April

I can’t believe April has been and gone, and without many showers which has been rather nice.

We have been continuing putting in new gates and posts on the Llanerchaeron Estate. As soon as one is finished it’s time to move on to the next. This week we have spent 3 afternoons just trying to dig out one old gate post that had broken off at ground level. I’m hoping when I get back to Ceredigion next Tuesday the hole may be a little deeper…

Vicky and the volunteers finished fencing around the spring and tank at Penbryn. We just need to cut off some of the gorse stumps and the contractors to finish the boundary fencing and the site should be good to go with grazing.

During the Easter Holidays we spent a morning at Mwnt litter picking round the site as well as showing a presence and having a chat to people there. It was nice to get out and about on a different site for a change. In the afternoon we went to Penbryn and litter picked the beach, car park and wooded valley. It was a really warm and busy day. We will be doing a bit of work at the car park next week.

For another change of scenery we spent a couple of days in Henllan Woods. Gwen and the volunteers have spent a lot of time over the winter cutting back the ever invasive Cherry Laurel. We had the company of the Gower volunteers for a day as well, as they took up the offer of a day playing in the woods and helping me to clear the cut laurel around the entrance to the site. We tidied up along the path and up the slopes and also started to cut and treat some of the regrowth. We will be spending a bit more time over the next few months continuing with this mammoth task.

Clearing the rhododendron at Henllan Woods

Myself, Vicky and Al held interviews for a new Magnificent Meadows Project trainee, to replace Sarah who left to take up a role at Dinefwr. I’m pleased to announce we had a successful candidate in Rhydian Cox – who had just finished as my FTV (full time volunteer) on Gower. Rhydian will start in his new position on the 11th May.

We have recruited a new volunteer this week, Mandy, who seemed to enjoy her first day. The truth will be revealed if she returns to us next week!

This week we saw Llanerchaeron from a different perspective. From the island in the middle of the Lake. We took the punt out and used it to cross to be able to clear the Rhododendron on the island. We then set up a rope pulley system and used it to haul all the cut material back to land and the bonfire site. The volunteers did an amazing job with only one casualty – poor Sue – someone had to fall in! Cold and wet but she came out laughing.

punting at Llanerchaeron

Have a lovely bank holiday weekend. Hope the weather holds for the Country Fair J

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Bioblitz

On the 11th-12th April we are running a 24 hour Bioblitz at Cwm Tydu.  A Bioblitz is a type of wildlife survey that aims to allow everyone from experts to the general public to contribute usable information about the species living in a certain area. The Bioblitz at Cwm Tydu is part of events to mark 50 years of National Trust’s Neptune Project, to acquire and care for the nation’s coastline. We will be racing against the clock to try and record everything that crawls, swims, slithers or grows on land and at sea. Our target is to record over one thousand species over the twenty four hour period.

There will be knowledgeable professionals and academics from many organisations including National Trust, RSPB , Aberystwyth University and many local wildlife groups on site throughout the day.  The professionals will lead the identification and recording of everything we find. We have climbers, a diver and lots of willing volunteers  all lined up so, we are pretty confident that we will get into every nook and cranny of Cwm Tydu. We will be running from our Bioblitz base camp in Cwm Soden.  There will be the chance for members of the public to go out and hunt for plants and animals alongside the professionals and volunteers. All the species we find will go through a triage system back at the basecamp to help identify them and add them to the events main record.

There is an intricate patchwork of habitats at Cwm Tydu. There is maritime grassland and heath on the cliff tops grazed by our resident herd of welsh mountain ponies. The meadows down in the valley are rich in butterfly species.  Ancient semi natural woodland is the dominant cover on the valley floor, at this time of year the woods are coming back to life, filled with the white of wood anemone and the pastel yellow of primroses. Finally the pebble beach provides a habitat for many marine invertebrates and the cliffs above support fulmars, gannets and razorbills.

We already know there is some really interesting wildlife down there. There are bottlenose dolphins, chough, peregrine falcon, lesser spotted woodpecker, black oil beetles and pearl bordered fritillaries.  So we are hopeful there will be even more down there for the public and experts to find and add to our tally.

cwm tydu  cwm tydu 1

We will be running a number of activities during the Bioblitz, to help add to the species count and also to introduce and familiarise people with the wildlife we have on the reserve. These events will include dolphin watching, minibeast hunts, mammal walks, bird watching, dawn chorus walks, bat walks and more…  We would like to encourage everyone to come down to Cwm Tydu, even if you only have an hour or just want to come for a single event; you are welcome to come along. We have been really looking forward to this event since we started planning back in September, and can’t wait to get stuck in with you all on the day.

