June

We started the month on the Llanerchaeron estate putting in a 12ft 6 gate – we made sure the posts were in very securely for that one as it weighed an absolute tonne.

The following day however saw us take things a bit more leisurely as we had a day out to the Dyfi Osprey project – it just happened to be National Volunteers Week and we wanted to say a big thank you for all the hard work our volunteers have put in over the recent months. We had an amazing day and saw some excellent flying displays by the ospreys in the area. For those that know me by now I am a little bit of an osprey addict..

photo

It was off to Mwnt the next day to start our season of Dolphin Watch. We will be doing this every Thursday between 11am and 1pm as part of a rota system of Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 11am and 5pm. We have other volunteers helping us out but there are spaces so if you are interested then please let us know.

We are also making the most of our time at Mwnt undertaking bracken clearance on the slopes above the beach. It’s lovely to see the flowers that have been growing under its foliage hit the light and positively bloom!photo 2

photo 1

It is with sadness we had to say goodbye to Mounir as he had to go back to France unexpectedly. We wish him well for the future. We have however had 2 new volunteers join us. Garvey and Luke are with us on a 6 week placement having just finished their first year at Aberystwyth University. They have fitted in really well and are cracking on with all the tasks.

This has included the start of the Himalayan Balsam clearing season. We have already done some at Henllan Woods, where we also continuing with the Laurel regrowth; on the Llanerchaeron estate, along the river; and at Penbryn where we did a bit of gorge walking to get to some of it. We still have plenty more to do but will plug away at it.

The volunteers also took part in a flower ID day with the Magnificent Meadows project.

We also had a curious incident with a dead seal at Mwnt. It had got washed up and it was too big to be taken away so we had to bury it on the beach. The following week however we had to go back and rebury it following an unrelated police incident at Mwnt in which our seal was strangely partially uncovered  and had police tape put round its flipper. Interesting….

photo 3

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May

We’ve had a bit of variety this month with both work and volunteer changes.

We have put in new posts for another 2 gates on the farm at Llanerchaeron and took some gates to Coybal for a contractor who is undertaking some fencing work for Vicky on the Meadows project.

We spent a day at Penbryn, strimming along the roadside and tidying up the car park and removing litter.

One of the large oaks in the woodland the other side of the river at Llanerchaeron decided it had had enough, and split in two. The first half fell right across the path and 2 weeks later the rest of it went the other way into the river. We spent a couple of mornings tidying them up.

I spent a day at Cwm Soden looking at the management plan for the next 5 years with Gwen, Jenny from NRW and Russel from Butterfly Conservation.

It was amazing to see the work that the volunteers have been doing over the winter with scrub clearance to encourage butterfly habitats. So it was only fair that the volunteers could see for themselves too so we spent an afternoon there looking for butterflies and other wildlife. I got to see my first small pearl-bordered fritillary.

We had some archaeologists at Cwm Silio excavating part of a human skeleton that had been found jutting out of the cliff. It was fascinating to see them at work. They will be taking the bones away and hopefully get them carbon dated. We know that they are not recent but will let you know the results when we get them.

We spent 3 more days in the woods at Henllan clearing cherry laurel. The woods are so full of life now it and it was great listening and watching the sounds of spring whilst eating freshly cooked welsh cakes made by my mum!

We spent a couple of days with Vicky on the meadows project putting in a new gate at Rhos Cwmsaeson and fixing some fencing and rails.

We also put in a new fence behind the Geler Jones shed at Llanerchaeron adjacent to the roadside having cleared out all the debris.

And the end of the month saw Tim Pyne our FTV at Ceredigion leave to go to Gower, whilst we welcomed Gordon our FTV from Gower to Ceredigion.

A bit of a job swap really, but it gives them both a chance to see new places and learn new skills. And I still get to see them both. Happy days.

Claire Hannington

Small pearl bordered fritillary

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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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