Monday, 18 June 2012

In the rain in Breconshire...

On Saturday I joined John Crellin's walk near Hay-on-Wye. The weather forecast was not encouraging, and the day was spent in waterproofs although there were bright enough spells to at least undo the coats from time to time! 
Enjoying a short break at lunch-time (and the bare heads indicate a break in the rain) Photo: John Crellin 

However, the rain couldn't dampen the spirits of the botanists - we met in Hay and then split into two groups for long and short walks. The longer group covered around six miles and took in a few interesting sites for Neottia (previously Listera) ovata, common twayblade and Saxifraga granulata, meadow saxifrage (although we were a month too late for the flowers on this) en route to the main sites of interest. 

We visited two SSSIs - Caeau Cwmcaenant which is a beautiful hay meadow with good populations of several orchids including Dactylorhiza fuchsii, common spotted-orchid, Gymnadenia conopsea, fragrant-orchid and Platanthera chlorantha, greater butterfly-orchid (although we were probably a couple of weeks early for this) - there were large numbers of flowering spikes to the point where we were concerned not to step on them. 

Between the sites we also stopped to look at a bank with Helleborus viridis, green hellebore, growing on a bank. 

Green hellebore Helleborus viridis above Cilonw Brook. Photo: John Crellin 

The second SSSI was Hen-Allt Common which includes areas of grassland and woodland but especially interesting are the calcareous flushes where you can find Blysmus compressus, flat sedge - the only site in Wales. The site also holds an exceptional population of Colchicum autumnale, meadow saffron, which in June has large thick leaves and fruiting capsules (when it flowers in autumn it has no leaves). Due to the botanical interest resulting in many stops and the passage of time I ended up leaving the group after this point but I understand they also found Trollius europaeus, globeflower and Neottia nidus-avis, bird's nest orchid before leaving the site. 

Despite the dampness I think the group all enjoyed the day greatly - the rain was not too continuous and there were plenty of botanical treats to keep the interest up - and an interesting mix of botanists from new to old BSBI members including neighbouring vice-county recorders and CCW staff who were able to provide information on the species seen and the management of the sites. 

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