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A new ranger for Ceredigion

Hi. I’m Claire Hannington and I am the Ranger for Gower. I am, however, currently covering for Gwen as Area Ranger for Ceredigion 3 days a week as she undertakes a six month secondment as Wildlife and Countryside Advisor for London and the South East.

As such I am out and about with the volunteers undertaking all aspects of conservation work whilst trying to get my bearings and work out which site is which and how to get to them.

I normally write a monthly volunteering blog for Gower – https://gowernt.wordpress.com (Just pugging Gower here. I will plug Llanerchaeron on the Gower blog), so I thought I would do the same here. Hopefully it will be of interest to you.

We have initially been concentrating on the gates and fencing around the farm on the Llanerchaeron estate. We have replaced the posts and gate into Church Meadow and also the huge double gates into Parklands next to the Church. It took 4 of us just to lift one of the new gates. They are made of green oak and should last a substantial amount of time. We are also renewing the posts and rehanging the gates along the main road access into the estate.

We have also spent some time working alongside Vicky, the Magnificent Meadow’s project officer at Penbryn, finishing off the winter scrub clearance. We have also done some fencing up there around a spring and water tank that no-one seemed to know existed. The volunteers only found it by chance as they were strimming.

All staff and some volunteers from across the Mid and South East Wales portfolio got together at Carreg Cennen for the annual start of season meeting. We heard from all the properties with their plans for this year and have been able to since cascade this information at local events.

                 Cardiganshire Gate2 (c) Vicky Squire

We have a new Full Time Volunteer started with us this week – Mounir from France. I will get him to introduce himself later.

And on the 31st March, the Ceredigion volunteers joined me on Gower to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Neptune Campaign. You can read all about that on the Gower blog – last plug I promise!

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A spring surprise

I’m going to start this post with a slightly different introduction.  First, meet Maldwyn our Llanwenog ram, purchased in 2012 to help improve our flock.

maldwyn

Now meet our Mule (cross bred) ewe, fondly known as ‘Donkey’.

Donkey

Llanwenog sheep are known for being prolific, producing twins the majority of the time.  The mule ewe has also been bred to produce twins, a farmer’s ideal as the ewes can manage to rear two lambs very well indeed without having too much impact on her health and well being.

Now, when we scanned our ewes in January and discovered that Donkey was expecting triplets for the second year running, it was not unexpected due to us crossing two prolific breeds of sheep.  Here at Llanerchaeron, having to rear one of the three as a pet lamb is no problem as we have plenty of visitors and volunteers to help!

On the 24th of March we noticed that Donkey had started to lamb, so knowing that some of the lambs would be needing a little extra attention we kept an eye on her until all three lambs were born, all healthy and an even size.  We then gave them some time together for Donkey to lick her lambs and for them to stand and learn to feed but we came back to a bit of a surprise….there were four!

Quad lambs quadruplets 2

Having quads is a very rare thing, particularly in small flocks like the one we have at Llanerchaeron.  All four are doing very well with Donkey soon going out to grass with two of her lambs and the other two are keeping our visitors entertained with twice daily pet lamb feeds done by the public. If you would like to help us feed our new pet lambs, come along any day during the Easter holidays 28 March – 12 April with feedings at 12pm and 4pm.

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STARTING MY NEW ROLE AT LLANERCHAERON

Seasonal Assistant Ranger, John Cartwright

On approaching Llanerchaeron for my interview back in November, I was struck by the rural charm of the house and outlying estate.  The enchanting landscape of rolling hills, snaking rivers and jagged coastline it nestles within is so characteristic of mid-Wales and, on being appointed as Seasonal Assistant Ranger, I was extremely excited about the learning experience and challenges ahead of me.

The first week flew by being thrown in at the deep end with the volunteers Christmas party and then working on a really interesting project in partnership with Natural Resources Walpearl bordered fritillaryes.  The Section 15 work aimed to encourage and conserve the Pearl Bordered Fritillary populations at Cwm Tydu near Newquay and involved cutting a series of interlinking pathways through bracken-dominated areas, a kind of ‘butterfly pathway’ as some of the weekly volunteers like to refer to it as.  In doing this we opened up the canopy and would allow plants, such as violets the food plants of the Pearl Bordered caterpillars, to succeed.  The week was extremely satisfying and I hope to return over the summer to see the fruits of our continued labours.

