This reserve, located on the Gwent Levels, is notable for its grasslands, crossed by a system of reens and grips (drainage features). It is an example of a type of landscape that has existed for hundreds of years on the Gwent Levels.
The main habitat is grazing marsh, with associated ditches, reens and grips. Pollarded willows line many of the reens – another feature typical of the Gwent Levels. Thanks to the generous support of the landowner – Eastman Chemical Company (formerly Solutia Ltd) – with further assistance from Newport City Council, the Trust conserves this traditional landscape for the benefit of people and wildlife.
The grazing marsh supports a diversity of plants including lesser spearwort, rushes and sedges in the damper areas. In the drier areas, meadow vetchling and yellow-rattle can be found, along with scarcer plants such as southern marsh-orchid and grass vetchling. Summer is a good time of year to see this reserve when the hay meadows provide an impressive display of wildflowers and the ditches are frequented by dragonflies such as the broad bodied chaser.
The site provides a good habitat for birds such as reed bunting, sedge warbler and Cetti’s warbler. The densely shaded reens are being opened up to improve the area for wildlife, including otters and water voles. The fine-leaved water-dropwort, a rare relative of cow parsley, has also benefitted from this management.
One of the UK’s rarest bumblebee species, the shrill carder-bee, has its main British stronghold on the Gwent Levels, where it occurs on three of the Trust’s reserves including Great Traston Meadows.
The management regime involves an annual hay cut and low intensity aftermath grazing normally with cattle. This has resulted in the grasslands becoming more species-rich. There are areas of plantation around the site, and glades are being cut to provide sheltered sunny spots for insects.
The reserve is flat grassland, which is wet in winter – and after rain at any time of year! A circular walk is signposted around the meadows at Great Traston Meadows – this takes around 30 minutes to complete.
Exit the M4 motorway at Junction 24. At the roundabout take the A455 past Ringland. Continue along the A455 until the 4th roundabout and take the first exit, left, along Queensway Meadows. At the next roundabout take the 3rd exit, right, along Meadows Road (industrial units are located on both sides of the road). Carry on past Pye Corner (on your left) and follow the Goldcliff road looking out for a white house on your right called Fair Orchard. Drive on a bit further around the bend and the reserve entrance is a wooden gate on the right. There is parking for a couple of cars to the left of the gate the gate (grid ref: ST 346 843).
Or on foot you can follow the Welsh coastal path to the reserve from either Nash or Newport.
Magor Marsh (to the east) and Peterstone Wentlooge (to the west) are GWT's two other Gwent Levels reserves. The Allt-yr-Yn Local Nature Reserve is in Newport.
What to see around the reserve
Natural Resources Wales’ Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve is an excellent site for watching wetland and migrant birds. The main entrance can be accessed at Uskmouth on West Nash Road – follow the brown duck signs to the RSPB visitors centre. Magor Pill, near the villages of Redwick and Magor, is another good place to view the Severn Estuary and its wildlife. The Celtic Way Cycle Path can be accessed from the Goldcliff Road, near Pye Corner. Public footpaths link the reserve to the villages of Nash and Goldcliff – pubs are located in both villages.