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As the days get longer, the weather kinder, life starts to unfold and blossom around us. This spring, have you thought about getting out to visit one of Plantlife’s wonderful Welsh nature reserves?
We are fortunate to have 23 around the UK, including two sites accessible from south and mid Wales for you to discover.
Written by Jonathan Stone
Lugg Meadow extends to around 132 hectares in the floodplain of the river Lugg, east of Hereford. It is a living survivor of an ancient land tenure and farming system. Recorded in the Domesday Book, this is ‘Lammas meadow’, opened for communal grazing on Lammas Day (1st August) after the hay crop has been taken. In medieval times ownership would have been divided between dozens of owners, and the land doled out in strips marked by ancient dole stones. Today, larger parcels belong to a handful of different owners.
Look out for chequered purple, pink or white Snake’s-head Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris in early spring, with its bell-like flowers nodding on thin stems. As spring progresses the impression is of a mass of yellow buttercups almost as far as the eye can see. The flora includes two distinctive members of the carrot family. Pepper-saxifrage Silaum silaus, with its yellowish flowers, is characteristic of old meadows, whilst Narrow-leaved Water-dropwort Oenanthe silaifolia, with white or pinkish flowers, is a nationally scarce species only found in lowland England. Another grassland species is Wild Onion or Crow Garlic Allium vineale, so called because its leaves smell of garlic when crushed.
A host of other meadow species include Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare and the thistle-like purple heads of Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra. In damper areas, visitors might see the frothy flowerheads of Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria and the tattered, pink flowers of Ragged-robin Silene flos-cuculi. By late June, the meadow has turned into a swaying hay field, but there is still colour among the hay. After harvest there is less interest for the botanical visitor, but Purple-loosestrife Lythrum salicaria and Flowering-rush might be spotted in wet ground by the river.
The great expanses of open grassland are an important breeding habitat for Curlew Numenius arquata and Skylark Alauda arvensis. Winter floods, which bring fresh supplies of nutrients to the meadow, create a seasonal lake attracting roosting gulls and visiting wildfowl.
There is plenty of space to park in the lane by the entrance off the A438, opposite the Cock of Tupsley pub. Grid ref: SO535403. Postcode: HR1 1UT.
N.B. access to the south of the A438 is restricted to public rights of way only from March to July, in order to protect ground nesting birds. Also, do be aware that, especially during winter months, both the upper and lower meadows may flood to a depth of over a metre for long periods of time.
Contact: Jonathan Stone, Nature Reserve Manager (South & West) email@example.com
Written by Lizzie Wilberforce
Cae Blaen-dyffryn is a small, species-rich grassland lying in the hills above Lampeter, in Carmarthenshire. The whole nature reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the importance of its species-rich neutral grassland, and Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia) population.
The reserve is sloping and affords good views across the surrounding landscape. In the spring, the grassland is just starting to come into its own, and you will find species like Red Clover Trofolium pratense, Common Knapweed, and the abundant yellows of Cat’s-ear Hypochaeris radicata, and Bird’s-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus coming into bloom. You may also find the basal leaf rosettes of both species of Butterfly Orchid.
By June you will find Butterfly Orchids are in full flower with their delicate, white-flowered spikes, along with the pinker flowering heads of Heath Spotted-orchid Dactylorhiza maculata and Southern Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa. In total we have recorded over 200 species of flowering plants in this one field, and you can find orchids in the thousands.
There are no public rights of way into the nature reserve and access is via stock gate from the A482 itself. Park safely in nearby lanes and access the site from the main road; please take care on the roadside. No dogs please. Grid Ref: SN605443, postcode SA48 8EZ
Contact: Lizzie Wilberforce, Plantlife Cymru Lead
Lugg Meadow after a hay cut
Cae Blaen-dyffryn Aug 21, image by Lizzie Wilberforce
Only 3.2% of England’s land and sea is protected. This is why nature reserves are so important.
They are protected havens for wild plants and wildlife. Will you help keep them flourishing?
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