Over the course of the placement so far, I have been involved in so many different projects, being able to work with the ponies, fell and treat invasive cherry laurel and be part of the Save the Meadows project.  One of the most exciting and valuable days was through a visit to Gower helping monitor and survey a newly reclaimed salt marsh.  The site at Cwm Ivy is of special scientific interest and very few sites in the world have been seen through transition from fresh water to salt water marsh.  The project was fascinating and the coming weeks will be extremely interesting for the development of this special site.

The team at Llanerchaeron have been so welcoming over my short placement  and the sense of enthusiasm and teamwork among all the staff and volunteers makes this place great to be a part of.  I look forward to the coming weeks here and the many opportunities ahead.

If you or anyone you know may be interested in volunteering as a ranger with the Llanerchaeron team, please contact gwen.potter@nationaltrust.org.uk for more information.

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Our Coast, Our Place

Have you ever visited the coast, looked out to sea and thought about what might make it better? It’s likely that the things that might spring to mind would be things that are personal or convenient – ‘my own house with a white picket fence on the shoreline’ or maybe ‘a café with some nice sandwiches and a cup of tea’. Or the frequent request of ‘a bench’ or ‘dog poo bins’. I’ve often longed to live in a lighthouse and some of us would like to have an island all to ourselves once in a while, but I’m not sure whether my red and white striped spire would actually improve the coast in many of the places I’m lucky enough to look after in Ceredigion. What makes the 742 miles of coastline the National Trust looks after so special, what makes so many visitors want to spend time there is the fact that there aren’t any buildings or infrastructure at Penbryn, for example, or Whiteford Burrows – not even a dog poo bin.

Some very naughty visitors

Some very naughty visitors

Yes, we do own fantastic places such as spooky Souter Lighthouse and the beach huts at Llanbedrog, but much of our coast was beginning to be acquired 50 years ago to prevent urban sprawl and development. Caravan parks (wonderful in the right place) were springing up everywhere, people were buying beaches and preventing anyone else from going near them. Sometimes people want to visit and use the coast their way, and this can be to the detriment of other people. This is what makes the job of the National Trust so challenging – the sea means so much to people and we have to manage conflicting demands. We ask people to take away their litter and dog poo and in return they get a wonderful beach they can visit any time.

 

Souter Lighthouse, very haunted

Souter Lighthouse, very haunted

The fact that the sea seems so infinite is perhaps why man has damaged it to such an extent – the effects of inappropriate development, marine pollution and climate change are very visible to coastal rangers on a daily basis. We often see seals hit by boats or other craft, guillemots starved in storms or huge amounts of litter. Overfishing, water pollution, ecological damage and even disturbance may not be so immediately obvious, but can affect nature just as badly. It’s sometimes quite upsetting to see these changes, but the reward for us is seeing the results of the positive work we do. We have some fantastic wildlife on the coast – arctic skuas, the beaky pirates of the seas; pretty kittiwakes (to be said in a Georgie accent for the full alliterative effect); clowning puffins on our islands; bottlenose dolphins leaping in Cardigan Bay; grayling and small blue butterflies dancing in the sunshine; the hairy purple golf ball dancing in the breeze that is Devil’s bit scabious.

 

A lovely puffin on the coast, everyones favourite.
A lovely puffin on the coast, everyones favourite.

 

 The British coast is full of inspiring places, and every bit is different. The red, Jurassic cliffs of Dorset and the white cliffs of Dover appear to rise out of the sea like glimpses of prehistoric monsters. Craggy clifftops in west Wales, bent and twisted when the earth was first formed, hold masses of white and grey guillemots and gannets. Peaceful wooded valleys of Devon and Cornwall conceal birds in the treetops, or a lost smuggler around the bend in the path beneath hawthorns dripping with lichen. Endless sand dunes full of flowers until you get to the top and then…sea. Sandy beaches with secret coves, or rocky ones with vicious dog whelks, nippy crabs and screaming children.

Visitors sometimes leave fab treats for rangers to find.

Visitors sometimes leave fab treats for rangers to find.

