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Breakwater Country Park, Holyhead, Anglesey

Posted by Richard Hammond at 01:10 on Saturday 06 December 2008

Deciding what to do with a makeshift out-of-town rubbish dump is a dilemma faced by councils up and down the land. In 1990, Anglesey Borough Council’s inspired solution was to convert a huge tip on the edge of Holyhead into a 106-acre country park – a decision that has turned out to be hugely popular. Breakwater Country Park is now part of an Area of Outstanding Beauty and is visited by 120,000 people a year – mostly locals from Holyhead who go there to feed the ducks, stroll along a nature trail and watch seals swimming in the sea...

Breakwater is just 20 mins walk from Holyhead. Photo: Anglesey Country Council The park is on the site of an old quarry where millions of tonnes of quartz were mined to build the 1.5 mile-long Holyhead Breakwater (the longest in Europe). When the work was completed the quarry was used for brick-making, but a gaping hole was left in the side of the mountain. The whole area was an enormous blot on the landscape so the council decided to give it a green makeover, sensitively converting it into a wildlife-friendly park with a visitor centre, toilets, car park and café run by North Wales Wildlife Trust Volunteers. The park still retains a sense of the area’s industrial past. There are still two white buildings which were used to store the black powder used to blast the rock in the quarry and the large tall tower that was used for brick-making remains towering above the site. But the rest of the park is now about nature. The old quarryman’s quarters have been remodelled as a small visitor centre with displays on the wildlife you can see in the park, and there’s a mile-long nature trail dotted with mosaics (designed by local schoolchildren), which point the way to the various wildlife and habitats you can see en route. As well as dragonflies, beetles and orchids, you’re likely to see cormorants, oyster catchers, choughs, stonechats and choughs. Grey seals are seen close to the shore in summer, and Harbour porpoises and occasionally Bottlenose dolphins visit the coastline.

Above, right: A common seal at Breakwater Country Park. Photo: Richard Hammond. (nb. GreenTraveller has yet to win an award for wildlife photography)

According to Gareth Evens, Breakwater’s countryside warden, the nearby RSPB-run ‘South Stack’ is the region’s most famous tourist attraction. But the locals come to Breakwater. It is just 20 minutes walk from the city centre and is a wonderful example of a large open green space: a place to enjoy the fresh sea air and rediscover nature. Entrance is free. www.angleseyheritage.org. Breakwater Country Park was a finalist in the 'Best Open Space' category in the Times Green Spaces Awards. For the list of winners, see The Times Green Spaces Winners are....

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