Something strange is happening, this relatively old post of mine has gone viral today, I think because news of recent storms in Wales revealing the petrified forest on the coast has reached the USA and searches are sending people to my site, which I suppose is nice. So I thought I’d re-blog to make it even easier for everyone 😉 Old news has become new news again….
Although it is rarely seen, the remnants of a past forested landscape, where there is now sea and beach, is a very interesting feature and teaches us about past sea level rise and our recent glacial history, and makes sense of some of the archaeological remains we find around our coastline in West Wales.
At the end of the last glaciation the sea level was much lower than it is today because so much water was still locked up in the ice sheets to the north of Britain. As the climate warmed forests became established on land that had been tundra for thousands of years, and this forest extended far out beyond where sea level is today. Gradually as temperatures rose, the sea ice to the south of the arctic circle melted and sea levels rose, submerging much of the coastal forests.
On my way to the beach yesterday for a leisurely swim (I know!) I came across lots of lovely patches of the oxeye daisy, our largest native member of the daisy family in the UK. It is a perennial herb with large flowers and also has the vernacular names common daisy, dog daisy, moon daisy and margarite.
It is fairly common in meadows and roadside verges but always in conditions of moderate to low fertility, and where it occurs in abundance it transforms the sight of meadows and grassy banks in summer with carpets of white and gold.
Because the oxeye daisy is limited in its capacity for vegetative spread it relies heavily on seed regeneration in open swards where other potentially dominant species are restricted by low soil fertility. This is why it is a common plant of some of our traditional hay meadows, as well as being abundant on waste ground, railway embankments and roadside verges and, in this case, sea cliffs.
The open flower heads attract a large range of pollinating insects, particularly bees, butterflies and hoverflies.
In the past, an extract from the plant was used as a herbal remedy to cure diseases of the liver and the chest.
It’s a skylark nest, with four beautiful, tiny eggs in it. Skylarks are birds of open grasslands and they build their nests on the ground, often producing 2 or 3 broods per year. The nests are incredibly hard to find because they are so well concealed from predators.
Skylark numbers have plummeted in the UK by over 90% in the past 50 years as our traditional hay meadows have been replaced by much more intensively managed grasslands that are mown for silage 2 or 3 times a year – the mowing destroys the nests, and so the populations of skylarks and other grassland species have declined rapidly.
This place is different though. This nest is one of around 60 that can be found on a dis-used World War II airfield near St Davids in West Wales. The grassland is managed just like an old fashioned hay meadow, with grazing by cattle in the winter, and hay making in late summer, and with no inputs of chemical fertilisers.
The airfield was once a place where the great Halifax bombers flew to patrol along the Atlantic coast and where thousands of service men and women were housed.
These days the airfield is a place of tranquility and calm and home to wild flowers, butterflies and skylarks.
I have met and talked with some of the men who flew from here at the height of the war, and they couldn’t be happier that this is now a place of peace and where wildlife can thrive. It seems like a wonderful way to honour and remember those that died on both sides, a place of vibrant and colourful life and peaceful quiet.
The weather on the Pembrokeshire coast has suddenly turned beautifully sunny and warm. The sea is sparkling and flat as a pancake, so for the first time since last September we got the kayaks out and went for a little paddle.
Kayaking gives you such a different perspective on the landscape and seascape around you. This sea cave cannot be seen from the surrounding cliffs, and as well as being very beautiful, it is also a special place for another reason which I will elaborate on later.
And with 186 miles of coastline to choose from, all we need is a half decent summer for the first time in years and we’ll be out there exploring once again, I’ll even get the fishing lines out.
After 6 months of perpetual grey skies and torrential rain, spring has finally arrived on the Pembrokeshire Coast, and today our local beach looks like this. It’s so nice to finally feel some warm sunshine, although admittedly there is still a chilly north-easterly wind coming down from the arctic.
The sea birds have arrived back from the South Atlantic to breed on the offshore islands of Skomer, Skokholm, Grassholm and Ramsey. These puffins nest in dis-used rabbit burrows on the islands, which are free of predators like rats and foxes, although the threat from the Great Black-backed Gull is still very real for the offspring of these little fellas.
The gannets have returned from their winter feeding grounds in the south to breed in huge numbers (32,000 nesting pairs) on Grassholm Island, and can be seen diving into the sea wherever they spot shoals of fish on which to feed.
In the next few weeks all of the spring flowers will emerge as the land awakens from its winter slumber. The most familiar birds to be seen from the cliff tops are razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes, fulmars and various species of gull, as well as shags, cormorants and the rarer choughs and peregrine falcons.