Living Valleys

Heather moorlandHeather moorland

Wildlife in the south Wales valleys is awesome. We want to make it even better and to make sure that everyone else knows how great it is! We have two main objectives – firstly, to protect, create and enhance more places for the benefit of wildlife and, secondly, encourage more people to become better connected to nature.

An introduction to the Living Valleys

The Living Valleys Living Landscape is bordered to the north by the Brecon Beacons National Park, above the villages of Trefil, Rassau and Brynmawr, into the Llanthony Valley and to the east reaches into Clydach Gorge to the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal. The area includes the diverse landscapes of Torfaen, from uplands in the north to lowlands around the New Town of Cwmbran, and stretches to the uplands of Caerphilly in the west.

The landscape is defined by a series of river valleys – the Afon Lwyd and Clydach rivers at the eastern boundary, the Honddu in the north, the Ebbw Fach and Fawr merging into one river at Aberbeeg, the Sirhowy and the Rhymney to the western boundary, all with their sources at the head of these valleys. These rivers then feed into the Usk and Taff before joining the Severn. What happens here has an impact on river quality right the way to the Severn estuary. Conversely, restrictions on the rivers downstream, for instance culverting, will influence species ability to travel upstream.
In each river valley, small field systems merge into coedcae, connecting them to the uplands above. Ancient field and commons boundaries can be found in the form of stone walls and beech or hawthorn hedges that have been allowed to grow into lines of trees.

The landscape of the valleys has changed over time, with evidence of Bronze Age settlements on the hills predating centuries of small scale hill farming. The area was heavily industrialised during the 18th and 19th centuries. The population of villages and towns throughout the valley increased dramatically and the exploitation of the land for its resources was to have a fundamental shift in people’s relationship with the landscape. Instead of providing sustenance it was to be exploited for it’s rich natural and mineral resources and as a place to tip the waste materials from the mining and steel industries. The changes in the landscape caused by this industrial development are still visible today and for some are living reminders of their industrial past.

The closure of former heavy industry such as mining and ironworks throughout Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen, together with the closure of the largest steel works in Europe at Ebbw Vale and the associated loss of jobs, has left their mark on both Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen. The area that once made a visible contribution to the local economy is currently going through regeneration and has yet to gain the appreciation of current generations in the value of its history, ecology and unique natural landscape and beauty.

Our current work in the area


  • The  BIG Lottery funded People and Wildlife Project has been completed. The project worked with almost 10,000 people during its first three years and a further 8,000 in the last three years. The experience of running these projects is helping to inform the development of projects such as The Pumphouse and a new training enterprise.
  • The Environmental Resource Centre (ERC) in Ebbw Vale is the hub of our work in the Valleys region, offering a base for events and workshops.
  • There are plenty of volunteering opportunities in this area– from practical habitat management to species surveying and shepherding as well as communcations and office support - something to interest everyone.
  • There are seven GWT Nature Reserves within the Living Valleys, including: Branches Fork Meadows (Pontypool), Strawberry Cottage Wood SSSI (Abergavenny), Coed Meyric Moel and Henllys Bog SSSI (both near Cwmbran), Silent Valley SSSI and Central Valley (both near Ebbw Vale).
  • Pollinators Project - the team has made a lot of progress learning how to manage land for a wide range of wildlife species, particularly pollinating insects. Find links to Community and School Resource Packs produced for the Welsh Government funded Pollinators for Life Project in 2015. You will also find guidance on increasing wildflowers sustainably. Let us know if you find them useful or if you want more information.


FilenameFile size
community_resource_pack.pdf1.32 MB
cymraeg_.pdf1.46 MB
cymraeg_ysgol.pdf1.58 MB
school_resource_pack.pdf1.6 MB
increasing_wildflowers_sustainably.pdf1.22 MB