The small Rhos Llawr Cwrt NNR near Aberaeron is home to possibly the largest colony of marsh fritillary butterflies in Britain. It is estimated that between 10 and 20,000 are present in a good year. Other butterflies that thrive here include the green hairstreak and the small pearl-bordered fritillary, along with numerous dragonflies and damselflies. Rhos Llawr Cwrt is also home to some special plants including the internationally threatened slender green feather moss. Purple moor grass is the dominant feature of the reserve, and its tussocks provide a home for the diminutive harvest mouse, which is one of the reasons why barn owls are frequently seen. There is a small area of oak woodland within the NNR, and other habitats include peatland, bog and sedge-rich grassland. The wet areas are home to wild angelica, and in the slightly drier areas there are heath spotted and northern marsh orchids, flowering in late May and June.
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The name ‘Ceredigion’ takes a bit of explanation. The town of Cardigan gives its name to the surrounding bay, but the county now uses the Welsh word for Cardiganshire – Ceredigion, pronounced with a ‘dig’. Cardigan Bay itself is a large inlet of the Irish Sea and stretches from Bardsey Island to Strumble Head. With many beaches and a unique marine life, it’s the place to come to spot bottlenose dolphins, porpoises and Atlantic grey seals. The area is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), designated under European law to protect its species and habitats. The Ceredigion coastal path is also a major attraction.
Much of the surrounding land is fertile farmland, dotted with towns and seaside resorts such as Fishguard, New Quay, Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Borth, Aberdyfi, Barmouth and Porthmadog. It’s also a section of coast that major rivers flow into, including the Afon Glaslyn, Teifi, Rheidol, Dyfi, Aeron, Dysynni and Mawddach. Historically, the area supported a strong maritime industry. Cardigan was a major hub, once having more than 300 ships registered in its port, seven times as many as Cardiff. Due to being something of a backwater, in many ways this area remains charmingly unspoilt. The nearby heather-clad Preseli Hills are an additional delight.
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