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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A Walk on the Newport Levels

I took the opportunity of a sunny day today to do a bit of a recce / research walk for a magazine article I'm working on. With my focus normally set in the hills and mountains, I forget sometimes how lucky I am to live by the Severn Estuary with its wide horizons, diverse wildlife and scenery that changes with every tide.

I headed out from the Newport Wetlands Reserve; a strangely calm wildlife haven in the shadow of Uskmouth power station and within earshot of the M4. Thick reed beds obscured any kind of view for the first 5 minutes or so until I climbed up onto the sea defence wall, topped by a small lighthouse. The early morning clouds had almost completely disappeared within 30 minutes, and I was soon overheating in my winter layers.
The tide was on the way out, so already there were slick rainbows reflected in the thick and greasy mud and with little wind present it was hard to tell where the mud ended and the dark river began. 

I could quite happily have spent the morning wandering along the flood defences, but unfortunately my path was barred two kilometres in. It seems that some of the birds in the reserve are more delicate than others, so a large swathe of the area is out of bounds. That meant a long diversion inland for me, eventually re-emerging on the sea wall at Goldcliff. The sea defences there looked as though they had been spray-painted yellow, with mottled patches all along the boulders beneath me, and even a few spots on the track itself. The air must have been very clean, as the yellow dots were in fact large colonies of lichen exposed by the low tide.

The walk became more of an inland mud-fest soon afterwards as I began to loop back across semi-flooded fields in an effort to avoid retracing my steps. I came across a few flocks of unusually assertive sheep, with one group running around behind me in order to follow me all the way to the gate of their field. I guessed that there must be a few pregnant ewes within the flock for the other sheep to be behaving so defensively, and the next flock even had a very early lamb within it.

Despite the mud, the walk was pleasant enough, and gave me the opportunity to sample a small section of the Wales Coast Path, and see off a few of those Christmas pounds!

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