Category: Sites
Hits: 7733

Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - May 1995 - No 1
Ian Morgan


A summary of the wildlife communities found on the alluvial flats south-east of Llanelli (Carmarthenshire, vc44) is given and it is recommended that this area (albeit now much diminished) is belatedly recognised as holding a very similar landscape to the celebrated Gwent Levels. An artificial collective name, the Llanelli Levels, is suggested to emphasise this relationship. Notes on the distinctive tree assemblage (Ulmus, Populus and Salix) are also offered.


As the motorist hurtles along the new Trostre-Yspitty (A484) link road south-east of Llanelli, he or she may be aware that a distinctive landscape is being traversed - a flat landscape which, south of the former route of the A484 through Llwynhendy, would have in the past been broken by only a few low hills on which the older farms are located. Damp, often rushy pastures, reed beds and willow carr typify parts of this area and tall poplars break the skyline as do numerous pylons and poles and also the huge Trostre tinplate works, a gigantic brick structure built in the early 1950's.

All this district, with the exception of the afore mentioned gentle hillocks, is former saltmarsh, reclaimed first in a piecemeal then in a more organised fashion over at least the last few centuries, culminating in the construction of "The Great Embankment" or bulwark of the Enclosure Award, 1807 (Carmarthenshire's first Enclosure Act) and the subsequent enclosure and break up of Morfa Mawr (the "Great Saltmarsh" also known as "Llanelly Marsh", SS522990 etc) and other units of common land. The enclosure of Morfa Mawr alone produced about 600 acres (c.243 ha.) of land. The approximate boundaries of Morfa Mawr are shown on Map 1, though the south-eastern edge shown on the map is indicative as in this area Morfa Mawr would have been joined up (or just separated from, by some slightly higher ground) from the low-lying common land of Comins-bach and "Morvaudd Dyffryn" (= "Morfaoedd Dyffryn"), both located in the area between the Berwick Roundabout and the new Loughor Bridge. It should also be noted that sometimes these smaller saltmarsh commons, including the eastern salient of the great Morfa Mawr, were known as "Morfa Berwick" on some old maps.

The Llanelli Levels

Its saltmarsh origin - as with other areas to the east - is betrayed by the sinuous drainage patterns of former creeks shown on old maps and aerial photographs. A view from the NE of Trostre Works, under construction in mid-1950, clearly shows the snake-like interweaving of saltmarsh drainage channels glistening in the sun between Trostre and Morfa/Machynys with the later regular pattem of enclosure hedgerows superimposed. The saltmarsh creeks reach at least as far as the site of the present Tesco store (SS524997). These late enclosures also show straight regular field boundaries and equally straight roads (eg Trostre Road (SS519992) and Erw-las, Llwynhendy (SS537994)), unhindered by the legacy of earlier land use. In pre-enclosure days, it is thought that the high tides reached as far as Halfway, SN526004, which offered the lowest practical bridging point across the Afon Dafen for the "Heol Fawr", a road considered to be of at least medieval age (James, 1993). The chronology of the winning of land from the sea in this area has been beautifully summarised by, Heather James in a very readable study to which readers are enthusiastically referred. A copy is held in the Reference Section, Llanelli Public Library. The documents and maps of the former Pemberton Estate (ref no:LC252), again held at Llanelli Library, are also extremely informative, showing both the extent of Morfa Mawr Common (in the Llwynhendy area), ownership of strips of land in areas of open field systems and a great deal else of interest. The low-lying area to the south-east of Llanelli, stretching from Machynys (SS51-97-), to Bynea (SS558992), is currently subject to considerable change and development so it is thought that some documentation of its peculiar landscape and wildlife assemblages would be timely.

The area under review (ref. Map 1) includes the Machynys Peninsula, the low land below the bluff of Penyfan (SS515994), past the Trostre Roundabout to Halfway and thence along the foot of the old degraded sea cliff (which marked a period of higher sea levels, c.125,000 years ago), eastwards to Pencoed (SS562997), just north of Bynea. Because of its flat topography, similar wildlife and land use patterns it is proposed - by analogy to the more extensive and, undeniably, far more important Gwent Levels - to term this area the "Llanelli Levels". This term has never been in local usage; indeed there has never been a collective name to describe these coastal fringes of Llanelli, though "Flats" has been used intermittently for discrete areas. In case the reader is inadvertently deceived into expecting an extensive vista akin to the Gwent Levels, it is worth stating that the whole area only measures some 6 x 2 kms and is rather fragmented due to urban sprawl, new roads and industrial development. In the past, this flat coastal plain would have extended westwards to include areas now engulfed by Llanelli town - in particular the Morfa, Seaside, Wern and Sandy districts (SN515988 to SN490005). This area would have been more extensive, bringing the total size of these pastoral lowlands at their zenith in the second decade of the nineteenth century to c.1195 hectares. If one plots the 10m contour line on a map, the low coastal plain is clearly marked. At least a third of the "Llanelli Levels" are now built up and the imposition of the new Trostre-Yspitty link road which bisects the remnants has disproportionately reduced the visual impact of the "Levels". Its current size is only c.570 ha.

Such coastal grazing levels are a rare resource in Wales. As already intimated, the Gwent Levels, comprising the Wentlooge Level west of Newport and the Caldicot Level to its east, are pre-eminent and jointly they cover some 8,400 ha. (Anon, 1991). Other flatlands in south Wales are limited to the once extensive, but now much-reduced coastal strip in the Port Talbot - Margam area; and the flat hinterlands of Tywyn-Pembrey Burrows and Pendine-Laugharne Burrows. In all three of these latter areas, the predominantly pastoral levels have developed behind an imposing barrier-accumulation of dune sands. The bulk of the Llanelli Levels - certainly those parts east of the town - have an origin similar to the famous Gwent Levels, being developed on alluvium behind man-made sea defences. Elsewhere in Wales coastal flats exist around Cors Fochno in north Ceredigion, at the rear of the Morfa Harlech dunelands, around Malltraeth in Anglesey and at the head of the Dee Estuary. All these low-lying landscapes are at risk from the threat of a rising sea level, as well as at the hands of Man.

Prior to Llanelli's rapid industrialisation, based on metals and coal, much of this land would have been pastoral, some in private ownership but also large units of common - Morfa-bach (in the Seaside to Sandy Road area), the colossal Morfa Mawr, which stretched from Machynys eastwards to Llwynhendy/Bynea and north to Halfway, and smaller commons to the east such as the tiny Comins-bach ("small common"; enclosed c.1600) whose name survived until relatively recently as the name of a now demolished house just north of the new Berwick Roundabout. Farmsteads such as Techon-fawr (SS539991), Tir Morfa-fawr (SS532983), Berwick (SS548988) and Penybryn (SS542982) were, in view of regular flooding, sensibly built on low, clay hills of glacial origin.

As well as vast tracts of saltmarsh vegetation, there once must have been transitional brackish marshes and fens, alder carrs and, to the west, wet orchid-rich dune pastures behind the Sandy Road dune belt. Now mostly long-obliterated by dumping of spoil, the Penrhyngwyn shingle beach, formed of gravels and pebbles carried to the shore by the Afon Dulais and Afon Lliedi and "longshore-drifted" south-eastwards, must once have been an imposing feature of great significance for wildlife.

These south Llanelli coastal levels are separated from another large low-lying area (the "Kidwelly Flats") at the seaward end of the Gwendraeth Fawr valley by the Mynydd Penbre -Graig (Pwll, SN485012) Pennant Sandstone escarpment. Land use patterns and the wildlife assemblages in the lower Gwendraeth must also have been similar to the flatlands SE of Llanelli. Since the coastal flats SE of Llanelli are predominantly an area of very low ground (with some low glacial hillocks reaching c.8-15m) with much of this area won from transitional upper saltmarsh of the vast Burry Inlet (James, loc.cit.), the alluvial soils are rather waterlogged and prone to localised or more extensive flooding. This occurs either by minor freshwater accumulations or by more serious marine incursions when the sea-wall has been breached, though the Machynys Peninsula and the upgraded sea wall provide some protection. Indeed, much of the time of the early Trustees of the Borough of Llanelly was devoted to organising the repair and maintenance of the sea bulwark and sluices and to the annual rental of lands on the Great Marsh (Griffiths, 1989).

The Machynys Peninsula

The Machynys Peninsula is based on a glacial "end-moraine", which was once linked with Salthouse Point at Crofty, Gower (Bowen, 1980). At Machynys, the clay deposits have been worked, particularly in the nineteenth century, to provide the raw material for bricks which were much in demand during this expansive phase of Llanelli's industrial history. Evidence for this early brick production at Machynys is provided on the 1877 First Edition OS 6 inch map - "Brick Works", "Brick Field", "Clay Pits" and a row of houses called "Brick Row"; there was even a windmill for draining the clay pits. The brick works were established in 1861 by a Mr William Thomas (Bowen, 1886). Later, the clay pits were extended and converted into cooling water ponds for the nearby industrial premises. To the north of the brick works (and south of the new coastal road) was a concentration of industry - the "South Wales Works" (steel and tinplate works), the "Burry Works" (tinplate), the "Morfa Foundry" and two chemical works. McKibbin (1994) gives a short but interesting insight into the community living and working in the Machynys area during the middle years of this century. The lower parts of the area were severely flooded during the great storms of January 1846, October 1896 and - to a lesser extent - in September 1903. The old clay pits/cooling water ponds have acquired an interesting assemblage of wildlife including uncommon plants, invertebrates and wildfowl. It is encouraging to note that these ponds are to be retained, as a landscape/wildlife feature (and for a little coarse fishing), amongst the large scale developments proposed for this area.

Machynys Ponds

The moderately nutrient-rich Machynys Ponds (SS512980) and the inter-connecting areas of fen and carr, have developed a distinctive and, for Wales, an uncommon community of invertebrates, which includes a high proportion of species which are regarded as indicators of habitat quality; there are also faunistic elements that are more characteristic of fens and marshes of lowland southern England and which are noticeably rare in Wales. The dragonfly fauna is particularly diverse. Machynys Ponds are additionally noted for their botanical interest.

