What are National Nature Reserves?
These are the very finest examples of our
wildlife habitats and geological features.
There are National Nature Reserves (NNRs) throughout the UK, but
what sets Wales apart is the sheer variety of these sites within a
relatively small area.
Wales has 72 national reserves with incredibly diverse
landscapes and habitats, such as:
- high mountain summits of Snowdon – home to
some of the UK’s most ancient species of plants.
- sweeping sand dunes of Morfa Harlech &
Morfa Dyffryn. Morfa Harlech includes mud flats and salt marshes
which are important winter wildfowl feeding grounds
- ancient oak woodlands of Coedydd Maentwrog in
the Vale of Ffestiniog – home to some 170 species of lichens.
- peat bogs of Cors Caron in Ceredigion, with
plants that are adapted to the acidic conditions such as sun-dews,
bog rosemary and cotton grasses.
- remote islands such as Skomer, off
Pembrokeshire – one of the most important seabird breeding sites in
Why are NNRs so important?
Because they are part of our natural heritage – these are some
of the most important places for wildlife in Britain. NNRs were set
up to conserve – and to allow people to study - their fauna, flora,
or geological features of special interest.
NNRs are designated by the Countryside Council for Wales under
the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, or under
the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. All of Wales’s NNRs are
also Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
How do we manage them?
CCW owns some NNRs and leases others. Some are set up in
partnership with landowners who agree to manage them to protect
their wildlife and habitats.
Some are managed entirely by other bodies, such as Wildlife
Trusts, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or a local
CCW spends around £1.5 million a year managing its National
Nature Reserves. Each CCW reserve has a Senior Reserve Manager
whose job is to conserve the site, resolve access issues and deal
with landowners and visitors.
The reserves also rely on a small force of dedicated volunteers.
These are often experts in their field, or people with specialist
skills such as scuba divers or cavers.
Are visitors welcome?
Very much so. NNRs were once regarded as the preserve of
scientists, but attitudes have changed.
Today we recognise that these sites and their natural assets
should be open to everyone – public understanding is the key to
maintaining them for future generations.
At the same time their wildlife and habitats are often very
fragile, so managing them is a delicate balance between encouraging
visitors and protecting the reserve.
Access can also be restricted in some reserves because of
hazards such as old mine workings, bogs or marshes.
NNRs offer a wealth of educational resources - many schools use
the reserves for school trips and field studies.
A few sites have visitor or education centres, such as the Dyfi
Estuary and Stackpole in Pembrokeshire, run by the National
For further information contact the Countryside Council for
Wales general enquiries line on 0845 1306 229.