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Lisvane & Llanishen Reservoirs Opens as a Hub for Wellbeing, and a Haven for Wildlife

Following a major redevelopment, bringing Cardiff’s iconic reservoirs back to life, Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs will open on Friday 28 July 2023.


Built in the late-19th century, Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs are a Victorian landmark – covering 110 acres of green and blue space and home to amazing flora and fauna – offering an oasis of calm in Cardiff.  Since acquiring Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs in 2016, Welsh Water has been working with partners and the local community to bring the reservoirs back into operational use and has created a hub for health and wellbeing, whilst protecting and enhancing the biodiversity of the site.


A brand new two-storey visitor centre offers spectacular views across the reservoirs and presents an exceptional food experience, featuring the finest Welsh produce. During the day the café boasts a delicious breakfast and lunch menu, along with a three course Sunday lunch menu. The café will be transformed into a ‘restaurant by night’ in September 2023, when an evening menu will be available three evenings a week. Meeting rooms are available for hire; and a Grab & Go service on the ground floor provides a selection of snacks and drinks, fresh coffee, and ice cream.


With the reservoirs restored and Llanishen refilled, a range of water activities are offered. Water sports enthusiasts can sail on Llanishen reservoir where Hannah Mills OBE, the most successful female sailor in Olympic history, learned to sail. For the first time, open water swimming will take place on the reservoir, with canoeing, stand up paddleboarding and kayaking also forming part of the watersports programme.


Visitors to Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs can enjoy 5km of circular paths around the reservoirs, a woodland Story trail and a bird hide. Schools and wellbeing groups can book an outdoor classroom in the woodland learning zone, complete with a Welsh roundhouse constructed as part of a training project with volunteers, NEETs and refugees. Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs will form part of Welsh Water’s programme to support education in Wales, which saw over 80,000 students attend its centres in 2022.

Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs came under threat in 2001 and members of the local community formed the Reservoir Action Group (RAG), successfully campaigning for many years to save the reservoirs from a housing development. In 2016, Welsh Water stepped in, purchasing a 999-year lease for the site from Celsa Steel and began ambitious plans to bring the reservoirs back into operational use. Since taking over the site, Welsh Water has worked in partnership with RAG to ensure that this ecologically important site could be protected and enjoyed for generations to come.


Richard Cowie, the chair of RAG, said: “The Reservoir Action Group was formed in 2001 with two aims: to prevent a housing development on the site of Llanishen reservoir; and to protect both Llanishen and Lisvane reservoirs as a recreational resource for future generations of Cardiffians to enjoy.  After a long 12-year fight, we defeated Western Power Distribution’s development and, thanks to Celsa and Welsh Water, our second goal has also now been achieved. We are absolutely delighted to see Welsh Water open their spectacular new visitor centre and reopen the reservoirs to the public, and we have enjoyed working with them to achieve this outcome”.


Julie Morgan, Member of the Senedd for Cardiff North, said: “After a long and united community effort for the last 20+ years, it is fantastic that Llanishen and Lisvane reservoirs are back in operation.  I have been involved in the fight to save the reservoirs since the beginning as I firmly believe that they should be open and available for all to use and enjoy. The new facilities that have been created by Welsh Water will create a hub for health, wellbeing and nature in the heart of Cardiff North.  I’m so pleased that the community have been successful, and I’m looking forward to seeing the reservoirs become a thriving community space.”


With the support of RAG, the Friends of Cardiff Reservoirs (FoCR) was established to help prepare Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs to welcome visitors to the site. While the visitor centre has been under construction and footpaths have been installed around the reservoirs, volunteers from FoCR have supported rangers with woodland management.


Roger Worland moved to Cardiff with his wife in 2021 and started volunteering at the reservoirs this year. Roger says: “Volunteering seemed to be an ideal way to meet local, likeminded people. One of the highlights are regular visits from ecologist, Peter Sturgess. As the seasons change, he can identify plants as they appear and animals you would otherwise miss including otters and badgers. While I hope that the time and effort I put into volunteering is helping in some way, I’m also personally gaining by learning to look after our environment, while keeping fit and making new friends.”


Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs 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 have been 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 up to twenty-seven species found on the embankments of both reservoirs.


As Welsh Water Adventures prepares to welcome visitors to the site, it has worked closely with Natural Resources Wales and ecologists to inform how the site is managed and to ensure that any threat to its SSSI status is mitigated. When the site opens, visitors will be asked to respect nature by sticking to the paths. Dogs (with the exception of assistance dogs) will not be permitted on any of the footpaths around the reservoirs but are welcome in the visitor centre and car park area.

Welsh Water is a not-for-profit company that operates 91 reservoirs varying in size from 2 to 1,026 acres. These include a national portfolio of visitor attractions called ‘Welsh Water Adventures’. They are hubs for health, wellbeing, and recreation with the aim of reconnecting people with water and the environment, whilst protecting and enhancing the ecological value of each site.


The reopening of Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs will add a fifth site to Welsh Water Adventures portfolio of visitor attractions across Wales. The other destinations are Llys-y-frân (Pembrokeshire), Elan Valley (Mid Wales), Llyn Brenig (North Wales) and Llandegfedd Lake (South Wales).


Peter Perry, CEO of Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water said “We look forward to welcoming visitors to Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs – which is a wonderful addition to Cardiff’s green spaces. We’re very grateful to our funders, partners and our committed team of staff and volunteers who have helped us prepare this very special site to welcome visitors. We hope that people of all ages from across Cardiff and beyond will visit the reservoirs, to reconnect with nature and water, making memories together.”


The redevelopment of Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs is backed with £932k of funding from the Welsh Government’s ‘Enabling Natural Resources and Well-being (ENRaW) scheme towards the paths and the green infrastructure. Thanks to a £202k Community Woodland grant from the Welsh Government and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the woodlands have been brought into active management and enhanced for people and wildlife.


Lisvane and Llanishen Reservoirs will open to the public on Friday, 28 July 2023. Entry to the site is free (parking and activities will incur a fee). Booking is essential for water activities.


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