The site comprises one large pond with a group of three smaller pools to the east, linked by fen-carr (ref. Map 2). The main pond holds various aquatic plants such as Spiked Water-milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum, Canadian Waterweed Elodea canadensis and advancing rafts of the yellow-flowered Fringed Water-lily Nymphoides peltata. Beds of Bulrush Typha latifolia, common reed Phragmites australis, Sea Club-rush Bolboschoenus maritimus and Grey Club-rush Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani provide shelter and nest sites for waterfowl, with Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Pochard, Coot and Dabchick among the breeding species. The site also regularly supports significant numbers (in a county context) of passage and wintering Coot, and the regionally uncommon Gadwall has increased of late. Water Rail, Reed and Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting and other passerines also nest in the rank fen vegetation. A Black Tern has been noted on passage (in September 1989) and, one recent winter, a Long-eared Owl was flushed from the willow thickets.

Machynys Ponds

The waterfowl at the main (western) Machynys Pond have been regularly counted by the author, a quick, easy task given the adjacent Machynys Road ("Cocklers Road"). Coot numbers for example (ref. graph) build up rapidly from July, presumably as suggested by Sage (1969) due to an influx of non (or failed) breeders from elsewhere. It should be noted that a proportion of the spring-time birds at Machynys itself are themselves non-breeders. The summer-time accession of birds to Machynys may represent a moult aggregation using the plant-rich ponds, whilst the continued steep increase in numbers during the autumn period is likely to be due to influxes of continental birds.

{rokbox align=|right| caption=|click to enlarge|}images/stories/newsletters/1995_05/03.jpg{/rokbox}The peak count of Coots in the 1993-94 winter was 107 birds (28th Dec) making Machynys Ponds one of the most important wintering sites in Carmarthenshire for this species. The November (1993) reduction in the graph is due to the freeze-up towards the end of the month when, apart from a central area kept open by wildfowl, Machynys Pond was completely frozen over. It is suspected that there is some interchange of birds with the main lagoon at the nearby Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's Penclacwydd Centre, which has the advantage of a heating facility to prevent the water from freezing. In early 1994, numbers of Coots dropped dramatically from late January, presumably due to the departure of wintering birds. It was also noticeable that most of those which remained were more dispersed over the pond, a feature thought to reflect the onset of territorialism before the start of the breeding season. Already the 1993-94 figures have been exceeded in autumn 1994 with a maximum of 146 birds present on 11th November 1994.

There is also believed to be a regular interchange of Gadwall between Penclacwydd and Machynys, though the largest number present at Machynys Ponds (exactly 40 birds on 13th Dec. 1993) exceeds the total of the semi-feral flock at Penclacwydd. Gadwall predominantly feed on submerged aquatic vegetation which, per unit volume, offers highly digestible food, but because this food is mostly obtained by feeding in shallow water, Gadwall rely on Coots which are more skilled divers to bring plant food to the surface in the deeper parts of ponds. The Gadwall then kleptoparasitize or "mug" the unlucky Coots. This has allowed the Gadwall to make use of deeper, previously unsuitable water bodies and presumably contributed to the recent increase of Gadwall numbers in Britain (Fox, 1991).

The Tufted Duck has been known to breed since 1992, with two broods raised in that year, and a single brood of six in 1993; this species is a rather late nester and confirmation of breeding may be overlooked (for example, in 1993, the brood of six young ducklings were not noted at Machynys until 21st July). Two pairs again nested in 1994 a female with eight ducklings and another with five ducklings on 8th July. A third pair bred in 1994 on the nearby Penrhyngwyn Pond (SS984973) where a female with five small ducklings was noted on 28th July. Only negligible numbers of Tufted Duck overwinter on the main pond - with less than a dozen birds (and often smaller numbers) present, the species' local stronghold now being Sandy Water Park - SN495005-SN500003 - Old Castle Pond (SN500003) westwards along the coast. One or two pairs of Dabchicks also breed on Machynys Pond and in recent years a pair of Mute Swans have been regularly successful in raising cygnets. A female Gadwall with nine ducklings on 28th July was a first breeding record for Carmarthenshire, and another bonus on that same date was a duck Pochard with six young - also a new breeding bird for Machynys Pond.

The shallowest of the smaller ponds, which can almost dry up in some years, has growths of Mare's-tail Hippuris vulgaris and Lesser Water-parsnip Berula erecta (both very local plants in south-west Wales) amongst taller vegetation of increasing bulrush and young Grey Willow Salix cinerea; Various-leaved Water-Starwort Callitriche platycarpa, Brackish Water-crowfoot Ranunculus baudotii and the stoneworts Chara vulgaris var. papillata and Chara hispida have also been recorded. On the open water there are dense drifts of Ivy-leaved Duckweed Lemna trisulca (here at one of only two known vice-county sites) and a smaller population of Frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae, which is also rare in south-west Wales.

These smaller water bodies are united by areas of rush Juncus spp. and by bulrush, with expanses of herbaceous fen comprising Water Mint Mentha aquatica, False Fox-sedge Carex otrubae, Great Willowherb Epilobium hirsutum, Common Fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica, Gipsywort Lycopus europaeus, Branched Bur-reed Sparganium erectum, Common Marsh-bedstraw Galium palustre and, at the edge of the ponds, Water-plantain Alisma plantago-aquatica. The presence of Parsley Water-dropwort Oenanthe lachenalii (as well as Sea Club-rush) suggests some brackish influences in these fens.

There are discrete patches of wet carr, dominated by Grey Willow, but also with some Goat Willow Salix caprea and, on drier mounds, Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and Birch Betula pubescens. Small areas of coarse vegetation occur around the easternmost ponds with, for example, Wild Parsnip Pastinaca sativa, Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra and Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens providing sources of nectar for the varied invertebrate fauna. An area of surviving unmodified grassland between the ponds is bedecked by tall spikes of Southern Marsh Orchids Dactylorhiza praetermissa.

Machynys Ponds support an outstanding assemblage of dragonflies and damselflies, with fourteen species known to breed, including the declining fenland Hairy Dragonfly Brachytron pratense and three species, which in Wales, are virtually confined to parts of the south coast - the Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum, the Ruddy Darter Sympetrum sanguineum and the Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta. The Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum is another species that has been recorded; it is extremely local in Wales.

Provisional survey work has yielded many local or notable beetles, including Elaphrus uliginosus, Stenophilus mixtus, Chlaenius nigricornis, Deleaster dichrous, Sills ruficollis, Anisosticta 19-punctata, Anthocomus rufus, Gymnetron veronicae and Cassida murraea, some of which are of restricted occurrence in Wales. Aspects of the invertebrate fauna also provide evidence to suggest that some of the south coast Welsh fens, Machynys included, are biogeographically related to those of south and south-east England.

The diptera (flies) likewise include species of interest, with the fenland species Tropidia scita and Lejogaster splendida, and the large and scarce Helophilus trivittatus. Expectedly, there are several members of the hoverfly genera Parhelophilus and Anasimyia whose larvae are associated with bulrush, but the very local Chrysogaster macquarti is more usually found in mossy situations in upland bogs. The attractive larger brachyceran flies Stratiomys potamida and the scarcer S. singularior also occur; the latter is typically found in the brackish coastal marshes of southern Britain. There is also a varied assemblage of the smaller, often colourful, "soldier-flies", with Oxycera trilineata, Odontomyla viridula, Beris fuscipes, Chorisops nagatomii and Nemotelus notatus amongst the species noted. The sciomyzid (or "snail-killing) flies likewise have a diverse representation at this site, though no rare species have been recorded; the larvae of many species of these distinctive flies develop as internal parasitoids of molluscs. Two local bugs - the "Water Scorpion" Nepa cinerea and the "Saucer Bug" Ilyocoris cimicoides - occur in the water bodies.

The "Water Spider" Argyroneta aquatica (which is very local in much of Wales) and two molluscs which have declined due to drainage of wetlands - the Striated Whorl Snail Vertigo substriata and the Moss Bladder Snail Aplexa hypnorum - have been noted in saturated vegetation around the ponds. The Water Spider is the only spider which is known to live permanently below water. It can swim with ease and constructs an inverted retreat which it fills with air. Prey is taken to the surface for consumption. (Jones, 1983). Also found is the Short-winged Conehead Conocephalus dorsalis, a local coastal bush-cricket which occurs in the rush-dominated herbaceous fen at Machynys Ponds. Casual recording of the moth fauna has also revealed the presence of two fenland species - the Bulrush Wainscot Nonagria typhae and, at one of its few known Welsh stations, Webb's Wainscot Archanara sparganii. The attractive little pyralid moth Cataclysa lemnata inhabits the ponds with abundant duckweed (its foodplant), and day-flying Six-belted Clearwings Bembecia scopigera (a markedly local moth in Wales) frequent sheets of Bird's-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus on drier land around the water bodies. The notable foxy-furred solitary bee Andrena trimmeriana has also been recorded as has the local A. thoracica. Several dung-beetles are (or were) associated with the voluminous amount of horse dung that was until recently scattered on the grasslands around Machynys - Aphodius fimitarius, with bright red elytra and A. contaminatus with a more delicate black and brown patterning. This dung-associated fauna will probably die out now that the gypsies' horses have been removed. Elegant and edible Parasol Mushrooms Lepiota procera also once graced these grasslands.

During recent large-scale landscaping associated with the redevelopment of the Machynys Peninsula, temporary pools and waterlogged areas were created south of Machynys Ponds. A count here in February 1988 showed the presence of about 50 Curlew, over 20 Snipe, a solitary Green Sandpiper and surprisingly, a single Brent Goose. A Short-eared Owl with buoyant, long-winged flight hunted diurnally but was mobbed by many species of bird. In the breeding season, about three pairs of Lapwings nested near these ponds and Ringed Plovers (at least one pair) on bare, rubbly areas.

The weed flora of the now-landscaped unofficial rubbish dump at Machynys was quite interesting with Early Goldenrod Solidago gigantea subsp. serotina, "Aunt Eliza" Crocosmia paniculata, Shasta Daisy Leucanthemum x superbum, Opium Poppy Papaver somniferum, Montbretia Crocosmia x crocosmiflora and Snapdragon Antirrhinum majus amongst the garden throw-outs. A recent discovery was a single plant of Safflower Carthamus tinctorius, probably a bird-seed alien. Of more natural occurrence were Twiggy Mullein Verbascum virgatum, Many-seeded Goosefoot Chenopodium polyspermum and Thorn-apple Datura stramonium, whilst Yellow Bartsia Parentucellia viscosa grew in damp, disturbed grassland.

