Our visit today was to tend to the hedgerow boundaries of the burial grounds. While the trees are still young the digging up of bramble shoots that snake their way out of the hedgerows and into the immature woodland is necessary to ensure the young trees do not get over-run with bramble. We also remove suckers from blackthorns for the same reason.
While working it was nice to see nature abounding in its many forms and we have decided to document the monthly changes to the flora and fauna of the site. We noted there is an abundance of the very dark St Marks flies drifting in the air, recognisable by their hairy bodies and long legs. They belong to the family Bibionidae, are harmless and do not bite or sting. They only fly for about a week in April and May. During autumn and winter, larvae feed on rotting vegetation which they chew with their strong mouthparts.
There are several areas where the dainty lady’s smock plants (Cardamine pratensis; also known as ‘milkmaid’, ‘cuckoo flower’, ‘May flower’ ‘fairy flower’) are blooming really well this year.
This plant is actually edible – the leaves have a peppery taste and can be used in salads. We tried a few and they were delicious. These pink flowers attract the tiny orange tip butterfly. The female lays her eggs on this plant. The male is easily identified by his bright orange, wing tip.
The female has no orange tip on its wings and appears white in flight, similar to the cabbage whites that are also flying at this time of year. Other butterflies we saw today included the speckled wood, a solitary peacock and two holly blues.
The song thrush and mistle thrush were singing while we worked and we also heard willow warblers, blackcaps, robins, common chiffchaffs and blackbirds. The trees are beginning to leaf up. The tiny thyme-leaved speedwell is abundant everywhere and there are many swathes of Germander speedwell that are starting to be visited by the tiny Cocksfoot and Micropterix calthella micro moths. Over the next few weeks there should be hundreds of these on this species and on the buttercups. The hedgerow verges are full of bluebells, red campion, wild garlic, celandine and stitchwort.
Alt-y-garreg is a 20-acre nature reserve created in 2010 from four fields that had been improved pasture. There are areas of new woodland (over eighteen thousand trees of eighteen native species), wildflower meadows, scrub and ancient hedgerows. Two of the fields are now a natural burial site. The area is teeming with wildlife.