A walk back in time along the dam wall

The dam wall

This year my life reached the milestone of half a century and since then, many times, I have had cause to look back at my life. The covid lockdowns have, if anything made me reflect even more on my past as being restricted to now "stay local" has made me focus on places that I used to visit regularly in my youth. One of these places which is particularly special to me is Llandegfedd Reservoir. 


The dam with rainbow overhead.

My interest in wildlife was influenced hugely by my mother and father. My mother would buy me bird books and posters and encouraged me to learn to identify birds. Whilst my father would take me on trout fishing trips to the reservoir and gave me a pair of binoculars to spot birds with.

 My father had incredible awareness and very sharp eyesight and he was always pointing out birds. I guess in some respects that rubbed off quite a bit on me. My mother however was responsible for my passion for wildlife as she always encouraged me to read more about birds and to study Biology.

At one time my father got friendly with the reservoirs Bailiff who lived in our street and I remember him turning up one day with a big biscuit tin of birds eggs. He was not a collector but apparently someone had died who was, and they had found their way to him and he thought it would have bee a waist to throw them in the bin at that time - despite the fact he did not agree with the collecting of them in the first place. Back then I remember marvelling at the incredible diversity of eggs and could not get over how beautiful many were. Unfortunately that tin disappeared over the eons I grew up, but in many respects I am glad it vanished, as egg collecting is an awful thing to do and should be something that stays well and truly in the past. If I had known better back then they could have been donated to a museum.

Blue Tit

One day the Bailiff turned up again and asked if I would like to meet some bird ringers at the reservoir. My ten year  old , bird obsessed ,self was never going to turn that down and that led me to shadowing a group of ringers who back then had a shed and mist nests in the Sorbrook Woods. All that is now a distant memory. Good memories though as I remember holding my first Chiff Chaff and it was thrilling to get to see birds so close up in your hands.

Whilst I don't consider Llandegfedd my main birding patch , whenever I visit, it does feel very welcoming and brings back a lot of good memories.

As I walked across the dam wall this morning lots of them came flooding back. The weather was quite nice, lots of sunshine in dispersed between the odd light rain shower. 

I watched various Great Crested Grebes have a squabbles - they are getting all "breedy" now so you see fights breaking out between rival males and then romantic interludes between males and females as they put on courtship displays.

Great Crested Grebe

The waters edges were home to several pairs of Pied Wagtails that spent most of their time feeding and calling to each other with contact calls as they progressed along the dam wall.

Pied Wagtail

Above in the sky a Raven croaked , Gulls rose on the thermals and Canada Geese descended loudly to land on the water. Mallards paddled in the shallows and often quacked loudly when I got too close for their comfort as I walked the wall.

In the sunshine basked a group of Cormorants that were roosting on the floating platform.

The wood where I used to watch the ringers is full of bird song. I could detect Siskins in the highest trees and heard summer migrants such as Chiff Chaffs and Blackcaps calling. Various tit species were seen - Great, Blue, Long and Coal. It was nice to see a splash of colour on some trees with early blossom flowering.

I saw very little signs though of passage birds. I was hoping to perhaps see a wader again like a Common Sandpiper or perhaps a hirundine such as a Sand Martin but nothing showed up for me.


As I got to the end of the dam wall I recalled another old interest of mine from my youth - Geology and Fossil collecting.

On the eastern side of the dam there is an excellent spot where I used to find lots of fossils. The whole of Llandegfedd and much of the wider area used to lie under a shallow sea. That was only a mere 422-419 million years ago in a period of time called the Silurian Period. During these times the seas deposited huge amounts of muddy sediment which contained dead organisms such as plants and invertebrates. The sediment and containing dead organisms eventually over millions of years became sedimentary rock such as siltstone and limestone. 

So I went and checked the spot out where I used to find fossils in an exposed layer of sedimentary rock. It was great to see it was still there. However it has become very overgrown and covered in thick brambles that have vicious  thorns on them. I persevered and cleared a small path through them so I could pick up a few chunks of rock to examine.

I used to find strange crab like creatures called Trilobytes and shellfish type creatures call bivalves amongst lots of others.

Today I found what I think are bivalve fossils. If you examine the picture below you can see the shell like impressions left by these animals millions of years ago. I find all this absolutely fascinating. A little bit of ancient history held in my hand.

Fossils - impressions of bivalves - mollusc shell fish type organisms.

I must admit I really enjoyed this walk back in time through some of my memories from my youth. Despite the slight easing of the restrictions I can't get to Goldcliff yet but in the meantime my weekend voyages of rediscovery are keeping me entertained.

Ps - Happy Mothers day Mum!


  1. Lovely write up mate - would love to learn more about the fossils along there, find that fascinating but know very little about it - Nic

    1. Thanks Nicky :) Next time you are over this way will show you where they are.

  2. I used to visit this reservior in my youth also. But for me it was for sailing mirror dingies. Only in the last few years have I been photographing and watching birds. So many years lost. Thank you for sharing this blog. My mother lives in Pontypool and I visit her every other day as she is 91 this coming weekend. It hadn't occured to me to divert slightly to the Llandegfedd. I'll certainly be doing that this week. Weather permitting.
    Keep safe

    1. My pleasure Nigel. Goof luck with the birding at Llandegfedd.Thanks for reading.


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