Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - September 2007 - No 73
Ian Morgan

Like many local people, I am amazed how quickly the landscape at Machynys has changed over the last forty years or so.  When I first went down there in the 1960s, it was (to me) a confusing area of enormous tinplate and steel works, a maize of railway tracks and docks with small boats. Beyond, seawards and past the terraced houses, there was a soccer pitch (and later an unofficial gipsy camp) and finally, the gorsey thickets and their nesting linnets on the shingle spit at Penrhyngwyn which was my goal, (known locally as the `Butts`, because of the shooting butts). The area was also known to local people as the `Bullworks`, a corruption of `bulwarks`, the sea wall.  Until the early 1980s, the shingle spit was larger, extending north-westwards into low slag cliffs (upon which I once saw a pristine spring-passage Black Redstart).

Aerial photo of Machynys and Bwlch-y-Gwynt before the redevelopment of the area.To enter Machynys by car in the 1980s you had to either take the `Cocklers` Road` that skirted the Burry Extension Tinplate Works on its western side and Machynys Pond on the other, or take a track that followed the edge of `The Channel`, then turning at almost right-angles at its seaward end, to go in a south-easterly direction. The old tinplate works, which were demolished in the early 1990s, housed a large colony of swifts in summer, and just inland of it, beyond a brick wall was a storage pond with scarce water snails and dragonflies.

Unless I was in a rush and wanted to reach Penrhyngwyn quickly, I would park near the Machynys Foundary (a more modern building, which was situated approximately at the present-day entrance to the new golf course) and walk across the horse-grazed pastures to the eastern edge of Machynys Ponds and explore this area with its waterlogged hollows holding  `good` plants such as Marestail Hippuris vulgaris and water-crowfoots Ranunculus spp.  By the early 1980s, when I personally `re-discovered` the area for myself, most of the industrial buildings had been knocked down, as had the hilltop terraced houses and the historical Machynys Farm.  There was a gipsy camp by the south-west margin of the pond and beyond a rubbish dump of sorts – I suspect entirely `unofficial` - but I found it interesting because of the weeds and dumped garden plants; indeed it was deemed deserving of a BSBI field meeting to record the flora in 1986.  The bluff on which Machynys Farm stood was planted with trees in the 1990s and sometimes when walking past these coastal spinnies, I would unsuccessfully search them for something exciting, such as a Yellow-browed Warbler, within the groups of Chiffchaffs or other passage birds.  Much of this young woodland was cleared for expensive housing only a few years later.

Between the ponds and Penrhyngwyn, there were horse-grazed fields, divided by species-poor hedgerows (mostly Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna and Blackthorn Prunus spinosus, I recall, with English Elm Ulmus procera in parts). These were late enclosure hedgerows, planted when the saltmarshes were `reclaimed` from the sea in the early 1880s.  Just behind and west of Penrhyngwyn, I remember a small, sandy area. The higher bluff of Machynys was regularly grazed by piebald gipsy horses and, full of skylarks, was a favourite walking route for the older generation of Morfa and Seaside residents.  Both the skylarks and the local people have now, in a sense, been squeezed out by the recent developments.

The ponds at Machynys were enlarged in the late 1980s and early 1990s and a small marsh, with Royal Fern Osmunda regalis and Variegated Horsetail Equisetum variegatum was lost in the process.  About this time too, some unwise person put Fringed Water-lily Nymphoides peltata into the pond, which it rapidly colonised: there is little that can realistically be done to control this attractive plant and we now just have to live with it.  At least the bumble-bees love it!

Northwards, `The Channel` has now been enclosed and called `Delta Lakes` – a name totally inappropriate to the area.  Having said that, I have been personally wrong in calling it `Nevill`s Dock` (which was actually located just to the north of it).  The waste ground to the immediate north and south of this water body have seen several Llanelli Naturalists` or BSBI field meetings and many interesting ruderal or alien species have been found.  Much of this area is now due for imminent development so it is worth trying to remember its transient human and wildlife communities before they are all gone.  We have to remember though, that wildlife is already making a home on and in the new golf course ponds and other water bodies and the general public are now experiencing the fantastic` levels landscape` (albeit much modified) and the Burry Inlet more than they perhaps could have appreciated in the past.

Myself, I still prefer the solitude of the old, unpretentious Machynys though!

Hutchinson, G.  (1993).  Field Meeting Report: South Llanelli, 5th Sept. 1992.  Llanelli Nats. Newsl. 54: 46-47.

Hutchinson, G. (2001).  Field Meeting Report: Machynys, 5th May 2001. Llanelli Nats. Newsl67: 18-19.

Morgan, I.K.  (1987).  Field Meetings 1986:  Machynys, Carmarthen. 16th August.  BSBI News. 46: 39-40.