Know before you go
Parking informationParking is available above and below the medieval stone barn.
A waymarked trail leads you around Pentwyn Farm’s beautiful hay meadows – look out for the pink orchid symbol. A full circuit of the reserve will take approximately 40 minutes but you can extend this to include Wyeswood Common.
The reserve consists of gently-sloping grassland, which is uneven in places. Footpaths lead around the field edges and there are a number of kissing gates. Dogs should be kept on the lead as the fields are grazed at times.
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitSpring and summer
About the reserve
Walking through these magnificent hay meadows is like stepping back in time to glimpse the countryside of Britain’s past. Intensive farming has resulted in the decline of hay meadows across much of the UK, but the traditional farming methods used at this site over the centuries have allowed an incredible diversity of wildflowers and grasses to thrive, with over 80 species recorded.
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, joined by a variety of other orchids, including over ten thousand common spotted orchids, amidst a carpet of common knapweed, oxeye daisy, yellow-rattle and eyebright. These nectar-rich flowers attract a medley of butterflies and bumblebees to the meadows. The ancient hedgerows provide an ideal habitat for hazel dormice and, in autumn, look out for discarded hazelnuts bearing their characteristic teeth-marks. The hedgerows also provide plentiful food for over-wintering flocks of fieldfares and redwings.
What we do here
The key to this botanical bounty is nutrient-poor soil. We achieve this with the combination of a late summer hay cut and light grazing from our resident sheep and cattle to keep the resulting growth at bay. We’ve also created an orchard on the reserve, using a wide range of local fruit trees.
The 1844 tithe map for Penallt shows that the fields that make up the present reserve were farmed and occupied by multiple individuals. The history of this complex land division can still be seen with the traditional dry stone walls and ancient hedgerows that were used to mark the field boundaries.
The reserve has two beautifully preserved buildings – an impressive stone barn and cottage. Although added to over time, parts of the stone barn date back to medieval times and it could once have been used as a dwelling house or religious building. As well as providing drinking water, the stepped well just beyond the barn could 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.
The cottage is thought to date from the eighteenth century and retains many of its original features. After being restored in the early 1990s, this cottage is now available as a holiday let, providing a rural hide-away in the beautiful Wye Valley.
Once in the village of Penallt, follow signs for ‘The Inn at Penallt’ pub – turning off at the war memorial. Where the road forks, instead of turning off to the right for the pub car park, keep on the straight track that leads past the large industrial barn building and follow this all the way round to the end. Parking is available above and below the medieval stone barn.
Near the reserve
The entrance to our Wyeswood Common reserve is just the other side of the medieval barn. At three times the size of Pentwyn Farm, it offers great walking opportunities and arresting views of the Wye Valley. Prisk Wood is also within walking distance or a short drive away down Lone Lane.
The Inn at Penallt is a welcoming country pub and B&B, offering meals and a wide range of real ales. 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.