A Botanical Wander Around Arthog Bog, Mawddach Estuary

Tracey Lovering

Tracey Lovering

Lower Plants and Fungi Officer (Wales) & Plant Link Cymru Officer

27th September 2018

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© Ian Roberts

The sun shone as we wandered, crouched and kneeled, uncovering the marshy delights of Arthog Bog...

Asked by members of the Meirionnydd branch of the North Wales Wildlife Trust (NWWT), to lead a botanical foray on one of the RSPB's special places was a privilege. A large group of interested folk turned up on the day with many questions, and hand lenses at the ready. We made an animated party in search of Arthog’s botanical treasures!

Today, the local community come to enjoy the flowers, wildlife, and the peaceful space, but years ago those unable to afford to light their homes with candles, would have come here to collect soft rush in the summer to make rushlights. This tradition continued into the 19th century, with rushlights sold cheaply in the towns. Leftover kitchen fat warmed at the fireside, was used to dip the stripped rushes, which were left to dry. Gilbert White, in The Natural History of Selbourne (1789), says ‘men that keep bees will mix a little wax with the grease, it will give it a consistency, and render it more cleanly, and make the rushes burn longer.’

Our walk finds included a range of evocatively named marsh specialities: Devil’s-bit Scabious, Ragged Robin, Marsh Pennywort, Tufted forget-me-not, Lesser Skullcap, Marsh Ragwort and Round-leaved Water Crowfoot.

We didn’t confine ourselves to the obvious flowering plants, but took time to discover with our lens the details of the rush, grass and sedge flowers. Smaller still, we examined the wonderful weird structures of the lichens decorating the memorial bench in fine style:

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© Ian Roberts

The walk was a relaxed friendly event, sharing stories and anecdotes, along with a picnic lunch. Though lunch was intended to complete the walk, we couldn’t help ourselves from stopping to find more natural wonders on our way back! A total of 56 species were recorded, including two rusts!

Arthog provides a valuable home to two special rare and local plants, Touch-me-not Balsam (Impatiens noli-tangere) and Wavy St John’s-wort (Hypericum undulatum). Both beautiful in flower, are best seen in July. UK wide, Wavy St John’s-wort (pictured below) has undergone ‘many losses due to habitat destruction, especially through agricultural intensification, and this trend has continued in recent years.

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© Ian Roberts

Fortunately, for the marsh and bog plants of Arthog their future is secure. Pony grazing coupled with scrub and tree growth management keeps the site open and light.

Visiting: It’s possible to do a loop walk through the reserve to join the Mawddach trail and wind back around to your starting point within an hour or less, but you’re likely to want to linger longer! The quiet car park (with loos) and the flat accessible paths make the reserve an accessible, as well as a special place to visit.

Thank you for my invite NWWT!

Find out more:

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CENNAD: Lichen Apprenticeship Scheme

A specialist programme of supported learning activities, where beginners are brought to a level where they can usefully contribute to monitoring lichens.

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