The reserve was first established in 2000 to mitigate losses of wildlife habitat when the Cardiff Bay Barrage scheme was undertaken.
The site is owned and managed by Natural Resources Wales, the successor body to the Countryside Council for Wales. A purpose-built visitor and education centre for the site was opened, in West Nash, in March 2008 by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds with help from Newport City Council and water level management assistance by Caldicot and Wentloog Levels Internal Drainage Board.
The reserve covers 1,080 acres of the Caldicot Level, a low-lying area of land bordering the northern shore of the Severn Estuary. Part of the site is a reclaimed fuel ash disposal site, although some farmland in Goldcliff and Nash has also had to be flooded to complete the work.
The reserve was made a national nature reserve on 16 April 2008.
Entrance is free, with car parking facilities open every day of the year from 9am until 5:30pm (except Christmas Day), or dusk if sooner.
Dogs and cyclists are permitted outside the visitor centre and along a specially marked four-mile circular route around the reserve's perimeter.
Habitats and species
The reserve includes a wide variety of habitats which include grazed pasture with hedgerows, ditches, reens, reed beds and grasslands. These help to attract breeding birds such as lapwings, redshanks, oystercatchers, little ringed plovers and ringed plovers, as well as visitors such as wigeon, shovelers, teal, shelduck and pintails, bitterns, hen harriers and short-eared owls.
In January 2012 two rarely seen glossy ibis were sighted near Boat Road at Goldcliff.
Comprehensive observation data for the region can be obtained from, and submitted at eBird.org.
The visitor centre visitor centre provides a shop, refreshments, bathroom facilities, viewing facilities and guided tours.
Picnic and Play Area
The picnic and play area situated next to the visitor centre provides a children's play area, education zone, and benches for picnics. It is surrounded by wetlands and reed beds, home to many resident and migratory birds.
Past the picnic and play area is a hill, which continues directly ahead south towards the floating walkway and lighthouse (see below). Three lagoons are located on the top of the hill, immediately before approaching the floating walkway. These are R5, R6 (fully viewable from two fenced overpasses on the hill) & R8 (partially viewable from a fenced overpass on the hill but best viewed from the woodland trail viewpoint).
A new feature part of the reserve's development was an artificial floating walkway, which provides a direct route to the lighthouse over lagoon R7. This lagoon is part of a series of a total of three lagoons spanning the coastal path (east to west). The most eastward lagoon (R9) is overlooked by the bird hide in addition to being viewable from a fenced overpass (currently closed for the stated reason of protecting wildlife), and the most westwardly lagoon (R4) is viewable from a fenced overpass.
The far end of the trail faces south towards the Severn Estuary, along which the East Usk Lighthouse is situated at and the bird hide lies at the end of.
The East Usk Lighthouse is situated within the area of the reserve, on the Estuary Trail facing towards the Severn Estuary. It is a basic lamphousing with no accommodation. The more substantial decommissioned West Usk Lighthouse, currently operating as a hotel, is on the opposite (west) bank of the River Usk and can be viewed from the reserve.
The bird hide is located on the far side of the trail and provides shelter for up-close viewing of birds on one of the trail's many lagoons (R9).
The cycling (and dog) path is entered by turning right (westwards, towards the power station) at the front of the reserve's car park exit. The four-mile route follows alongside the power station past the East Usk Lighthouse and along the Severn Estuary (Wales Coast Path).
The woodland trail is entered by turning left at the top of the hill, and travels past neighbouring farmland, through the reserve's woodlands, past a lagoon viewing platform and bird hide and onto the estuary trail.
Woodland Trail Viewpoint
A notable feature of the reserve which may be missed by the hurried explorer is the viewing platform overlooking lagoon R8. It is located in a relatively secluded area of the reserve, found by turning right before leaving the woodland trail when heading southwards towards the bird hide/estuary trail.
- A guide to the trail can be obtained from The RSPB.
- Location map: 51°32’46"N, 2°57’40"W
- Newport City Council - Newport Wetlands
- BBC News - £3m visitors' centre for wetlands
- BBC - Newport Wetlands
- Newport Wetlands – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
- Caldicot & Wentlooge Level Internal Drainage Board
- www.geograph.co.uk : photos of Newport Wetlands Reserve and surrounding area