Positive feedback.

It is always nice to receive positive feedback and comments, and the below are some from members of a guided walk I did on July 1st for the SAMYE Foundation Wales along the Cefn Onn Ridge.

“I found the walk very enjoyable and really interesting. It was not too strenuous and we stopped several times to hear interesting facts about the landscape and various species. I would highly recommend this walk and I am looking forward to the next one.” Jan

“Just to let you know, Chris (hubby) & myself really enjoyed our walk on Cefn Onn Ridge. We are cardiff born but have never realised how near this route is. How beautiful the ancient woodland is and the wonderful variety of flora & fauna that grows there.

Neville is cheerful and very informative, e.g. on foraging edible plants, identifying the large variety of birds and birdsong and his knowledge of the surrounding area generally. Will definitely return to experience again.” M Hudson


hawkYou have to admire the large yellow eye and expression of this female Sparrowhawk that is visiting our garden today and luckily for the birds on the feeders, not having any success.

Lepidoptera Lifer!

silver1Whilst on my way to work yesterday I noticed a species of fritillary butterfly feeding on a Buddlea bush. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a decent photo on my phone so I returned this morning and was able to get some better shots with my camera.
I was delighted to see that they were a pair of Silver Washed Fritillary – a new one for my list and a lovely looking butterfly too. Several Red Admirals, Large Whites, Peacock and Speckled Woods were also taking an interest in the same bushes.

Mindfullness and nature walk for SAMYE Foundation Wales.

oystersWell the weather was excellent, warm but with a gentle breeze as twenty eager participants met me at the Travellers Rest pub car park (my thanks to the landlord for allowing us to use the car park, thanked in return with drinks at the end from all on the walk). After my introduction and health and safety pep talk we headed down the road to join the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway Walk to take us along the Cefn Onn Ridge, through a mixture of Beech woodland, past open fields and disused lime kilns and quarries.

Straight away we were welcomed by the song of a Blackcap singing from deep within the canopy and a Blue Tit and Blackbird was heard also. The variety of plants was plentiful and we started to look at Red Dead Nettles, Hart’s Tongue Ferns and Enchanter’s Nightshade. The Ramsons (Wood Garlic) had gone over but the scent from the leaves was still very strong. A dead Rat on the path gave us a laugh as Loraine had asked if we would find anything edible – needless to say the offer of this as food wasn’t taken up. Many in the group joined me to see a hidden patch of Common Twayblade orchids I know of.

As we walked further along I pointed out some Cramp Ball fungus – also known as King Alfred’s cakes with an explanation as to why they had this nickname. A large group of Ganoderma (Artists Fungus) was pointed out growing on a Beech tree. The fungus was giving off the brown spores that will spread onto the neighbouring trees, deposited on the wind. A large group of Oyster Mushroom on a rotting log was an unexpected surprise. Numerous ‘spit’ like substances were on the grass fronds formed by the Froghopper insect which in-cases itself in a foamy substance to protect it from other predators by giving off an unpleasant taste. Another warbler was heard singing, this time a Chiffchaff.

Passing a disused lime kiln we continued along the path stopping off to look at Jelly Fungus, a group of Dryads Saddle growing on a tree stump and Southern Polypody fern growing from the trunk of a Hawthorn. The group marvelled at the size of many of the Beech trees and we estimated their age to be around 300 years plus. Either way these trees would have seen a lot of history. A group of Wild Cherry had one tree which was sadly dying, and already there were tell-tale signs of Beetles boring into the soft wood and pecking holes from Woodpeckers.

The tiny yellow flowers of Agrimony grew along the entire stem and close by another large group of red Dead Nettle was growing. Self Heal, Hawkweeds and more Enchanter’s Nightsahdes grew alongside these plants. At the fork in the path we turned left and followed the path gently uphill for a short distance where I showed the group a vein of Baryte passing under and across the surface of the path. Passing through the gate we wntered a lovely ancient Beech woodland where Bracket fungus was growing on several of the trees. Some of the Beech trees here are very old and have formed amazing shapes. As we entered a clearing just before the quarry, several Ringlet butterflies were showing themselves well and a Speckled wood butterfly was resting on a Bramble, enjoying the strong sunlight on it’s wings.

Several fine specimens of Common Spotted Orchids grew alongside the path with a deep colour, so different from the greens of the Twaybaldes. At the disused quarry we sat on the grass grazed short by the local Rabbits where Wild Thyme, Tormentil, Birds Foot Trefoil and the tiny white flowers of Eyebright all grew. We enjoyed drinks and snacks here in the warm sunshine before following the path downhill for a while before re-joining the path at the start of the ancient Beech woodland. Turkey Tail fungus was growing on a tree stump and another Blackcap serenaded us with a Wren giving off it’s alarm call at our presence. A Woodpigeon egg shell was found. Many birds deposit the eggs once the young have hatched some distance away from the nest site to avoid attracting any predators.

We stopped to enjoy sampling some Wood Sorrel with it’s bitter taste caused by Oxalic acid in the leaves. We re-joined the original path and laughed at another Blackcap that seemed to be following us, singing all the time, but staying well hidden in the deep foliage. I spotted a Tawny Owl breaking cover and flying above the path but unfortunately only one other person got to see it.

Purple Moor grass and some other species of plants were spotted on the return walk and back at Blaen Nofydd farm at the start of the walk we stopped to speak to Ian Griffiths, a friend of mine who owns the property, and he told us some of the local history of the area which was fascinating. He also had a spring on the property where many of the group got to sample the water purified by passing trough the limestone.

We returned to the pub for some drinks and snacks and reminisced on the plants, fungi and birds seen on the walk. My thanks to the SAMYE Foundation Wales for their positive feedback to me for the walk and for the excellent company. For further details on SAMYE Foundation contact Samye Foundation Wales on 02920 228040 or email at admin@sfwales.org

Beautiful Burnet moths feeding.

What a delight today to see numerous Five Spot Burnet moths on the wing and feeding on a variety of plants such as Tufted Vetch and Creeping Thistle. I took the below photo of several feeding on a thistle head. It was so relaxing watching them flying and feeding, and flashing the lovely deep reds on the wings. burnet

Nature’s defences.

The strange ‘spit’ like substance formed by the Froghopper insect is an ingenious way of protecting itself from predators as they dislike the taste of the foamy substance. This is a common sight on the stems of grasses and plants. I remember seeing this as a young child and often wondered what had caused it.froghopper