Machynys House once stood, until it was sadly demolished in about 1970 (Jones, 1987), on the highest apex of the Machynys Peninsula, though its perimeter wall still stands as a form of memorial, and Hemlock Conium maculatum and Horse-radish Amoracia rusticana grow in the former garden. There is an unattributed painting, drawn with some artistic licence, showing Machynys House (c. late 18th Century) in Parc Howard Mansion, Llanelli. It is titled "Landscape of Machynys - in oils on wood panel, taken from Llanelly House". Folklore has it that a tunnel led from Machynys House under the Estuary to the North Gower shore and locals also incorrectly interpret Machynys as a corruption of "Mynach-ynys" ("Monk-island"). However, although undoubtably the hill on which Machynys House once stood was an island at high tides, the first element "Mach" has its root in the old Welsh word ma "gwastadedd, tir agored" ("flatland, open land"). It is still found today in the word maes (open grassland, field) and in the ending -fa as in morfa ("open ground by the sea", ie saltmarsh) or porfa (grazing land), (Pierce, 1994). "Mach" is also found in Machen (Gwent and Glamorgan) and MachynlIeth.

It is always worth the birdwatcher considering walking down the small road, past the gipsy encampment, to the sea wall at SS519982. In winter, there may be weather-driven Redwings and Fieldfares as well as Lapwings foraging on the pastures, whilst Merlin or Hen Harriers hunt over the saltings; brackish ditches may hold Kingfishers. Clive Jones (1985) recalls an amusing springtime incident when he, "festooned with optical equipment"...met three gipsy boys from the nearby camp, who had seen, "a yellow blue tit" on the meadow "which was not a bird of this country". Subsequent inspection of, this bird showed it to be a spring passage Blue-headed Wagtail (13.6.1985).

Penrhyngwyn shingle beach

Along the seaward fringe of Machynys there once existed a sizeable shingle beach - "The Sker" (or "scar"), doubtless partially derived-from sea-worked pebbles and boulders contained in the glacial deposits underlying the Peninsula or deposited by the Afon Lliedi to the north. This shingle beach, except for the small length still in existence at Penrhyngwyn (SS518974) has now been obscured by industrial slag (and more recent landscaping), but older ridglets of light-coloured natural stone can still be made out at Penrhyngwyn - the "white/pale headland" - presumably referring to the light grey and brown colours of the pebbles of the original shingle beach. The more recent (outer) shingle ridges are dark, being composed of rounded slag pebbles, dumped vestiges of Llanelli's metal-smelting past.

Old sources show some evidence of blown sand behind the shelter of the Penrhyngwyn Peninsula with much sand being exposed during recent landscaping operations (eg at SS513973). The presence of Variegated Horsetail Equisetum variegatum in remnant "slacks", which were destroyed in c.1988, north and immediately south-west of the main Machynys Pond showed some vegetational affinity with the enormous dunelands of Pembrey further west along the Carmarthenshire coast. Small, horse-molested clumps of Royal Ferns Osmunda regalis also grew, prior to the extension to the main pond, in a mossy slack near its south-western periphery.

There is a distinctive assemblage of invertebrates on the Penrhyngwyn shingle ridge. For example, the rare shoreline millipede Thalassisobates littoralis occurs under finer shingle near the eastern end, and is best found under largish stones, debris and the like in damp spring or autumn weather. The local woodlice Cylisticus convexus and Trichoniscoides saeroeensis also occur as does the captivating tiny 'bristle millipede' Polyxenus lagurus which only grows to 3mm. The south-western (in distribution) snail Cochlicella acuta and the scarce weevil Mecinus collaris have been found. The small ground beetle Bembidion laterale occurs under stones on the adjacent mudflats and the rarely recorded centipede Geophilus fucorurn seurati lurks under stones in similar habitat. Another millipede - Leptoiulus belgicus (a slender beast with a pale line down its back) - has been recorded under debris on waste areas. Moth trapping has yielded the Large Ranunculus Polymixis flavicincta, whilst Yellow Belle moths Aspitates ochrearia and Mother Shiptons Callistega mi occur by day. The robberfly Philonicus albiceps hunts flies over dry areas, and Lackey moth larvae Malacosoma neustria festoon Blackthorn Prunus spinosa bushes with their matted webs in summer.

Penrhyngwyn Shingle Beach

Uncommon plants include Yellow-horned Poppy Glaucium flavum (c.125 plants counted in 1993), Sea Wormwood Artemisia maritima and Grass-leaved Orache Atriplex littoralis. Rough Clover Trifolium scabrum, Cut-leaved Dead-nettle Lamium hybridum, Field Madder Sherardia arvensis, Wallflower Cabbage Coincya monensis subsp. recurvata, Sea Campion Silene maritima and Sea Fern-grass Catapodium marinum are other local species which grow at Penrhyngwyn. The fleshy and purple-stemmed subspecies of Herb Robert Geranium robertianum subsp. maritimum has also been recorded, as has the seaside variety of Curled Dock, Rumex crispus var. littoreus. About five bushes of the very prickly, bright purplish-pink flowered Japanese Rose Rosa rugosa have established themselves on the shingle beach. It has voluptuous, glossy-red hips and suckers rampantly: this increasing species may prove to be a future problem in coastal habitats. Ringed Plovers nest and other waders utilise the site as a roost, and Linnets nest in the gorse. Offshore, Eider, Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers can be viewed and Sandwich Terns occasionally put in an appearance in late summer. Small Dunlin flocks are regular and the birdwatcher should check for Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers on autumn passage. Grey Plover frequent the mussel bed scars. In December 1987, a Leach's Petrel was spotted off Penrhyngwyn and Yellow-legged Herring Gulls and Mediterranean Gulls have also been noted. Narrow-leaved Eelgrass Zostera angustifolia was recorded "in intertidal pools around mussel beds" off Penrhyngwyn by K.J. Peberdy in 1988 and, more lately, by Barry Stewart in 1994. This species (one of the food-plants of Brent Geese) is but rarely recorded in the county because of the inaccessibility of its habitat. Of great interest is an oblique 1950 aerial photograph of the "Penclacwydd-Penrhyngwyn Bay" (held in Llanelli Ref. Library) showing the extent of Common Cord Grass Spartina anglica, it essentially being mostly confined to the edges of the embayment along the Bulwark" or sea-wall, with open mudflats beyond. This invasive grass has subsequently spread to occupy much of the Bay, depriving certain waders of feeding grounds.

"Penrhyngwyn Pond" a newly created, irregularly shaped water body, situated just landwards of the sea wall, has not, at the time of writing matured sufficiently to attract great numbers of waterfowl but half-a-dozen Mute Swans are semi-resident and Scaup and Goldeneye have been recorded in winter. Tufted Duck have very recently (1994) bred. The presence of small parties of Pochard suggest that aquatic plants are starting to colonize; this pond should improve considerably for all forms of wildlife as underwater and peripheral vegetation becomes established. Horned Pondweed Zannichellia palustris is already frequent, Sea Club-rush is getting a hold in some of the sheltered embayments and a few plants of Spiked Water-milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum and Celery-leaved Buttercup Ranunculus sceleratus have appeared.

The Trostre Area

NE of Machynys, in that tract of land between the Trostre Tinplate works and the now-demolished Trostre-fawr farm SS521997, hedgerows held the non-native (in this area) Midland Hawthorn Crataegus Laevigata and near Trostre-fawr itself, its hybrid with the Common Hawthorn - Crataegus x macrocarpa. This area is now covered by industrial premises, a new road and the Tesco store, though the "Tesco pond" (at SS525996) has been retained. Plants in or around this pond include Curled Pondweed Potomogeton crispus, Shining Pondweed P. natans, Spiked Water-milfoil, Trifid Bur-marigold Bidens tripartita and Celery-leaved Buttercup. Hairy Dragonflies and Emperor dragonflies Anax imperator dragonflies hunt over this pond. The neighbourhood to the south, now covered by workshops and other small industrial units, formerly had Grasshopper Warblers in the rushy pastures and, as elsewhere on these coastal flatlands, Cuckoos are a characteristic sound of late spring; possibly they principally parasitize Sedge Warblers nesting in the wetter areas. Also heard in the whole district from Machynys to Bynea, is the scratchy rattle of the Lesser Whitethroat, a bird which, although it has increased in recent years, is still rather a scarcity in Wales. This species is heard rather than seen as it sings from within the tall hawthorn hedgerows, and it may be that these singing males represent unmated birds rather than established pairs. Garden Warblers hold territories in a very few scrubby areas whilst Willow Warblers are ubiquitous; Chiffchaffs sing on passage but it is not entirely sure whether they breed. Reed Buntings, Sedge Warblers and sometimes Reed Warblers occur in appropriate habitat whilst the extensive areas of ungrazed, abandoned pasture provides hunting habitat for the several local pairs of Kestrels; hovering birds are a familiar sight. Mallard commonly nest in ditches. Some birds, which breed commonly elsewhere in the county, are believed to be but irregular winter visitors in the area -Green Woodpeckers or Nuthatches for example are rarely seen and only in the colder months. Treecreepers however, are regular winterers, at least in the author's orchard at Erw-las, Llwynhendy (where once also a wintering Blackcap was noted). Sharp, frosty weather brings Redwings and Fieldfares to gorge on the fallen apple crops of the same orchard, which in the hotter months of summer supports a loose colonial aggregation of nesting Goldfinches.

North of Trostre Works, near the roundabout SS526999 was a rather extensive reedbed where C.F. Street noted Bearded Tits in Nov.-Dec. 1972 and which also supported breeding Reed Warblers. Wormwood Artemisia absinthium used to be a noticeable feature of the wasteground east of the old railway line hereabouts. Around the Trostre works itself are some areas of reeds and fen carr, though some parts have been unfortunately infilled (in the early 1990's). The uncommon ground beetle Acupalpus dorsalis has been recorded from willow carr to the SE of the Works (at SS533990); this latter site also supports a thriving colony of the diurnal Scarlet Tiger moth Callimorpha dominula. Pied Wagtails (up to c.300 counted) and Starlings (c.800 max.) utilise the roof space of Trostre Works for winter roosting. Ringing of the former in the past (by Derek Thomas and Barry Stewart) has produced several local recoveries but also one from southern Scotland in the breeding season.

