Branches Fork Meadows
Know before you go
Parking informationThere is a small car park (grid ref SO 27538 01636)
An unsurfaced circular footpath leads around the site.
The reserve is gently sloping and can be wet and muddy in places. Access to the reserve is via gates along the northern boundary. The NCN 492 cycleway runs parallel to the northern boundary.
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitAll year
About the reserve
Joined together by woodland, the three grassland areas of this reserve support their own distinct communities of plants and insects. The small area of marshy grassland to the east of the reserve has mounds of purple moor grass and longhorn moths flitting amongst the brambles. The central grassland is home to more acid-loving plants like bilberry, heath bedstraw and the bright lilac blooms of Devil’s bit-scabious. Butterflies like large skipper, small heath and meadow brown feed on this floral banquet. A small wooden bridge leads into the final grassland where you’ll find pink patches of lousewort and the golden blooms of tormentil and greater bird’s-foot trefoil. In July, heath-spotted orchids are at their best.
Under the canopy of the young oak woodland, goldcrests, long-tailed tits and woodpeckers can be found all year round. In the spring, as bluebells carpet the floor, they are joined by willow warblers and blackcaps, and in the winter by siskins and lesser redpolls.
From Pontypool, take the A4043 north. Approximately 1 km north of the town centre, as you approach Pontnewynydd, turn left up Merchant’s Hill and after passing over a narrow bridge you’ll see a small car park on your left. From here, the reserve can be accessed on foot/bike (see below).
The reserve is accessed from the east via the NCN 492 cycleway which runs from Cwmbran towards Brynmawr, crossing Merchant’s Hill next to the car park. From the car park, walk or cycle 5-10 minutes west along the path to reach the reserve entrance on your left (grid ref SO 26887 01572).
Near the reserve
Gwent Wildlife Trust’s Henllys Bog, Coed Meyric Moel and Priory Wood reserves are a short drive away.
Nearby attractions include Pontypool Park, considered to be one of Wales’ finest parks. The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape World Heritage Site covers the head of the valley and includes Big Pit and the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway (the highest gauge railway in Wales).