Further to another meeting of the Carmarthenshire Meadows Group’s (CMG) steering group last Saturday, we’re delighted to announce that the group has advanced to a point where we now have a draft constitution, have a first ever Chair and Treasurer, and look forward to opening the group to create a more formal membership at the spring meeting on Saturday March 25 th at Pumsaint. (See more details below). These are actually quite big and significant steps forward in developing the aims of the CMG. Much of this was achieved in an intensive session held at the hall in Banc y Felin.
It must, with hindsight, have been a good omen seeing a diving Goshawk directly overhead as we all waited in the car park to be let in. Mind you without Colin and Andrew’s identification skills, I would have been none the wiser. Such is the breadth of skill and knowledge base diversity of all those who have, to date, very generously given up time and effort to move the meadows group towards this point over the last 2 years, since that very first meeting in April 2015.
Particular thanks to all who attended on Saturday and especially to Andrew, the Chair, and Colin, the Treasurer, for volunteering to fill these vital posts to help the group develop further.
(For anyone interested in what a Goshawk looks like close up, a female Gos got into our turkey enclosure 18 months ago. Click here to see some images of it, and read about its amazing escape, in less than a minute. If you just want the Goshawk, scroll through the preamble, though it’s sort of relevant to the whole post.)
Andrew and I had been very fortunate to volunteer the previous Saturday to man a display stand for the CMG at an event held in Hermon to celebrate the 10th anniversary of WWBIC. For those unfamiliar with it, this is the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre. The real bonus apart from meeting some very interesting people, and enjoying an excellent lunch, was being able to sit in on a fascinating programme of talks given by some very experienced and impressive speakers.
Beginning with an outline of WWBIC’s history over the last 10 years by manager Colin Russell, it was hugely impressive to see how the number of biological records held by the centre has grown massively to 1.8 million, of which 25% had been submitted over the last 5 years. Why is this data important? Well in part because 1 in 14 species in Wales looks like it’s currently heading for extinction, and without hard evidence of species decline gleaned from the recorders across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire – which are the sources of WWBIC’s records – it’s impossible to raise awareness of such population changes or indeed, influence policy makers or public behaviour.
Secondly in the morning was a presentation by Ray Woods titled simply “Why Value Wildlife” . Ray’s breadth of knowledge was far wider than his specialist interest in lichens and fungi, and he gave a frankly gloomy wide ranging review of the changes to the natural world – even in rural wales, which he has observed over the last few decades. Many felt ( including myself) that this was the best and most inspirational talk they had heard for years. We very much hope that we can arrange for Ray to come to talk to CMG, perhaps in 2018, to share his experiences with us. I shall share just one of his thoughts with readers – that we shouldn’t see wild flower meadow preservation as simply conserving some attractive flowers and insects – valuable and appealing though that is. Rather that in a world where aggressive rust fungi are now beginning to target the predominant perennial ryegrass species that now makes up a huge swathe of the nation’s “improved” grasslands, the very survival of our human food chains may depend upon tapping into other species which still survive in the pockets of diverse historic grassland which CMG is helping to preserve.
After a great lunch, a complete change of tack and a fascinating insight into a previously unknown (to me) marine world of bristle worms which share Hermit crab and other crustacean’s shells, and glean scraps of food rustled from the very mouth of the crab, whilst living behind it in its own shell! This talk was given by Dr. Andy Mackie, a specialist researcher in this field from the National Museum of Wales. Andy told us that there are probably nearly 1000 species of such worms in Britain’s coastal waters, and for anyone going to Cardiff in the next year or so, he has staged a fascinating and very well reviewed exhibition there – “Wriggle – the wonderful world of worms”. Click here for more.
As a follow on, and complete change of scene, came Dr. Richard Burkmar, Biodiversity Project Manager of FSC. Richard has designed a software package to enable anyone computer literate to set up a usable identification key for any biological (or indeed other) range of objects. A designer can set up any chosen parameters on an Excel document and then upload them using his tom.bio software to create an adaptable, multi key access guide, which any other person could then use to identify this particular set of objects, from a range of a features. Richard used 2 illustrative examples ….harvest mites ( the sublime and scientific) and biscuits(!) to show just how easily this could be achieved.
Again for a non computer software savvy person (me), Richard’s ability to clearly communicate all this in a short talk was really impressive. There was sufficient interest in more training on this, for Richard to kindly offer a couple of days of training later in the year. If you’re interested in more on this, maybe have a chat with Kate Smith, a WWBIC member of CMG steering group, who will be at the spring meeting, in case there are still some places available.
