Wild Places: Wales’ Top 40 Nature Sites

Iolo Williams
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
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Wales is full of wildlife sites and in Wild Places television naturalist Iolo Williams picks his favourite forty from the many nature reserves scattered around the country. From Cemlyn on Anglesey to the Newport Wetlands, from Stackpole in Pembrokeshire to the Dee Estuary, Williams criss-crosses Wales. His list takes in coastal sites from marshes to towering cliffs – plus Skomer and other islands – mountains, valleys, bogs, meadows, woods and land reclaimed from industry. These wild places vary in size from the vastness of bog at Tregaron to the hidden gem that is the daffodil wood at Coed-y-Bwl. They include sites of international significance, like Skomer Island, and the managed beauty of the former open cast site, Parc Slip.

As this informative and lavishly illustrated book demonstrates, all the sites are packed with the widest variety of trees, plants, birds, animals and insects. Williams draws on his considerable knowledge to guide readers and visitors to the natural delights of each site. Wild Places will reveal rarities like the Snowdon lily and the Snowdonia hawkweed, where to find twenty different species of dragonfly and damselfly and a colony of the shrill carder bee, and the site for an incredible 797 species of moths. You will learn where to find birds, both rare and in huge numbers, where hares box and otters swim, where to spot dolphins and salmon, and where to see Wales’ great variety of hawks and other birds of prey.

Each entry includes a survey of what is to be found there, a brief description of the facilities, and directions to reach the site. Illustrated in beautiful detail and with glorious images of the site by Wales’ top nature photographers, Wild Places confirms Wales’ pre-eminence as a country rich in stunning landscape inhabited in abundance by all manner of life. Author and book aim to introduce a new audience to the delights of natural Wales, be they armchair naturalists or, more importantly, visitors to the forty sites Williams has selected.


Review by John T Morris

Friday, July 28, 2017

The increasing popularity of walking as a fitness and leisure pursuit coupled with the desire by many to seek peace and tranquility whist exploring wildlife sites, IoIo Williams has written an outstanding book focusing on the top nature sites and reserves in Wales. Iolo is an experienced presenter and contributor to  a wide range of naturalist programmes on television and radio in both Welsh and English. His expertise and ability are clearly evident within this easily read text as he engages and guides the reader on his journeys which explore the magnificent scenery and range of wildlife within Wales.

The free-flowing text is enhanced and vividly brought to life for the reader by excellent photographs.  This is particularly evident in the sections on Lake Vyrnwy, the Great Orme, Fenns, Whixall and Bettisfield Mosses, Newborough Warren, the Teifi Marshes and  Morfa Harlech, to name just a few from the forty places reviewed.  As the author emphasises, this is not a book to be left in the lounge or the bookcase at home, but is a practical guide to be carried in the field in all weathers.

Iolo Williams has put together a truly excellent practical guide for readers of all ages and ability who are keen to put on their walking boots and venture out.  The contents of this outstanding text will give the reader added knowledge and confidence of what to look out for, in the beautiful countryside of Wales and its border counties.

Review by Gwales

Friday, February 17, 2017

Iolo Williams is probably the best known naturalist in Wales, and respected by everyone for his wide-ranging knowledge of wildlife. His TV appearances are marked by his friendly delivery and accurately incisive content. I recall good evidence of his knowledge and wildlife skills all over the world from Scotland to South Georgia in the southern hemisphere, but his passion, experience and deepest expertise is reserved for his home country, Wales.

This is not to say that the book is useful only in a Welsh context, since in terms of habitats, climate and topography Wales is a microcosm of the British Islands. This book reflects Williams's most amiable and laudable characteristics. TV pictures are replaced by superb images which have been carefully chosen, no doubt from a long list of thousands, by numerous photographers, whilst his chatty style is both informative and attractive.

Books like this can so easily end up being a potentially boring list of species, but Williams has avoided that trap with some elegant prose and his trademark ecological insights. Many species are, indeed, listed – the characteristic mammals, birds, insects and other invertebrates of each of these varied ecosystems – but their interactions and ecological significance are also well explained.

I am very familiar with many of the forty sites chosen, but the book has taught me something new about every one of them. Whether you are a professional or amateur naturalist, or just have an interested curiosity regarding your surroundings, Williams’s list of sites spread evenly over the whole country could hardly be bettered. Of course, we all have our favourite places, but it would be hard to argue that Williams's choices are inappropriate, and it is good to see them from his unique and personal perspective.

Some maps of the individual reserves would have been a useful addition, but perhaps their inclusion would not be justified in these days of instant access to maps on electronic media. A useful feature is the directions for finding the sites, some of which are quite remote. These directions are generally very good, but you may need to re-check these before your visit, especially if this is your preferred way of locating yourself!

This is a beautifully produced volume that should grace the shelves of anyone fond of countryside and nature. Williams suggests that you take the book with you when visiting these very special wild places. I think this is good advice, but you might prefer to keep it in the car, as it is rather heavy and cumbersome to carry around, and one wouldn't want to dirty such a lovely volume. It is a tempting proposition to visit every one of these exciting natural places, and I am sure this book will inspire a whole lot of potential naturalists, young and old. To cap it all, Williams is fond of a good café, and makes some useful recommendations!

Richard Hartnup

A review from, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

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