Longer‐standing Llanelli Naturalists members will remember Frank Webb who sadly passed away over the Christmas period in 2010. Frank lived in Pembrey during his time as District Officer for the Llandovery District of the Forestry Commission when Pembrey Forest was still in the Llandovery District. He joined the Naturalists soon after its formation and led many field meetings, not only to Pembrey and Tywyn Burrows but also to sites in Brechfa and Llanddowror Forests. He was a member of the Naturalists Committee for many years and also served as Chairman of the Society. I frequently visited his home in Waun Sidan as Olive, his wife, typed the stencils for the early Newsletters, when Gestetner duplicators were the only means of producing multiple copies.
One of the many functions that Frank took upon himself was to visit the Llanelli Borough Council’s offices weekly to examine the planning application lists. It was through his action that he discovered the Council’s intention to develop Pembrey Burrows as a holiday complex. After a prolonged fight culminating in the Local Ombudsman’s revocation of the planning consent, the area was declared as a Local Nature Reserve. Edith Jones first met Frank at the public meeting in the Ashburnham Hotel which started the successful campaign against the holiday village and the road across the burrows. He was one of those people – they would now be called conservationists – who impressed her and led to her joining the Llanelli Naturalists. Although Frank withdrew very soon from the actual campaign itself, Edith and he kept in touch and she visited him and his family at his home in Waun Sidan, shared his lively interest in the origin of Welsh place‐names and even accepted an invitation to join in a computer game – for the only time ever – and enjoyed it! Frank had an early interest in home computing and as early as 1982, could see the potential of holding floral and faunal records on his Sinclair ZX81. He let me (RDP) use his thermal printer (like a till roll) to produce my first County Rare Plant Register in 1984 !
Frank visited Wenallt, Edith’s farm, several times, and one day, in a field near the house, pointed to a delicate little umbellifer that she had never noticed. He explained that it was the “Whorled Caraway”, which to her great delight still blooms there in profusion every summer.
Fay Hampson, a neighbour of Philip Jones who also knew Frank quite well, has childhood memories as her father worked with him as a Forestry Officer. She has also included some details in the following recollections from her mother, now in her 90's:
In 1952, when I was six years old, there was great excitement in our family. We were going on our first holiday! Thanks to a small legacy, my parents had bought an Eccles Alert touring caravan and we were going to Borth. Not very far from Betws‐y‐Coed, where we lived in the Forestry Commission house in the middle of Gwydr Forest ‐ my father Jeff Hampson was the District Officer – but another world for us landlocked children. Dad was going to leave us there for all of August, visiting when he could, but we would be all right because his colleague Mr Frank Webb, District Officer for southern Snowdonia, was going to keep an eye on us. He was going to take us to a secret beach. He was going to take us rock ‐pooling. The excitement!
I remember vividly my first sighting of Mr Webb! He came bounding across the camping field, dark, wavy hair bouncing, huge khaki shorts flapping and most intriguingly for me wearing giant size Clark’s sandals which were identical to my own. No socks, of course.
I can’t remember how we got to the secret beach – was it by Landrover? – but get there we did and nobody else was in sight. He was the only person who knew about it, we were told. What a day! Frank introduced us to the amazing world of seashore life. His patience with four small children he hardly knew was boundless. His infectious enthusiasm for flora and fauna was catching and we too bounded from rock to rock in his wake.
That night, snug in the Eccles Alert, I remember pouring over a Warne’s children’s guide to Sea and Seashore and the delight at finding there something or other that Frank had showed us that day. There were other days like that that summer, and I owe Frank a debt of gratitude for fanning the flames of my burgeoning love of all things wild and wonderful.
Finding out as an adult that we both lived in the same area I made contact with Frank and Olive. Would he still be the same? Of course he was! Still big and bouncy and full of enthusiasm for the natural world.
Alas, my mother, now ninety two, has forgotten much of the past, but she told me that Frank was not only an expert at finding seashore fauna but delighted in eating it!
In later years we occasionally met Frank shopping in Kidwelly.
Edith and her husband Neil dropped in to see him one evening early in 2010. He was delighted with the Llanelli Naturalists calendar they had brought him. By that time he was alone at home and housebound but as bright and talkative as ever and keeping his independence with the help of a friendly neighbour. Edith recalls that it was good to see Frank again and is very sad that she never managed to repeat the visit or even hear of his death in time to attend his funeral.