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.


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


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Countryside volunteering

I’m Hannah Banks and I am a full time volunteer ranger at Llanerchaeron and the coast of Ceredigion. I work with Gwen Potter the head ranger and another full time volunteer Iona Graham.

 My role involves countryside and coastal conservation and is very varied. One week in this role can involve, dolphin watches, checking wild ponies, clearing bracken, beach cleans, wildlife surveys and public activities! For the past few weeks we have done many of these tasks with the help of pupils from Swansea who are undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh Gold award, who have provided us with great help during their week residential stays.

dolphin watch with the volunteers at Mwnt

dolphin watch with the volunteers at Mwnt









I have had many firsts since I began volunteering at Llanerchaeron. Recently I took part in a first aid course which was very informative, interesting and great fun with a large number of volunteer rangers and some members of staff. A few days after this course, we spotted an ambulance at one of our sites site and felt that we could’ve taken charge! Not quite there yet though! However, it was very handy for our brushcutter and strimmer course last week. Fortunately there weren’t any accidents and it is safe to say we all passed.

A den built by visitors at a 50 things event

A den built by visitors at a 50 things event

During the school summer holidays there are 50 things events on Fridays and one afternoon with the help of Iona, I led my first event and the children that attended ticked off many activities from their 50 things list. These events are not just for children as I also ticked off some of the 50 things. This summer for the first time ever I have skimmed a stone and played a grass trumpet (who knew you could hold a piece of grass the wrong way)!


Additionally, I have been fortunate to attend various identification courses such as dragonflies, bumblebees and amphibian and reptiles and picked up knowledge from others on plants, butterflies, moths etc. It is great to be able to spot something new to the eye and be able to identify the species; it is such a satisfaction, especially as I spot different species almost every week. Now when I am outdoors, I am always noticing the fantastic wildlife of Ceredigion and have become camera snapping crazy.

Speckled yellow day moth

Speckled yellow day moth










My experience at Llanerchaeron with the National Trust has been great so far and I have gained so much knowledge and new skills! I hope this experience will allow me to gain a job in this field in the future.

Lastly, I have gained a crazy number of freckles, many bruises, scratches and some great friends (including a green veined butterfly)! 

Green veined butterfly

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Dolphin Watch at Mwnt beach

As a volunteer ranger based at Llanerchaeron you get to conduct interesting and informative surveys. The latest survey that is being carried out from June to September is the monitoring of the Bottle nosed Dolphins that reside in Cardigan Bay in West Wales. This survey is new for the volunteers this year and is one that is enjoyed by all. It’s also a few hours break from the general work that we do at Mwnt such as gorse and bracken clearing.

 The survey is carried out on behalf of Ceredigion County Council, who have been monitoring the dolphins in Cardigan Bay since the mid 90’s at various sites along the coast between Cardigan island and Aberystwyth. Very rarely do we have a blank survey day and at this time of year we have had the pleasure of watching small family pods of dolphins with young calves go through a variety of behavior, from hunting and feeding to playing and making spectacular leaps from the water. The younger dolphins prove to be the most energetic as they practise the skills that the adults are teaching them.

 For me, what makes the survey work even more special at Mwnt is the vast amount of wildlife that you encounter during the two hour watch. You get to see a wide range of sea birds such as Gannets, Fulmars and a variety of Gulls, as well as divers such as Guillemot and Razor bills. Another special bird that lives on the coast at Mwnt is the Chough. They are fascinating to watch as they group together and socialise throughout the day, either foraging for insects or providing spectacular displays such as barrel rolling when in flight. Also seen at Mwnt are birds of prey such as the Peregrine Falcon and Kestrel with the later observed raiding Skylark nests on the headland.

 There is also a lot of plant life to be seen both at the site of the watch and all along the head land at Mwnt, with the Heath Orchid being a personal favourite this time of year. There is another orchid that we will lookout for next month and that is Autumn Ladies Tresses which we didn’t manage to see last year but fingers crossed that we do this time round.

To find our more about volunteering with the Rangers at Llanerchaeron please email: gwen.potter@nationaltrust.org.uk

dolphin watch with the volunteers at Mwnt

dolphin watch with the volunteers at Mwnt

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Saving our Magnificent Meadows

Hello, my name is Vicky Squire and I am the new Project Officer for Save Our Magnificent Meadows here in Ceredigion.

Save Our Magnificent Meadows is a 3 year nationwide project being organised by Plantlife and funded by Heritage Lottery, to help preserve our hay meadows and species rich grasslands. The UK has lost 98% of its species-rich grasslands in the last 60 years due to changes in farming practices. These habitats are an intrinsic part of the UK’s natural and cultural heritage. It is one of the few habitats that has been created by man that is great for biodiversity and brimming with life – centuries of farming practices working with nature rather than against it.

There are nine sites involved in the project and at each site we are planning to carry out a range of work including fencing, to allow grazing over winter, scrub clearance and plant surveys. Working with tenants, we are hoping to improve the management of our species-rich grasslands, create new wildflower meadows and engage with the local community through a series of events and workshops. We aim to enhance, create and link species-rich grasslands and reconnect people with these places and their wildlife, history and heritage.

emperor dragonfly

emperor dragonfly

This year’s events started with a training day on Meadow Invertebrates and surveying techniques. A mixture of professionals and members of the public attended and it was hailed as a great success, mainly due to Gwen’s enthusiasm rather than sunny weather!!! We found a wide range of bugs, bees and creepy-crawlies from red-tailed bumblebee, shield bugs, soldier bugs, meadow grasshopper and meadow brown butterflies!


We have our Magnificent Meadows Weekend on the 19th & 20th July. The Meadow Arts Day will be on the 19th July and will see art exhibitions and an outdoor theatre here at Llanerchaeron as well as workshops in ceramics, photography, printmaking, lantern making and poetry & song writing!!! We will also be unveiling the winners of our Meadow Art Competition. All of the entries will also be on display throughout the summer.
Then on 20th July will be our Family Meadows Day, with lots of family friendly activities happening throughout the day including minibeast hunts, flower pressing, making meadow animals and bug hotels and hunting for the rainbow in the meadow!!

mag meadow

We will also be holding an event in September for anyone who would like to learn more about volunteering with us. Keep an eye on our website closer to the time.


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