A fascinating secret world is hidden in the village of Rhydymwyn near Mold. During World War II an area was developed as a base for storing significant amounts of mustard gas shells. This was an ideal site as it was well hidden in a relatively narrow concealed valley and tunnels could also be created to provide complete protection from enemy bombs.
During the production of chemical weapons scientists were not allowed to carry paper for security reasons. On the walls of some of the remaining buildings you can still see their notes and calculations. In addition work was carried out into methods to develop the atomic bomb. Although about 2000 people worked at the site, even family members didn’t know what went on there.
The Valley Works site is now owned by DEFRA (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and over a 10 year period the site was reclaimed with seeded top soil imported and some of the buildings demolished. In 2004 the site became an nature reserve and NEWWildlife (North East Wales Wildlife Trust) now manages the Rhydymwyn Valley Nature Reserve. Other organisations are also based here – the Rhydymywn Valley History Society and Friends of Rhydymwyn Valley.
I took the opportunity to visit the site this weekend and found it was buzzing with wildlife. There are over 84 species of birds recorded on the site. We saw buzzards circling above the site, as well as smaller birds such as green finch. In the wetland area heron, moorhens, mallards and even great crested grebes can be spotted. It is an excellent breeding ground for grass snakes, slow worms and it was relatively easy to spot common lizards lurking in the undergrowth.
An amazing variety of eight different types of bats also live on the site. The lesser horse-shoe bats roost in some of the old World War II buildings on the site. However you’re unlikely to see them, as the site is only open during the day – and visitors other than members have to be accompanied by staff.
There’s a Woodland trail which can be followed through the site, which has a range of conifers such as spuce, as well as many native deciduous species. An orchard has recently been planted, which includes local varieties, such as the Denbigh Plum. It’s just a shame you can’t eat anything on the site – including the ripe raspberries I saw – due to possible contamination, even after all these years!
There’s a wide variety of fauna in the grassland area, such as the knapweed illustrated here, and I spotted harebells, varieties of thistles and even the one of the orchids which grow here. The wetland area is home to other flora species.
A new willow bed has also been planted – which will be used for craft activities and making willow structures. Events are held throughout the year, so it’s well worth making a visit to this intriguing site.