As I mentioned at the beginning of this, shall we call it a, Travelogue, I had joined the Valeway walkers. One of their many walks included the Aberthaw Nature Reserve, so I accompanied them on an easy one and a half hour morning ramble. The 303 bus travels from Llantwit Major to Barry through Aberthaw, so that’s the bus for me. It stops at the Blue Anchor pub. If you remember, my daughter and I had walked the Fontygary to Gileston stretch of the Coastal Path and I commented upon the fact that Orchids were growing in the Nature Reserve and that I would return to the area sometime to photograph them. My opportunity had arrived and I hoped that my visit would prove fruitful. I was not disappointed. There were many patches of hybrid (Dacylorhiza fuchsia x praetermissa), Common Spotted (Dactylorhiza fuchsii ), Southern Marsh, (Dactylorhiza maculata ) and Pyramidal Orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis ).
There was plenty of pleasant chatter as we wandered around the semi-freshwater lagoon, the old Lime works and back towards the new Cement works past a small manmade pond and through the trees. As we walked we passed scary signs telling us to “Beware of SNAKES”. The Sloe bushes (Prunus spinosa) were beginning to fruit and on either sides of the paths there was a profusion of Oxeye daises (Leucanthemum vulgare) its prominent yellow central disc surrounded by a ring of pure white ray florets. Unlike the frothy confection that was the earlier Cow Parsley, the Oxeye daisies were a much brighter white spectacle looking like dabs of paint spread with a palette knife. The Orchids are dotted about in little pockets of vegetation. There are Common Blue (Polyommatus Icarus)and Small Skippers (Thymelicus sylvestris) flitting about in the sun, while in the shade of the woods are Speckled Woods (Pararge aegeria). A cobweb in the grass has caught the dew and sparkles like jewels in the sunshine. The varieties of grasses are growing lushly, all intermingling with one another and Common Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is creeping through them, its tendrils snaking up their stems. Horsetails (Equisetum arvense) are also making an appearance.
As we approach the lagoon the Reeds and Thistles are growing thickly on the banks. Two Mute Swans, a flock of Canada Geese and some Mallards and Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula)were enjoying the smooth waters of the lagoon. A female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) was ushering her youngsters in among the reeds. The Canada Geese (Branta Canadensis) all of a sudden took flight and I managed to get some magnificent shots of the skein circling over the lagoon and towards the seashore. At the lagoon edge a multitude of Larvae were swimming over and in the muddy bottom.
The hill to the right of the lagoon was festooned with Orchids: quite a sight. These were mostly Southern Marsh Orchids in pale and darker pink shades. On closer inspection a Five-spot Burnet moth (Zygaena trifolii) is sipping nectar from one of the Orchids.
Common Spotted (Dactylorhiza fuchsii ), and Pyramidal Orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis ) accompany the Southern Marsh Orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata ) along the path beside the sea wall. The Red Valerian has also burst into flower here. Some Rooks were parading along the path. A few Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus) are sitting in the Hawthorn bushes, which are setting their berries. Also a Buzzard and some Sea Gulls are competing for air space above the old Lime kilns.
Traversing the other side of the lagoon, the Dog Roses, both pink and white, and Wild Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum ) were in full flower exuding a heavenly scent ; insects flitting among the blooms and partaking of their lovely nectar. Butterflies were sunning themselves upon the vegetation: Speckled Woods (Pararge aegeria), Common Blues, Large Whites and Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta). Near the Limekilns the Wild Cherry trees (Prunus avium) were starting to bear fruit; a few were actually turning red. The Teasels were growing ever higher, almost reaching the top of my head. The whorls of leaves were trapping the rain water, which was shimmering in the sunlight.
At the small pond yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus) and purple Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica) were in flower and a single White Water Lily (Nymphaea alba) was gracing the surface of the water. Blue Dragonflies (Anisoptera species) were hovering above and around the pond which contained Carp (Cyprinus carpio) and I think Trout (Salmo trutta), as I saw flashes of Orange and Brown. Hidden in the Clover by the side of the path was a day time flying moth, a Companion Burnet (Euclidia glyphica ). Almost overlooked was a single brown dead-looking plant, a Common Broomrape (Orobanche minor).
On the return journey we were in dappled shade, a tree lined path which took us under a disused railway bridge. Under the canopy of leaves were masses of ferns, Hart’s Tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium) and Male Ferns (Dryopteris felix-mas), flowering Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) bushes and some Stinking Irises (Iris foetidissima). The light piercing through the trees set them off a treat. I took some gorgeous atmospheric photographs of them.
As is usual with these outings, some of the ramblers would then partake of a little beverage at a local hostelry, in this case the Blue Anchor in Aberthaw. Another delightful walk and photo shoot completed. Back on the bus and home.
I will return to the Aberthaw Nature Reserve from time to time, in order to observe the changing seasons together with its changing flora and fauna.
Further information on the Nature Reserve can be found on the walk Fontygary to Gileston.
Many Thanks to Valeways, especially Sylvia who led the walk.