The road of faeries, sprites and goblins …

If you go down to our woods today, or any day, you can be sure it will be full of magic and mystery!

Sian Bowi (professional photographer and friend) visited in early March and captured some wonderful images. I am very lucky to be able to share Sian’s photographs with you.

The first picture, according to another friend, Gil …

“… be the road of faeries, sprites and goblins and the portal to ancient myths, legends and times forgot, but, be warned, ’tis also the domain of the Dark Weinci. Pass at thou’st peril. (‘weinci is Welsh for weasel)”

We are sure he is right and that if we find the time to linger long enough we could find dragons here or be transported back to the time of the Mabinogion

The road of faeries, sprites and goblins

© COPYRIGHT NOTICE All rights of my work are reserved to © Siân Bowi 2013 and may not be reproduced, copied, edited, published, transmitted or uploaded in any way without my written permission.

Further along the road you find our Ent. We are almost certain this is where the faeries, sprites, goblins and young dragons play and where Moomins come for holidays …

Under our Ent

Canghennau Cwm Tŷ Hen © COPYRIGHT NOTICE All rights of my work are reserved to © Siân Bowi 2013 and may not be reproduced, copied, edited, published, transmitted or uploaded in any way without my written permission.

To see more of Sian’s beautiful work check out Sian Bowi’s flickr photostream or her website

Thank you Sian for allowing us to share these photos here. xx

Celtic rainforest

Here is a sneak preview of a short digital story Craig put together for a local project…

… and here is the transcript.

Most people have heard of the tropical rainforests that, despite decades of logging, still cover vast swaths of the earth. Fewer people have heard of the much rarer coniferous and broadleaf temperate rainforests that only occur in coastal oceanic-moist climates with an annual precipitation of over 1400mm and a mean annual temperature is between 4 and 12 °C.

A subset of the temperate rainforest is the even rarer celtic rainforest specific to the celtic nations of the Atlantic seaboard area of Europe, and of which Wales has some of the best examples.

It is in remnant form because most of Wales has been farmed for millennium. While we lament, and rightly so, the destruction of the tropical rainforests we must remember that the picturesque patchwork landscape of sheep and cattle farms, hay meadows and coniferous woodland in our beautiful corner of the world is man-made and left to its own devices would revert to the same oak forest ecosystem that colonised the land after the end of the last ice age.

Today the celtic rainforest is found in the land that is too difficult to farm – at the bottom of the deep steep valleys surrounding river tributaries. The welsh for valley – Cwm – is reflected in place names such as Cwm Morgan and here good examples of celtic rainforest can be found. Writing in ‘The Living Landscape‘ author Patrick Whitefield captures the ambiance of these woodlands:

“These valley woods are often dense and jungly. Few sounds from the outside world reach you when you are walking in them and all you can see is woodland. Civilisation can feel far away. Even though you are you know there’s a bare, ordered fieldscape above you on all sides, somehow it feels a bit improbable.”

Our tree Ent

Our tree Ent by the river in the Celtic Rainforest

Indeed it does. Mosses, liverworts, lichens and filmy ferns abound in the celtic rainforest – signs of clean, unpolluted, moisture laden air. Before the industrial revolution, most old welsh trees would have grown to look like one of Tolkien’s Ents and as we leave the hydrocarbon age behind, maybe, they will again.

Spring wild plant survey 2012

Before we do anything on our land, I want to make sure we know where we are starting from. We will be conducting lots of surveys and feeding our results into any national/international surveys when we can. One such survey is the Wildflower Count organised by Plantlife. It’s actually more of a plant survey rather than just flowers, which is brilliant.

The Plantlife team were totally cool about me doing the “count” on our land (rather than a randomly assigned square somewhere close to our home) and sent me a surveyor pack. With the square decided it was just a matter of setting a date and brushing up on my plant identification skills. I wanted to involve the local community and new friends in the count, so invited people on our Forest Garden facebook page.

Temperate woodland in Spring

We started the survey in the wood near the river

The where’s the path? website is a great tool for mapping the 1km wildflower walk. Our path took us from the very bottom of the land near the river (in the wood) through grassland to the very top; in all a climb of 100 metres! I decided we should walk it in this direction to give everyone a chance to marvel at the beautiful wildflowers while catching their breath! The diversity of landscape also means that we will be conducting the survey a few times to catch the changing of the seasons.

