Coed Maes yr Helmau (also known as Torrent Walk) is a beautiful area of woodland located on the south side of the Afon Wnion. This expanse is one of two main areas of woodland nestled entirely within the Coedydd Dyffryn Wnion Site of Special Scientific Interest, extending from the outskirts of Dolgellau towards Rhyd-y-main and Y Bala. A narrow and steep gorge channels the Afon Clywedog into a series of pools and water falls, creating constantly humid conditions. These support a rich variety of ferns, mosses, liverworts, lichens and fungi that together give this Sessile Oak woodland its special character.
The woodland landscape forms a mosaic of dense, ungrazed, closed canopy woodland to open, grazed wood-pasture. Sessile oak and downy birch dominates the tree canopy, accompanied by Beech, Rowan, Holly and Ash. Alder is common in areas of poor drainage, while Lime and Wych Elm can be found along the river. Sparse Hazel and Holly characterise much of the understorey. The field layer is diverse, but typically represented by the presence of grasses, ferns and sometimes stands of Bilberry and Heather. The delicate Wavy Hair-grass is common throughout the woodlands, whereas Common Bent, Sweet Vernal Grass and Creeping Soft-grass occur on deeper soils. Herb species include Wood Sorrel, Greater Stitchwort, Bluebell, Herb Robert and the uncommon Wood Fescue. There are plenty of fern species to observe, including Lady Fern, Oak Fern, Broad Buckler Fern and Scaly Male Fern, as well as uncommon species such as Wilson’s filmy fern and Tunbridge filmy-fern occurring within the spray zone of a waterfall.
The site supports a rich and diverse assemblage of moss and liverwort flora, forming a carpet that covers boulders, roots, bases of trees, and extends onto rock ledges. Many species of rare and scarce lichen are found on mature trees growing in pastures, hedgerows and on the edge of the woodland.
Spring and summer is an excellent time to spot breeding birds in the woodland, including Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and Blackcap (all summer visitors), Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Mammals include Otter, Brown hare and Dormouse. Notably, the area is considered an important locale for the rare Lesser Horseshoe Bat and is a component part of the Meirionnydd Oakwoods and Bat Sites Special Area of Conservation.
Coed Maes y Helmau provides plenty of walking opportunities; in particular, there is the ever popular Torrent Walk, designed for its original owner as an extension to his garden. The path, though generally moderate, is steep and uneven in places. Good parking is available nearby.
|Coed Maes yr Helmau is a particularly special wildlife area as it part of the Snowdonia Centre of Excellence. This is a is a £4 million project creating and developing the best outdoor adventure opportunities the sector can offer through four key sites.
These four outdoor activity centres include Antur Stiniog downhill mountain bike trails, Coed y Brenin mountain bike centre, Glan Llyn multi activity centre and Prysor Angling at Llyn Trawsfynydd. The project is nearing completion and some exciting developments have been happening at each of the four sites. Click here
to find out more.