Explosive past, wild future
From 1865 until 1995 this corner of West Wales was world-renowned for its explosives expertise. The remote location and natural, steep-sided valleys made it the perfect place for a specialist factory which, at its height, employed over 500 people. During the Second World War, over 17 million grenades were produced at this site! The Wildlife Trust took over the site when it was decommissioned – since then, it’s nature that has exploded …
Today, wandering through the lovely mixture of habitats and gazing out at the spectacular views, it’s hard to imagine the site’s industrial history. The woodland provides homes to nesting redstarts, pied flycatchers and tree pipits and, on a summer day, the grassy glades are great places to spot butterflies and wildflowers. The heathland that covers the higher ground hides secretive nightjars and basking reptiles: four of the six UK reptile species are commonly seen here. The site’s industrial past has provided perfect habitats for its most significant residents, the lesser horseshoe bats, who make their homes in the old buildings and tunnels.
Did you know?
Lesser horseshoe bats are one of the UK’s smallest species – whilst roosting, with their wings wrapped around them, they are about the same size as a plum! They are also very particular, preferring to roost in brick- or stone-built buildings with slate roofs.
Take the road out of Penrhyndeudraeth towards Pont Briwet (the bridge over the River Dwyryd to Harlech). Take the first road into Cooke’s Industrial Estate, following it for approximately 80m to the reserve gates. Parking can be found either here (SH 616 388) or further down the road towards Pont Briwet (SH 618 384).