Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - December 2003 - No 70
Richard Price

Leader Andrew Stevens

The party met at the farm and were greeted by Mrs Rosa Dawson and family in the hot, sunny weather for which the summer of 2003 will be remembered and which we were by now taking for granted. Andrew Stevens produced the fully-grown larva of a Death’s-head Hawkmoth which had been discovered by one of his neighbours at Four Roads, near Kidwelly feeding amongst his potato crop.  Its large size was a cause of some surprise amongst many of the party, but the adult is one of the largest moths to visit our shores from the continent, several records having been made in South Wales in 2003 as a result of the prolonged hot weather.

The walk was planned to take-in a number of the fields included in the farm which were indicated as species-rich neutral grassland on the 1989 Countryside Council for Wales’ Phase 1 habitat survey map.  The first field included a dry species-rich bank on which was growing a few plants of Burnet Saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga) and Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea).  After crossing a small shady dry ravine dominated by Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and Hazel (Corylus avellana), a series of rank, ungrazed neutral grassland fields, often with abundant rushes (Juncus spp.) were examined but their species-composition was generally rather disappointing.  Locally, however, small stands of Greater Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) were present and on hedgebanks and ditch-sides, Betony (Stachys officinalis), Common Sedge (Carex nigra), Star Sedge (C. echinata) and Glaucous Sedge (C. flacca) were occasionally recorded.  Mr Dawson joined the party at that point and he described his rationale in growing willow for weaving and bio-mass. Beyond the young willow plantation, another rank field had occasional Southern Marsh-orchids (Dactylorhiza preatermissa) and the hybrid D. x grandis, together with a few more plants of Greater Burnet. 

Butterflies were frequent and those noted included Common Blue, Painted Lady, Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood, together with a Common Darter dragonfly in the shady ravine.

The return to the farm was made by walking along the public road where the hedgerows included, as well as the common shrubby species, Dutch Elm (Ulmus x hollandica) and Wild Cherry (Prunus avium).  Farmyard ‘weeds’ included Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor), Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), naturalised Purple Toadflax (Linaria purpurea) and a single, insect damaged Heiracium ?diaphanum.

Mr and Mrs Dawson were warmly thanked for allowing us access to their land and several members were then entertained to tea when discussion included habitat management and the herbal use of the native wild plants which occur on the farm.