early purple orchid, Gwent Wildlife Trust, Hebridean sheep, Monmouth, Pentwyn Farm, Wyeswood Common
Sometimes beauty can be found in the simplest of things. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I know not everyone will agree that a field of dandelions is beautiful but the scene we came across the other evening took my breath away. We took a trip up to a local meadow. I know what you’re thinking, ‘haven’t you just written a post about how you suffer from hay fever and how you and meadows are not a good combination?’ Yes, you’re right but the weather has been so beautiful here with long, warm, balmy evenings that are such a rarity in this country. The last thing I want to do is sit indoors when I could be outside watching the sun set over the Monmouthshire hills.
A couple of miles outside the town of Monmouth is one of Gwent Wildlife Trust’s reserves. Pentwyn Farm was purchased by the Trust in the nineties and since then work has been done to make this a haven for wildlife. Based on a traditional, small farm with a cottage, 13th century barn, stone stiles and dry stone walling separating the fields, it is particularly important for its unimproved hay meadows.
From spring right through into summer the fields are full of beautiful wildflowers, creating a sight that is now rare in the countryside. No chemicals have been used on this land for over 20 years now and they are maintained using traditional methods. In 2009 a flock of Hebridean sheep was introduced to the site to graze the land, an important part of managing this sort of meadow, helping to control the stronger grasses and coarse shrubby growth that, given the opportunity, will out-compete the more delicate grasses and wildflowers. Grazing can also aid seed distribution and ultimately improve the diversity of the meadow, allowing many more species to flourish.
The other evening the fields were rich with meadow buttercups, red clover, ribwort plantain and bird’s foot trefoil. These meadows are particularly important for the species of orchids that now grow here. We managed to see some early purple orchids hidden amongst the grasses. Later in the year you can see ox-eye daisies, eye bright and numerous orchids, including the common twayblade, the green-winged and the common spotted.
As you can imagine, a place like this is the perfect home for wildlife. We were there as the evening bird chorus was under way, birds singing as if their lungs would burst. One bird was so loud, it was incredible that the sound could come from such a tiny creature. The endangered dormouse has established itself amongst the hedgerows and trees feasting on hazelnuts and berries and barn owls swoop over the fields seeking out mice and voles.
Not content with the 40 acres of Pentwyn Farm, Gwent Wildlife recently purchased adjoining farmland of 104 acres. This land had been farmed for dairy production, with a monoculture of rye grass but the ambitious plan is to return it, too to species rich meadows; to plant trees and hedgerows and join up the smaller pockets of old grassland creating wildlife corridors, which are so important for creatures like the dormouse.
This land, known as Wyeswood Common, was the last field we walked through. Wellyman had gone off, saying he’d spotted some ox-eye daisies, they were, in fact, dandelions and a whole field of them, hundreds of them that had gone to seed. In the soft light of the sunset they glistened and their white seed-heads looked like halos. It was quite a spectacular sight, made even more special by the realisation, as we watched and the breeze carried away the seeds, that this moment would be fleeting.
Already there are signs that the Trust’s plans are working, with the semi-parasitic yellow rattle visible in amongst the grass. This plant gains some of its nutrients from the roots of other plants, in this case the strong grasses around it. By weakening these plants, yellow rattle allows other species to establish themselves and is one of the first steps towards bringing diversity back to agricultural land.
I may have paid for it with eyes that puffed up so much I thought I might not be able to see in the morning (I’ve since bought some eye-drops) but this is truly an idyllic place, I just need to remember the tissues next time.
Sounds a wonderful place to be in an evening and it’s good that all the Wildlife Trusts are doing such good work in their respective counties. Hope you didn’t suffer too much later, it must have been worth it!
Hi Pauline, The wildlife trusts do great work. I like how they are getting on with things. So many organisations seem to talk a lot about plans and ideas but never seem to do anything. It was worth it and fortunately feeling much better now.
glad you’re not letting the hay fever spoil your enjoyment of the countryside. Beautiful place. Christina
Hi Christina, I try not to let it get in the way. Although it was a little alarming to feel my eyes puffing up so much. Eye drops have done the trick though, so feeling much better.
