A volunteer’s-eye view

I’m the new Full Time Volunteer ranger at the Brecon Beacons and Monmouthshire base and whilst I am here I will be getting involved in a wide range of projects with both the estate and the nature teams.

We have recently been busy maintaining the railings at Clytha, litter picking and

Pond at skyrrid

Early developments of the Skirrid pond

strimming around paths to keep the walking routes easily accessible and looking beautiful. We have also been busy landscaping a nature pond that will be surrounded by a grassland and picnic area at the Skirrid car park. It is early days for the pond, as you can see from the photo and our basic plan below giving you an idea of its location, but we hope to see lots of wildlife within and around it soon, such as frogs, newts and damselflies.

Preliminary Skyrrid pond plan

Basic plan giving an idea of the location


meadow brown

Meadow Brown butterfly

With the nature team I have been busy nature surveying. This includes a weekly butterfly survey at Lanlay where we have found many Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and Small Tortoise Shell butterflies. We have also done many flora surveys and I have been blown away by how many beautiful plants are within National Trust properties in Wales. Due to careful maintenance and management of the land, especially controlling grazing levels, the National Trust has been able to welcome many plant species back to areas where they have previously been lost.Some of my favourite plants I have seen are: the elegant (pale coloured) Heath Spotted-orchid at Lanlay, the beautiful (deep purple) Southern Marsh-orchid at Coelbren – of which we found a whopping 48, and the primitive looking liverworts and mosses at Henrhyd Falls adding to its majestic atmosphere.


I am very much looking forward to the rest of my time with the Brecon Beacons and Monmouthshire National Trust team and am eager to learn more about the important land management and habitat conservation work they carry out. I hope that some of you will venture out to see some of the amazing plants and places that I have mentioned above.

Thanks, Ellie
Full Time Volunteer Ranger


Maintaining Our Boundaries – Clytha Railings Project


What railings?

At the end of last year we decided to replace an old section of parkland railings that formed part of a field boundary on Ffynonnau Farm. The original hedge had grown up around them making them impossible to maintain.


The Woodlands team have been hard at work


The Woodlands team cut back as much of the trees and bushes as they could but were hampered by the original railings being entwined in the trees. Traffic lights were also needed as some of the bigger trees had to be felled on to the busy adjacent road.


Some of the many supporting stanchions


I needed to replace 150 meters of railings which meant getting 120 stanchions (metal frames) made to support the railings. With the help of my volunteers we managed to paint most of the frames in the workshop before starting the job. Because cattle will be kept in the field we concreted every 10th frame in place to give extra support to the railings.

I used a solid metal bar connected with short sections of tube for the railings which was then welded together on site using a portable welder generator.


Making use of an old style


There is a right of way that crosses the field and the fence so I had to put a style in as a legal requirement. I recycled an old one and re-enforced the railing with steel tube to take the weight of people climbing over it. As part of the Clytha river walk we are encouraging people to walk along the inside of this stretch of railings and cross the road through the 4’ gate. This is a lot safer than walking along the edge of the busy road.

We had a working holiday at the beginning of March carrying out a variety of work during their week of volunteering. With their help, and the aid of a few days dry weather, I managed to get the railings under coated and top coated. As you can see below they seemed to enjoy the task! The work was mostly funded from the tenant farmers farm improvement grant and goes a long way to maintaining the historical views around the Clytha Estate.


Happy volunteers providing vital support to the team

Simon – Area Ranger

The next challenge in the garden

This is what we are starting with...

This is what we are starting with…

This is the next challenge to tackle in the walled garden on the Clytha Estate. These old cold frames have seen better days as you can see!! The mental health charity, Growing Space, uses the gardens as part of its horticulture course and are very keen to be involved in the restoration project.

...helped by a donation...

…helped by a donation…

As luck would have it we were contacted recently by a lady who was taking down an old green house and was looking to donate the glass to a good cause, having heard of our earlier greenhouse restoration in the gardens. I went down to Bath last week to pick the glass up, there’s a mish mash of shapes and sizes, but we can make the frames to fit the glass.

...some steady driving...

…some steady driving…

We can use locally felled and milled National Trust timber for the frames, my carpentry volunteer Allan will profile it. I’m hoping that Growing Spaces will help clear out the growth and re-build the walls. This is what it should look like when it’s finished.

...for something like this.

…for something like this.

Simon Rose – Area Ranger

Time for lunch?

My plan was to develop the seldom used over flow car park at Clytha into a much more user friendly area. The first job was to remove the old barrier and replace with some much more functional gates.

Custom made gates copying the estate style.

Custom made gates copying the estate style.

