Tuesday, 2 December 2014

November in Merioneth

Well, it was bound to happen one day! On 19th November I was quietly thinking that I must send out a reminder for the Merioneth Nats meeting on 27th , when I had an email from Polly, telling me that she hoped to be at the meeting the next day!!  I had slipped a week, so I had to decide at once to contact everyone, jump in the car and be 120 miles away in time to meet whoever turned up.
Actually, only Polly [and baby Robin] came, but it was lovely to see her and the new babe - people hadn't heard from me so they assumed the meeting wouldn't happen!  We met in the tea room in the village of Fron Goch and soon decamped to the caravan site at Tyn Cornel. We had a friendly welcome from Jean and Pete Tooth and permission to go wherever we wished around the site.

A routine sort of day but plenty of records and lovely weather, in an attractive area.  Although we were told that all the plantings were from seed gathered on site, there were obviously previous alien plantings as well and it was difficult to know where to stop recording.  There were alien conifers such as a young Cedrus atlantica, Atlas Cedar, and a cypress tentatively named as Chamaecyparis pisifera,Sawara Cypress, with squarrose leaves and a strong fruity odour.

Rosa arvensis, Field-rose

This abundantly fruiting rose was quite clearly the native Rosa arvensis, Field-rose, but there were others which approached Rosa canina but were obviously not quite right.

We were pleased to have added 111 new records to a "virgin" tetrad - it made all the travelling well worth while!

October - a busy week in Wales - Rhyd

It began with the Cofnod conference in Llandudno, once again held at the fine Community Centre at Craig y Don.  It was sad to be there and to know that Tony [A J E] Smith] was no longer living round the corner. After a nice tea with Wendy, I went off to Harlech where I stayed at the campsite at Tanforhesgen in a fine caravan for a couple of nights with every modern convenience.  I will certainly be returning there as it will be a great
base for more recording visits.

The next day was Merioneth Nats. John and I had reccied the Rhyd area for parking etc,  the week before the meeting.  It was a glorious autumn day then, and lovely Welsh countryside.  I was looking forward so much to a return visit! 

In the event it poured all day and although we made lots of records it wasn't such an inspiring area after all and we were glad to retire to the little tea room at Llanfrothen for hot chocolate and buns!  Many thanks to Martin and Mari for braving the weather and contributing  to the cause! 

Berula erecta

 I finished the week's botanising with a day out with Martin and Andrew Graham to Harlech Point.  Even going in from the campsite it was a very long walk and we didn't quite get to the rich area of the dunes, but the day was made by Andrew spotting Berula erecta, Lesser Water-parsnip -.the first hectad record for this RPR species since 1972!

Y Tebernacl, Machynlleth
" a very beautiful auditorium with perfect acoustics".

Even that was not the end of my Welsh week - I went to a splendid concert at the Tabernacl in Machynlleth that evening, staying with Penny Condry, and then went to Quaker Meeting at Pantperthog on my way home.

When I have a programme like that where everything fits in so well, it makes botanising from Preston a real pleasure

Monday, 1 December 2014

September - Ynys Gifftan

Ynys Gifftan from the Talsarnau shore

Ynys Gifftan is a small island lying off Talsarnau in the mouth of the Afon Dwyryd and is easily accessible on foot at low tide.  A wonderful crowd of ten botanists turned up at Talsarnau Station - probably the best turnout we have ever had!

With the tide high at breakfast time we were able to botanise the salt-marsh on the main shore before crossing to the island.  We had hoped to find an abundance of Salicornias [Glassworts] and Atriplex [Oraches], but it seems probable that the river is so clean, or so acid, that the marsh supports little diversity of these brackish, marginal plants.

Juncus acutus, Sharp Rush

We made 68 records in this fairly uniform habitat as we negotiated the creeks, more or less dry shod! Crossing to the island we were met by some splendid tussocks of that Merioneth speciality, Juncus acutus, Sharp Rush. We found our target species, Carex punctata, Dotted sedge and Asplenium obovatum, Lanceolate Spleenwort and added a new Rare Plant Register one, Carex distans, Distant Sedge. 

Yucca gloriosa
Photo: Penarc

Perhaps the most exotic record was of Yucca gloriosa, Spanish Dagger, on the island miles from anywhere, but probably an alien escaping from Portmeirion just across the estuary.

