Morfa Harlech nature reserve

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Morfa Harlech nature reserve

This National Nature Reserve follows the southern shore of the Dwyryd estuary then curves around the coastline to Harlech. It is regarded as one of the most significant dune systems in Britain which is still actively growing.

Today it may be hard to believe that the flat land in this area was covered by the sea until fairly recently. When Harlech Castle was built in the 13th century, ships would tie up beneath it for goods or passengers to enter the castle via the steps up the cliff on the west side. The hamlet of Ynys, near the reserve’s north-eastern end, provides another clue. Ynys is Welsh for island. Another inland feature nearby is Ynys Llanfihangel-y-Traethau. Traethau = beaches.

Sand continues to accumulate here, extending the coastline westwards, the sand supply mostly coming from submerged sand bars in Cardigan Bay.

Morfa Harlech provides habitats for many rare plants and invertebrates. The dune slacks, the hollows between dunes which are seasonally flooded, are especially important for wetland species such as marsh orchids and a population of the marsh fritillary butterfly.

Sand lizards have been re-introduced to Morfa Harlech and inhabit the more mobile seaward dunes, where dense marram grass provides suitable habitat.

The sandflats and saltmarshes of the Dwyryd are winter feeding grounds for various species of wildfowl, notably pintail. Otters and water voles live also here.

Morfa Harlech is managed by Natural Resources Wales in partnership with Snowdonia National Park Authority.

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