Nantporth nature reserve lies alongside the Menai Strait between Bangor and the Menai Suspension Bridge. The site has been managed by North Wales Wildlife Trust since 1969.
The main habitat on the reserve is Ash woodland on limestone with open areas of calcareous grassland. Coastal Ash woodland is a rare habitat outside Scotland and limestone woodland and grassland are both rare habitats in Gwynedd. At the Easters end, where the clay soil dips below shale deposits, Oak woodland replaces the Ash.
The main bedrock beneath the reserve is Carboniferous Limestone with large pockets of clay deposited on top. There are two old quarries on the reserve, with associated spoil heaps. In the quarries, where limestone is exposed at the surface, mosses and ferns grow. In areas where quarry waste was piled, the soil is shallow and nutrient poor and supports a limestone grassland habitat with orchids. The clay produces topsoil rich and deep enough to support woodland typical of base-rich soils.
The woodland contains a variety of broad leaved trees. Of special interest are the populations of Whitebeam. Ash, Birch and Sycamore grow throughout the reserve and Alder grows where the soil is wet. There is an aspen grove near the Boathouse at the western end of the reserve.
The tree canopy creates the shady conditions required by plants such as Twayblade, Wood Violet, Wood Sanicle, Dog’s Mercury and Soft Shield-fern which are typical of limestone woodland. The wood also contains plants that are more typical of hedgerows such as Cuckoo Pint, Dog Rose and Burnet Rose. Where the soil is wet, Meadowsweet, Hemp Agrimony and Hart’s-tongue fern flourish.
The quarry wall and floor create the moist sheltered conditions which frens and mosses need to survive. Hart’s Tongue Fern and Limestone Polybody are abundant on the exposed crevices of the quarry face amongst the jumbled rock field of its floor.
The limestone and humidity of the reserve favour mollusc species which need calcium to produce their shells.
The open woodland with glades and patches of grassland is the ideal habitat for butterflies. On the grassy spoil heap Meadow Brown, Common Blue and Small Copper can be found. In the woodland, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper and Comma may be seen.
Birds from many habitats can be seen from the reserve. Many woodland bird species live on the reserve, those include: Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Blackcap, Goldcrest, Tawny Owl, Sparrow Hawk, Tree-creeper and Nuthatch. Below the reserve, on the foreshaw, you may see many sea-birds such as gulls, Oystercatchers, Shelduck, Cormorants and tern as well as wader species such as Greenshank, Redshank and Curlew. Corvids are abundant on the reserve. Magpies and Jays nest in the woodland and Jackdaws, Rooks and Carrion Crows visit the foreshore along the foot of the reserve. Carrion Crows can be seen carrying mussels into the air dropping them onto the rocks to break them open.
Entry is granted by the recently opened All Wales Coast Path, which runs through the reserve. Access is possible also from the shoreline (subject to the state of the tides, so please check). The paths are narrow and steep in places, with steps.