M4 threatened nature reserve provides healthy environment for more than just wildlife.

Hugh Gregory is a 61-year-old IT contractor. For the past 30 years he has been a carer for his wife Denise who suffers from chronic depression and physical disabilities. Caring for anyone is hard both physically and mentally. Needing to find some respite for himself Hugh, who lives in Portskewett, near Caldicot, turned to the other two loves in his life - wildlife and amateur photography.

For the past few years, Hugh’s weekly carer’s respite comes from immersing himself in the environment at Gwent Wildlife Trust’s Magor Marsh Nature Reserve on the Gwent Levels.

Hugh explained: “I’ve always loved the countryside since I was a lad and with living only 10 minutes away, I visited Magor Marsh nature reserve as few years ago and loved it. It’s ideal for giving me a short break from work or caring duties. The reserve is compact but has a great variety of habitat and wildlife - there is always something to see and photograph - whatever the time of year.

“When I’m in work, I go to the reserve at least once a week, at the moment I’m on a sabbatical so, I’m lucky to be able to visit three or four times a week.”

Hugh has photographed hundreds of some of the thousands of species which have made the Gwent Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve their home, this includes; kingfishers, endangered water voles, Common cranes, and dragonflies. And he has captured the changing seasons at this unique puzzle board landscape. You can see some his photographs on the photo gallery below.

Hugh also had a memorable encounter at the reserve with one of the UK’s most elusive mammals. He explained: “Within an hour of being at Magor Marsh, I felt like I’d hit the jackpot! I’d taken some amazing shots of all types of birds and then an otter appeared, it was a perfect day!”

But it’s not just Hugh who finds respite at the Marsh, when his wife Denise is having a ‘good day’ she too has enjoyed visits with her husband to the reserve on her mobility scooter.

Hugh says he is hugely concerned for people and wildlife about how Gwent Wildlife Trust’s M4 threatened Magor Marsh would be impacted by the proposed new motorway route - as part of the motorway will be built across the reserve’s Barecroft Common.

Hugh said: “I am against the new M4 motorway plans, I feel sorry for commuters, I have been one but there has to be a better solution for people and for the area’s wildlife.

“By the time a new M4 is built, there will be new green technologies in place and if money was instead invested in that and a better public transport infrastructure, a new motorway would not be needed.

“I love coming to Magor Marsh and immersing myself in nature and the wildlife here. I’m truly concerned about what will be lost for both people and wildlife, if this proposed M4 goes ahead and I think everyone else should be too.”

Speaking during Mental Health Awareness Week (May 13-19) Gwent Wildlife Trust’s Chief Executive Ian Rappel said: “One in four adults experience mental health disorder including anxiety and depression. A great way to help is to get outdoors and that’s why precious green places like the M4 threatened Gwent Levels and our Magor Marsh Nature Reserve are vital for the health of people as well as wildlife.

“It’s proven that being in wild places and connected with nature improves our mood and increases our sense of self-worth. It’s great to hear the benefits that Hugh and his wife get from visiting our reserve at Magor Marsh and I encourage other people to visit and feel the benefits too.”