Below Penyfan, SS515994, on the south-eastern flank of Bigyn, was a wetland, named in extracts relating to Llanelli Marsh in A Survey of the Duchy of Lancaster Lordships in Wales 1609-1613 as "Pwll Penn y Van". This swamp was infilled as a rubbish dump in the 1970's, but fragments of marsh survive with Bulrush Typha latifolia and old trees of Crack Willow Salix fragilis (eg at SS518995).

Readers are directed to Hutchinson (1992) for his comprehensive account of the botanical interest along and near the extant railways of Carmarthenshire, including references to the present study area SE of Llanelli. Plants of restricted distribution in the county referred to in his paper include, a hawkweed Hieracium scabriseturn ("perhaps the largest stand in the vice-county"), Common Broomrape Orobanche minor and the purple-flowered Whorled Clary Salvia verticillata, all on the disused railway sidings to the west behind Morfa School SS517991. He also notes the abundance of Fingered Saxifrage Saxifraga tridactylites, Rat's-tail Fescue Vulpia myuros, Canadian Fleabane Conyza canadensis (an increasing plant in the Llanelli area), Annual Pearlwort Sagina apetala and Blue Fleabane Erigeron acer along the railway line and sidings SW of Trostre Works SS525991. Smooth Tare Vicia tetrasperma, White Campion Silene alba, the hybrid campion S. alba x dioica, Field Pansy Viola arvensis, Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea Lathyrus sylvestris and Tansy Tanacetum vulgare also grow besides the railway sidings a little to the east. Disturbed ground near the Trostre Works held Scented Mayweed Matricaria recutita in 1991. Field trackways to the SW of Ddol Fawr farm (SS535988) sometimes have an abundance of Bristly Ox-tongue Picris echioides.

W.W.T. Penclacwydd

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre at Penclacwydd, SS520983 which opened in April 1991, has already become a mecca for birdwatchers with highlights including Marsh Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, Spotted Crake, Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Spoonbill, Bittern, Little Egret, Aquatic Warbler and Water Pipit. No less than 13 Little Egrets were present on 30th August 1993! Other notable species recorded include Garganey, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-legged Herring Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Little Gull, Leach's Petrel, Turtle Dove and Blue-headed Wagtail.

By the enhancement of existing areas and the creation of new habitat, numbers of regularly wintering or passage birds have built up to attain significance. For example, maxima of waders recorded on the "NRA Scrape" in September 1991, included 49 Greenshank, 15 Spotted Redshank, 109 Black-tailed Godwits, 65 Knot, 200 Redshank, 60 Bar-tailed Godwits, 17 Curlew Sandpipers and 2 Little Stints. Similarly, the newer extensive scrape on the saltmarsh in front of the British Steel hide has proved attractive to waders and wildfowl. In 1993, 12 pairs of Redshank and 15 pairs of Lapwing bred at Penclacwydd - a significant number in a Welsh context but unfortunately corvid predation meant a low success rate. Redshanks have been suspected to breed in the area for at least a decade, the writer recalls watching a displaying male from the empty Tir Einon dwelling (which was on the slope behind "the Marsh Hide") on 17th April 1984, "flying slowly in an undulating fashion and quivering its wings". Dabchicks have nested (though not regularly) on the main pond or lagoon and a pair of wild Grey Lag Geese bred in 1993. More detailed notes on the ornithological interest of Penclacwydd are given in the next section.

An exciting new prospect is the possible creation of an extensive fenland area with open water, reed beds, herbaceous fen and willow carr, to the east of the Centre, on land under the control of the Trust. As well as providing habitat for our much-diminished wetland plant, bird and invertebrate communities, there is the very real ultimate possibility that this area, if extensive enough, could become a "Welsh Minsmere" with even, if one can optimistically speculate, breeding Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tits, Cetti's Warblers or Bittern - and what about Little Egrets which surely must be incipient British breeders? Open water, of varying depths, could attract breeding Great-crested and Little Grebes, whilst several species of duck could be induced to breed. Fish introduced into the water bodies could tempt passage Ospreys and the inoculation of the peripheral swamps with a range of native fenland plants, apart from making the site of interest to the botanist, would provide niches for a wealth of wetland insects. Board walks and hides could facilitate both public enjoyment and education at this strategically placed fen complex on the northern flank of the renowned Burry Inlet - turning the clock back to when estuaries did have these transitional fens between saltmarsh and dry land.

The present natural history interest of WWT Penclacwydd is not confined to birds. Already the Ruddy Darter has been recorded and the Scarce Blue-tailed damselfly lschnura pumilio, the Hairy Dragonfly and the Black-tailed Skimmer have been proved to breed on the vegetation-rich small ponds just seawards of the main freshwater lagoon. Marestail (introduced here from Machynys Ponds) thrives, as does a clump of Stone Parsley Sison arnomum (beside the boardwalk to one of the hides). Prior to Barry Stewart's discovery of Stone Parsley in 1991, the last incidence of this pungent umbellifer in Carmarthenshire was an unlocalised mid-19th Century record of James Motley. The easily-observed pond in front (south) of the Visitors Centre has Marestail, Least Duckweed Lemna minuta, Water Dock Rumex hydrolapathum, Frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae and Galingale Cyperus Iongus to provide interest for the botanist. Most of these plants were introduced into this pond.

There is a diverse collection of willows within the grounds of the Centre; these are listed in the Appendix. Planted bushes of Alder Buckthorn Frangula alnus are fed upon by caterpillars of Brimstone butterflies Gonepteryx rhamni in preference to Purging Buckthorn Rhamnus cartharticus which have also been planted around the Centre (B.Stewart, pers. comm.). Brimstones, which are known in the area, are likely to benefit from these plantings of Frangula at Penclacwydd.

Notes on the ornithological interest of Penclacwydd

(contributed by Barry Stewart)

Data held at WWT Penclacwydd of counts between 1989 and 1992l93 shows average seasonal peaks of bird populations at Penclacwydd and Tir Morfa. Overwintering Pintail (433 - 1.55%) and Shoveler (121 - 1.2%) are in excess of the numbers required to fulfill the new criteria setting populations of national importance (Kirby, in press; Rose & Scott 1994). Similarly, nationally important passage populations of Black-tailed Godwit (Autumn, 80 - 1.07%), Whimbrel (Spring, 112 - 2.24%) and Curlew (Autumn, 1781 - 1.48%) are found. Although small in number, significant and apparently increasing numbers of Spotted Redshank (Autumn, 10 - ?%), Greenshank (Autumn, 19 - ?%) also occur.

Based on the new population criteria, Oystercatcher (Winter, 2500 - 0.69%; Autumn, 2833 - 0.69%) do not now exceed qualifying levels for national importance. In addition, the large average peak winter numbers of Shelduck (424 - 0.56%) and Teal (625 - 0.45%), Black-tailed Godwit (46 - 0.61%), Bar-tailed Godwit (272 - 0.54%) and Curlew (566 - 0.47%) fall short of achieving nationally important numbers. Numbers of Snipe (Winter, 226 - ?%; Autumn, 640 - ?%) are high when compared to the marshes on the south shore of the Burry Inlet; with monthly peaks of between 700 and 800 birds.

This data, in comparison with "Birds of Estuaries Enquiry" data (1982/3 - 1986/7) of the same area, indicates that numbers of birds feeding or roosting on the north shore may have been under-estimated (although it should be noted that dates and survey techniques of the two data sets do not correspond and therefore the data is not directly comparable).

The saltmarsh and inter-tidal zone is of prime importance for over-wintering wildfowl and waders and for passage migrants. The mussel scar and cockle beds and inter-tidal mudflats off Penrhyngwyn and Tir Morfa are particularly attractive low tide feeding areas for waders. Here, populations of over 2,000 Oystercatchers are a regular occurrence (in the recent 1993 - 94 winter, 3,000 birds were a common sight) although the 1987/88 special low-tide study recorded more birds on adjacent large mudflats near Burry Port (Prys-Jones et al, 1989). The Penclacwydd data implies that the north coast may be of comparable importance to the south coast as a feeding site for the species, with previous reports (Prater, 1977; Howells, 1983) perhaps reflecting the under-recording of populations and/or the increasing importance of the cockle and mussel banks on the north side. Other regular feeders off Penrhyngwyn include Curlew (large flocks often with mid-summer highs of over 1,000 adult birds), Grey Plover (many of these also feed in the eastern inter-tidal area), Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Black-tailed Godwit, with unprecedented numbers of Knot (maxima of 1200) and Dunlin (maxima of 2,500 and over) feeding around the cockle beds during the 1993 - 94 winter. Of the wildfowl, good numbers of Pintail regularly feed or loaf just offshore at low tide, and over 100 Shelduck often feed on inter-tidal flats between Tir Morfa and Llanelli (Prys-Jones et al, 1989). In addition, Eider are known to make occasional forays from the upper estuary to feeding grounds off Penrhyngwyn.

At high tide, the edge of the saltmarsh is well used by roosting birds such as Teal, Curlew and Redshank. Substantial numbers of Wigeon (over 500), and Pintail (often 200-300) regularly roost on the marsh at this time; this is the only north shore high tide site for Pintail. In addition, up to 200 Shelduck can be seen offshore between Tir Morfa and Llanelli at high tide. Regarding waders, Lapwing roost on the marsh scrapes and Ringed Plover often roost at Penrhyngwyn, although roosting Oystercatcher are notably absent (Prys-Jones et al, 1989).

Redshanks are found in perhaps their largest concentrations between the more open, lower Spartina marsh and the mudflats from which they usually disperse en masse to feed along the pills. Between 1990 to 1993, Redshank numbers have consistently peaked between June and September, with a monthly maximum of 831 birds in July 1993. Shoveler can often be seen feeding on the marsh edge, whilst large numbers of Snipe (maxima of between 700 - 800) having been recorded, feeding amongst the denser, ungrazed Spartina further inland.

The number of waders using the marsh scrapes appears to have increased as new areas, particularly the New Marsh Scrape and the Stewart Scrape, have been flooded. A high of over 500 Redshanks roosted on the edge of the former in mid-summer 1991, and up to 200 are a regular occurrence in the winter. Other regular users of the New Scrape include Wigeon (peaks of around 200) and Teal (peaks of between 70 and 80). The Stewart Scrape, established in late 1993, has already attracted substantial numbers of Herons (up to c.70) and Little Egrets and large numbers of Wigeon and Teal. Other notable regular users of the marsh scrapes, although in small numbers, include Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Greenshank. Shoveler are also a common sight feeding or roosting around the edges of the marsh scrapes and pills.

