Monday, 26 March 2012

A walk in the gorge

Last week saw a small expedition in Radnorshire with the main aim to find and monitor the rare wood fescue Festuca altissima. This is a grass that prefers steep shaded crags and slopes in wet western valleys. Interesting, but also challenging to reach! There are several possible routes to the site, involving a choice between bashing through brambles, wading over rocks in the river (perilously just over wellie-depth in places) or balancing up and down steep and loose earthy banks. Apparently Kilvert favoured being lowered down on bell-ropes, but this would only be recommended to those with the knowledge and confidence to attempt abseiling. 
The gorge to give scale (Photo: JR Crellin)

Having attempted a visit in the summer, we decided a repeat would be useful in winter as F. altissima is wintergreen, and more easily counted in the absence of other green leaves. However, it remained a challenge - including an identification challenge when we questioned whether our plant was really F. altissima or the less exciting   wood millet Milium effusum. Eventually confident (subject to a final determination) we estimated over 50-100 clumps, with most scattered over one steep slope, and others scattered on ledges.
Wood fescue Festuca altissima (Photo: JR Crellin)
Festuca altissima  - the largest site (Photo: JR Crellin)

Examining F. altissima on ledges below the waterfall (Photo: JR Crellin)

Eventually we were stopped by a deep pool and waterfall - I wonder if there could be more F. altissima on the really inaccessible slopes beyond. A major challenge for someone? 

We also found alternate-leaved golden saxifrage Chrysosplenium alternifolium growing on a dead and moss-covered tree trunk. (Photo: JR Crellin)

No comments:

Post a Comment