18 June 2012>
John Griffiths, Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, has declared that a green oasis in the heart of the Caerphilly County Borough has become country's first National Nature Reserve (NNR) in an urban setting.
The community turned out yesterday (Thursday 14th June) to celebrate the event and lined the streets to cheer on local school children as they took part in a colourful 'Butterfly Parade' to mark the special occasion.
Aberbargoed Grasslands is rich in biodiversity and is home to the endangered marsh fritillary butterfly, as well as other valuable wildlife features, including fungi, rich grasslands, ponds and hedgerows.
The majority of National Nature Reserves in Wales are based in rural, coastal or upland areas, so this site is of particular importance to South Wales due to its close proximity to an urban community.
Environment Minister, John Griffiths, said: "Before today, there were National Nature Reserves right across Wales, but none in the Central and Eastern Valleys. It is a sign of continuing environmental improvement in the Valleys that sites like this can now be added to the list.
"Last month I spoke of my vision for improving urban areas in Wales. Nature reserves such as this one are a wonderful opportunities for people to learn more about nature and wildlife in a sustainable way."
CCW Chairman Morgan Parry said "This site is a nationally important area of conservation grassland and an excellent example of a well managed green space within an urban setting. As well as providing the perfect habitat for a range of rare plant and animal species rare species such as the Marsh Fritillary butterfly, it is a well used and important resource for the local community."
Caerphilly County Borough Council has already introduced measures to benefit the habitats and wildlife, including site management, control of invasive species and the building of a classroom on-site to encourage use by the community.
Cllr Ken James, CCBC Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Planning & Sustainable Development said, "The improvements made to the grasslands over recent years have nurtured and encouraged the wildlife at the site. We are delighted that the site has been declared a National Nature Reserve, as it will enable us to further enhance the habitat and increase opportunities for the community to enjoy this important green space."
The butterfly parade involved pupils from Aberbargoed and Markham Primary Schools, Ysgol Bro Sannan and Heolddu Comprehensive school.
An evening celebration was also organised for the local community on the sports field featuring a variety of activities, stalls and displays, promoting local wildlife and community groups who have had involvement with the National Nature Reserve.
The National Nature Reserve will raise the profile of Aberbargoed and the other nearby communities. It will also encourage visitors to come to the County Borough to visit the site increasing trade in the local community.
Various improvements have been undertaken at the site thanks to grant funding from the Countryside Council for Wales, Objective 1, ERDF, Heads of the Valleys Programme and the Valleys Regional Park 'Valleys Hearts and Soul' Campaign.
For more information visit www.caerphilly.gov.uk/countryside
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