I'm very much a morning person and a bit anti-social to boot, so I enjoy getting out and about as early as I can for the best of nature and to avoid people. It was before 6am when I swung into to upper car park at Garn Lakes Local Nature Reserve (LNR) for a short walk around the margins of Waunafon Bog. I was pleased to note no other cars, this meant no people (and dogs), but in the corner of the car park were around half a dozen part opened discarded black bin bags that on closer inspection contained the remains of someone's cannabis growing business.
Saturday, 5 June 2021
Sunday, 16 May 2021
It was about this time last year, during the first Covid-19 lockdown that I spent some time pottering around Blaenavon cemetery. This is a working cemetery with hundreds of burials, some very aged and interesting, some bland. There is a more traditional churchyard type section with an eclectic mix of headstone features contrasting with the uniformity of active modern day remembrance features equi-spaced to some government standardisation no doubt. But between this sea of the late, nature thrives where the demands of horticultural activities are less clinical. Patches of semi-improved grassland, mature trees and shrubs on the margins that blend seamlessly into the landscape beyond.
I hadn't intended to visit the cemetery, it was the upland beyond that was the calling for this excursion. The lower slope of Mynydd Varteg towards Forgeside was the main objective. Making the steep climb following the access road to a now disused mine, a marshy field with water holding due to the on going showers supported patches of round-leaved water crowsfoot. A male reed bunting showed briefly in some nearby willow scrub. A bund of civil engineering proportions now shrouds all signs of its former industrial activity, an amphitheatre with some remaining bits and pieces of heavy industry clutter. I turned over an oil can, some tin sheeting on the edge of an ephemeral pond and some shards of wood in the hope of a hidden great crested newt, but nothing.
Leaving the mine I made my way across the heather clad coal spoil, rewilding naturally by stealth. A few meadow pipit and skylark were braving the wintery showers. Between the compacted spoil with its dwarf shrub heath plant community there were patches of bog and mire complete with abundant sphagnum capillifolium and some flowering hare's tail cotton grass, now scarred by the actions of bikers. Passing a stand of gorse topiaried by grazing animals and now sodden by the blustery showers I sought the relative shelter of the cemetery.
Through the gate a great spotted woodpecker called and the song of chiffchaff, blackcap and willow warbler could be heard. The grassland between the memorials was awash with flowering primrose. Most of these primulas were the native type with others naturalised cultivars. The graves themselves become the focal point of my attention. Taking time to the read the inscriptions promoted a sense of sadness when weathered headstones commemorated the passing of children. One was aged 5 years 11 months the same age as one of the grandchildren!. Nonetheless for a naturalist these graves some with ornate wrought iron surrounds many shaped by oblong granite, are akin to raised planting beds. Here there are many introduced plants along with colonised native species some spilling over their formally constructed restraints in the the adjoining grassland. A sheep with a lamb grazed contently between the checkered pattern of burials. On the corner of a footpath one of the rarely species of lady's mantle was in flower.
The rain became heavier so I left in search a cup of tea and some 'grub', as they say in these parts. I made a note in my diary to return to burial area as its vastness and variety demands more of my attention.
Monday, 3 May 2021
|Early purple orchid|
Its been a few years since I visited St Michael's churchyard at Glascoed. This is the only location I know for early purple orchid. On arrival it was clear that no management had taken place for a while as the grass was rank and tussocky but there was still a liberal scattering of cowslip. Thankfully the early purple orchid were still present but not in profusion - there were just about a dozen in flower.
Out from the churchyard I took a walk around Glascoed village looking for plants in the road verge and hedgebank. Cowslips were growing in every scrap of uncut grass verge along with some nice examples of false oxlip. Around a bend in the road was a high bank at the foot of a large garden. Here there was a large stand of white comfrey. Had it escaped from a cottage garden or had it arrived by other means? Either way there are few naturalized records for this plant from the vice county. Further on a large badger sett could be seen at the interface between field boundary and road.
Later I took a drive down Cwm hir lane near to New Inn. This is a rural dead end lane with nicely managed hedgerows with footpath links through arable fields. At the base of the roadside hedges where a characteristic community of flowering plants including bugle and red dead nettle along with a patch of greater celandine.
|Cwm hir lane|
Thursday, 15 April 2021
|Opposite Leaved Saxifrage|
|Early Dog Violet|
Saturday, 3 April 2021
It was in August 2017 that I stumbled upon a thriving colony of alpine clubmoss beside a track on a tip in the Canada Tips area of the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape. After a visit from the joint county botanical recorders it was confirmed as the first record for the vice county of Monmouthshire and the most southerly population in the UK. Since this time I have made frequent visits to check on its progress and that of a nearby patch of fir clubmoss.
At the beginning of the Easter break I decided that another check of the clubmosses was in order along with quick look at a disused industrial reservoir, now just marshy grassland for a possible marsh clubmoss. While I wasn't lucky enough to find the marsh variety I did find two new patches of alpine clubmoss. The first was approximately 100 metres south west of the original site with the second over 500 metres north. Although marginal, but the new south westerly site is now the most southerly in the UK.
Sunday, 28 March 2021
|Rosettes of Common Whitlow Grass|
Saturday, 6 March 2021
|Line of planted sycamore|
|Witches broom on silver birch|
Sunday, 31 January 2021