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Priory Wood SSSI

Priory Wood is an enchanting ancient wood situated north of Usk. It sits in a quiet location at the heart of Gwent, where it teems with wildlife.

This woodland is known for its cherry trees – towards the middle of the reserve there is a small area of almost pure cherry. Other tree species include oak, ash, birch, beech and yew. In 2002, the Trust carefully felled four mature oak trees to open up the woodland canopy, thus promoting the ground flora and diversifying the wood. The timber was dragged out by horse to minimise impacts on the ground flora, and was then used for the restoration of a Medieval barn at Pentwyn Farm.


In spring,a profusion of bluebells provides a striking sight. Other species include ramsons, wood-sorrel and yellow archangel – all indicators of an ancient woodland. There is a good variety of ferns including hard shield-fern and lady-fern.

The reserve supports many species of insects and fungi on the dead wood. During a survey carried out in 2005, a total of 283 species of invertebrates were recorded, including several rare species. Birds on the reserve include spotted and pied flycatchers, sparrowhawk and woodcock, whilst hawfinch has also been recorded. 

The hawfinch is Britain’s largest finch. It has a powerful bill for cracking open the stones of fruits such as cherry or sloe to get at the edible kernel on which it feeds. Hawfinch favour woods like this which offer a wide range of seeds and fruit.

Noctule bats roost in holes in trees in and around Priory Wood. They are often seen before sunset flying strongly at treetop height in search of insects. The bank next to the public road has a rich in ground flora, and other interesting species such as spindle. To the south-east, along the boundary with the golf course, are the remains of an ancient hedge, lined by beech trees of a considerable size and age. 


A circular path runs through the reserve. The path is steep in places and there are flights of steps.


From Usk town centre take the B4598 north signposted Abergavenny. After around 5km, take the turning to the right signposted Bettws Newydd (just before the B4598 crosses the River Usk at Chain Bridge). Follow the road for a short distance looking out for an old pill box in a field on the left. The reserve entrance is directly opposite. There is very limited parking at the reserve entrance, enough for one to two cars (grid ref: SO 353 058).

Nearby reserves

The nearest reserves, on the other side of Usk, are Kitty’s Orchard and Springdale Farm.

What to see around the reserve

The nearby Chainbridge Inn overlooks the River Usk. The Usk Valley Walk is located close to the reserve – this walk runs through the Vale of Usk between Caerleon and Brecon.

Nearby nature reserves

Kitty's Orchard
3 miles - Gwent Wildlife Trust
Springdale Farm
6 miles - Gwent Wildlife Trust
Branches Fork Meadows
6 miles - Gwent Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Bettws Newydd
Map reference
SO 353 058
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Opening Times
Open at all times
5.00 hectares
Living Landscape schemes
Usk to Wye Living Landscape

Walking information
A circular path runs through the reserve. The path is steep in places and there are flights of steps.
Limited parking for one or two cars at the reserve entrance.
Dogs allowed
Reserve manager
Gwent Wildlife Trust
Tel: 01600 740600