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Exploring the rainforests of Eryri (Snowdonia)

Published on 29 Mar 2021 by Amy Greenwood

How about exploring a lush rainforest on your next holiday? Forget the Amazon this year, and head to the wilds of North Wales and the rainforests of Eryri (Snowdonia)…

Ongoing Covid travel restrictions mean that a big break abroad is unlikely for the vast majority of us any time soon. Which means booking your staycation now – if you haven’t done so already – is your best bet for having any kind of getaway this year.

And staying ‘at home’ needn’t mean compromising on any aspect of your holiday experience, even for the most intrepid of travellers. With so many corners of the UK to discover and explore, it would be more fitting to think of it as a wonderful opportunity to enrich your understanding of the place you call home.

Exploring the rainforests of Snowdonia

A temperate rainforest in Wales… are you sure?

It’s a little known fact that the sessile oak woodlands of southern Eryri form one of the most important areas for woodland conservation in Europe.

This type of woodland is often described as “temperate rainforest”, thanks to its prevailing damp humid climate, and the abundance of ferns, lichens, mosses and liverworts that thrive within it. 

These Welsh rainforests are an incredibly rare, special habitat. In fact, they are thought to be more threatened than tropical rainforest. But the lush conditions are perfect for scarce plants, lichens and fungi, as well as a number of unusual animals.

As well as migrant birds like the pied flycatcher, wood warbler, redstart and tree pipit, you might see ravens, dippers and jays. Otters hunt along the riverbanks of our rainforests, and badgers, foxes and free ranging sheep are also active in the wood, as are some bat species, including the rare lesser horseshoe bat.

But what is a sessile oak?

Sessile simply means ‘attached directly’ – and a sessile oak is so-named because its acorns are not held on stalks like those of the English oak – they are attached directly to the twigs. Oaks are familiar trees, easily recognised by their lobed leaf shape and acorns. The timber of the sessile oak is used for barrel- and cask-making, and it gives wine and spirits a particular flavour.

Visiting the rainforests of Eryri

You’ll find these beautiful woodlands in southern Eryri, along the western coastline of North Wales. 

Coed Felenrhyd near Maentwrog

If it’s unspoilt woodland idyll you’re looking for then head this way. Coed Felenrhyd is a remote woodland above the Vale of Ffestiniog, and a marvellous place to get closer to nature and away from everything else. Look out for otters playing in the Prysor River at the forest’s edge, and expect tumbling waterfalls galore. 

Coed Felenrhyd has the rare distinction of being mentioned in the famous collection of Welsh legends, the Mabinogion, as the last resting place of Pryderi, King of Dyfed. There is one waymarked trail through the forest. Paths can be steep and tricky, so this is one for experienced walkers. It is absolutely magical.

Start your walk near Llyn Trawsfynydd. The best place to park is in a small lay-by on the A496 which is 200 metres east of the main entrance to the wood. Alternatively, use the facilities at the Llyn Trawsfynydd café and walk to the wood using the Llyn Traws cycleway.

Coed Felenrhyd / Felenrhyd Wood is close to Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog. Stay in a holiday cottage near Coed Felenrhyd.

Coed Cors y Gedol near Llanbedr

Coed Cors y Gedol is home to an array interesting animal and plant life. River, scrub and wet flush habitats support diverse flora and fauna including bats, flowering plants, ferns and fungi. 

You are quite likely to see otters hunting along the Afon Ysgethin, and there is a badgers’ sett in the wood so look out for evidence of our black and white friends too. Bird residents include wood warblers, redstarts and pied flycatchers.

Start your walk at Tal y Bont near Dyffryn Ardudwy, and follow the Afon (River) Ysgethin into the woodland towards Pont Fadog. The burbling river is flanked by ancient oak and ash, and moss covered trees and boulders. There are some really lovely waterfalls and pools along the way.

Coed Cors y Gedol / Cors y Gedol Wood is close to Llanbedr and Barmouth. Stay in a holiday cottage near Coed Cors y Gedol.

Coed Cymerau near Blaenau Ffestiniog

You’ll find this beautiful wood next to the Coed Cymerau National Nature Reserve near Blaenau Ffestiniog. 

The site forms part of the Meirionydd Oakwoods and Bat Sites Special Area of Conservation. As well as ancient oaks, you can expect to see mature birch, hazel, beech and sycamore trees. There are abundant bilberry bushes, which fruit in late summer / early autumn.

Visitors can enjoy a relatively level circular walk through the woodland and flower meadows, and it’s a lovely place to visit in springtime thanks to its April displays of woodland flowers including bluebell and wood anemone.

There is an easy circular way-marked trail to follow through the woods. Or follow a section of the old Blaenau Ffestiniog to Maentwrog road (now a footpath) and a link path to an attractive waterfall viewpoint just beyond the site to the north. Coed Cymerau / Cymerau Wood is near Blaenau Ffestiniog and Porthmadog. Stay in a cottage near Coed Cymerau.

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