Pentwyn Farm has survived virtually unchanged for centuries. It includes one of the largest areas of flower-rich grassland remaining in Gwent and provides an opportunity to see hay meadows as they would have looked in the past, before the advent of intensive farming. In 2003, GWT restored the farm’s historic barn using traditional methods – oak timber was extracted by horse from the Priory Wood reserve to provide the green oak roof frame.
Situated on the Trellech Ridge, Pentwyn Farm provides eye-catching views across the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The farm retains its traditional layout of cottage, barn, green lanes and dry stone walls with distinctive stone stiles. The Trust’s restoration of the barn and traditional management of the hay meadows and hedges maintains a historical farm rich in wildlife.
Four meadows have always retained their historic wealth of flowers. In the late 1990s, the Trust acquired 5 further meadows to restore them to their former wildflower glory. Green-winged orchids, yellow-rattle and bird’s-foot-trefoil can now be seen where recently the fields only held grasses and white clover. A further enhancement by the Trust has been the creation of an orchard of a wide range of local fruit trees, which is to be found around the back of the Inn at Penallt.
Medieval barn and well
Parts of the barn date back to Medieval times, with the barn having been extended several times since. It is an impressive building, with its heavy buttressed walls. Some of the stone is finely dressed, and it has been suggested that it may have been robbed from Trellech Castle. It has been suggested that the barn could have been to collect tithes for the Wye Valley monasteries, whilst the area became part of the estate of the Duke of Beaufort.
Mystery surrounds the purpose of a stepped well just beyond the old barn. Fed by a spring, it is likely to have been used for drinking water. However it could also have been a healing or holy well. There is a strong tradition of holy wells in the area, and Penallt is thought to have been on a medieval pilgrims’ way.
A visit to the reserve in spring presents a colourful display of wildflowers such as cowslips and early-purple orchids. By late spring, thousands of spikes of green-winged orchids start to appear in the meadows.
The display continues into summer, when a variety of other orchids, such as greater butterfly-orchid, common spotted-orchid and common twayblade can be seen, amidst a carpet of common knapweed, oxeye daisy, yellow-rattle and eyebright.
The hedgerows provide an ideal habitat for dormice. In autumn, their presence is betrayed by hazelnuts bearing characteristic teeth-marks. The hedgerows also provide plentiful food supplies for over-wintering flocks of fieldfares and redwings.
The redwing is a winter visitor to Britain. Found in fields and hedgerows, it feeds on berries and worms. It has a distinctive creamy stripe above the eye and orange-red patches on its flanks.
Pentwyn Farm contains a network of dry stone walls and ancient hedgerows. On-going restoration work means that these historic Welsh landscape features will be conserved for the future. Traditional boundaries serve a multitude of purposes: they identify divisions between properties, protect livestock and crops, and act as important wildlife corridors – offering a refuge for wildlife and providing habitat connections running through the countryside.
The reserve consists of gently-sloping grassland. There are footpaths by the field edges and gates have been installed. Car parking is provided by the modern barn and orchard next to the Inn at Penallt. For those with difficulties with mobility who want to see the Medieval barn, the old hay meadows or Wyeswood Common, see below for directions to the limited closer car parking.
From Monmouth take the B4293 south signposted to Mitchel Troy and Trellech. About 1.5km from Monmouth, take the turning that forks left for Penallt, Trellech and Chepstow. After approximately 3.2km, take the first turning to the left, signposted Penallt. On entering the village of Penallt (2.4km), turn left at the crossroads, then right just before the war memorial (follow signs for the The Inn at Penallt). Parking is available by the modern barn (grid ref: SO 522 092) adjacent to The Inn at Penallt, reached by driving through the pub car park. Additional parking for those with mobility difficulties is located at the end of the lane that runs through the village green, past the pub car park to the Medieval barn (grid ref: SO 523 094). Do not park on the village green.
Wyeswood Common is located right next to Pentwyn Farm, and provides a visionary example of landscape-scale conservation in action. The Prisk Wood and New Grove Meadows reserves are only slightly further afield.
What to see around the reserve
The Inn at Penallt is a welcoming traditional country pub and Bed & Breakfast, offering a wide range of real ales and bar food in the pub, and meals in the restaurant. The Wye Valley Way can be accessed by following the public footpath across Wyeswood Common, onto Glyn Lane and down to The Boat Inn. The nearby Penallt Old Church Wood is an excellent site for woodland birds, whilst the church itself holds an internationally important roost of lesser horseshoe-bats. For more ideas on what to see around the reserve, see the entry for Wyeswood Common.