This year sees the thirtieth anniversary of the formation of the Llanelli Naturalists. I wrote a potted history of the Society on its 21st anniversary in a special issue of the Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter (No.56, Winter, 1993-94) and in the intervening nine years, it has flourished despite my perception of an increasing apathy towards nature conservation, especially amongst youngsters. It seems to me that there is little interest amongst this age group unless a subject is dressed-up to compete with the all embracing new technology represented by computer games and the internet, for example. Even television appears to have been overtaken. The often perceived image of field-naturalists as Victorian clerics and well-to-do gentile ladies belongs well in the past although the observations and deductions of that generation provide a sound foundation for the subject. Today’s field-naturalist not only needs to be competent in field identification but generally is able to maintain a computer database or Geographical Information System (GIS) to collate his or her records and be familiar with the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), digital photography and is able to produce reports using database interrogation, spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations and so on.
It is a pity that youngsters these days are not exposed to the excitement and satisfaction of discovering the intricacies of the natural world for themselves and that there is woeful lack of its coverage on the National Curriculum. Not just a pity, but a profound omission, because there is certainly a pressing and increasing need for people with well developed skills in biological identification. The recent proliferation of Nature Conservation Legislation, Directives and the need for appropriate advice ensures that there are plenty of employment opportunities for those with the right expertise. Societies like the Llanelli Naturalists can play a major role in developing these skills for anyone keen enough to learn by providing virtually one-to-one tuition with experienced naturalists willing to pass on their expertise to beginners.
I was invited to attend the launch of the Section 74 List of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act as applied to Wales, in my capacity as BSBI President. This list replaces the UK Biodiversity Action Plan list of Priority Habitats and Species in Wales. The event took place at Kenfig NNR on 28th November and was held jointly with the launch of the Bridgend Local Biodiversity Action Plan. Sue Essex, Environment Minister of the Welsh Assembly, gave the keynote speech. The new list amends the UK BAP Priority List by adding some habitats and species and deleting others which do not occur in Wales. We are no longer supposed to call them Priority Species (or Habitats) but they now rejoice in the title of Species (or Habitats) of Principal Importance for Conservation of Biological Diversity (under Section 74 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 in Wales)! Additions include high profile species such as Hen Harrier, Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Yellowhammer but on examination of the vascular plant additions, only three of those dozen or so considered by the Assembly have been included. They are Spreading bellflower Campanula patula, Wild chamomile Chamaemelum nobile and Broad-fruited cornsaladValerianella rimosa. I feel slightly disappointed at this, especially as the proposed extra Section 74 habitats were similarly pruned and additions only include Lowland Mixed Deciduous Woodland and Upland Birch Woodland. A copy of the new list can be requested from the Assembly web site at
Representations will need to be made in good time for consideration before the next review which will take place in 2005.
As usual, a comprehensive programme of meetings has been arranged during the year. Several field-meetings afford the opportunity for members to make a real contribution to the recording and monitoring of sites and species and indoor meetings provide a forum for teaching and discussion. So I look forward to seeing you at one or more events during the season.
Richard Pryce, 28th February 2003