Flora & Fauna

Cynefinoedd, adar a bywyd gwyllt


The 1210 square kilometres (467 square miles) of the Cambrian Mountains hold tremendous obvious potential for increasing the biodiversity and climate change resilience of Wales. The uplands include a wide range of habitats from the bogs, heather moors and lakes of the upland plateaux down to the native woodlands of the valleys and the tumbling streams and rivers below.

A large proportion of the blanket bog in Wales is found here.  Generally an upland habitat, it began developing around 5,000-6,000 years ago and can be found where peat has accumulated to a depth of at least 0.5m – usually on flat or gently sloping ground where drainage is poor. Few plants are adapted to the acidic, infertile conditions of the deepest peat (which can be several metres in depth) and bog-mosses, heathers and cotton grasses predominate. Towards the drier east, dwarf-shrubs become more common and include bearberry, bog bilberry and mountain crowberry at higher altitudes, while on steeper slopes in the west, purple moor-grass can dominate.  The resulting landscapes are huge, empty areas under wide skies where shafts of light glint on myriad pools and intensify the deep colours of bog-mosses.

In addition, the hills include very significant areas of upland and lowland wet and dry heathland and some fine examples of the classic Atlantic oak woodlands clinging to the hillsides. There are still some superb wet woodlands of willow and alder and a variety of fen habitat types.

Seven of Wales’ major rivers, including the Wye, Severn, Rheidol, Towy and Teifi, have their headwaters in the Cambrians, with obvious implications watersupply and flood management for their lower reaches in both England and Wales.  They and their tributaries are home to numerous aquatic species as well as the birds and mammals which live on them.

In all some 15 Priority Habitats which are included in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and on the List of Habitats of Principal Importance in Wales are found within the Cambrian Mountains.  A number of the most important protected areas are described below, but there are also many other small nature reserves scattered throughout the hills.  See the links at the bottom of the page for more information about some of them, and the organisations which manage them.


Red Squirrels are sometimes seen in the Cambrians, where the MidWales Red Squirrel Project is working to conserve the population. Photo courtesy of Vincent Wildlife Trust/Lizzie Croose