The inland fields to the east of the lagoon are also a popular habitat for wildfowl and waders. In winter, small numbers of Curlew, Snipe and Lapwing frequently feed in the Penclacwydd fields behind the marsh. Whimbrel, on spring passage, congregate in the fields between April and August with numbers peaking in May. The average seasonal peak for Whimbrel (112 - 2.24%) signifies a nationally important site for the species.

In winter, Wigeon are found in their largest numbers (regularly up to 400) on the NRA Scrape, from which they sometimes disperse onto the marsh scrapes or the lagoon islands. The Wigeon flock is often split 2/3 - 1/3 between the NRA Scrapes and the marsh scrapes. Between 40 and 50 Black-tailed Godwits frequently occur on scrapes and inland fields throughout the year; these are probably first year birds. Lower water levels in the scrapes during the autumn attracts large numbers of waders, notably Black-tailed Godwits for which a peak of 177 birds has been recorded.

Between 200 and 300 Pintail (around 480 on one occasion) have been observed roosting on the Six Acre Lagoon often over consecutive nights, although this failed to occur in the recent 1993 - 94 winter, the wild Mallard (around 100) habitually use the Grounds for their night roost. Rush patches to the east of the lagoon attract Snipe. Teal are common around the inland lagoons and pills.

Raptors - Short-eared Owls frequently hunt over the site in winter, roosting in stands of Sea Rush Juncus maritimus in the upper marsh east of the Dafen Pill. Other raptors frequent at Penclacwydd include Peregrine, Merlin, Hen Harrier and Buzzard. Marsh Harrier, Hobby and Osprey are seen less often.

Breeding - Thirty four species have bred since 1989 (Stewart, WWT Centre records), including four species of wader in 1993. Redshank, a species of sparse distribution in Wales (Gibbons, et al 1993) prefer to nest on the saltmarsh; between ten and 13 pairs have been located. In addition, two pairs regularly nest on the lagoon islands; these are popular sites for between nine and ten pairs of Lapwing as well as a pair of Common Sandpipers. Penrhyngwyn provides suitable habitat for a pair of breeding Ringed Plovers.

Breeding wildfowl include, on average, three or four pairs of Shelduck nesting along the seawall, large numbers of Mallard (50 breeding females) and a pair of feral Greylag Geese.

Notable breeding passerines have included Yellow Wagtail, known to have nested in 1988 in Field 3015 below Tir Morfa-fawr farmhouse (B. Stewart, pers.comm.), Grasshopper Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. The Yellow Wagtail is now virtually absent from west and south Wales including the Gwent Levels but low-lying pastures of nearby South and West Glamorgan (including the Gower Peninsula) form one of the remaining marginal localities for the species although in the past two decades populations have decreased (Gibbons, et al, 1993). It is probably now extinct at Penclacwydd as a breeding bird.

In Wales, the Grasshopper Warbler is rather local, and in south Wales the largest concentrations occur westwards from the Burry Inlet to the north and west Pembrokeshire coast, with good numbers also on the rank, often rushy fields of the western south Wales coalfield. Grasshopper Warbler (two pairs) and Lesser Whitethroat (two pairs) habitually nest at Penclacwydd. The Lesser Whitethroat is sparse over much of Wales, although small numbers occur between Gower and Pembrokeshire, mostly on the coast but also in the Tywi valley (Gibbons et a!, loc.cit). Other breeding passerines of note at Penclacwydd include Sedge Warbler, Linnet and Reed Bunting. In addition, Reed Warbler, a bird near to the western edge of its range, probably bred in 1993 but was not confirmed.

Barn Owl, a local breeding species, regularly use rough grassland habitats to the east of the Centre and are known to breed in nearby buildings. Little Owl, a very local species in south Wales, nest at Tir Morfa-fawr.

Tir Morfa-fawr

A walk down to the narrow lane which branches left by the WWT Penclacwydd main entrance will bring the walker to Tir Morfa-fawr farm SS533983 and the new sea wall. En route, the naturalist will pass a pair of poplars, the first a true Black Poplar Populus nigra var. betulifolia and the other the hybrid Black Italian Poplar Populus x canadensis 'Serotina', and in the hedgerows, some Bullace Prunus domestica (subsp. insititia). One can follow this wall eastwards along the northern shore of the estuarine saltmarshes, perhaps birdwatching in winter, with distant views of Peregrines, Merlins or maybe a Hen Harrier. Late summer is the best time to admire the saltmarsh vegetation, such as the abundant Sea Aster Aster tripolium which, when in flower, provides welcome sustenance for migratory Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta or SilverY moths Plusia gamma. If, after the landwards detour around the WWT Penclacwydd Centre's boundary, the walker instead follows the seawall south-westwards to Penrhyngwyn, an interesting assemblage of plants will be seen to have developed at the base of the seawall - Marsh Mallow Althaea officinalis, Sea Wormwood Artemisia maritima and Wild Celery Apium graveolens. Slender Thistle Carduus tenuiflorus and Swine-cress Coronopus squammatus have been recorded on the bare trackway - in the recent past and the embankment is one of the best places to spot early migrant Wheatears at the onset of spring. Later, one should check for the larger 'Greenland Wheatear' Oenanthe oenanthe leucorrhoa in May and Black Redstarts too have been noted on spring passage along this length of coast. The writer recalls one absolutely resplendent male, accompanied by passage Meadow Pipits, on 20th March 1984, feeding amongst sea-eroded rubbly low cliffs which then lined the Machynys foreshore.

The accumulations of driftwood on the Penclacwydd saltmarsh provide an appropriate pabulum for larvae of the beautiful 'Bee Chafer' Trichius fasciatus. Back at the Tir Morfa-fawr farmyard, an impressive dung and grass heap supports a range of noteworthy invertebrates. The plum-purple woodlouse Porcellionides pruinosus - a dung heap specialist - can be abundant, though at other times elusive, as can be the diminutive 'lesser earwig' Labia minor. Another woodlouse, the markedly coastal Porcellionides cingendus, occurs under debris in the farmyard. The colourful rove beetle Gauropterus fulgidus has also been collected from this dung heap. Regular moth trapping by Barry Stewart from Tir Morfa-fawr in 1989 yielded a crop of mention-worthy moths - Bordered Sallow Pyrrhia umbra, Dog's-tooth Lacanobia suasa, Double kidney ipimorpha retusa, Lead-coloured Drab Orthosia populeti, Peacock Semiothisa notata, Rosy Wave Scopula emutaria, Sharp-angled Peacock Semiothisa alternaria and White Satin Leucoma salicis - all rather local species in Carmarthenshire. The 'Churchyard Beetle' Blaps mucronata, a long-legged, all-black tenebrionid, inhabits the old farmhouse itself.

A hayfield to the east of Tir Morfa-fawr (at SS540977) has Smooth Brome Bromus racemosus (det. P.J.D. Trist), which although cited by Hubbard (1984) as "frequent on the moist soils of the lowlands" is rare in Carmarthenshire (May, 1967), there being three other vice-county records (R.D. Pryce, pers. comm.).

Techon Marsh (or Waun Techon) and Erw-las

The largest remaining marsh in the area occupies the east-west orientated depression, which is actually only a few metres above sea level, wedged between the higher ground of Llwynhendy and the low clay hill on which Techon-fawr farm stands. This low ground was called 'Morfa Berwig' on the 1813 Surveyors drawing for the first edition OS one inch map and it represented the easternmost arm of the vast Morfa Mawr (James & Morgan, 1994) The fen - Techon Marsh (SS540993) is now significantly reduced in size as about two-thirds of the site was used for a rubbish dump in the 1970's. Before then, the reedbed stretched eastwards all the way to the scrapyard at Belle-vue Road, Bynea. Some readers may be surprised to learn that in the 1970s there was an application to utilise the whole saltmarsh from Penrhyngwyn to the current site of WWT Penclacwydd for the same purpose!

Now only a rather small (c.3.04ha) area of Techon Marsh remains - a rather dry reedbed and a botanically-diverse zone with rushes Juncus spp., Common Cotton-grass Eriophorum angustifolium, Yellow-flag lris pseudacorus, Water Mint Mentha aquatica, Purple loosestrife Lythrum salicaria, and brawny spikes of Southern Marsh Orchid. Brackish water from the highest spring tides still reaches this marsh as evidenced by the presence of Parsley Water-dropwort Oenanthe lachenalii. The site's saltmarsh genesis is further proven by numerous cockle shells dredged up during adjacent ditch clearance, and local tradition states that the highest tides overflowed this area. Reed Buntings, Sedge and Reed Warblers breed on the fen and Snipe have been seen in the breeding season and hirundines (Swallows and Sand Martins) and Acrocephalus warblers utilise it on passage.

A distinguished invertebrate assemblage is present including species which are more typical of fenland areas of southern and eastern Britain. The moth fauna includes Twin-spot Wainscots Archanara gemnipunctata, Round-winged Muslins Thumatha senex, Obscure Wainscots Mythimna obsoleta, Silky Wainscots Chilodes maritimus, Bulrush Wainscots Nonagria typhae, Pinion-streaked Snouts Schrankia costaestrigalis and Webb's Wainscots Archanara sparganii. Recently, Barry Stewart has added Silver Hook Eustrotia uncula, Striped Mythimna pudorina, Southern M. straminea and Shoulder-striped wainscots M. comma to this list. Noteworthy beetles include Chlaenius nigricornis, Blethisa multipunctata. Silis ruficollis and Anthocomus rufus. The very local water beetle Cercyon ustulatus has also been recorded.

The ditch (the "Afon Goch") which drains Techon Marsh is often slightly polluted by iron oxides, probably from old coal workings (hence its name, "Red River") and by domestic overflows in periods of very heavy rain. Its flora is correspondingly poor - plenty of Horned Pondweed Zannichellia palustris and Starwort Callitriche sp., both of which are known to be tolerant of moderate pollution. More surprising was the freshly emerged Hairy Dragonfly beside the ditch in late May 1983. The local hoverfly Platycheirus fulviventris can be swept from nearby beds of Floating Sweet-grass Glyceria fluitans in summer.

