CMG members’ trip to the Elan Valley

In November last year, as part of our winter meetings programme which we were having online due to Covid, we had a fascinating talk on the meadows of the Elan Valley from Sorcha Lewis.  One of the reasons we asked Sorcha to give us this talk was that a lot of very useful field trials were carried out as part of the work on meadow management in the Elan Valley, and you can read about it here on our own website:

If you weren’t at the meeting, you can still see the talk and the following discussion on our YouTube channel:

Sorcha used to be a ranger on the Elan Valley estate, but she and her husband are now farming there.  Sorcha says she is able to achieve more for conservation and wildlife as a farmer than she could as a ranger, which is quite a claim, so during our discussion following the talk, Sorcha very kindly invited CMG to visit her farm so we could see for ourselves what she means.  So, last Sunday (3rd July) a group of CMG members went to the Elan Valley, and Sorcha very kindly gave up a few hours of her busy day to show us some of the fields on her farm.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that we were quite amazed at what we saw there, not just the diversity of species, but the fact that there was a different cast of floral characters compared to our lowland meadows.  It’s at about 300m which is not exactly highland, but another factor may be there isn’t really any runoff from more intensive farmland to raise nutrient levels, and the only source of extra N is atmospheric dissolved in the rain.  Far too many species to list, but for example we saw Butterwort:

Saw wort:

Wood Bitter Vetch:

Fragrant Orchid:

Bog Asphodel:

We tried to trample as little as possible going round the field so kept to the path.

After a lunch at a nearby tea rooms, some of us went on to visit the Coronation Meadow for Radnorshire which was only a couple of miles away.  Despite that, it was quite distinct from the meadows at Sorcha’s farm.  There were Oxeye Daisies and Greater Butterfly Orchids in large numbers:

And Harebell:

We are very grateful to Sorcha for giving up her valuable time to show us round.  At a time when there is a lot to be depressed about if you’re interested in Conservation and Wildlife, visiting Sorcha’s farm reminds you that there are still some amazing places left, with knowledgeable and conscientious people like her to look after them both now and in the future.

Thanks to Helen Martin and Laura Moss for the photos.

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