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

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