8 Jul 2013

Rhos Pastures

Colin Miles

The Garden and the Waun Las Grasslands and Farm cover an enormous area of countryside – around 560 acres. So our attempts to monitor the plants and wildlife and what is happening to them on the basis of a two hour walk once a week can never result in-depth studies anywhere.  But they are a start and by going to different areas each week we can begin to build up a broad picture of how the management of land is affecting everything.

This week the plan was to go into the Waun Las Grasslands and head towards the Translocated Rhos Pasture.  Unfortunately the Swansea Met students weren’t able to join us, but we were pleased to welcome Hannah, along with John, Howard, Jan and Keith.  We were later met by Simon, an Aberystwyth student who has been working with Tim and Hugh on the farm, complete with more poles to continue Orchid counting.  But although we were hoping to find more Orchids, we weren’t going to count them.

So off we went, past the Black Cattle who didn’t seem at all bothered by our presence – Tim does breed them for temperament as well as beef.  No sign of Orchids in the first fields and as some of the boundaries have changed over the course of the years there were frequent consultations over exactly where we were.  Some of these fields are essential wet meadows and wellies were the chosen footwear.  But rainfall in this part of Wales has been well down and we didn’t encounter any problems in any of the fields.  Bit of give here and there but nothing muddy.  But what we did find, as one might expect, is a variety of wild flowers such as the Meadow Vetchling, which looks very like the familiar ‘Bacon-and-Egg’ or Birds Foot Trefoil, but is much taller and lacks the ‘bacon’, Meadowsweet and Yellow Rattle.  The latter has ‘translocated’ itself into various places, probably on tractor wheels and it will be interesting to see its effect in the years to come.

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Another meadow which Bruce had asked us to investigate was reputed to be full of Snipe and if you clapped your hand, swarms of them would fly up.  But either we forgot to clap our hands, or they weren’t there.

On to the meadow where we expected to find the Translocated Rhos pasture, except that we couldn’t find anything which indicated where it was.  Probably we were looking in the wrong place and when Natasha takes us all on a walk to it on Sunday July 14th, as part of the Wild Flower day, we will see what we had missed. What we did find though were patches of Whorled Caraway, the Carmarthen County flower and John took some beautiful photos of them.

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Rhos pasture is a wet, heathy, semi-natural grassland and Carmarthenshire holds a considerable proportion of the remaining habitat.  So when in 2010 it was found to be present on an area of Tycroes School which was going to be lost as part of a planning application, the opportunity was taken to move it to an area of the National Botanic Garden where species such as the rare Meadow Thistle bloomed.  The hope was that the two colonies, one from the School and the other at the Garden, would interbreed and result in a healthy colony.

Having reached the further reaches of Waun Las it was time to return via the Woods of the World and back to the restaurant for the usual tea and chat.  Except that we got a rather diverted on the way trying to identify the Orchids below the Ghost Forest.  Common Spotted, Southern Marsh, a mixture or what?  Very difficult to tell.

Thanks as always to John James for his photos and if any volunteer or member is interested in joining us, or even starting something similar on a different day, then send an email to colin_miles@talktalk.net – also if you see or photograph anything exciting in the Garden. If you click on any of the images in these blogs, or anywhere else you will see a larger picture. And if you click on the Wildlife Walks heading on the left-hand side under News you will see a list of the last 10 Wildlife Walk blogs.

For a fuller report of the translocation see here