Mynydd Marian Local Nature Reserve is a small limestone ridge on the western edge of the village of Llysfaen located between Colwyn Bay and Abergele and forms part of a range of low limestone hills extending from Prestatyn to Anglesey. At 208 metres it is one of the highest points locally and the top of the ridge affords spectacular coastal views, overlooking the Irish sea, as well as Kinmel bay, Rhyl and Prestatyn and also inland across the rural landscape and towards the distant mountains of Snowdonia and the Clwydians.
Reserve Status: Local Nature Reserve (2001) & Site of Special Scientific Interest (1997)
Known for its limestone grassland and the rare dwarf sub-species of the Silver-studded Blue butterfly.
Locally, the site may still be referred to as ‘Telegraph Hill’ due to the location of a Telegraph station on its summit . The site was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1997 in recognition of the richness of its limestone grassland and as a Local Nature Reserve in 2001. Many rarities are found here, including Hoary rockrose and the tiny Silver-studded Blue butterfly.
LOCATION of MYNYDD MARIAN & HOW TO FIND IT
By car from the A55: 23. From the Conwy direction exit at junction 22, then follow the A547 through Old Colwyn, taking the right turn to Llysfaen as signposted. From the Chester direction exit at junction 23 and follow the A547 in the direction of Old Colwyn, taking the left turn to Llysfaen as signposted. You will now be on Berth y Glyd Road. Continue up through the village and take a right turn into Bron y Llan Road. The car park for the site is a short drive up and located on the right hand side of the road.
There is another car park located at the Castle Inn which gives access to the cliffs at the southern end of the site, but these are very steep.
There is open access across the whole site, which is threaded with paths and most of it is easily accessible.
The Nature Reserve & wildlife
How the Reserve was shaped & present-day maintenance
Exposed limestone cliffs show that Mynydd Marian was once edged by numerous small limestone quarries, many of which were still in use up until the late 19th century. On this site the stone was quarried by hand on a small scale and used for building stone and for lime production. The small quarries have long since closed but the much larger Raynes Quarry nearer the coast is still working.
The 1839 Tithe map shows a sizeable area of unenclosed Common Land on the top of Mynydd Marian and the area has been grazed historically by sheep, geese and possibly cattle. This lack of cultivation and fertilisation partly explains why the site is so flower-rich today. Mynydd Marian is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in recognition of its limestone grassland communities and the wildlife they support, including nationally rare plants and butterflies. Most of these species flourish where the grass is close-cropped.
Nowadays it is only the numerous rabbits that keep the grass cropped although rabbit grazing alone is insufficient to prevent the growth of gorse, cotoneaster (a garden escapee), bramble and other woody scrub. If left alone they would gradually spread across the site, reducing the area of short grass where most of the wildflowers thrive.
Currently the site warden organises regular cutting of some areas of gorse and scrub and the removal of cotoneaster, using both contractors and volunteers but this is costly and time-consuming. The re-introduction of grazing in some form, either low level grazing throughout the year or more intense seasonal grazing once the flowers have set seed, is being considered as a better long-term solution for the management of the site.
Flora and Fauna
A rich variety of wildflowers thrive on the thin limestone soils and during late spring and summer, the grassland of Mynydd Marian is a mass of colour. Flowering times vary, but June and July are good months to visit as a wide variety of species will be in flower. Wild thyme, bird’s foot trefoil, rockrose, and mouse- ear hawkweed are common along with swathes of orchids – early purple orchids in late spring and common spotted orchids in early summer. On the rockier areas, different species that can survive the drier conditions, such as tiny stonecrops and carline thistle can also be found. Many rarities are found here, including Hoary rockrose, but it is the wonderful array of commoner plants and insects that make Mynydd Marian a special place to visit.
The scrub and limestone grassland of Mynydd Marian provides an ideal habitat for many butterflies: 18 species were recorded in 2005, including the rare tiny Silver-studded blue butterfly. The different species tend to be seen where their preferred food plant grows eg common blue is found on the close cropped grass and rocky slopes where birds foot trefoil grows, whereas ringlet is more likely to be seen around the bramble scrub.
Perched on top of Mynydd Marian is Telegraph House, built in 1841 by the Trustees of Liverpool Docks to send messages and reports of ships from Holyhead to Liverpool. At the time Liverpool was a major port and it was useful for the port to know what boats would be arriving and with what cargo. There were 12 stations in the chain from Holyhead to Liverpool: Holyhead Mountain, Cefn Du, Mynydd Elian, Ynys Seiriol, (Puffin Island), Great Orme, Llysfaen, Point of Ayr, Hilbre Island, Bidston Bill and Duncan’s Warehouse in Chapel Street, Liverpool. There were two intermediate stations, Carreglwyd, near Llanfaethlu in Anglesey, and the Foryd in Rhyl. Weather conditions determined which stations were used each time.The record for sending a message from Holyhead to Liverpool was 53 seconds.
The messages were sent by semaphore, a method of signalling that was devised over 200 years ago. The type of semaphore used at Mynydd Marian developed over the years, starting with large wooden poles with arms, these became more and more complex and were later superceded by lights. Semaphore was later replaced by the electric telegraph system.
Now a private residence, Telegraph House it is still possible to see the roof platform – this is where the messages were sent from.