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.
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.
Last week I was supposed to be visiting Skomer Island for the day with a number of colleagues and friends to discuss management issues. Skomer (Welsh: Ynys Sgomer) is an island off the coast of Pembrokeshire in southwestern Wales and you get to it by boat at the end of the road that passes our house.
It is well known for its wildlife: a third of the world population of Manx Shearwaters nest on the island, and the Atlantic Puffin colony is the largest in southern Britain. These birds spend the autumn and winter months at sea in the South Atlantic and return to Skomer each year to breed in dis-used rabbit burrows (rabbits were introduced to the island as a food source in the 14th century). There are numerous archaeological remains on the island, from stone circles, standing stones and prehistoric houses.
Unfortunately on the day of departure we were being battered by storm force south-westerly winds, and as a result the boat, the “Dale Princess”, was unable to make the crossing safely, so we couldn’t go.
Fortunately my friend Mike Alexander, who gives me all these wonderful photographs to show to you, was the warden on the island from 1976 to 1986, and so he has given me more photos of Skomer to share. I think you’ll agree it is a pretty lovely looking place. I’ll wait for better weather and sea conditions and get over there later in the year.