Leaders Sue Otway, Dick Thompson and David Poulter
What was possibly a record turn‐out for a Llanelli Naturalists/Wildlife Trust joint field meeting of 38 people, enjoyed walking around Tir Philip at Capel Dewi on a dry but cloudy Saturday afternoon. Tir Philip is located on gently‐sloping land above the Tywi valley and has been the home of Dick Thompson and Sue Otway since 1982. During that time they have created a natural (unlined) pond, planted many native trees to extend existing woodland and managed grassland by light grazing and mowing. Soils are acidic, especially so around the pond, and there is much “unimproved” grassland.
The walk was led by David Poulter, whose earlier assurances that the going was easy was queried during a steep ascent through woodland, although not by Denys Smith, ably representing nonagenerian naturalists. The location of a dormouse nest found some years ago was visited, though no new nests were found. The rare sight of extensive flowery meadows was much enjoyed, providing visual experiences in which the landscape setting was as important as the appearance of individual plants.
Pond dipping produced a limited range of invertebrates, reflecting low pH and peaty surroundings, included dragonfly larvae and water beetles. More significantly the Afon Pibwr, which at Tir Philip is a small stream about two metres wide, was found to contain the scarce fish known as Bullhead or Miller's Thumb Cottus gobio. Specimens were caught and displayed by Maurice Mathews.
Botanical highlights included rafts of Meadowsweet Fillipendula ulmaria, Common Valerian Valeriana officinalis, Common Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica, Whorled Caraway Carum verticillatum and Greater Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis. As with most larger group meetings members moved at varying pace. A few people lagged behind to search an area of Devil’sbit Scabious for Marsh Fritillary caterpillars, hopes having been raised knowing that Sue had counted an impressive 56 adults at Tir Philip on 31st May 2011. Eventually Tony Mathews found a “nest” of very small, dark caterpillars, which were photographed and subsequently confirmed by Barry Stewart as Marsh Fritillaries. Care was taken to avoid trampling the habitat and once one “nest” had been found no attempt was made to search for more.
Richard and Kath and a few others also lagged behind as, in addition to seeing a Purple Hairstreak unusually low down in a woodland‐edge oak, they were doing some serious botanical recording, the highlight of which was the rediscovery of Broad‐leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine which Richard had seen on the farm during his last visit in 1983. They also found Lemon‐scented Fern Oreopteris limbosperma and Wood Horsetail Equisetum sylvaticum on acid hedgebanks. The flora must have been good as most of the party had finished their tea and biscuits before Richard and Kath caught up, although they didn’t miss‐ out and were also treated to tea whilst relating their finds to Sue and Dick!
Many thanks to Sue and Dick for hosting the meeting and for making a significant contribution to nature conservation in Carmarthenshire. Special thanks to Sue for providing refreshments with some impressively large teapots!