Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma.

The Gwent Levels in south east Wales is a truly remarkable place. At first glance, it may not seem like much to the naked eye. Stretching from both sides of Newport, this is a flat landscape that gives the impression that nothing much happens here. However, in truth, this place is brimming with wildlife, and its history and heritage stretches over centuries and is truly fascinating.

Imagine owning a time machine. Set it to around two thousand years ago and you might encounter Romans, busy working the land. The Gwent Levels used to be under sea level, but the Romans started to dig ditches, reens and gullies to drain the land and to make it suitable for farming. This was the start of a long history of managing water in the area, and over the past centuries, people have carried on with this tradition. What we see today is the Gwent Levels, a patchwork of lowland fields marked by hundreds of miles of waterways.

These waterways are the lifeblood of the amazing wildlife in the area. It supports birds like lapwings, kingfishers, barn owls and more recently, a pair of common cranes nested here in 2016 – the first time in 400 years. Water loving mammals like otters and water voles can be seen swimming, hunting and foraging, and insects like the rare shrill carder bee also thrive here.

Celebrating wildlife and history

Having such a rich history and wildlife is a cause for celebration. That’s why RSPB Newport Wetlands, as part of the Living Levels Partnership Programme, received funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to help visitors understand and appreciate how water has shaped the wildlife and history of this landscape. Rubin Eynon, an artist based in Neath, was commissioned to design and create a sculpture to portray the amazing story of this small part of Wales.

The result is a beautiful and intricate topographical model of the Gwent Levels, made of bronze. A topographical model basically shows the shape of the land, from its hills, fields and ditches. It gives you an idea of how water is managed here, and how this creates ideal homes for water loving plant and animals.

The model also shows some of the features of the area, like the iconic Transporter Bridge in Newport, and some of the animals that call the Gwent Levels home. The model comes with a steel timeline, which tells the story of the Levels, from its pre-historic origin to the present day.

 Unveiling the model

Installing the model was not the easiest task. Trying to move a piece of metal weighing half a ton certainly came with a few challenges. But thanks to the help of our brilliant and hard-working volunteers and staff, the model was put in place in time and without any incidents!

The model was publicly launched on 8 June at RSPB Newport Wetlands by RSPB President, Miranda Krestovnikoff. In a day jam packed with activities, it was a brilliant opportunity to showcase this beautiful sculpture. The reserve also opened its doors to a new exhibition that includes a fascinating handling collection of replica tools and artefacts dating back as far as the Mesolithic era.

Please visit the RSPB Newport Wetlands page to find out more about the events happening on the reserve, whilst you can also head over to the Living Levels website to check out the events happening around the Gwent Levels!