Westfield Pill nature reserve
The reserve forms a sheltered inlet from the main estuary that’s a sanctuary for birds in poor weather. Brunel’s former railway into Neyland (described here) is now a wildlife habitat. Other habitats here include an oak woodland edge, scrubby meadow and a lagoon with an area of reedbed at the northern end and muddy margins to the south, with man-made islands.
Many plant and animal species have colonised the railway corridor, where the thin soils of the loose limestone ballast (stones which lay beneath the tracks) provide an important habitat. Rare species here include bastard balm (Wales’ largest colony), green-winged orchid and grass vetchling.
Many species find refuge and shelter in the woodland and scrub along the banks beside the disused railway line, where spindle and wild service tree grow. A meadow was created on a reclaimed tip.
Westfield Pill was once tidal but during the 1980s two bunds were created at the pill’s southern end to impound dredged slurry from Neyland Marina. The bunds created a freshwater lagoon, although at high tides salt water occasionally spills over. Fish species found here include sewin, eel, rudd and mullet occur.
The Wildlife Trust’s management includes mowing the meadow and glades, controlling invasive species and mechanical disturbance of the ballast along the track edge. Habitat is maintained for butterflies including the small blue, which needs kidney vetch plants growing in sheltered, warm spots. Over 30 species of butterfly have been recorded here, and over 150 bird species.
Visitors to the wetlands and reedbeds include osprey, little egret and little grebe. This is one of the most important winter refuges in Wales for little grebe. Kingfisher, shelduck, mute swan, mallard and heron breed here, and goldeneye and mallard overwinter. Rare species recorded include night heron, Temminck’s stint, hoopoe and black-necked grebe. The rare and beautiful firecrest is an annual winter visitor.
Water rail and reed warbler find shelter in the reedbeds. Otters are frequently seen, especially at daybreak. Other mammals include stoat, weasel, fox, badger and bank vole.
The migrant hawker dragonfly was first recorded here in 1997, along with the banded demoiselle. This species is uncommon but is becoming established as a breeding species in South Wales. The tentacled lagoon worm is nationally scarce and lives in sheltered parts of estuaries and lagoons, using tentacles to feed from the sediment. It is known in only two places in Wales, both within the Milford Haven waterway.
Adders and grass snakes both bask in sheltered spots amongst the limestone ballast. Four species of bat have been recorded including the rare Daubenton’s bat.
Grid References: Main entrance SM966062 (Marina south), SM961073 (north)