Leader Dr Lizzie Wilberforce
Six members met Lizzie in Greenways’ car park adjacent to Waun Cae Philip. Others must surely have been deterred by the poor weather in the morning but in the event the sun obliged us and threatening showers helpfully stayed away.
Customarily, walks started at the opposite end of the reserve and Waun Cae Phillip was largely ignored. Richard explained that this field was traditionally used to graze young stock and dairy replacements when it was part of the Lewis’ dairy farm and the further end was kept for a hay cut. In a reversal of roles, part of this field was cut and baled in 2011 to improve the rank rush pasture and it is hoped to cut a further area in 2012 while patches of bramble‐dominated scrub (left intact in case they housed dormice and nesting birds) were cleared by volunteers during the winter. With funding from the Aggregates Levy it is hoped to replace roadside boundary fencing and reinstate two culverts to easier access other parts of the field to facilitate management and allow grazing with greater confidence.
This field receives run off from the road and slopes down to the fen swamp and reeds, giving a succession of vegetation as the wetness increases. At the top was Soft Rush Juncus effusus then Sharp flowered rush J. acutiflorus with occasional Water Figwort Scrophularia auriculata and Hemlock Waterdropwort Oenanthe crocata. Water figwort aroused some speculation about its Latin name and the exact nature of the disease Scrofula. In fact, it is a form of tuberculosis where lymph nodes in the neck become abscessed and perhaps resemble the un‐opened flower heads of this plant. It is historically known also as the “King’s Evil” as the touch of a monarch was a reputed cure, a practice which continued in England until the early 18th century. Further down the field Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris, Water Horsetail Equisetum fluviatile and Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus were present as Common Reed Phragmites australis became dominant.
We passed through a gate and walked through an area of dense reedbed where Marsh Pea Lathyrus palustris was everywhere abundant and in flower. Also present was Reed Sweet‐grass Glyceria maxima and Branched Bur‐reed Sparganium erectum. Lizzie led us towards the boundary with the canal and as the land became drier and the reeds diminished we saw Tufted Forget‐me‐not Myosotis laxa, Early Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata and, as an escapee from the canal‐banks, non‐ flowering Yellow Loosestrife
Lysimachia vulgaris. Reptile refuges had been formed by a Trust volunteer out of pieces of corrugated steel sheeting (remains of a former stock shelter) and Lizzie lifted each in turn to reveal a gravid Common Lizard Lacerta vivipera which she held for us to examine, Adder Vipera berus, Slow worm Anguis fragilis and several more common lizards.
Following the canal we crossed a bridge into an area of relict sand dunes where the leached sand supports a small area of acidophilic flora included Tormentil Potentilla erecta and Sheep’s Sorrel Rumex acetosella. We found Bird’s foot Ornithopus perpusillus which had largely completed flowering but one blossom was seen. We then searched, and found, the sub‐erect bramble Rubus scissus which typically thrives in heathy grassland. This is a member of Rubus section rubus and is distinguished from most other brambles by being, upright, less robust, with sparse prickles and is early flowering. The latter characteristic makes it a valuable nectar plant before the main flush of summer blossom.
Crossing back over the bridge we turned left along a large ditch cleared by the Environment Agency during the previous winter. Frogbit Hydrocharis morsus‐ranae was already evident but Floating Clubrush Scirpus fluitans another colonist of recently cleared waterways on the fen was not refound. Beyond the levelled spoil we saw a small area of Whorled Caraway Carum verticillatum on slightly drier ground and Marsh Cinquefoil Potentilla palustris in the surrounding marsh. A clump of sedge thought to be Bottle Sedge Carex rostrata proved to be sterile and possibly a hybrid but this was ruled out later by Arthur Chater who said that sterility is quite usual in such situations.
Following a subsidiary watercourse (also recently cleared) we lifted another sheet to see a retreating Grass Snake Natrix natrix, whilst nearby an Emperor Moth Pavonia pavonia caterpillar was seen on a rush‐stem. The party then returned across the reedbed. Here we saw flowering Skullcap Scutellaria galericulata and Lesser Water Parsnip Berula erecta before crossing, once again, into Waun Cae Philip on our return to Greenways. Marsh Pea was seen to be spreading into this area, the first time it has been recorded here, having spread from the neighbouring reedbed. This species seemed to have thrived during the cold winter which is heartening as Ffrwd is one of only a few remaining sites in Britain where it grows and may well now be one of the largest populations. This reflects the valuable role which Llanelli Naturalists and the Wildlife Trust played in securing and managing this site which was almost lost to industrial development some 35 years ago.
Many thanks to Lizzie for leading us and for her active work and co‐operation in managing the site along with her enthusiastic volunteers.