April the 15th arrived and we couldn’t have wished for a better day. It was sunny with a only a small threat of rain – which didn’t arrive. The plant hunting crew were raring to go and, armed with our Reader’s Digest Nature lovers Library of native wild flowers and trees and shrubs of Britain books (pretty much everyone brought one along – it seems it is the preferred book!), we set off.

In total we identified 62 different plants ranging from the very familiar Primrose to a few none of us could identify including the Moschatel and Common twyblade orchid – the fantastic people on i-spot helped identify those (and confirm a few more). Hint: if you are doing to do a survey – take your camera! Most of the plants were in the woodland. I wonder how much that will change over the next surveys … speaking of which, we intend to do the next on on the 10th of June. Follow us on facebook or contact us if you’d like us to remind you closer to the time.

Thank you to everyone that made the day so lovely, hope to see you next time.

Here are just a few of the photos from the day …

Still exploring

We have about 32 acres here, divided up into lots of parcels the largest being around 11 acres. In the lush green summer some parts of the land seemed totally inaccessible, but as the leaves dropped and plants died back for winter those undiscovered places began to reveal their secret entrances.

We hadn’t explored much of the lower western edge of our land. It was a job that needed to be doing, not least because our neighbour keeps animals and we had no idea what state the fencing is in down there. A wall of brambles defend the bottom of Sunshine Meadow, that combined with the land becoming a lot steeper from then on down, makes access to the river on this side a prickly challenge.

Looking East

South-facing slope to the left, hazel coppice to the right. Lovely flat (if overgrown) grassland straight ahead

Armed as ever with loppers we cut our way through, watching the ground at every foot step to avoid the few rabbit holes along our new path. Stooping under the fallen branches and guarding trees at the bottom (possibly bird cherries) we found a wonderfully calm oasis shielded to the south by historically coppiced hazel and to the north by the slope we had just descended. A long, narrow, east-west strip of grass, probably the flattest bit of land we have found! Our imaginations ran wild, what a beautiful tranquil place, even the sound of the river is distant here, and what an amazing south-facing slope to work with. This, I think, is where I would like to spend my holidays! Looking closer at the slope, succession from grassland is in full pace, young ash whips are meters above the protecting brambles on the slope, what possibilities!

Bracken down by the river

Entrance into the bracken covered field down by the river, looking south towards our neighbours wood

Pressing on, as we had one other field to visit along this edge of our land, we continued our path south towards the river. Once on half-welly walk we found a gap in the trees that we hadn’t seen before, the bracken jungle in the field below had hidden it from view in the Summer. Now the rust red fronds beckoned us in. What a treat! Another flat meadow! This one edged to the south by the river, then beyond that a steep north-facing wooded slope and to the east, along the river, one can just about see the Ent. The air is so magically clean and fresh down here. We were speachless, we are so lucky to have so many different micro-climates on the land.

What to do with this piece? Well, currently Craig is thinking that a couple of pigs would do a brilliant job of clearing the bracken. We know that the previous farmer used to keep pigs down here, indeed, we occasionally find some of the electric fencing he used to keep them contained so I guess it could be possible.

I have to admit, I am a little stuck for names for these two fields – well they are not really fields. If you have any suggestions, please do let me know.

By the way, the fencing in this field is fine. It will need some attention further up, on the other parcel as it was evident that sheep had been under one of the larger gaps of the fence, but as there are no animals on either field at the moment, no rush.

Just one more section of our land still to explore properly, our woods next to the far-away field – so far we haven’t been any deeper in than the spring.

Our tree Ent

Our tree Ent

Our tree Ent down by the river

(A few days later) We found another way down to the river, much easier than the first way. On the bank is this wonderfully shaggy tree. We immediately decided that this is our beautiful Ent (even though it is growing on the opposite side of the river and therefore not actually on our land). For the life of me I can’t think what kind of tree it is. We’ve been to visit on at least three separate occasions and never have I thought to look at the leaves. There are so many other things to observe. It is covered in moss, there are various types of ferns growing along the branches and lichens abound too. I have never seen a tree like it in the UK!

Looking at this photo again, I suspect it is a Sycamore. Remind me to check the next time we go to the river.

More photos of the Ent on Flickr