Westfield Pill nature reserve is under the management of the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and has flourished as a nature reserve, providing opportunities for the local public to enjoy the wildlife of the area, with greatly enhanced access improvements for walkers and cyclists.
The nature reserve forms a sheltered inlet from the main estuary that is a sanctuary for birds during poor weather. The habitats here include a disused railway line, complete with its original limestone ballast, 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.
The railway line closed in 1963, but once ran through to Neyland, where the marina now lies. Many rare and common plant and animal species have colonised the disused railway corridor, where the thin soils of the loose limestone ballast provide a particularly important habitat. Woodland and scrub habitats have developed along the banks adjacent to the disused railway line and a meadow has been created on a reclaimed tip. These habitats also provide refuge and shelter for many species.
Westfield Pill was once tidal but during the mid and late 1980s two bunds were created at the southern end of the pill to impound dredged slurry from the Neyland Marina. The bunds created a fresh water lagoon, although at high tides salt water occasionally spills over. Fish species occurring are Sewin, Eel and Rudd, Mullet occur in the summer months.
The Wildlife Trust manages the reserve to protect and enhance this ideal mixture of habitats, as well as providing access for the public. Management includes mowing of the meadow and glades, controlling invasive species and mechanical disturbance of the ballast along the track edge.
Rare species thriving on the limestone ballast include the largest colony of Bastard Balm in Wales Green-Winged Orchid and Grass Vetchling. Spindle and Wild Service tree can be found along the track edge. Over 30 species of butterfly have been recorded overall. Much work on the reserve is done to provide habitat requirements for butterflies, creating sheltered, warm areas and encouraging a variety of flowering plants to grow. The Small Blue is a priority species for this reserve where we try to provide the exact habitat it needs; Kidney Vetch plants and seedling growing in sheltered, warm spots.
Over 150 bird species have been recorded here, benefiting from the undisturbed woodland areas and the wetlands. The wetlands and reedbeds attract visitors such as Osprey, Little Egrets and Little Grebe with this site being one of the most important winter refuges for Little Grebe in Wales. Kingfishers, Shelduck, Mute Swan, Mallard and Heron breed here and Goldeneye and Mallard overwinter. Some of the rarer species recorded are Night Heron, Temmincks Stint, Hoopoe, and Black Neck Grebe. The rare and beautiful Firecrest is an annual winter visitor. Water Rail and Reed warbler find shelter in the reedbeds and Otters are frequently seen, best looked for at daybreak. Other mammals include Stoat, Weasel, Fox, Badger and Bank vole.
The Migrant Hawker dragonfly was recorded here for the first time in 1997, along with the beautiful Banded demoiselle. This species is uncommon but is becoming established as a breeding species in South Wales. Another rare invertebrate is the nationally scarce, tiny, Tentacled Lagoon worm. This lives in sheltered parts of estuaries and lagoons, and uses its tentacles to feed from the sediment. It is only known in only two locations in Wales, both in Pembrokeshire, and 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 Noctules, Pipistrelle, Long-eared and the rare Daubentons Bat.
The nature reserve is open all year round. No fishing is allowed on areas of open water and all dogs must be kept on a lead or under strict control. Please ensure that any dog waste is collected and placed in the dog waste bins located at entrances to the site.
A gallery of Westfield Pill Nature Reserve can be found here.