About 10 days ago a group of 16 volunteer members met again at Myddfai Hall with the aim of trying to plan how to develop the group, in a bit more detail. About 3 hours later, and after much discussion, considerable progress was made by what we’re calling this steering group (SG), including setting up sub groups.
These subgroups are looking at formalising the group’s aims, what structure the group takes and possible constitution format; how we set up membership and possible membership benefits; future meeting content and locations for meetings around the county, as well as how we raise awareness of the group within the wider community. In addition we started to consider links with artists, and possibly seed collection and exchanges as examples of a wider take on the whole subject of meadows and their vital role in preserving diversity in a world where almost every day brings more news of species decline or loss across the board.
A decision was also taken to change the name of the group to just “Carmarthenshire Meadows”, so in due course, this will be reflected on the website.
Everyone agreed that it was a very exciting start to what will be a long journey, and hugely encouraging that so many people had wanted to be involved and give up a Saturday morning to kick start the process.
Already a first spring meeting on the morning of Saturday March 25th 2017 has been planned, with Pumpsaint village hall the venue. We hope to soon have a core group of suitable locations in most areas of the county so that at least occasionally a meeting will be held close to everyone! Always a difficult issue for such a large county, and we aim to have 4 such public meetings each year, with additional meadow site visits which will be open to members only.
One of the points made at the SG, was that there hasn’t been sufficient mention of species other than flowers on the website, so I’m very grateful to Lynne of Maes Yr Haul, for sending in the notes below, to accompany these photos of mammals which she’s taken recently. All part of the wider community which thrives in our local landscape…
I have attached a picture of the weasel I mentioned. Sadly dead – but at least it gave me a chance to study it at close quarters. Generally all I see of the resident weasels is a flick of a tail as they disappear into the undergrowth. This one was lying on the path, still warm, plump and without any sign of injury, leaving me puzzled as to the cause of death. An internet search suggested that parasitic nematode worms were the most likely cause. Apparently they get into weasels’ nasal passages and eat their way into the brain, often causing a very early death.
Happily, the Pipistrelle bat i(above) was very much alive. I found him snoozing in the folds of a towel when I brought the washing in from the clothes line and he very kindly posed for photos before I folded him back into his towel and re-hung it on the line.
And here is a dead shrew that I found this morning in the very same spot as the weasel had been! And – like the weasel – it was still warm and plump and undamaged, apart from one small hole as shown.
If anyone has other images of wildlife they’ve been able to capture in, or near, their meadows, then do send them in to me with some accompanying notes, and I’ll try to include them in future posts. (If possible please try to limit photo sizes to a few hundred KBs maximum). Please email them to me, Julian: email@example.com
Finally, a mention of the possible merits of tree foliage and bark as a dietary component. After last year’s very heavy winter rains, we realised the importance of removing fallen branches from our stream. I know that some now favour the blockages that such debris causes, as a mans of slowing water flows. But it was shocking to see how much soil and land was “lost” downstream by an even minor obstruction shifting the stream’s course. yards of 4 foot high bank disappearing in a few days.
So this year, with all the wonderful dry late autumn days, I’ve already been down the banks and removed branches about to enter the water course. As in previous years we now leave them on the bank edges for a few weeks.
Why? Well very quickly our Tor Ddu sheep will strip off any remaining leaves and bark from many of the twigs and branches. The grass is not particularly short in these fields (compared with the norm for sheep grazed fields), so there is obviously a strong selective element in their behaviour. I assumed earlier that since many of the favoured branches are willows, that they might be deriving some advantage from the salysilic acid in the bark, which has aspirin like properties.
But it could be that there are additional nutritional benefits. Firstly the bark may be richer in trace minerals or micronutrients, pulled up by the tree’s root system from deeper in the subsoil, whereas the wet pasture’s grasses are likely to be deficient in such materials. (Cobalt and Selenium being possibilities). I’ve often thought that trees and also root vegetables must concentrate compounds with very good anti-fungal and antibacterial capabilities in their very outer cell layers, simply to keep rots away from the vital inner materials. Another possibility is that the tannin content in trees and bark has some beneficial action on ruminant function.
Here I’m struggling. Decades old tuition on the finer points of rumen physiology have long since left my brain, and anyway I guess a lot more is known about the processes than it was in my student days. But it is a very specialised and different means of supplying nutrition to that of many other mammals, involving complex bacterial breakdown of plant materials within the huge 4 stomach ruminant complex ( rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum).
I wonder how many other readers leave branches for stock to explore/ bark strip in this way? Obviously you have to be sure that there aren’t any potentially toxic trees involved, such as say Laburnum, but otherwise is it worth doing?
Obviously we, and our sheep, appear to think so, and a final benefit, if you’re planning on saving any of the bigger limbs for firewood or looking to burn the brush a bit quicker, is that with the bark ripped off it all tends to dry out much faster!