Since this is my patch I often walk from home to the beach at Cwm Colhuw. The route I take is the same as far as the kissing gate on the beach road, from here I may go through the Nature Reserve or across the fields or down the road. The Nature Reserve offers a number of different paths but all have an interesting mix of flora depending on the time of year. August, September and January feature in this travelogue.
The August trip took me along the path from home and behind the schools. Brambles in flower and fruit, some ripe, black and juicy, were beside the path. Red berries of the Lords and Ladies shot up through the Ivy. Hedge Woundwort and Enchanter’s -Nightshade were also flowering in the shade. Broadleaf Willowherb was flowering between the cracks in the walls and fluffy seed-heads of Ragwort and Creeping Thistle were blowing on the wind in the fields by the roadside. Curled Dock, Greater Plantain, Sea Beet and Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa) were growing in good numbers besides the path through the fields. Traveller’s Joy was scrambling over the trees and bushes. Red berries of Hawthorn punctuated the green and white vegetation as it flowed down the steep sides of the valley. Here and there were patches of Elderberries with some green berries and some deep glossy purple ripening berries. Along the tarmac path Black Mustard, with some flowers but loads of knobbly seed pods, seed-heads of Thistle, Giant Hogweed, Teasel and Great Willowherb vied for space. There were also patches of Hedge Woundwort and Greater Burdock, both in flower, sprinkled amongst the dead and dying; or should I say the plants that were at their most productive weredispersing their productivity into the air. These skeletal plants with various seed arrangements were just as pleasing to the eye as they were in their full glorious flowering period. Hedge Bindweed was also present, climbing through and over the gaunt stems, almost strangling the plants in their last throes of development.
At the beach I did a bit of rock pooling and people watching. The rock pools were full of Dulce (Palmaria palmata), Pepper Dulce (Osmundea pinnatifida), Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca) and some Beadlet Anemone (Actinia equina). In between layers of the rocks Common Limpets (Patella vulgate) could be seen congregating in long lines.
Retracing my steps back through the fields and up Ham Lane I noticed the beautiful markings of the bark of some of the trees; the grey and russet cracked bark with pale irregular patches of the Sycamores; the grey, green almost striped bark, looking quite reptilian like in character, of the Ashes. A few Squirrels were darting up the trunks and along the branches. Also in the wood, next to the road, were Hazel trees with clusters of nuts and Oak trees with acorns. Japanese Knotweed, in flower and Himalayan Balsam, with both flowers and projectile seed pods, were creeping in amongst the mixed planting of trees.
Just before I arrived home I passed a house with a large patch of Lavender (Lavendula augustifolia) and Bowles Mauve Wallflower ( Erysimum linifolium).They were covered with bees and butterflies, Small Tortoiseshells and Gatekeepers.
The September trip again took me along the path from home and behind the schools. The Field Maples were starting to produce their autumnal red colour and the Rowans were dripping with vibrant red clusters of berries. The path seemed very green and tunnel like today with Ivy sprawling everywhere. The Wayfaring Trees were also heavily adorned with red berries and hung like a canopy over the path. Some trees had already shed their leaves and a Pigeon was resting among the bare branches overhead. The Birch leaves were also colouring yellow, orange and russet. The Horse chestnut trees, although having the same leaf colouration as the Beeches, seemed to look diseased and patchy with all three colours on the same leaf.
The wall still supported the Broadleaf Willowherb but also some Ivy-leaved Toadflax. The Ragwort in the field had a few visiting Tortoiseshells. After passing the kissing gate I entered the Cwm Colhuw Reserve and walked up the incline under the trees. Again red spikes of Lords and Ladies could be seen between the Bracken and Brambles. A Speckled Wood was sunning itself on Black Bryony and Bracken. Breaking out from under the tree canopy I was confronted with a meadow whose margins were covered with Gorse and Spear Thistles, the majority of which were browning and topped with fluffy seed-heads. A Goldfinch was perched upon one and stocking up with food for the winter. Those still in flower were attracting the bees. Moles were quite active in the field as there was a number of molehills dotted about.
I passed the Castle Ditches, mentioned in my account on Cwm Colhuw Nature Reserve previously, then took the path back into the reserve instead of the path along the cliff. This area was quite dark and mysterious with a damp earthy smell. The footing was a little soft and slippery but the path was clear as there were obvious signs that the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales volunteers had been out with their clippers and machetes. In the shade were Hedge Woundwort , still in flower, tall stalks of Agrimony with whorls of spiky seed-heads, spidery seed-heads of Traveller’s Joy, Red Campion and pale flowering Wild Basil (Clinopodium vulgare). Also in the shade were ferns: Hart’s Tongue and Male Ferns. Both displayed brown seeds or sori on the undersides of their fronds, quite picturesque. Straight lines with a few splodges were characteristic of the Hart’s Tongue while the Male Fern exhibited almost spherical, possibly “C” shaped sori ,six or eight of them in double lines on each leaflet. These sori are spore-producing structures.
