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Restoring the link between people and woodlands

How Gareth, a Merthyr Tydfil resident, uses nature to help his mood

During lockdown we’ve been asking people in Wales and beyond about how they’re using nature to improve their wellbeing. Gareth from Merthyr Tydfil has shared with us the beautiful walks he’s been taking, as well as some great photos of what he sees along the way.

My name is Gareth. I’m currently living in Merthyr Tydfil but I’m originally from North West England.

For me nature is an escape, especially in these uncertain times. From where I am now there are two different very different walks that I take. First, there’s the Taf Fechan Nature Reserve which follows alongside the river through a narrow valley. This is my favourite place. I walk through here and everything else just vanishes from my mind. I lose myself in the sounds of the river, the breeze blowing through the trees and the songs of the local bird life.

Once I reach the far end of the reserve I cross over the narrow road bridge to enter the other side. Growing in the small bits of soil between the rocks down by the waterfall is Wild Garlic. It’s a recent discovery for me but it’s one that pleased me nonetheless. It’s from here that I start my journey down the other side of the reserve. It’s almost like it’s a different place to the side you walk up. Whilst the eastern side clings more to the cliffs and the river, this side consists of open fields that lead down to the river and eventually gives way to narrow pathways that lead through the wood before crossing over the wooden bridge back to where I started. It really is my favourite place. It’s my escape from everything that is going on in the world.

The other one is up to Morlais Castle which is a bit different to the Taf Fechan walk. It’s one that I’ve only recently started doing but the effects are similar. Once you get within the shadow of the castle it’s all uphill. Following the trail between the Blackthorns and along the top of the cliff face until you reach the castle. They call it a castle, it’s actually just the foundations, a crypt and part of the moat that is left, but the feeling of being up there is no less stunning. The views are breathtaking. To the north you can see the Beacons, Pen-y-Fan and Cribbyn being the most prominent mountains that you can see. To the south you can see down over Prince Charles Hospital and the Gurnos Estate and, on a clear day with little pollution, right down the Taff valley. To the west is the Cilsnws and the Cwm Darren mountain. It’s always good to just sit down at the time to get your breathe back and take in the views. There’s usually Pied Wagtails chasing each other and some Ravens and Carrion Crows hanging around but occasionally you might get lucky and see a Red Kite or two drifting along the airwaves looking for prey. I don’t think I need to tell you how good that makes you feel 😊

We’d love to hear how you are using nature to improve your wellbeing during lockdown. Get in touch with me by email (miriamdavies@coedlleol.org.uk) and follow us on social media.

Can’t get out into nature at the moment? Let nature come to you with our free online nature sessions. Click here to find out more.

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