Two enthusiastic botanists!
[Portmeirion village in the distance]
We had a good meal together in Talsarnau that evening, then Martin, Jacky and I met up again the next day on the salt marsh further down the estuary at Ynys.  We had botanised this square a couple of years earlier but this time we were focussing again on salt marsh for Salicornia and Atriplex.  We did manage to record three species of the former but Atriplex there were none except a few sadly gone-over bits of Atriplex patula.

A saltmarsh pool
surrounded by the rosy coloration of Salicornia ramosissima

Sunday, 30 November 2014

August in Merioneth - Caerdeon

August in Merioneth was Caerdeon, with a record attendance. The weather continued fine, in spite of forecasts, and we were uninterrupted by rain.  Botanists from as far afield as Scotland, Leicester, Sussex and Hampshire convened for four days of intensive recording.  We made 4000 records and had a great time.  It is now so late in the year, and an account will, I hope, appear in the BSBI Yearbook early next year, so I will just post a selection of the photos which we took.
The team after a slog up to a fine view above
 Llyn Wylfa

Touch-me-not Balsam

Impatiens noli-tangere, Touch-me-not Balsam, grew in abundance on our way back down to the road

Father and daughter Donald
botanising along the Afon Gamlin
Flora, Duncan and I found Saw-wort alongside the river Gamlin after struggling through what seemed like acres of Molinia tussocks
 Serratula tinctoria, 

Andromeda polifolia

At the hot-spot of Cors Coch we found the target species of Andromeda polifolia, Bog Rosemary, and Drosera intermedia, Oblong-leaved Sundew and we did a full species list, which had not been done by the CCW surveys of previous years
Drosera intermedia

Vicia orobus

Blogger at Cors Coch

On the way back we stopped off to see the Vicia orobus, Wood Bitter-vetch, which grows quite frequently along the A470 near Trawfynydd between the fields and the verge-cutting.

Those were all my photographs, but Phill Brown made a great record of his four days at Caerdeon and has kindly said I can post them - so here they are - the ten following ones are all his - and great pictures, too.  They give an excellent idea of the scenery, flora and ambience we enjoyed at Caerdeon.

This old miners' track is the start of the hike up to Diffwys - it always amazes me that it is so well-preserved and easy to find after so many decades of disuse.

The view from the flanks of Diffwys showing the extent of the upland blanket bog and the settled  farmland below.

Cryptogramma crispa, Parsley Fern,   - a plant typical of these very acid rocky habitats

The summit path to Diffwys -

 -  and the team at the top!

Some plants of these high acid mountains

Vaccinium vitis-idaea, Cowberry

Diphasiastrum alpinum, Alpine Clubmoss

Martin in a mine adit, with abundant
Asplenium trichomanes subsp. trichomanes  
Maidenhair Spleenwort
And finally......
Breakfast at Caerdeon.....

.....and the fine old house of Plas Caerdeon

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A busy July

Rhynchospora alba White Beak-sedge
at Ffridd Bryn Coch
John and I had a great week near Trawsfynydd in July exploring some new parts of the county  We walked down to Ceunant Llenyrch for the first time and made lots of nice records; we also visited the farmer who grazes the land north of Cwm Mynach, John Jones of Ffridd Bryn Coch, at his remote farmhouse on the eastern flank of the Rhinogau near Trawfynydd.  There is so much of this lovely Merioneth that I still don't know!
Our B&B at Trawfynydd - complete with model railway!

Cloudberry Rubus chamaemorus
Photo: Gethin Elias

We also had a day out on the RSPB reserve at Tanrallt in Cwm Prysor, where Gethin Elias, the warden, is putting up some remarkable records, including a new site for Cloudberry, Rubus chamaemorus, and several sites for Carex limosa, Bog Sedge.  It is great to have such a keen naturalist working in the area. 

