Thursday, 25 May 2017

A Ring of Birch

Welsh Moor can be a bleak and desolate place in winter, but in spring and summer it’s very different.  A quiet exposed spot, and a bit off the beaten track, it’s not the kind of place that attracts many tourists, but it has a magic all of its own. Separated from Pengwern Common by mixed woodland, birch rings the perimeter of the common, which is almost devoid of mature trees. Owned and managed by the National Trust, just a few gorse bushes are allowed to mature on the rough land. Welsh Moor gains it’s conservation status from a rich flora, and is a stronghold of the endangered marsh fritillary butterfly.

Even into May, there’s still a slight chill blowing in from the estuary, but we’re well into spring at last.  Willow warbler song surrounds the common, a single lark sings high in the sky, and a red kite drifts by – a pair breeds near here, the location of the nest a well-kept local secret. Bumblebees search out flowers on the ground, and in the low, wetter hollows I find my marsh fritillaries. Delicately marked they’re not a spectacular butterfly, but like other rare creatures always provide a thrill.

Way beyond the common emerald-green fields, bordered by neat hedges, are dotted by the tiny shapes of cattle, looking like toys from this distance.  Far away to the east the Brecon Beacons, their peaks only recently free of snow, retain a winter hue, but they too are waking again.

The single road over the common follows the route of the Gower Way, but I see no one. An occasional car passes, disturbing the otherwise peaceful morning. As if from nowhere, two figures wearing bright yellow vests appear along the road. I learn that today volunteers from Llanrhidian village are out litter picking along all roads in the parish. They’re filled with pride and I feel humbled.

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