creepers (Certhia familiaris) can be seen in the wooded parts of the reserve. Many other common species frequent the site too.

Volunteers and friends of the Howardian Local Nature Reserve often have to work at the site to keep the vegetation under control and to improve pathways. Although the reserve is full of wild plants and animals it needs to be managed so that the individual habitats are at their best. This helps to ensure that a wide range of birds, animals and plants can do well there.

Howardian LNR Path clearance Pilot 25 March 2013

Howardian Local Nature Reserve poll


Amongst the mammals that have been seen on the reserve are foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and they are known to breed there. Moles (Talpa europaea), wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) and field voles (Microtus agrestis) are some of the small furry animals that live in the Howardian Nature Reserve, and as already mentioned, the site is proud to be able to boast a colony of dormice.

It is even more amazing to think that this wonderful little creature can live in an area close to a busy road and a housing estate. It needed the natural habitat the reserve provides.

The voles can be found under some sheets of corrugated iron that have been left in grassy places. The little animals build their nests and runways under this discarded metal which is also a good place to find one of the reptiles that lives on the site.

Howardian LNR main pond

The weedy pond is home to newts, frogs and toads

The weedy pond is home to newts, frogs and toads

Reptiles and amphibians

The legless lizard known as the slow-worm (Anguis fragilis) can be found hiding under the corrugated iron sheeting and among the grass. It looks like a small snake but is harmless and mainly feeds on slugs.

Grass snakes (Natrix natrix) have been reported on the reserve and they feed on frogs and newts that live in the ponds and wetland areas. The common frog (Rana temporia) and the palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus) are the species found at the Howardian Reserve.

The common toad (Bufo bufo) is another amphibian that breeds in the freshwater habitat provided and the little toads can be seen in large numbers after they abandon the water in summer.

Butterflies and insects

Howardian Local Nature Reserve has a lot of different species of butterflies that can be seen flying around or feeding from the wild flowers that grow there.

In late spring the unmistakable Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) can be spotted on the reserve, and later on in the year the Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) is a grassland butterfly that is among the species that can be found there.

many moth species have been recorded on the reserve as well as all sorts of other insects including dragonflies, damselflies, bumblebees, beetles, bugs, grasshoppers and bush-crickets. A list of all the species can be seen on the Howardian Local Nature Reserve's website.

Howardian LNR Hoverfly feeding on Fleabane

Wild flowers found at Howardian Nature Reserve

With its many varied habitats the Howardian Local nature Reserve can boast an equally varied flora with all sorts of wild flowers, shrubs and trees.

In the woodland are hazel (Corylus avellana), oak (Quercus robur), aspen (Populus tremula) and ash (Fraxinus excelsior).

Several species of orchid grow in the grassy areas of the site and the reserve has held a special Orchid Walk so that people could see these unusual flowers.

In summer the flowers provide a source of nectar for the pollinating insects and a visual delight for visitors to the reserve. Look out for the yellow daisy flowers of common fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) that contrast well with the purplish-pink of the lesser knapweed. (Centaurea nigra).

Fleabane and Knapweed

Fleabane and Lesser Knapweed

Fleabane and Lesser Knapweed

Wildlife Explorer Trail

The Howardian Local Nature Reserve operates an activity specially designed for children and young people and known as the Wildlife Explorer Trail. All along the paths are 16 marker posts that youngsters can look out for. These posts have metal plaques on top of each one with a picture of something that can be seen on the reserve.

A pamphlet is available with a map explaining where to find the posts and with information about each item included on the trail. Special boxes are provided so that the pictures on the posts can be transferred by holding the paper over a plaque then rubbing over it with a pencil or crayon.

Each post also has a QR code that can be read with a modern Smartphone.

The Explorer Trail is a great way to educate younger visitors to the reserve about some of its many delights.

Howardian Local Nature Reserve really does show what is possible with a bit of care and attention to some waste ground in a city. Just imagine what it would be like if all the cities and towns around the UK had nature reserves like this!

Information post on the Wildlife Explorer Trail

Information post with metal plaque and QR code

Information post with metal plaque and QR code

© 2013 Steve Andrews

Related Articles