Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Seven wonders of the valleys: No.1. Acid grassland

Sheep grazed semi-improved acid grassland is the basis of subsistence farming in the south Wales valleys. The upland marginal landscape is littered with agricultural enclosures some with remnant drystone walls topped and gaped with makeshift fencing of wire, gnarled wooden posts, bailing twine and rusty corrugated sheets. Others are slightly more organised with publically funded modern fencing interspersed with lichen and berry clad hawthorn trees. In autumn and winter this is where the fieldfare and redwing ply their trade and where ring ouzel tag along for the sheer hell of it. Meadow pipit are at home in the herbage of the late summer upland meadow and the wheatear flies from fence post to wall and then to fence post again.   

A decent acid grassland often comes complete with the occasional yellow meadow ant mound, and some, such as the one pictured in the above photos at Talywain, are literally crammed with large mounds. For a naturalist these fields are rich pickings, topped with flowering bedstraw in summer the characteristic walking stick dropping of the green woodpecker is a common sight and if lucky the odd adders tongue fern can be found. With grasslands of all denominations under increasing pressure from development and agricultural improvement/neglect I fear that the sight of these quality acid grasslands complete with their 'ant cities' are vanishing as quickly as colony of breeding lapwing. 

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