The route I took eventually joined the cliff path near the bottom of the cliff and then descended further into the car park. I then returned home via the road. Along here were some vibrant orange fruiting heads of Stinking Iris: round nodules like peas in a pod but orange.
Home again, an early night for me as I intend to get up at 3 am to watch the lunar eclipse.
The January trip again took me along my usual path behind the schools. The path has very wet patches in places but passable. My sturdy walking boots are protecting my feet from the mud. Life is returning green; shoots are emerging. The Lords and Ladies are starting their voyage once again to maturity. Crops are beginning to poke through the brown earth in the fields over the stream and parallel to the path. The entwining Ivy still clothes the tree trunks like underwear, polka dots of black berries often decorating them. The trees themselves are awaiting the rapid renewal of their spring haute couture leaves. In fact some are producing signs of life with their buds bursting and displaying hints of their new coats while others are still in the grip of their winter dead brown branches. Limbs reaching out above the path allow the glorious blue sky and sunshine to penetrate the canopy and give a little warmth to this winter day. Up in the branches of an Alder tree is a Goldfinch preening itself and enjoying some of the seeds still hanging there. The seeds look like dried strawberries but brown and a little rounder. Catkins are also adorning the branches of a Hazel. The Wayfaring Trees are still sporting red berries and the leaves are green and yellow. I am not sure if they were unsure of the season or are just displaying their usual attire. The prickly dried seed -heads of the thistles make a lovely contrast against the blue sky. Along the banks of the stream vibrant green leaves of the up-and-coming Celandines swarm down to the water.
On the roadside by the Welsh estate is a Cherry tree with its branches reaching up to the sky and on its trunk are two “eyes” watching every move I make. It is really very eerie. The walls down Mill Lay Lane are covered with Ivy but Celandines, Herb Robert and Ivy-leaved Toadflax are nudging through the stones. An old stump is festooned with Ivy but the most remarkable sight is the cascades of white and brown oyster shaped fungus which is also covering it. The lemon flower heads contrasting with the verdant green leaves of the Alexanders are lined up all along the wall of the lower end of Mill Lay Lane. The Sheep are sharing their field with lots of Magpies which are grubbing in the grass.
I have only walked as far as the end of Mill Lay Lane when the glorious blue sky has ominously disappeared. Dark clouds, greyness and lack of warmth assault me. I fear that rain will soon follow and I have not reached the beach, with certain shelter, yet. Two magpies perch high in a tree watching the gradual encroachment of the dark clouds.
Across the road and into the valley of Cwm Colhuw I come face to face with a herd of black and white cows. I think they have gorgeous eyes. Well they watch me intensely with those eyes until I have safely passed them and they are able to continue with their purposeful grazing. Oh the terrain is getting really claggier now. My feet are sticking in the mud and getting very heavy.
The steep sides of the valley which were covered with Traveller’s Joy, and the red berries of Hawthorn and the purple berries of Elder punctuating the green and white vegetation in August, have disappeared. Now beige, brown tendrils and branches with hints of green Ivy are everywhere. Wait a minute what is that? A tree whose branches look like bright orange flames suddenly shoots out of the contorted beige mass. It is a Dogwood – how lovely – colour and life appear when all around it looks dead. Exiting the field, tricky because of the mud around the kissing gate, I reach the tarmac path. Along here seed-heads of Thistle, Giant Hogweed, Teasel and Great Willowherb are still in evidence. I do not have the pleasure of perusing the area on my way to the beach as the heavens open. It is as if a whole tank of water has been poured on top of me. The sudden arrival of the rain, which has been threatening of sometime, has decided not to wait any longer and deposits its load all in one go, stinging my face like needles. The wind swirls about me with such power that it almost knocks me off my feet. I run as fast as I can to the beach cafe, which isn’t that fast, a quick walk really. I am not the only one caught out by the weather today. The lens of my camera mists up as I try to take photos of the rushing river water.
The motto is be prepared for everything. On my long walks I am usually well kitted out. The weather is not abating, so I’ll make a phone call to my husband. He duly arrives in his great red charger. So it is homeward bound for me where warmth and dryness await.