A year round wildlife haven

The Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve

The Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve is a haven for wildlife, and humans, even in the depths of winter.

The small village of Cilgerran on Pembrokeshire’s northern border is known for the Teifi River Gorge, one of the best examples of a tidal gorge in Wales, and the 13th Century Cilgerran Castle perched high above the river.

But another ‘must’ in this little-explored area of Pembrokeshire is The Wildlife Trust’s Welsh Wildlife Centre in the heart of the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve. Spread over 264 acres, this wildlife reserve is of national and international conservation importance, and is a sanctuary for butterflies and dragonflies, and many kinds of birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.

The reserve was formed by a wide, pre-glacial channel left by the former course of the river Teifi. This created the range of habitats that can be found there today, including open pasture, meadows, freshwater marshes with open pools, reedbeds and tidal mudbanks, which the river Teifi gently meanders through.

View from the Kingfisher hide

During winter, part of the reserve area floods, which creates the perfect home for large numbers of wildfowl, notably teal, wigeon and mallard. It’s also the ideal ‘stopover’ for migrating birds like geese. The mudflats of the Teifi and areas of open water also attract little Egrets and occasionally Bittern.

Considerable numbers of water rail are present in winter, along with other regular visitors including snipe, curlew and lapwing. At dusk the reed beds come alive as flocks of Starlings gather in a murmuration to twist, turn, swoop and swirl across the sky in beautiful shape-shifting clouds. It’s an incredible sight!

Exploring the reserve on foot or by bike has been made easy through a series of trails that crisscross the reserve, bringing you to hides where you can stop and watch the comings and goings of local wildlife. You never know what you might see: resident otters playing, kingfishers fishing, or the herd of red deer moving right past the hide. You can even spot water buffalo during the summer months… Yep, that’s right – they help to manage the wetlands.

Running through the heart of the reserve towards Cardigan is a one-mile stretch of the traffic-free, Cardi Bach cycle path, which used to be a railway line. It’s a perfect section for younger children to fine-tune their cycling skills, and links to other cycling routes in the area.

If the children still have energy to burn, head to the adventure playground or to one of the play, exploration and creativity activities run by the centre.

The reserve is home to herds of Red and Sika deer

To explore the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve from a completely different angle, you can hire a canoe and float effortlessly downstream towards Cardigan, or slowly paddle upstream through the impressive Teifi Gorge.

Finally, when your cheeks are rosy and you’ve had your fill of the outdoors, head over to the Welsh Wildlife Centre. Open 5 days a week, Wednesday to Sunday (check their Facebook in case of changes), this award-winning building has an interpretation centre packed full of information about the reserve, its wildlife and about the Wildlife Trust’s work as a charity in this region.

In the Glasshouse Café you can relax with refreshing or warming drinks, homemade cakes, and delicious, locally-sourced hearty meals, all with stunning views across the Teifi Marsh Nature Reserve.

For a completely immersive experience of the wildlife reserve that’ll give you the chance to experience daytime flora and fauna as well as watching otters at dawn or badgers and deer at dusk once other visitors have gone home, book a stay at the self-catering Oak Tree Cottage. To help you get away from it all, this rustic woodland cottage has no TV or WIFI, so you’re guaranteed to feel peaceful with only the sounds of nature around you. Bliss.

Award winning visitor centre and Glasshouse Cafe

Top tips for visiting:

  • When using the hides, keep the noise levels to a minimum so you don’t scare the wildlife away!
  • Forgotten your binoculars? Don’t worry – you can hire them from the visitor centre.
  • Dog walking on the reserve – Keep dogs on a lead to minimise distress and disturbance to wildlife.


About The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales:

The Trust is charity that manages some of the region’s most precious wild places, including stretches of magnificent coastline, islands, mountains and ancient woodlands, with 13 reserves in Pembrokeshire.

Don’t shy away from encroaching winter: embrace the cold and tempestuous weather by wrapping up and facing the elements.

Alf Alderson for Wanderlust magazine