The Stwlan reservoir which supplies pumped-storage
 hydro-electricity power
For the July meeting of Merioneth Nats we had hoped to reach the cliffs of Moelwyn Mawr but were unable to get permission to drive as far as the Stwlan dam, so we met at Tanygrisiau  to walk up.  A rewarding walk if not exciting botany!
"The team" at the Stwlan Dam

The next day began the great bramble weekend based on the Field Studies Council Centre at Rhyd y Creuau neat Betws y Coed.  With our leaders David Earl and Rob Randall we spent time in both Merioneth and Caernarfon looking at the common and rarer species of Rubus and getting used to the important characters. 
Rubus dasyphyllus
These included: leaf arrangement, shape and colour, and hairiness; the colour of the stems and their armature, from the hedgehog-y stems of Rubus dasyphyllus to almost smooth ones.  The flower colour and size is important including the often rosy-red stamens and styles.  I came away feeling more confused than ever but at least knowing a) what to look for and b) which of the commoner species can be expected in Merioneth.

June - Llandrillo and Llyn Oror

Peter Benoit at Broadwater in 2009
- his last BSBI field meeting
before his retirement
Photo: Jackie Maynard
I stayed  for the week with Helen and we decided to revisit Crogen.  This artificial lake alongside the river was probably originally created as a duck shoot but is now very overgrown, with not much water to be seen.  It was the first site I ever visited with my predecessor, Peter Benoit in 1999, so it was one of the few tetrads in the Vice-county which had more records before- than post-2000. 

We walked across the improved fields and around the lake where we recorded a suite of aquatic plants such as Alisma plantago-aquatica, Water plantain, Carex rostrata, Bottle Sedge, C vesicaria, Bladder Sedge and their hybrid C x involuta [determined by Mike Porter].  Comarum palustre, Marsh Cinquefoil is always good to see, as were Sparganium erectum,  Branched Bur-reed, Carex acuta, Slender Tufted-sedge Typha latifolia, Bulrush and Scutellaria galericulata, Skullcap. 

We recorded both Stachys palustris and Stachys x ambigua, the hybrid with S sylvatica, but in hindsight I wonder if they were not both the hybrid.  Some people think that if a plant has any odour it cannot be S. palustris.  My own feeling is that it also has some smell, though not an unpleasant one. It is a very subjective sense, smell!

Potamogeton crispusWikipedia Commons

Myriophyllum spicatum
Wikipedia Commons
The next day was a Merioneth Nats meeting at Llyn Oror, north of Corwen.  It’s a strange area of heavily improved farmland surrounding two fishing lakes.  The smaller of the two had apparently been planted and was full of the bright yellow flowers of Fringed Water-lily, Nymphoides peltata while around it was a stand of a variegated Glyceria maxima, Reed Sweet-grass. We enjoyed our picnic in bright sunshine on the shore.

Llyn Oror from the air showing part of the Roman road
Photo Toby Driver, August 2006
used by permission of  the
Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
The main lake by contrast, is very overgrown with scrub almost continuously surrounding it.  However unpromising this dank lake looked, we were rewarded by finding the first record ofPotamogeton crispus, Curled Pondweed, for the county. as well as an update for the Rare Plant Register, Myriophyllum spicatum, Spiked Water-milfoil.  These good records apart, the day was memorable for Jacky losing, and then through dogged persistence, refinding her notebook in the featureless scrub surrounding the lake!
On a stone in the woods beside the lake we found these words:
Yma yr arferai
John Redwood Anderson
Bardd yr Oror
Ysgryfennu ei barddoniaeth
[Here was John Redwood Anderson, the Poet of Oror, 1887-1964 accustomed to write his poetry ]
Our grateful thanks for access permissions as ever, to the landowner, David Duffell.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Castell Prysor, June 2014

Briza media
Copyright Floral Images J R Crellin 2009

Polly and Jay having lunch at Castell Prysor

Annie, Polly and I met on another lovely day in June to try to refind Pseudorchis albida, Small White Orchid, in Castell Prysor, east of Trawsfynydd, by kind permission of Mr and Mrs Huws. We enjoyed the company of Jay, too, meaning that Polly, who was quite heavily pregnant, really had more than her fair share to carry!  We did a full square-bash and although we didn’t find the orchid,or Galium boreale, Northern Bedstraw, another target species formerly found there, we made a good list and were well pleased with our day. We found Quaking Grass, Briza media, Common Rock-rose, Helianthemum nummularium and Annie found a tiny morsel of Vicia orobus, Wood Bitter-vetch, another Section 42 species which had also been recorded there before.
Helianthemum nummularium
Wikipedia Commons

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Welsh AGM 2014

Poor blog – sadly neglected with so much going on all summer – and who would want to be sitting at the laptop with the glorious weather we have had this year.

