Friday, 9 August 2019

Caerdeon Botanical Residential for Meirionnydd (VC48)

Sunday 28th of July

Martyn Stead, Sally Peacock and I headed for the empty quarter of the Arenigs on Sunday. We were looking at two very unrecorded tetrads on the South East side of Arenig Fawr. We traversed across part of Ffridd y Fawnogg noting typical species such as Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccus), some of which bore nearly ripe fruit - not quite ripe enough for a snack though!

Sally found Shoreweed (Litorella uniforme) in the reservoir but it's wave-lashed shores seemed to discourage the development of more fringing vegetation.

Once we had ascended the SE ridge of Y Castell, the broad ledges I could safely reach were not particularly species rich, although there was plentiful Luzula sylvatica (Great Wood Rush). We entered the new tetrad at around 660m  and as we crested the top of this slope we found windswept areas rich in Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Cowberry) with the odd patch of Melampyrum pratense (Common Cow-wheat). There were also some significant patches of the Lichen Lasallia pustulata

I scoured a small area of rock carpeting sphagnum until I eventually spotted some Drosera rotundifolia  (Round-leaved sundew), however the wet weather had really set in now so we didn't press on to the summit. This could still be an area worth prospecting in the future though. We took the easier route back via the track and road and this enabled Martyn to add to the list of road-verge species for another tetrad . Meanwhile Sally and I took a last look at a different corner of Ffridd y Fawnogg bog in homage to International Peat bog day. 

Caerdeon Botanical Residential for Meirionnydd ( VC48)

July 27th: Visit to Craig y Benglog with Martyn Stead and Phil Brown.

Craig y Benglog lies next to Allt y Benglog National Nature reserve which comprises an Ash woodland. These trees grow over underlying basic rocks which give them an extra mineral boost. Consequently, Phil Martyn and I felt we might be in for an interesting day in this area. On a previous visit I had found an old trackway leading up the valley so this easy access route quickly led us into the recording area. The day developed as a series of deviations upwards or downwards from this track, either taking in the ledges of the crags above or down to the Afon Eiddon which cuts down into some basic lavas.

 The first excursion upwards to the crags yielded little that was unexpected, so we scrambled down to the river. The river cliffs bordering it soon yielded interesting records of Helianthenum nummularium (Common Rock-rose), a new tetrad record and a plant which has only been recorded in 4 tetrads of VC48, and Sedum forsterianum (Rock Stonecrop) another new tetrad record and only recorded in 10 tetrads. These were accompanied with Origanum vulgare (Wild Majoram) and Sedum telephium (Orpine)
Sedum forsterianum (Rock Stonecrop)

Some of these ledges seem to preserve remnant woodland flora too with Orchis mascula (Early-purple Orchid) and Primula vulgaris (Primrose), Luzula sylvatica (Great Wood Rush) and Geum rivale (Water avens)
Further progress from rock to rock brought new discoveries. Arabis hirstua (Hairy rock-cress) (another new tetrad record) and Melica nutans which has only been recorded in 2 other tetrads of VC 48 and a new record for the tetrad.
Melica nutans Mountain Melick

Then Phil explored a meander further up the valley whilst Barbara and Martyn wove a way through the boulder scree to the upper crags, soon to be joined by the ever-energetic Phil. Here we found an isolated Populus tremulus (Aspen) at the base of a crag and then Martyn followed some intuition straight to a hidden Oak fern (Gymnocarpon dyropteris) in a scree niche. Meanwhile Phil searched some more crags to find more Melica nutans, Hyacinthoides non scripta (Bluebell) and Cystopteris fragilis (Brittle Bladder Fern)
Martyn Stead demonstrating the site of the Oak Fern
Gymnocarpium dryopteris - the Oak Fern

Overall 156 records were made but the quality of the finds and the landscape made for some great plant hunting. We also paid a visit to the local farmer on the way back, who shared some of the local mining and farming history of the site and was interested in the special plants.

Caerdeon Botanical residential for Meirionnydd (VC48)

Friday 26th July

The Caerdeon residential botanical meeting has become a regular fixture of the Merionnydd Field Naturalists programme. It attracts many botanists of national calibre and there is the added attraction of being able to explore the little visited corners of this great vice-county.

So I joined the meeting with happy anticipation on Friday July 26th at the first botanical rendez-vous of Tanygrisiau, joining up with Sally Peacock, Mags Critterden and Phil Brown

We split into two teams taking either a high route or a low route through the tetrad. I accompanied Phil upon the higher transect and gradually we rambled up slope, bog and crag until we were not far from the summit. En route we found three clubmoss species including Lycopodium clavatum Stag's-horn Clubmoss, a section 7 species in the Environment (Wales) act.  A search of these higher crags surprisingly revealed some Achillea ptarmica or Sneezewort as well as more typical members of crag communities such as Phegopteris connectilus (Beech Fern) and Sedum telephium (Orpine)

Lycopodium clavatum Stag's-horn Clubmoss

 We then headed downwards to a broad shelf scattered with bog pools and islets finding Rhychospora alba  (White-beaked Sedge) and Sparganium fluctuans (Floating Bur-weed)

Bog Asphodel Islets

Sparganium fluctuans, Floating Bur-weed

We then decided to race for the Welsh Highland Railway train at the Dduallt stop, which took us via a large area of Myrica gale ( Bog Mrytle), a pool with Nuphar lutea (Yellow water-lily) and some patches of Hypericum elodea ( Marsh St John's-Wort).

We made it to the Dduallt halt with 4 mins to spare but the return trip via steam train gave a Victorian flourish to the day and one which accorded with our accommodation at Caerdeon.
Phil Brown and  Moelwyn Bach

Wales Highland Railway at Tanygrisiau station