I’ll pass on the dandelions, but am thrilled to see an early purple orchid and bird’s foot trefoil. I’ve never seen them before, and they are truly beautiful. Thank you for the pictures. Hope you’re feeling better.
Hi Judy, Thank you, yes I’m feeling better after the purchase of eye drops, they’ve made a huge difference. I know dandelions are a pain in the garden. They’re just so difficult to get rid of. The wild flowers are beautiful aren’t they? I find orchids fascinating.
Donna@Gardens Eye View said:
what a lovely place…I am having to put cold compresses on my eyes from allergies right now but I refuse to not enjoy the outdoors…
Hi Donna, Just purchased some eyedrops which are wonderous. No more sore, itchy, puffy eyes. Yey!! Can you get hold of opticrom? I know what you mean I flatly refuse to give into my allergy. It’s summer and I will enjoy the outdoors.
David Marsden said:
I cycled across northern Germany a couple of years ago, WW and saw what I first thought was a field of rape in the distance but on getting closer realised was a field smothered in dandelions. Never seen the like – quite beautiful. I keep on meaning to introduce yellow rattle into the Priory meadow – one of those jobs on the back burner. Looks like a fine place – Pentwyn Farm. Dave
Hi Dave, I think when you get even a weed like dandelions en masse there is something beautiful about it. We lived in Germany for a while and the fields around us were full of cabbage. There was a general cabbagey whiff to the place. Think I would have preferred fields of dandelions. Wouldn’t feel the same if that field was to be my garden, obviously. That prospect might make even me turn to glyphosate. Yellow rattle does seem a wonderous plant in terms of meadows.
Miss Lady Bug said:
Wow, really, sounds so lovely! Like a bit of heaven…
Hi Miss Lady Bug, Loving the name. It really is a beautiful place. The gorgeous weather helped as well though.
It’s heartening to hear how well both the wildlife and the wild flowers are doing. We’re in such danger of losing such treasures.
Hi Jo, It’s good to know there are some people and organisations out there protecting our natural world.
Great to hear of the Wildlife Trust buying that large area. The Dandelions do look amazing. Hope your eyes are better now…poor you…surely worth it though. There is the saying “a sight for sore eyes”…..
Hi Bridget, I think the work my local wildlife trust is doing is brilliant. Rather than talking about stuff they are actually getting on and doing it. It’s just a shame other organisations aren’t as proactive. It was worth it especially once I bought some eyedrops which took away the swelling which was quite alarming.
Dandelions are one of my problem weeds on my allotment but I love that photo that you have taken of the seedhead, it really is spectacular when you see it like that, the simplicity of it.
I hope you are not suffering too much with the hayfever.
Hi Annie, Dandelions are a real pain when they grow in the garden or on the plot. They’re just so difficult to get rid of. However, the seedheads are very beautiful. Bought some eye drops the other day which make an incredible difference.
What a fabulous place, well worth the puffy eyes afterwards, miserable though hayfever is. And the dandelions are magical in that light.
Glorious. Dandelions drive me mad in our garden (though I love to photograph them too, how contrary I can be!). I must confess that elsewhere I think they look beautiful when first the golden blooms en masse light up an area of grass, and then when their seedheads form and they glow like a carpet of lightbulbs in low light… splendid. Sounds like a lovely place to visit.
who needs gardens when there are meadows. truly a sight for sore eyes in your case
I read this post then obviously forgot to comment! A walk in a reserve like this is always worthwhile, and I’ve recently dug a old native wild flowers book out to have a reread. xx
Flighty, I’m getting quite addicted to our beautiful little wildflowers. Apparently they have eyebright at the same reserve and I’ve never seen this plant before. So I plan to go back in a few weeks time, hopefully it’ll be flowering by then.WW
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