Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea ©Chris Thomas
Birding Rhondda Cynon Taf

Rhondda Cynon Taf or RCT, is a county borough in the south of Wales. It consists of five valleys: the Rhondda Fawr and Fach, Cynon, Taff and Ely Valleys, plus a number of towns and villages away from the valleys. It borders Merthyr Tydfil and Caerphilly to the east, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan to the south, Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot to the west and Powys to the north. Its principal towns are – Aberdare, Llantrisant with Talbot Green and Pontypridd, with other key towns being – Maerdy, Ferndale, Hirwaun, Llanharan, Mountain Ash, Porth, Tonypandy, Tonyrefail and Treorchy. The most populous town is Aberdare followed by Pontypridd.The coal industry has had major adverse impacts on the quality of the environment, such that most of the rivers were severely polluted to the exclusion of all fish life. Recent decades have shown great improvement with the return of salmon recorded in the River Taff and the River Rhondda but the continued presence of man-made obstacles in the rivers is inhibiting regeneration of their pre-industrial numbers and condition.The chemical industry has also had adverse effects due to the dumping of toxic waste in the now disused Brofiscin Quarry in the village of Groes-faen. Dumping took place over a 6-year period between 1965 and 1970 by the Monsanto Company. Clean-up costs have been estimated to be over £100 million. Works costing £1.25 million to reduce health risks to local residents and members of the public using a nearby footpath were completed at the quarry in 2012. Monsanto, BP and Veolia contributed to the cost of the cleanup while continuing to deny liability.

Top Sites
  • Craig-y-llyn

    InformationSatellite View
    This site is best accessed from the A465 between Merthyr Tydfil and Hirwaun. On reaching Hirwaun, take the A4061 south towards Treherbert and Treorci. This road climbs up into an area of high moor land and crags, overlooking a small corrie lake - Craig-y-llyn is Welsh for Lake Rock. This is probably the best area in Glamorgan for the high moor land birds more usually associated with the Brecon Beacons (Bannau Brycheiniog) in adjacent Breconshire (Sir Frycheiniog). Peregrines are regular breeders in the area, and indeed are now found breeding throughout the Rhondda valleys, after having been exterminated in the past. Ravens are regular overheads, while other typical birds include Ring Ouzel, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Linnet and Whinchat. These birds can indeed be seen all over the Brecon Beacons - another excellent spot is Craig Cerrig Gleisiad, over the border in Breconshire. Return to the A465, cross it, and continue northwards on the A4065 towards Brecon (Aberhonddu); crossing excellent moor land en route. On reaching the A470, turn left, climbing all the time, and enjoying the stunning scenery. After a while you will see a large car park on the right and smaller one on the left, with the Storey Arms mountain activities centre on the right hand side. Continue along the road for another mile or two, until you see a pull-off on the left-hand side, where the road crosses a small stream. Park here, and walk up the footpath to the left, following the stream uphill to the natural amphitheatre formed by the sandstone cliffs above. All the above-mentioned birds can be seen here in summer. If anyone knows of a more magical place to spend a warm summer's day, I'd like to know about it!
County Recorder
  • Philip Bristow - East Glamorgan County Recorder

    2 Forest Oak Close, Cyncoed, Cardiff CF23 6QN


    07769 973890

Useful Reading

  • Birds of Glamorgan

    | By Clive Hurford & Peter Lansdown | Hurford & Lansdown | 1995 | Hardback | 228 pages, 30 col & 17 b/w photos, line illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9781872808345 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Glamorgan Bird Club & Gower Ornithological Society

    The Glamorgan Birds Website, a joint venture between the Glamorgan Bird Club and Gower Ornithological Society. The main function of these bodies is to produce the annual bird reports for the East and West of the county of Glamorgan. This website features a number of online services aimed at making your birding in Glamorgan much easier. There are links to a number of pages that will be useful to anyone with an interest in birds, from the casual birdwatcher to the keenest of birders
  • South & West Wales Wildlife Trust (Glamorgan Wildlife Trust)

    South & West Wales Wildlife Trust seeks to maintain and increase the biodiversity and to enhance public understanding, enjoyment and respect for the environment.

Abbreviations Key

  • Cwm Clydach Countryside Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    CwmClydach Countryside Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty which offers a range of walks, as well as the chance to spot Kingfishers, herons, butterflies, newts and more. There are two lakes, referred to locally as the “top lake” and “bottom lake” as well as waterfalls. Enjoy a gentle stroll around the lake and feed the ducks, before enjoying a drink and snack at the on-site cafe, or explore further into the countryside and mountains that surround the park
  • Dare Valley Country Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    You can watch the bird table from the visitor centre, spot the nest boxes in the wood or take your binoculars to the viewing platform. Listen for the call of the cuckoo over the cwm or glimpse the colourful flash of the kingfisher by the stream.
  • LNR Craig Yr Hesg Nature Reserve

    InformationSatellite View
    This is not a Woodland Trust wood, but to the best of our knowledge, the details we've been given are correct. We provide the facility to search for publicly accessible woods, whoever owns them, to ensure that everyone has access to the benefits of woodland.
  • NNR Cwm Cadlan

    InformationSatellite View
    Situated just north of Hirwaun in the Brecon Beacons, the site is sandwiched between the Cefn Cadlan ridge to the north, whilst to the south lies Mynydd-y-glog. The whole area is dotted with cairns and ancient settlements. A footpath crosses part of the site, giving walkers a great view of the varied habitat and a chance to take in the atmosphere of this special place.
  • 3 Valleys Birding

    Covering Cynon Valley ( Aberdare & Mountain Ash ), Merthyr Tydfil and the Pontypridd area north west of Cardiff

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