Wales Climate Week: Working in Collaboration to Support Cardiff’s Eco-System

25 November 2022

Built in the late 19th Century, Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs have been an integral part of the north Cardiff community for more than one hundred years.

The much-loved site came under threat in 2001 and members of the community formed the Reservoir Action Group (RAG) and successfully campaigned to save the reservoirs from development. More than 20 years later the community is now working in partnership with Welsh Water to ensure that this historically and ecologically important site is enjoyed and protected for generations to come.

When Welsh Water took over Lisvane and Llanishen reservoirs in 2016 – which included becoming guardians of its ecology and heritage – they embarked upon a journey to restore them to their former glory and create a hub for recreation, health, and wellbeing – providing an area in the city where people can connect with water and the environment.

Welsh Water has been working in collaboration to deliver conservation management activities to protect and enhance the unique ecology of the site, which will enable public access whilst creating conservation zones to protect the site’s wildlife and ecology.

The site is a unique natural resource of significant ecological value, encompassing two Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for waxcap fungi and overwintering birds. Thanks to the Welsh Government ENRaW grant, footpaths are being installed around the reservoirs enabling the public to enjoy walks around the reservoirs, whilst protecting the grassland that has been designated as a SSSI for waxcap fungi – with over twenty-seven varieties of species found on the embankments of both reservoirs.

To fully understand the value of the site, Welsh Water works closely with Natural Resources Wales and ecologists to carry out a range of studies which will help inform how the site is managed when it is opened to the public. Thanks to these studies it is now known that the site is not just nationally important, but internationally important following the discovery in 2021 of a rare grassland fungus that has only been recorded once before in the world – in Turkey!

Keen to engage the local community in understanding the true ecological value of the site, the company supported the set up the Friends of Cardiff Reservoirs group. This has seen members accompanying the ecologist on his surveys to learn more of the site’s unique ecology; environmental knowledge they can share within the community.

The Waxcaps grassland fungi, are indicators of high-quality grassland habitat, and are sensitive to changes to soil nutrients, compaction, and shading. Not only did the waxcap fungi contribute to saving the reservoirs from development, but they are continuing to benefit our health and wellbeing - playing a crucial role supporting Cardiff’s biodiversity. Fungi balances ecosystems, breaking down dead plants and animals providing nutrients to plants and in return stores carbon from the plant in the soil – thereby not releasing it as cardon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Annie Smith, Welsh Water’s Volunteering Manager, said: “Working in collaboration with the community who saved the reservoirs is key to protecting and enhancing the ecology of this site. By enhancing the knowledge of the local community and managing the conservation together we can help address the nature emergency and deliver a greener, stronger, and fairer Cardiff for future generations to benefit.”

At the site a brand-new visitor hub is under construction, which will feature a café with panoramic views across both reservoirs and a range of water sport activities. When the site opens to the public, due to the unique ecology with its two sites of special interest, visiting public will be asked to respect nature by sticking to paths and keeping dogs on short leads.

Vicky Martin, Welsh Water’s Head of Visitor Attraction Strategy, said “Our visitor attraction sites deliver multiple benefits, creating access for recreation, tourism, community engagement, education and learning opportunities. Lisvane & Llanishen is being developed so that not only will the reservoirs be enhanced for people to enjoy but also create better habitats for fauna and flora to flourish.”