Walk the Wye: from source to sea

There are many ways to explore the Wye Valley. James Fair follows the river from source to mouth to discover the wildlife living on and around this famous stretch of water.

Explore the Wye Valley article spread
Pied flycatcher
  • Where: ‘Pied flies’ are summer visitors from West Africa. They come to Britain to breed, mostly in oak woods in the west and north. Good areas in the Wye Valley are around Rhayader, such as Radnorshire Wildlife Trust’s Gilfach Farm or the RSPB’s Carngafallt Reserve.
  • When: They arrive in Britain from late April to early June and generally stay until August to mid-October.
  • How: Visiting the reserves listed between May and August is your best bet. Though officially not a species of conservation concern, the BTO says that recent reports suggest numbers are declining.
  • Where: This saw-billed diving duck has only become established on the Wye in the past 35 years. Probably easiest seen on the river between Rhayader and Hereford.
  • When: The spring and summer months are a good time to see goosanders on the Wye itself, while they tend to move to lakes, gravel pits and reservoirs for the winter. They gather in large numbers on the lake on the southern outskirts of Llandrindod Wells, for example, where they can be seen in groups of 30 or more.
  • How: These are quite shy birds and easily disturbed, so they need to be approached with great care. ]
  • Gilfach Farm is owned by Radnorshire Wildlife Trust. It’s situated off the A470 between Rhayader and Llangurig. From April 2007, the visitor centre will be open all year round. Salmon and badger watching are offered. Volunteering opportunities are available, too.
  • Cwm Byddog is also owned by Radnorshire Wildlife Trust. It’s located a few kilometres north-west of Hay-on-Wye. See website above for details.
  • Lancaut Nature Reserve, just outside Chepstow, is owned by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. Paths are steep and not recommended for young children or frail adults.
Wildlife viewing
  • The RSPB’s peregrine viewing project at Symonds Yat is organised jointly with the Forestry Commission. It runs daily from April to August and is free. 
  • Badger watching is available from Nannerth Country Holidays. 
  • Wye Valley Canoes rents out open style (Canadian) canoes and single and double kayaks for a half-day, a full day or longer. Based at Glasbury, 8km upstream from Hay-on-Wye. Normally open from March to November. 
Information sources


To read more about our travel editor James, and the rest of the BBC Wildlife team, click here.

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