Berwick Roundabout

Another big reed bed and swampy fields with much Bulrush has been destroyed in recent years - for the construction of a small industrial estate just north of the new Berwick roundabout (SS542988). Formerly here too, Reed and Sedge Warblers bred and Barn Owls hunted over rank, lightly grazed pastures (the writer remembers a memorable summer sighting of one in full light, early one evening, presumably searching for food for its young). Although Barn Owls are still present in the area, it is feared that they may become casualties on the new Loughor-Trostre link road. Little Owls are also regular and they too nest locally - in old willows, ruined buildings or simply even under corrugated sheets in old farmyards. At best, three or four pairs are present to the south-east of Trostre though two nesting sites have been recently adversely affected - the derelict Penybryn farm by development of a sewage treatment works and the renovation of old outbuildings at Glynea Farm, Bynea. The pair based at Tir Morfa-fawr is safeguarded by WWT staff. There is an additional pair believed to be resident in the Ddol-fawr -Erw-las area, with very vocal territorial birds uttering their "kiew...kiew" call in spring duets, and westwards there is a further pair possibly based around the "Machynys Cross" roundabout, approximately between Machynys Ponds and urban Morfa. It would not be surprising if more birds are found in other parts of this area (eg around Morfa'r Ynys).

In the last year or two it has been realised that, quite possibly, the ultra-secretive Long-eared Owl is at least wintering in the district, roosting in thick hawthorn scrub and willow carr and hunting by night over rank, ungrazed pastures for voles and other prey (the same habitat which the several pairs of local Kestrels exploit by day). On 7th March 1993, a local walker with an interest in wildlife reported an injured Long-eared Owl near the Berwick Roundabout; its wing was badly broken and it had to be put down. In November of the same year, the same person flushed another individual from a clump of young trees, this time just east of the Belle Vue scrapyard, Bynea.

Another negative effect of the new link road was the loss of a small area of willow carr and marsh (at SS542986) which held the rare chrysomelid ("leaf beetle") Plateumaris braccata and which was only known from one other Welsh site; a colony of Scarlet Tiger moths Callimorpha dominula was also lost. The large, attractive rove-beetle Staphylinus dimidiaticornis has been recorded here. A tiny area of irregularly-grazed fen-pasture, just south of the mainline railway (SS542985) still remains. Here are found, for example, marshland hoverflies such as Tropidia scita, Helophilus trivitattus, Chrysogaster chalybeata and Eristalis abusuvius. Localised weeds grow along the margins of the track including Rat's tail Fescue Vulpia myuros, whilst Great Mullein Verbascum thapsus is shredded by caterpillars of Mullein Moths Cucullia verbasci and Perforate St.John's Wort Hypericum perforatum has the scarce leaf beetle Chrysolina hyperici. Westwards, (at SS535989) another stretch of railway has more Hypericum, this time with the attendant little flea-beetle Cryptocephalus moraei. Common Broomrape also grows along this stretch of track.

The old White Willow Salix alba var. vitellina just south of the Berwick roundabout SS542987 is home to the old wood "click-beetle" Melanotus erythropus: cuttings of this White Willow have been successfully planted (with a single Salix fragilis) to the immediate north of the same roundabout. Melandrya caraboides has also been recorded from this venerable White Willow, whilst the elms which died as a result of Dutch Elm disease along the old lane to the NW yielded Uleiota planata and Endomychus coccineus (P.M. Pavett, pers. comm.). A solitary, probably doomed Populus x canadensis to the south of Penybryn farm has breeding Strangalia quadrifasciata, a very localised longhorn beetle. The hairy snail Ashfordia granulata is surprisingly frequent hereabouts in damp, herbaceous vegetation. The straight, broad ditch which is aligned parallel with the new link road north¬west of Berwick Roundabout is the finest ditch in the area, being unpolluted and supporting a rich flora. Broad-leaved Pondweed abounds with some Amphibious Bistort Polygonum amphibium. Frogbit and (particularly to its north-westerly termination by the railway line) Fringed Water-lily have both spread from introductions made into the small pond SW of Techon-fawr farm SS539991, to where they were introduced (from Machynys) by the owner. Marsh Speedwell Veronica scutellata and Narrow-fruited Water-cress Nasturtium microphyllum grow on the ditch sides. The ditch also supports a nice mix of dragonflies, including the Hairy Dragonfly. A surprise find in 1993 was a strong stand of Giant Horsetail Equisetum telmateia at the corner of the track leading to Techon-fach SS543989, and equally unexpected was the presence of Ivy-leaved Duckweed in the ditch which winds through the newly-prepared site for an industrial estate at SS543987; it is possible that the Lemna was unknowingly introduced with the Frogbit at Techon-fawr Pond. Eastwards, planted pines around the sewage works at Bynea SS533984 support the attractive Cream-spot Ladybird Harmonia 4-punctata.

A spring 1994 visit by the author to investigate the beetle fauna of some old white willows just NE of Dyffryn Farm (beside the footpath on the north side of the new A484 link road at SS548985) yielded a woodlouse new to Britain! Oritoniscus flavus is a medium-sized species, purplish-brown in colour and very fast-running. It is known from southern Ireland but its apparent absence from SW Britain has long puzzled biogeographers as the species is also found in other parts of western Europe (Harding & Sutton, 1985). At the Bynea site Oritoniscus was found to be abundant under a pile of red-rotted willow wood lying in a choked-up drainage ditch; it occupied the lowest, wettest zone of the wood pile. It is also found (again under wet wood) along the old access embankment to the north-west (at SS545987). There are current proposals to extend the industrial park to cover much of the land SW of Berwick farm, thereby further diminishing the wet habitats which are characteristic of the area.

Further survey work will be carried out to ascertain whether Oritoniscus flavus occurs elsewhere locally or indeed in other wet coastal areas such as the Lower Gwendraeth valley. Some cursory searches have hitherto failed to find the species. It may be that this woodlouse is a long-standing introduction in the area, perhaps associated with the coal trade for the nearby "Spitty Bank" (SS551982) and Morfa Bacas (SS547980, Bacas = baggage) were both important early shipping places before the various docks at Llanelli were constructed (Symons, 1979). In the early years of the nineteenth century 96% of the ships leaving the Llanelli area were laden with coal whilst 90% of the ships entering were in ballast. In the earliest years for which records exist (1750-1755), we know that coal was shipped to West Country ports and Ireland, Brest, Lisbon and Oporto", whilst... "the destinations of ships carrying Llanelli's coal, between 1804 and that there were three main markets...other Welsh ports, the West Country and lrish ports, particularly Waterford, Wexford, Cork, Kinsale and Wicklow", (Symons, loc.cit.). This activity took place when the shipping points of Spitty Bank and Morfa Bacas, both less than half a kilometre away from the Oritoniscus locality (which itself is immediately adjacent to an old mine) were in use. It is known that ballast introduced several plants to the Llanelli area, some of which have thrived eg various Melilots Melilotus spp., so it is perhaps possible that Oritoniscus also arrived by similar means.

Penybryn-Morfa Bacas

The expanse of land south of Penybryn (SS542982) and Bryn Carnarfon (SS545982) and Morfa Bacas (SS542979) is the best area for spring passage Whimbrel, with up to about 50 being regular, the birds being noticeable as they squeek, mew and pipe noisily when they fly overhead. One recent spring, Short-eared Owls displayed over on the nearby area of wet, rushy fields to the west but regrettably they did not remain to breed. In the past, when these fields were grazed, a few pairs of Lapwing remained to breed in this area. Morfa-bacas provides a good, if often windblown, vantage point to observe waders and wildfowl on the Burry Inlet - Oystercatchers, Dunlins, Grey Plovers, Curlews, Wigeon, Goldeneye and, in one recent winter, a solitary Avocet. Brent Geese may also be seen, in the approximate direction of Loughor Bridge, and it is worth checking nearby fenceposts and trees for perching Merlins or Little Owls. Sea Wormwood and Golden Samphire lnula crithmoides are two decorative scarcities which grow on the upper saltmarsh at Morfa Bacas. More surprising was the capture of the dainty Scarce Blue-tailed damselfly on the evening of 16th June 1988, presumably a dispersing adult, perhaps from the then newly-created ponds at WWT Penclacwydd where they are known to have subsequently bred.

Not so long ago (to about the mid-1980's), this length of coast was a regular nesting area for Yellow Wagtails, with breeding noted at Morfa Bacas SS547979 itself, below Tir Morfa SS532981 and north-eastwards at Glynea SS553990. A quick, incomplete census, on 14th May 1983, along the short length of coast from Tir Morfa-fawr (SS530983) to the headland (SS536979) west of Morfa Bacas yielded three pairs, and a later visit by the writer and Clive Jones on 16 June showed two of these pairs to be established immediately south of Tir Morfa-fawr: "one nest with four, almost hatching eggs...where saltmarsh merges into pasture; the nest was lined with horse hair." (lKM diary entry, 16.6.1983). The wagtails - the radiant males a bright canary-yellow - could often be seen perching on barbed-wire fences and the species nested in saltmarsh tussocks. Although Yellow Wagtails have certainly experienced a range contraction in recent years (Tyler, 1993), changes in saltmarsh management at all the afore-mentioned local sites may also have contributed to the decline. Until the early 1980's, the areas were grazed, providing the short pastures for foraging and leaving ranker clumps for nesting. Now perhaps, the complete area is just too rank. This ungrazed saltmarsh is, however, attractive floristically and benefits many invertebrates such as the amusing Short-winged Conehead Conocephalus dorsalis.

The pioneer Carmarthenshire botanist James Motley (died 1859) must have visited these coastal saltmarshes of Morfa Bacas, for Lewis Weston Dillwyn in his (unpublished) Materials for a Fauna and Flora of Swansea and the Neighbourhood (1848), remarks that Sea Spurrey Sagina marina had been "found by Mr Motley near Tir-tene (=Tir teneu, now where a small sewage station stands) and Tir-cattrish" (SS537980, now disappeared). Ingram and Salmon (1954) cite a record of a Smew from "Llanelly Marsh in 1841 by Dillwyn (1848)", "Llanelly Marsh" presumably referring to the erstwhile Morfa Mawr common north¬east of Machynys. However, in Dillwyn's "Materials" it is stated that, "in February, 1841, Mr L.L. Dillwyn killed one on Loughor Marsh". Therefore, there is a little confusion whether the record refers to Llanelly Marsh on the northern fringes of the Loughor Estuary or a separate site at or near Loughor in Glamorgan.


