A Walk on the Wild Side
On Sunday 28th April a group of more than twenty members met Ieuan ap Sion to be led in convoy down narrow lanes to his private wood. None of us knew what to expect...
We were not to be disappointed.
Ieuan explained how he had bought the wood which had been part of a large estate at auction some thirty years ago. He has spent much time since caring for it and making sure that the plants (and animals and birds) in it have thrived. He explained that the wood was on Carboniferous Limestone and was a rich environment for the many plants that like a truly alkaline soil.
He led us on a narrow path and immediately interest was aroused by swathes of blue. Ieuan refers to this as Blue Squill. It didn’t fit members’ knowledge of Spring Squill (Scilla verna) because that doesn’t like a woodland situation and anyway is smaller.
It’s not every day that you encounter a woodland bulb in great profusion which is new to most of a plant-enthusiasts’ group!
Then we saw Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) - a root parasite of hazel, sycamore and elm which is without the colour green necessary in most plants for photosynthesis. Ieuan has been successful in collecting and scattering its seed and most of us marvelled at another most unusual plant, obligingly in bloom for us. He must have done this some time ago as he told me it takes about twelve years to flower from seed!
As we got deeper in, passing whole carpets of Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa), Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) and Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), all suffused with the clumps of Blue Squill, daffodils became more and more evident. These were Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the truly native British daffodil of Wordsworth fame and known as Lenten Lilies in rural parts.
Ieuan let us into his secret - he had permission to collect the bulbs when contractors were digging through ancient woodland for the construction of the A55. His tenacity and dedication to native plants has resulted in a wonderful harmony in his wood. In a month’s time these will be overtaken by bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) and Yellow Archangel (Lamium galeobdolon) and no doubt other joys as summer arrives.
He made sure that we will always associate Wild Garlic/Ransoms with the locality by telling us that the Welsh for them is craf which is found in so many local names as either the suffix or prefix cra or craf. Iris foetidissima became the Roast Beef Plant (for the smell of its bruised leaf) and he had many of us tasting Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) for its aniseed taste.
We saw his four small-leaved lime trees (Tilia cordata) planted nearer the open edge of the wood, the largest of which, infuriatingly, was the only tree to have its top broken off by a Scots Pine falling across it in a gale. Happily it is doing quite well without its leader stem. Looking into the future Ieuan expressed the wish that he would rid his wood of the introduced Scots Pine and Larch but in the meantime, the former were well-liked by buzzards.
The path emerged over a stile to a wide green way where we had wonderful views of the Alyn Valley and Clwydian hills. From this point too we could see the outline of the former quarry outcrop within the wood. Ieuan explained how the disturbed plants in that area have not been able to regenerate as thickly as those which were not so disturbed. However, nature has softened and almost hidden the old workings and most of us would not have guessed its history. The weather began to turn at this point from dry with a biting northerly wind to blustery rain and we considered ourselves so fortunate to have had the opportunity to see such an inspirational long-term project in all its spring glory. Thank you Ieuan for allowing us into your private piece of heaven
First published in the Clwyd Group Newsletter September 2013
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 34.
© Copyright for this article: Sue Morris
This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2014. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.