The first ever National Meadows day took place in 2015, designed to promote awareness of wildflower meadows. 2016 saw many more events across the country including 2 in Carmarthenshire, which are summarised below.
Many thanks to Andrew Martin for the following report, and to Andrew and Helen for the photos of the visit to Carmel National Nature Reserve :
(Catsear, Eyebright and Spotted Orchid – a stunning floral mix!)
On the morning of 2nd July we had a fascinating tour of Carmel National Nature Reserve, led by Lizzie Wilberforce (Conservation Manager at the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, WTSWW). It is an unusual site for West Wales, being on limestone, and is a mosaic of flower-rich unimproved limestone meadows, semi-improved hay meadows and broad leaf woodlands.
The site has had an eventful history. Lizzie explained to us how, in 1990, it was threatened with destruction by a 1940’s planning permission that granted quarrying rights, and which took legal precedence even over the SSSI status granted in 1986. The then Dyfed Wildlife Trust took up the cause and together with the RSNC and other Trusts, raised over £12,000 to help fight the quarrying rights in court.
By 1996, thanks to the hard work of the many partners and local residents involved, the site was saved. It subsequently became a Grasslands Trust nature reserve. Many of the wooden gates on the footpaths round the site still have “TGT” marked on them.
In 2012, The Grasslands Trust went into liquidation, putting the future of this amazing site once more into jeopardy. However the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) quickly stepped in, and with further substantial funding from GrantScape and CWM Environmental Ltd (who had previously funded much conservation work on the site), was able to purchase the land from the owners, Tarmac.
(Greater butterfly orchids, above)
WTSWW now holds a long term lease of the site from Natural Resources Wales (previously CCW). The lease ensures that the Trust will be managing some 50 hectares of the National Nature Reserve with the remainder of the reserve (approx. 30 hectares) continuing to be directly managed by Natural Resources Wales.
(Eyebright and Yellow Rattle above)
Lizzie explained how the various fields are managed, some have been agriculturally improved, some have not, some are cut for hay and some are grazed. Some are too steep and uneven, and with sinkholes characteristic of limestone, for any machinery. There are also woodland clearings and glades managed by volunteers with scything, some enormous lime kilns, and the remains of the limestone quarrying are used by bats.
It was a fascinating couple of hours, including finding this attractive Green Tiger Beetle…
Many thanks to Lizzie for such an interesting tour. Carmel is 5 miles south-west of Llandeilo, either side of the A476 from Llandeilo to Cross Hands, and there is ample parking on the old piece of road indicated by a brown sign. Well worth a visit. Site access and location as below…
At the same time, an open day was being held at Gelli Uchaf, Rhydcymerau, with a guided walk around the meadows of this smallholding, led by owner Julian Wormald. After a pause for refreshments and cakes provided by Fiona Wormald…… visitors had the chance to have a look round the roughly 1 acre gardens at Gelli Uchaf, which have been designed to incorporate many insect friendly flowers, and which were opened under the National Gardens Scheme to raise money for the half dozen charities which this organisation supports. Click here for more about the gardens.
Fortunately the rain stayed away for most of the day, and at the end of the morning’s walk a surprisingly attractive sample bouquet of flowers and grasses had been picked from the meadows…
(Many thanks to Helen Martin for most of the photos which follow, from the afternoon visit).
A similar session took place in the afternoon with another group, the meadow walk again beginning in the upper, sloping hay meadow. Work began on returning this to greater diversity about 4 years ago with the introduction of yellow rattle seed, hand scattered. Already this has significantly shifted the predominant grass type to Sweet Vernal grass, and away from the more vigorous, leafy Yorkshire Fog, over all but the peripheral field margins. Several wild flower species, which were never seen before the yellow rattle became established, have begun to appear.(Self-heal and Yellow Rattle)
Walking round the valley bottom meadows allowed visitors to see how rapidly these have been moved from impenetrable shoulder high soft rush to a much more open and florally diverse floral mix, in 3 years
In addition, with many of the grasses flowering, the completely different predominant grass mixture of purple flowered Velvet Bent, Yorkshire Fog and Tufted Hair grass was obvious.
Quite a bit of discussion took place over the route taken to tackle the soft rush – initial cutting, raking and piling up of the rush in autumn 2013, followed by initial selective weedkiller applied by knapsack spray used on rush regrowth in early 2014. Since then repeat weed killer application using a manual weed wiper, and occasional cutting with removal of debris has continued the progress. The role that low intensity sheep grazing has played in managing the meadows was also considered.
“Save our magnificent Meadows”, the charity overseeing National Meadows Day, provided feedback forms which visitors completed. The responses indicated that the day was really enjoyed by all visitors and everyone gained something from the visit. (Bumblebee on Bog pimpernel, above – a new species in the wet meadows in 2016).
The following day a second spotted orchid emerged in the hay meadow, to add to the solitary one which has been present for 3 years… Thanks for reading.
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