Finally, the area around Glynea Farm, Bynea (SS554989) is of interest to the naturalist. The brackish pool has few regular birds apart from Moorhens and visiting Herons, but one distinguished visitor in May 1991 was a Wood Sandpiper and, until at least the mid-1970's, Yellow Wagtails used to breed around this pond. The adjacent Bulrush swamp, as with the brackish Glynea Pond itself, holds breeding Water Rails and a very interesting invertebrate fauna. The "Water Ladybird" Anisosticta 19-punctata abounds and the fenland soldier beetle Sills ruficollis and the local weevils Notaris scirpi and Cryptorhynchur lupathi both occur. Bulrush Wainscots Nonagria typhae and Webb's Wainscots Archanara sparganii, both very restricted and local species in Wales, have been caught at light traps, whilst fenland hoverflies include Neoascia meticulosa, Tropidia scita and Helophilus trivittatus. The flattened bug Chilacis typhae occurs on Bulrush stems, and the homopteran Paralimnus phragmites, which has hardly been recorded elsewhere in Wales, has also been noted. Peter Kirby recently investigated the invertebrate community at Glynea Pond and at the nearby Bulrush swamp. The most exciting find was Calligypona regi, a delphacid bug "which feeds on Grey Club-rush and for which this was only the second Welsh record, and Saldula opacula, a shorebug found in sheltered, vegetated saline conditions... which appears to be new to Wales," (Kirby, 1994). He also recorded the notable water beetle Enochrus bicolor from this saline pond, whilst another uncommon fenland water beetle Rhantus graph was recorded from the Typha beds. Local hoverflies at this site include Anasimyia contracts, A. lineata, Helophilus trivittatus, Lejogaster splendida and Tropidia scita. The decorative, yellow-flowered Tall Tutsan Hypericum x inodoratum is well-established and seeds itself freely in the area to the east of Glynea Pond, as well as in the footpath between the pond and the Typha-swamp. Unfortunately, the Bulrush swamp is to be infilled and used for development, though the brackish pond and its environs will not be affected.

The endearing little jumping spider Sitticus pubescens and the local spider-hunting wasp Dipogon variegatus have been recorded on the old walls of Glynea Farm outbuildings, and the local small ground beetle Acupalpus dorsalis recorded under stones. Located just outside the strict boundary of the study area, Dwarf Cherry Prunus cerasus grows in the hedgerows (at SS554994) along the footpath ascending the hill above the farm; the fruits are edible.

The wasteground behind the Texaco Chemical Works (SS557988) has populations of the local pillbug Armadillidium nasatum, the south-western millipede Leptoiulus belgicus and another rare millipede, Nopoiulus kochii; all these, particularly Nopoiulus, are associated with urban habitats in the Llanelli area. A 1986 visit by Botanical Society of the British Isles members documented the presence of swards of Rat's-tail Fescue, Field Speedwell Veronica agrestis, the hybrid toadflax Linaria x sepium, Prickly Sedge Carex muricata subsp. lamprocarpa and the hawkweed Hieracium salticola. The alien Beggarticks Bidens frondosa was recorded at the disturbed margin of the Bulrush-swamp, alongside the vehicular access track. The snail Monacha cantiana, a spreading species of wasteground habitats. has also been recently noted here; at present in Carmarthenshire, it is confined mostly to the industrial south-east. Other local species recorded are Viper's Bugloss Echium vulgare and Carline Thistle Carlina vulgaris. A large pond (known locally as the "Victoria Pond") and home to a pair of swans, once existed behind the Chemical Works but has been infilled. Likewise, the pond "at Yspitty" where the botanist David Hamer recorded Soft Hornwort Ceratophyllum submersum at the beginning of this century is long gone, now under a car park (SS559982).

Trees of the Llanelli Levels

It might be useful to describe the trees of the general area, for a quite distinctive assemblage is present, but which is likely to be modified by amenity plantings alongside the new A486 Trostre-Loughor link road and elsewhere. The most frequent large trees are:

1. English Elm Ulmus procera.

Following "Dutch Elm Disease" no mature specimens exist (though many old trees still survived when the writer visited the area in July 1973). Regrowths have reached c.30ft. The trees have a single dominant trunk and the foliage is a bright lime-green when it unfurls in late April, but turns a poor brown/yellow in autumn. Good examples can be seen in garden hedgerows at the base of Parc Gitto, SS537997. Richens (1985) has already remarked on the concentration of Ulmus procera in the Carmarthenshire coastal belt between Kidwelly (Cydweli) and Loughor (and also along the north Gower coast) and has speculated on its origin, noting a possible correspondence in the distribution of this elm and English-speaking areas of the Norman marcher lordships. What is known however, is that there were plantings of elms on lands owned or controlled by the Burgesses of Llanelli in the early 1820's, for in the "Account with the Said Burgesses [of Llanelly)" for September 14th 1821 there is an entry of payment to "Mr William Maul & Co." of £7 4s Od" for thorn plants and elm trees.." The present writer suspects that these were possibly used in enclosure plantings on land recently safeguarded from the sea on the former "Morva Mawr" common and adjacent areas. I am grateful to R.H. Davies of the Reference Section, Llanelli Public Library for drawing my attention to the 1821 elm purchase. Also in the early 1820's (Griffiths, 1989), a road was constructed over the [Great] Marsh (=Morfa Mawr), with a stone bridge - using rock from the nearby Penyfan quarry - over the "new Dafen river", the latter being the re¬routed Afon Dafen with the bridging point at c.SS518988. This straight new road is now called Trostre Road. The elms which, until recently grew along much of its length must then have been planted sometime after the beginning of the 1820's: some Dutch Elms still survive on the western side of the road by the railway bridge. However, the hypothesis that all the elms in the hedgerows around Llanelli owe their origin to plantings in the post-1820 period cannot be valid for, as is already noted, English Elm is frequent, both further west towards Kidwelly and on parts of north Gower, clearly well outside the jurisdiction of the Burgesses of Llanelli. Inspection of surviving hedgerows suggest that trees shown in the Trostre Road area, around Tir Morfa-fach, Penybryn and Bryn Carnarfon-Dyffryn farms on the 1877 1st edition. of the 6 inch Ordnance Survey map, would have been elms (both English and Dutch elm U. x hollandica).

The elms could also have been utilised for plantings outside the present day boundaries of the study area, as there is a pocket of English Elm in a relict hedgerow besides the Afon Lliedi near the base of Old Castle Road (SN502002) and elms still grew at the suggestively-named "Cae Elms", just north of Sandy Bridge (SN499088) until the lastones were bulldozed away in 1994 Both of these localities lie on Llanelli's coastal plain. One can reasonably speculate that the shoreline farms which once existed on Llanelli's southern and south-western flanks would also have had Ulmus in their hedges. Very recently, James and Morgan (1984) suggested that there did seem to be a correlation between the incidence of Ulmus procera and the survival of 'tracks and sea defences of medieval or early modern origin'. However. Linnard (1982) draws attention to the recommendation in Rowland's ldea Agriculturae (1764) of planting both Dutch and English Elm (and Black Poplar, see below) in "places exposed to the sea-winds". Evidence for nurseries selling such trees in south-west Wales is also provided by Linnard (loc.cit.) for example, Hinde's nursery at Felindre near Newcastle Emlyn which sold on average 400,000 plants a year in 1810-15! Trees for sale included (quoted from an inventory):

Wych elm, transplanted, 2-4ft:    13,000

English elm, transplanted, 4-7ft:    5,000

Black Poplars:    3,000

2.    Dutch Elm Ulmus x hollandica

This elm is scattered in local hedgerows along the old lane to Bryn Caernarvon (eg at SS543986) and along the road to Morfa at SS519993. There is a more fan-shaped profile to the regrowing trees than with the former species, with corky growths on the twigs. The leaves turn a bright yellow in late October. It may be that the incidence of Dutch Elms in certain hedgerows represents later plantings than that of English Elms; this is an untested hypothesis which requires further field-work and research.

3.    Hybrid Black Poplar Populus x canadensis

At least three taxa are present of the hybrid Black Poplars (P. x canadensis, the "Euamerican hybrids" between Populus nigra and P. deltoides).

The first is a tall, towering tree of asymmetric shape and comes into leaf very late. This is the Black Italian Poplar Populus x canadensis 'Serotina': it has reddish male catkins.

The second type is a female clone, has yellowish flowers, and is more compact and symmetrical. This is P. x canadensis 'Marilandica'.

The third is Populus x canadensis 'Robusta' is a male clone with a tall, straight and symmetrically branched bole, reddish leaves when unfurling in early spring. It has been planted (together with other poplar types) at the NE corner of the Trostre Works playing fields, SS534994.

4. Black Poplar Populus nigra subsp. betulifolia

A few saplings of the British native Black Poplar (of Gloucestershire stock) have been planted on Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust property near and to the immediate east of Tir Morfa-fawr farm. Also, rooted cuttings (of Gwent provenance, from Pysgodlyn Farm) will be planted elsewhere in the study area in the near future, and it is planned to propagate local stock of Llwynhendy .Black Poplars to form a "gene bank" of this rare tree. The exact location of these planted Black Poplars will be communicated to the BSBI Vice County Recorder. However, a recent surprise was the discovery of mature Black Poplars in the area. The localities of those discovered to date are listed below:

  1. near the entrance to the W.W.T.Centre, Penclacwydd-at SS533985, standing in a hedgerow adjacent to a P. x canadensis 'Serotina'.
  2. in another hedgerow just NE of "Y Felin", Erw-las, SS538994.
  3. at the edge of the farmyard at Penclacwydd Farm, SS539986.
  4. at the slightly higher ground between Parc Gitto and Cefncaeau SS536996.
  5. likewise on higher ground NE of Soar Chapel, SS542996.
  6. on higher ground overlooking Bynea SS544995; a group of four trees.
  7. four trees occur around the car park of the Halfway P.H. SN525004.
  8. lastly, two trees in a hedgerow beside the allotments at Penallt, SN518004.

These Llwynhendy-Bynea records follow the earlier detection by Dr George Hutchinson of two other Carmarthenshire localities for this species - alongside Old Castle Pond, Llanelli and Dyfatty Marsh, Burry Port. Mr A.O. Chater determined the identity of the Llwynhendy Black Poplars and confirmed G.H.'s provisional determination of the other two populations.