These would allow the public to access the picnic area but restrict vehicle access. A local engineering firm made up the gates using an existing pair as a template.

Bit of pruning back and digging required to fit.

Bit of pruning back and digging required to fit.

The opening had to be enlarged to allow for the bigger gates and the new posts needed to be concreted in to carry the weight of them

Gates in and benches in.

Gates in and benches in.

Allan, one of my Volunteers, has made up some picnic tables which I’ve sited at the near end. The rest of the area I’ve left to grow wild to encourage more wildlife and wild flowers. My hope is this will become a great little spot to sit and have a picnic.

Finished and waiting for you.

Finished and waiting for you.

Enjoying the flora and fauna as well as the local wildlife!
Have a look at our Clytha walks to build up that appetite.

Cheers, Simon – Area Ranger

Looking for otters on the River Usk

In February I agreed to help Cardiff University with some Otter surveying on the River Usk. A previous survey had been carried out in the 1980’s, so the hope was that the new data could be cross referenced with the old.

A spraint amongst the flowers.

A spraint amongst the flowers.

A key part of this was to collect samples of ‘Spraint’. These are droppings that the Otters use to mark sites within their territory. By examining these under a microscope we can gather information on the health of the animal, the undigested fish bones give a good insight into the animals diet and what fish it preys upon in the river.

Favoured location, can you spot the spraint?

Favoured location, can you spot the spraint?

I surveyed several sights around Brecon along the River Usk and its tributaries and found signs of Otters at all of them. The flat stone and concrete foundations of Bridges seem to be a favourite place to mark their territories.

You can just about spot their prints.

You can just about spot their prints.

A section of the Usk I look after at Clytha was not part of the survey. As I have been out spraying Giant Hogweed I have found tracks and Spraint that show there is also a healthy population of Otters along this section of the river. This is surprising given its popularity with fishermen and dog walkers.  Here is a link to our river walk at Clytha.

Spraying to control the spread of Giant Hogweed, an invasive species.

Spraying to control the spread of Giant Hogweed, an invasive species.

Simon Rose – Area Ranger

Stuck in a rut?

It’s hardly surprising considering the amount of rain we’ve had this winter that the car park at Clytha was going to suffer. Cars were getting stuck and the ground was getting rutted and churned up. Apart from looking awful this would cause a lot of problems when I come to mow it in the spring.
I took the contentious decision to put these gates in to enable me to close off the main car parking area over the winter months. There is still reduced parking available for walkers etc.

A wet day for post setting, just add cement to the holes.

A wet day for post setting, just add cement to the holes.

This was the perfect opportunity to give the whole thing a tidy up. The woodland team supplied 16 x 6 metre Larch poles to replace the existing rotting ones. They also called in and cut the old ones up into manageable lengths, some went for fire wood and the rest into the woods for habitat piles.

Before - rotten dividers, muck and ruts

Before – rotten dividers, muck and ruts

Fortunately our first working holiday of the year were due so they did a great job removing all the old logs. They dug new trenches to site the poles in and used the turfs to repair the damage caused by the stuck vehicles.

Busy everywhere, digging, scraping, lifting, moving, hammering, painting.

Busy everywhere, digging, scraping, lifting, moving, hammering, painting.

They cleared off the turf where it had encroached on to the paving and painted the new sections of railings.

Thank-you very much to our working holiday.

Thank-you very much to our working holiday.

A huge thank you to everyone who helped and put in all the hard work. The plan is to re – open the car park in the next week or so. Let’s hope that the summer is a lot dryer than the winter we’ve just had!

Simon Rose
Area Ranger – Buildings & Estate Maintenance

History of Clytha

Join us on Saturday 22nd June for a guided walk taking in the history of this rich and timeless estate.

clytha folly

This gentle walk will take in some of the true treasures of this beautiful 18th century estate. You’ll be able to learn about our Jacobean farm, Clytha Castle – one of the outstanding 18th century follies in Wales, Clytha House, and many other historical sites. The route will also take in part of the idyllic riverside walk.  The walk will start at 10am.

  • Please wear appropriate clothing, depending on the weather. Please bring waterproofs, or sun lotion if it’s sunny. Please wear walking boots or good walking shoes and bring a bottle of water.
  • Please meet at the Riverside car park (SO 363 087) (NP7 9BW).
  • Dogs on leads welcome
  • This is a low level, gentle walk through farm fields, woods and along the river Usk. There are gentle slopes up to the folly.

Booking Essential
Adult £5, book online or call 0844 249 1895
More Information: Hana Callard, 01874 625515, brecon@nationaltrust.org.uk