People can have a hugely positive effect on the sea while using it for dreaming, for stories of mermaids singing in the slow curlicue of a wave. One visitor created a lovely castle on the beach, which was nice to find during a morning beach clean – another left me an anonymous note at one of our beaches, telling the reader about a traumatic incident from many years before and how he felt his regular visits to the beach, alone, helped to heal the scars of that trauma. Maybe the coast is a place you were lucky enough to visit as a child, the sounds of gulls and smell of salt still evoking powerful memories. I have taken 18 year old students from London to visit the sea who had never seen it before, so moments from our childhood are precious. Great authors such as Virginia Woolf, Edgar Allen Poe, Hans Christian Anderson, Herman Melville have written about the sea in wonderful stories and books. The thing that’s so amazing about the coast is that not even reading the beautiful central passage of ‘To The Lighthouse’ can compare to being there.

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Get involved with our magnificent meadows project

Hello my name is Sarah Jones and I am the Meadows and Grasslands Trainee on the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project here at Llanerchaeron. The project is funded by the wonderful Heritage Lottery Fund and led by Plantlife. Save Our Magnificent Meadows Project is a 3 year long project and we are currently in our first year – exciting times! My trainee position is for the first 12 months so I get to help get the project off to a flying start. 

 So why is this project important? Well over the years our hay meadows and grasslands have fallen in to a sorry state, today only 2% of the meadows that existed in the 1930s remain. That means nearly 7.5million acres of wildflower meadows have been lost so far and are still being destroyed. The project plans to change this by protecting, conserving and restoring wildflower meadows and other grasslands across the UK. We are doing this so children are once again able to run through a colourful hay meadow like you might have in your childhood, or you as a family can enjoy searching for the butterflies, grasshoppers and other insects while munching on a picnic or seek inspiration for a beautiful painting. We are working towards keeping all these special moments and others alive for generations to experience while protecting the wild flowers and habitats the meadows and grasslands support.

 We are just one of ten partner organisations in the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project and a fortnight ago we were very lucky to be invited to one of the locations at Fermanagh in Northern Ireland with Ulster Wildlife Trust to meet everyone face to face who is working on the project. It is a beautiful part of the UK and we visited a number of their grassland sites during our visit. It was great to discuss what other locations are doing as part of the project and what difficulties they might have experienced and how they then overcome those difficulties. In Fermanagh they are hoping to spread seed on one of their meadows and instead of using a tractor and roller to bed in the seed, they will be holding a football game with the local community instead, how fun does that sound?

 Silver-washed fritillaryAs a trainee I am learning something new every day, some members of staff here are like encyclopaedias and I have yet to catch them out on a question they are unable to answer. On a day to day basis I could be doing anything from slashing bracken down at Mwnt to completing a wild flower survey at Penbryn. I have been lucky enough to attend a number of new courses that will benefit myself and the project, for example I have recently completed a dragonfly and invertebrates course. This means I can now identify what I see out on site and can also educate any visitors I may meet out and about during the day.  Working outdoors is fantastic as you get right up close to nature and can never predict what you are going to see next. For example down at our Cwm Soden meadows we were able to spot a silver – washed fritillary just resting in front of our eyes. That wouldn’t happen in an office! We have also been busy setting up test sites at Mwnt to try and find out a little more about what is the best way to control bracken. At the moment bracken is proving to be a bit of a challenge controlling but we are hoping to change that as part of the project. We have tried bruising and slashing on our test sites, we’ll let you know our results next year.

Sarah and Hannah cutting bracken at Mwnt

A great deal of the work we plan to complete during the project will depend highly on volunteers, and that’s where you come in. On Wednesday October the 15th we are holding a volunteer taster day at Llanerchaeron starting at 10a.m – 4p.m. If you come along you will be able to find out more about our ‘Save Our Magnificent Meadows’ and the role of a volunteer within the project. There will also be some yummy tea and biscuits!  If you think you are not suitable for volunteering outside think again, all we ask is that you have a passion for conservation and enjoy manual work. Volunteering with the National Trust has a number of advantages, to name a few we will help you develop new skills, meet new friends and take you to some of the most breath taking places Ceredigion has to offer. Also while volunteering you are doing something proactive for your environment and are helping to ensure it has a future.  If you would like to attend our taster day please contact Victoria Squire the Community Engagement Officer for the project at victoria.squire@nationaltrust.org.uk . See you soon hopefully!

 For more information on the Save Our Magnificent Meadows project please follow the link below.

www.magnificentmeadows.org.uk

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