A noticeable feature of these Carmarthenshire Black Poplars is the abundance of young shoots, giving the tree a densely "twiggy" appearance; the trees also leaf a bright green in early May. A key feature for identification is the pubescent young twigs (ie they are covered with many small hairs - best seen with a hand lens). This feature is absent in the Euamerican hybrids. Milne-Redhead (1990) and Hobson (1991) both give interesting accounts of the status of the species in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

5.    Aspen Populus tremula

Prior to road widening a linear, suckering group of aspens grew along the minor road leading from the Berwick Roundabout to the WWT Centre (at SS539987-540987) and another clump still survives north of Dyffryn farm. There are also plantings at the WWT Centre.

6.    White Willow Salix alba var. vitellina (also known as the "Golden Willow")

This variety is represented by only a few trees with, for example, a prominent example immediately south of the Berwick Roundabout (SS542988) and an ageing group near the old Carnarvon Colliery stack (SS548985) north of Dyffryn. This tree, although long-established is not thought to be native in the British Isles and its origin is obscure (Meikle, 1984). It was known to be used for basketry work.

7.    Osier Salix viminalis

This species occurs sporadically. There seems not to have been any significant cultivation of osier in the study area (or any of the other basketry willows) as is recorded, for example, in the Gwendraeth Fawr valley (Davies & Miller, 1944).

8.    Crack Willow Salix fragilis.

Crack Willow is scattered across parts of the district, often in discrete groups. All examined are var. russelliana ("the Bedford Willow"), though var. furcata, with abruptly-pointed and often more coarsely-serrated, glossy leaves, grows near Morfa'r ynys farm (SS524991). There are some fine trees of S. fragilis var. russelliana along the unmetalled track at SS537990 and just east of lower Erw-las (SS539992). The young twigs of Salix fragilis are a yellowy-brown in winter whilst those of Salix alba are a dark purply-brown.

9. Other Species

Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and Blackthorn Prunus spinosa comprise most of the thickets with, of course, much regrowth of elm. Ash Fraxinus excelsior is only occasional but oak Quercus spp. occupies the higher, better-drained ground on the flanks of the study area. Curiously, Alder Alnus glutinosa is almost completely absent, with the exception of very recently planted trees. The only naturally-occurring tree of Alder is a youngster established on the sea wall east of Tir Morfa. Otherwise the species only starts to appear on the fringes of the study area, around Ffos-fach (SS555993) and Pencoed (SS561997).


I am indebted to R.H. Davies of Llanelli Public Library for drawing my attention to old photographs and other archive material, and to Dr George Hutchinson for making available his detailed research into the poplars and willows of the area. George together with Richard Pryce also kindly read and checked drafts of this text. Barry Stewart is also thanked for providing information, particularly on the ornithological interest of WWT Penclacwydd. The Curator at Penclacwydd - Dr. Geoff Proffitt kindly gave permission for inclusion of the latter data. Gratitude is also offered to Heather James of the Dyfed Archaeological Trust and Robert Protheroe-Jones of the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum for information and advice on various historical matters.

References and Bibliography

Anon. (1991). Nature Conservation and Physical Development on the Gwent Levels: The Current and Future Implications. Countryside Council for Wales, Cardiff.

Bowen, D.Q. (1980). The Llanelli Landscape: The Geology and Geomorphology of the country around Llanelli. Llanelli Borough Council.

Bowen, J.L. (1886). The History of Llanelly, Carmarthenshire. (copy held in the Reference Section, Llanelli Public Library, LC 3589).

Davies, B.L. & Miller, H. (1944). The Land of Britain: The Report of the Land Utilisation Survey of Britain (Ed. L.D. Stamp.). Part 39 - Carmarthenshire: 533.

Davies, R.H. (1985). Machynys - some extracts from its history. Llanelli Nats.Newsl. (Dec.1985): 11-12.

Fox, A.D. (1991). The Gadwall in Britain. British Wildlife 3: 2: 65-69.

Gibbons, D.N., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. (1993). The new atlas of breeding birds of Great Britain and lreland. BTO, SOC & IWC. T. & A.D. Poyser.

Griffiths, D. (1989). The Chartered Borough of Llanelli, 1913-1988. Llanelli Borough Council: 3-10.

Harding, P.T. & Sutton, S.L. (1985). Woodlice in Britain & lreland: Distribution and Habitat NERC / ITE.

Hobson, D.D. (1991). The status of Populus nigra L. in the Republic of Ireland. Watsonia 18: 303-305

Hopkins, T.J.E. (no date). History of Llwynhendy and District & Pioneers of the Coal lndustry. Typed manuscript held at Llanelli Public Library, reference section -LC1003).

Hubbard, C.E. (1984). Grasses. Penguin Books (Third Edition): 84-85.

Hutchinson, G. (1992). Training Plants in Carmarthenshire. BSBl Welsh Bulletin 53: (Spring 1992): 8-15. (1993). Field Meeting Report: South Llanelli, 5th Sept 1992. Llanelli Nats. Newsl. (Winter 1992-93): 46-47.

Ingram, G.C.S. & Salmon, H. Morrey. (1954). A Hand List of the Birds of Carmarthenshire West Wales Field Society.

James, H. (1993). Past Land-use Survey of the coastal area SE of Llanelli Dyfed Archaeological Trust Report to the Countryside Council for Wales.

James, H.J. & Morgan. D.E. (1994). Report on the history of past landuse and embankment of Talyclyn and Llangennech marshes and vegetational patterns and past landuse on Llanelli Marsh. Dyfed Archaeological Trust Report to the Countryside Council for Wales.

Joblin, J. (1990'). Poplars for wood production and amenity. Forestry Commission Bulletin No92.

Jones. C. (1985). Bird Notes in Llanelli Nats. Newsl. (Sept. 1985): 21.

Jones. Dick. (1983). The Country Life Guide to Spiders of Britain and Northern Europe..

Jones, F. (1987). Historic Carmarthenshire Homes and their Families. Carms. Antiq. Soc. and Dyfed County Council: 123-124.

Kirby, P. (1994). South Carmarthen Fens lnvertebrate Survey. 1993.. A report to the Countryside Council for Wales, March 1994.

Linnard, W. (1982). Welsh Woods and Forests: History and Utilization.. National Museum of Wales, Cardiff: 142

May. R.F. (1967). A list of the flowering plants and ferns of Carmarthenshire. W.W.N.T: 66.

McKibbin, E. (1994). What's in a Name. Llanelli Miscellany No. 8, 1993-94: 11-17. Meikle, R.D. (1984). Willows and Poplars. BSBI Handbook No.4.

Milne-Redhead, E. (1990). The BSBI Black Poplar Survey, 1973-88. Watsonia 18: 1-5.

Morgan, I.K. (1987). Field Meetings, 1986 - 3. Machynys, Carmarthen. 16th August. BSBl News. 46: 39-40, (Sept. 1987). (1990). Machynys Ponds - an important local wildlife site threatened by development. Llanelli Nats. News!., (Summer 1990): 3-4.

Pierce, G. (1944). Machen. Ditectif Geiriau. Western Mail, 19th December, 1994: 6. Prater, A.J. (1981). Estuary birds of Britain & lreland. Poyser, Calton.

Prys-Jones, R.P., Howells, R.J. & Kirby, J.S. (1989). The Abundance and Distribution of Wildfowl & Waders on the Burry lnlet.

Richens, R.H. (1985). The Elms of Wales. Forestry: 58 : 9-25.

Sage, B.L. (1969). Breeding Biology of the Coot.. British Birds. 62: 134-143.

Stewart, B. (1992). Notes on the Importance of the Penrhyngwyn - Penclacwydd area of the Burry Inlet for Waders and Wildfowl. Llanelli Nats. Newsl. 52:5-8, (Winter. 1991-92).

Symons, M.V. (1979). Coal Mining in the Llanelli Area (Vol. 1: 16th Century to 1829). Llanelli Borough Council.

Tyler, S. in Gibbons, D.W. et al. (1993). The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and lreland, 1988-91. BTO, SOC, IWC: 286-287.


A list of Salix species at WWT Penclacwydd prepared by Barry Stewart

AS = Asian Pen, BG = Butterfly Garden, CP = Car Park, EN = Entrance Area, EU = European Pen, IS = Island Pen, MH = Marsh Hide Approach, NU = Nursery, SA = South American Pen, TU = Tundra Pen.

S. adenophila - AS as cuttings, all may be dead.

S. aegyptiaca - EN, MH, NU.

S. alba var. vitellina - commonly planted around the grounds. 1991/2 saw much die back with a good number of trees dying, this may have been caused by defoliation by saw-fly larvae over the previous two to three years. Vitellina was preferred by the saw-flies with S.a. var. chermesina remaining untouched until all the vitellina leaves had been eaten. Unlike chermesina and the native alba, vitellina has no hairs covering its leaves, which is presumably the reason it is selected by the saw-fly.

S. alba var. citellina 'Pendula' syn S. x chrysocoma - 5 or 6 in EU.

S. alba var. chermesina - several good stands.

S. 'american mackay' - nursery.

S. babylonica - One true 'Weeping Willow' in the SA.

S. caprea - commonly planted around the centre, all plants originate from Wyevale G.C. and are clearly not true caprea.

S. cinerea ssp. oelifolia - frequent in ditches and hedges.

S. daphnoides - CP, IS.

S. daphnoides 'Oxford Violet' - MH, TU, AS.

S. elaeagnos - commonly planted in lower area of grounds.

S. fragilis - native, well established trees occur. Many of those planted from Wyevale stock have died, possibly as a result of saw-fly larvae attacks and/or stock being of a weak non-coastal strain.

S. gigantica aquatica - SAm. one plant.

S. gracilistyla - nursery area.

S. hibernica - BG.

S. hookerana - nursery area.

S. hutchinsoni nigricans - nursery.

S. irrorata - TU, cuttings, prob. all dead.

S. kinuyanagi - HM, AS.

S. magnifica - nursery.

S. matsudana 'tortuosa' - several in EU pen.

S. x 'melanostachys' - nursery area, 1 plant.

S. myasotifolia - nursery.

S. purpurea - c100 planted around the grounds.

S. purpurea 'howki' - MH.

S. repens argentea - MH.

S. secalinensis 'Sekka' - One strong plant in Curator's garden. S. viminalis - Commonly planted.

Recent amenity plantings around Machynys Pond include Salix x calodendron, S. x sepulchralis and S repens var. argentea. A few Salix pentandra and S. triandra, together with a host of other decorative trees have also been planted on the low 'hill' around the remnant wall of Machynys House.