In mid-June we had the Welsh AGM in the wonderful setting of the Wye valley based on Tintern, where Elsa, was this year’s co-organiser lives and runs a guest house and magical garden with her husband Adrian.  We had the usual mix of field trips and exhibits and a spirited talk by Tim Rich entitled “Why Wye Whitebeams”.  The conclusion seemed to be that the wayward behaviour of these lovely trees and the consequent multiplicity of species goes beyond where many taxonomists are prepared to go!

The comfort of The Nurtons B&B
A view of Adrian and Elsa's wonderful garden

On our first foray we climbed high up above the village with superb views along the Wye valley 
The next day we chose to visit the Newport Wetlands, where one of the interests for me was seeing Dittander, Lepidium latifolium, a plant of brackish places formerly used as a hot and spicy relish before Horseradish was introduced.
It was a baking hot day and at lunchtime a bevy of botanists - including a young Rich and a much younger Spencer-Vellacott -  were  glad to find a little shade for a picnic.
The meeting was wound up by a visit to a series of hay meadows managed by the Monmouthshire Meadows Group, wonderful restored meadows - a fitting end to a varied and interesting AGM. Many thanks to the organisers Elsa Wood and Steph Tyler.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Roudsea Wood sedges

Carex digitata surrounded by Erinus alpinus
Our very wet leader, Mike Porter
A wet day, but one that didn't dampen the spirits of the 16 or so people who gathered for Mike Porter's field trip at Natural England's wonderful site in Cumbria.  Our first 'special' was Carex digitata above rocks covered in the charming alien Erinus alpinus, Fairy Foxglove. Its yellow tufts were looking great, flanked by a distinguished-looking Sorbus lancastriensis, Lancashire Whitebeam [this part of Cumbria was originally part of the old County Palatine of Lancashire].

Sorbus lancastriensis, looking great!

 Further on we hushed our chat as we approached the Osprey nest [the first year the birds have successfully nested here] where some were lucky enough to see one of the parents flying in. Along the track we saw Carex remota, Remote Sedge and C binervis, Green-ribbed Sedge, which looked graceful, unlike the robust and almost thuggish plants I am used to seeing in Merioneth.  Mike pointed out the differences between it and its close relative, C laevigata, Smooth-stalked Sedge, which has ginger-ish male spikes and a pointed ligule. It also never has the red staining seen on older leaves of C binervis.

A tussock of C x boenninghausiana
Later we saw one of the high points of the day for me, the "Dachshund/Alsatian" hybrid, Carex x boenninghausiana, between Carex remota and C paniculata, Greater Tussock-sedge! Its habit is that of C paniculata, but the inflorescence is graceful and 'remote', unlike the bunchy look of C paniculata

The inflorescence of C x boenninghausiana

Carex flava
Another excitement for me was seeing Carex flava , Large Yellow-sedge, in fine condition and great quantity - and not only that, but its hybrid, Carex x alsatica, with C demissa, Common Yellow-sedge, was there too.  Strangely, it looks quite a bluish green compared with either of the parents, and is sterile.

Eventually we reached the edge of the wood and broke through onto the shoreline - not as Mike had recalled, lying under a blue sky with the sun beating down, but grey and murky, although at least the rain had eased off!  

We enjoyed seeing the more coastal Carices, C otrubae,False Fox-sedge, C extensa, Long-bracted Sedge, and  C. distans, Distant Sedgebut failed to find Blysmus rufus, Salt-marsh Flat-sedge there.  We ended the day with a sickly-looking Carex pseudocyparis, Cyperus Sedge, bringing the day's haul to a fantastic 25 taxa - a remarkable site! I know I am not alone in thanking Mike for a great day's outing and for introducing us to so many of these superb plants. We members of the BSBI are so very fortunate in having these field meetings, so valuable to everyone, beginners and experts alike.
A damp but happy group!
Finally, my thanks to Phill Brown, who kindly let me use his great photographs for this account.  I didn't want to take my camera out in the pouring rain, and even if I had, my efforts wouldn't have been anywhere near the standard of these pictures.  Thanks, Phill!