Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - December 2003 - No 70
Ian Morgan

Leader Ian Morgan

The purpose of this meeting was to survey the grounds of Cilymaenllwyd (formerly the home of the Howard-Stepney family and now a nursing home) and adjacent lanes.

Whilst the official leader was Ian Morgan – he merely ‘led the way’ – and he wishes to thank Richard Pryce and George Hutchinson for helping with demonstrating plants, etc, to participating members.  At the start of the meeting, the leader and his son, Thomas, showed the gathered party some hawkmoths that they had caught in a light trap the previous evening at nearby Tyrwaun.  The walls of the car park at Pwll recreation ground were also examined where Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) and Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) were noted and nearby were growths of planted Evergreen Spindle (Euonymus japonicus).

Crossing the road opposite the Talbot Public House, the party progressed up the lane towards Cilymaenllwyd, immediately noting clumps of the hardy hybrid (Geranium x oxonianum), a taxon that is increasing, as a garden ‘throw-out’ by seed as well as vegetatively.  Another garden escape was Mind-your-own-business (Soleirolia soleirolii), a carpeting small-leaved plant that is frequent on damp wall bases and corners in Llanelli.  The succulent leaves of Navelwort  (Umbilicus rupestris) and fresh fronds of Soft-shield Fern (Polystichum setiferum) (both natives) were seen on the steep hedgebanks with, in the wooded cwm to the west of the lane, other attractive species such as Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum), Wood Avens (Geum urbanum) and Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana) also noted.  A Grey Wagtail was feeding on the stream.

Further up the lane, near or opposite some houses, more garden throw-outs/escapes were seen – the Chinese Bramble (Rubus tricolor), Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa), Spotted Dead-nettle (Lamium maculatum), and Adria Bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana).  Green Alkanet (Pentaglotis sempervirens), a blue-flowered relative of the forget-me-not with rough leaves, was rather more widely naturalised along lengths of the lane.

The party then took a brief detour, following the footpath up Cwm Pant, stopping below some mature Beech (Fagus sylvatica) trees to admire the view at SN475017, before retracing the way back to the lane.  Some points of interest were the hybrid St. John’s-wort (Hypericum androsaemum x H. hircinum) and that attractive but rampant spreader, Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolum subsp. argentatum). 

The party then entered the grounds of Cilymaenllwyd, through the back gate at the road bend at SN476015, noting an undistinguished mix of natives and escapes or plantings.  The leader mentioned at this point a surviving colony of Wild Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) that grows in woodland just east of the mansion.  As the flowers would have been over by the date of the meeting, this area was not visited.  In front of the mansion the Ogham-inscribed stone and the panoramic views across the estuary to Gower were both admired.  This stone has engraved on one side a ring-cross and was found in the former kitchen garden of the mansion in the early 1900s.  The pillar has notches cut into its sides and these are regarded as Ogham script – a form of writing based on a stroke alphabet evolved either in Ireland or South Wales by someone with a knowledge of Latin.  It is known that parts of North-west Wales and, in particular, coastal South-west Wales were heavily colonised by Irish settlers for a considerable period at the end of the Roman occupation, leaving these Ogham inscribed stones and a scattering of place name elements (e.g. ‘Cil’ – ‘refuge’;  Cen = Pen – ‘end of’;  Mach/Ach – ‘flat coastal area’).

Amongst the ornamental plantings to the immediate west of the mansion or along the descending drive were Red Horse-chestnut (Aesculus carnea), Laburnum (Laburnum anagyroides), Wild Cherry (Prunus avium), Wild Plum (Prunus domestica), Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) and Dutch Elm (Ulmus x hollandica).  A clump of White Ramping-fumatory (Fumaria capreolata) grew at the edge of one of the tree plantings.  Finally, the party continued down through the new housing development, noting a temporary weed assemblage on route and the last remnant of the former marshy-grassland which is now given over to building plots.