Or Click here for more on this brilliant project.
Finally, Geoff Liles of The Otter Consultancy gave a review of the state of otters in Wales. Geoff explained that whilst otters had recovered from the nadir levels post pesticide use in the 1960’s, and were now quite widespread across Wales, all wasn’t entirely rosy for them. The catastrophic decline in eel populations, which previously formed a major part of their diet, and the lack of suitable breeding site locations for the female otters to create breeding holts, where the young otters have to remain for 3 months, are major concerns.
Geoff’s final point, which perhaps we can all ponder, is the very worrying lack of awareness of anything to do with the natural world, in today’s youngest generation. There are many reasons for this, but as Geoff said, if people don’t know anything about the natural world, then they won’t value it. And if they don’t value it, they won’t look after it.
So a great day, and whilst not all specific to meadows, I thought I’d share these brief recollections to showcase the invaluable work that WWBIC is doing. And having taken along a bag of the droppings, or furballs I’d photographed by our pond – a couple of post ago, there was much interest, though opinions were split between something regurgitated by a Corvid type bird, or indeed a mammalian fur ball. Geoff Liles took a few away for a more detailed look.
June Meadow Walk at Cwmdu
This week comes confirmation of an additional event which will be open to paid up members of Carmarthenshire Meadows Group. On Wednesday morning June 21 st there will be a walk on a circular public footpath taking in some fabulous Carmarthenshire Wildflower Meadows. Starting at the car park opposite the Cwmdu Inn, at 10.30 am, we’re very fortunate to have Richard and Kath Pryce coming to accompany the group. As many will know, Richard and Kath are the county’s botanical recorders, and they have a huge wealth of knowledge and experience in identifying all the plants that might be spotted on a walk like this.
The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland appoints a Recorder for each county of the British Isles. Each Recorder is a volunteer who receives no financial reward and is not reimbursed for expenses but acts entirely out of their enthusiasm for the subject and for recording, monitoring and conserving Britain’s flora.
See more here : www.bsbi.org
The walk may take about 1.5 to 2 hours, and should finish in time to catch the village’s pub still open should anyone like a drink, or maybe bring some refreshments with you. The terrain is reasonable, but there will be a couple of stiles and mild gradients to negotiate, and walkers should come wearing suitable footwear for walking through long vegetation and possibly wet ground. Richard and Kath on a previous visit to the site, below. Many thanks to them for this photo. So come prepared whatever the weather… To allow for discussion with Richard and Kath, we’ll need though to limit numbers to a maximum of 20 CMG members. And places will need to be booked in advance, so if you’d like to come on this walk around what are some very inspirational meadows, probably with many orchids in bloom at this time of the year, please book places by emailing me, Julian Wormald, on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richard and Kath have told me that they are also keen to visit the meadows of other CMG members, so do introduce yourselves to them at the spring meeting (see below) or you can contact them on
07900 241371 or email : email@example.com
Finally a reminder that our first meeting of 2017 is only 10 days or so away, and is being held at
Coronation Hall, Pumsaint SA19 8UW (Opposite the Dolaucothi Arms)
Saturday, March 25 th 2017 10am – 1pm.
See the events page for more details, and we hope we’ll have a good turnout to hear about one couple’s attempt to manage a soft rush problem locally, as well as a talk about our precious bumblebees. If you’re coming from a distance, and can car share that would be very helpful to ease parking.
If you’d like some lunch after the event at the Dolaucothi Arms directly opposite the Pumsaint hall, then we’d suggest booking in with Dave and Esther. Click here for their contact details, because they can get quite busy, and have limited places.
Dave and Esther have also very kindly allowed anyone booked in for lunch to park their car in the pub’s car park.
The meeting aims to close at 1 pm at the latest.
The entry fee is £3, or do think about becoming a CMG member for just £10 for annual membership of the group, which you can take out at this meeting.
If you’re unable to come to this meeting, but would still like to become a member for 2017, then do drop me an email, and I’ll let you know how to proceed.email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several of our planned events are open to members only, and some sadly have to have number restrictions on them. The funds raised from visitors and membership will be vital to help us further develop the reach of the group, with hall hire, speaker costs, website hosting fees, and all the little things needed to allow a group to flourish.
The steering group has put in a lot of time and effort in getting the group this far. Now it’s up to everyone out there to help us grow a little more.
Sorry this is so long, and if you’ve made it to the end, thanks for reading!