Cwm Tydu to Cwm Soden butterfly walk
This circular route takes you along cliffs from the little bay of Cwm Tydu to Cwm Soden, one of the few sites for the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly in Wales.
A wide variety of wildlife in a beautiful coastal setting
We carry out extensive work here each year to help ensure the survival of this butterfly, which flies from late April to the end of May. The walk offers opportunities to spot a variety of other wildlife such as the forester moth, Welsh chafer on the maritime grassland slopes, and the giant lacewing along the shady stream.
Car park behind beach at Cwm Tydu, grid ref: SN356575
Facing seaward at Cwm Tydu, bear right and take the footpath up the cliffs, via the kissing gate. The first bit is the most steep but soon becomes more gentle. The path then zig-zags up the steep slope before veering seaward. Follow this main coastal footpath.
Wall brown can be seen here during May and August, and small pearl-bordered fritillary in May and early June in the more inland sections (especially close to the road). Look out for our Welsh mountain ponies that live here, creating good conditions for chough. You may spot several conspicuous beetle species on the sandy paths – the dumpy dor beetle, beautiful bloody nosed beetle or the rare violet oil beetle – try not to squash them. The females of the latter species have abdomen swollen with eggs in the spring, they will be looking to nest.
Go through the second kissing gate and continue to follow the coastal footpath, past the remains of a cliff top Iron Age hill fort, along, and then down to the mouth of Afon Soden at Cwm Silio.
Watch out for common blue and wall brown in spring and late summer. The Welsh chafer beetle can be abundant here in high summer, and grayling occurs along the cliff edge in August, favouring bare ground. There are also more opportunities to see wildlife out to sea, such as fulmars, gannets, guillemots and gulls. Watch out for peregrine falcon overhead too.
Explore the stony storm beach, which seals sometimes use, then cross the wooden footbridge over the stream. Initially bear left, to explore the maritime grassland on the cliffs, with abundant thrift, birdsfoot trefoil and kidney vetch. Then head inland, past the finger post, along the main footpath that runs along the lower slope; the bracken stands here are managed specifically for fritillary butterflies. Next, descend into the small pocket of meadowland appearing on your right.
This is the main area for dark-green, pearl and small pearl-bordered fritillaries, especially over the more inland bracken areas. Also look out for green hairstreak on the gorse and dingy skipper, common blue, gatekeeper and marbled white in the meadow, while silver-washed fritillaries visit the flowers here. You may also spot speckled yellow, brown silver lines fairy longhorn moths, cinnabar and the rare white spotted sable moth flying by day.
Walk over the bridge. Here you have two options. Option one is to follow the path straight on and turn right after the second bridge. Option two is to turn left, signed Nanternis, and follow the path into another flowery meadow, at the end of which bear right into a third meadow. Follow the path down through this third meadow, into a fourth small meadow. It will return you to the second bridge.
Look out for silver-washed fritillary in July and August. The meadows support small numbers of green-veined white, dingy skipper, common blue, small copper, orange-tip pearl and small pearl-bordered fritillaries, and plants such as common knapweed, birdsfoot trefoil, meadowsweet and early purple orchid. The stream is used by grey wagtail, giant lacewing and the huge gold-ringed dragonfly.
Turn right after the second bridge and head up the wooded lane, again following Cwm Tydu signs to a field gate. Go through the gate and keep to the hedge on the seaward side, where you will walk up the hill through a wonderful wildflower meadow. In the top right hand corner, you will reach a kissing gate leading onto a short dirt track – turn right at the end of this into the surfaced lane. You will come to Pen Y Graig house – go through the kissing gate to your right next to the farmhouse, and you will be back on the cliff top above Cwm Silio.
You'll see a variety of wildlife here including speckled wood butterflies in the shady lanes, holly blues defending their holly trees, cattle grazing in the flowery meadow (a good example of an old fashioned meadow), along with common blue, meadow brown and small copper butterflies.
After the farmhouse gate, bear immediately left, following the footpath over a minor plank bridge along and down towards the Castell Bach settlement. You'll now know where you are - just bear left back along the coastal footpath to Cwm Tydu.
Butterflies and other wildlife
You are now back in chough country. Look out for small elephant hawkmoths resting by day under gorse, and see spring squill and thrift in abundance in the short turf in April and early May. Later, you will see bugle, eyebrights and trailing tormentil and then field madder, delicate harebell and purple flowering heather in late summer Also keep an eye out for cetaceans, especially porpoises and dolphins, in the sea.
Car park behind beach at Cwm Tydu, grid ref: SN356575
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