Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Coed Simdde Lwyd Oak woods

I've visited some more sessile Oak woods still within the Rheidol Valley but this time downstream of Coed Rheidol (where I was last week). They are called Coed Simdde Lwyd which means 'Wood of the grey chimney' in Welsh. Not such a nice name but it harks back to an age of heavy metal mining in this area.Indeed there are many ruins of mines dotted around Ceredigion.
These woods are much bigger than Coed Rheidol and as they are south facing are drier with less luxuriant moss growth. I saw hundreds of oak saplings, some covered in red pea galls, so the woods are regenerating well. I collected some galls to draw at home. These galls are fascinating; they look like tasty little fruits.

The wildlife Trust of South and west Wales have put in some new paths, one I followed right to the top of the steep valley (phew,very tough!!) above the woods,with glorious views of the Rheidol valley and the sea beyond. Some of the gnarled trees at the top are only just bigger then me!! There were plenty of bluebells and bees here too. I could here the unique call of a cuckoo in the distance.


 Following the valley top I then descended back into the cool woodlands, and found a rushing stream cascading down. Here the plant-life is slightly more varied with more species of tree, including Wych Elm and Ash and I collected some golden Saxifrage to draw; its a common plant found in these damp places.
So as promised I have uploaded some sketches, some from the oak woodlands of the Rheidol and also Coed Cwnch in the Elan valley too. You can see bilberry, barren strawberry, golden saxifrage and common violet with the hairy wood-rush and some mosses. Also a bumble bee.


Below is the actual oak woods painting with some spring additions so far; hazel catkin & hard fern (Blechnum spicant) crosier,

Below is a wood anemone, an acorn germinating, the red pea galls and some wood sorrel. I germinated the acorn myself, but the fresh oak leaves are from a one year old sapling. Really enjoying this painting but its a good job that these oak woods are quite low on species diversity as I wouldn't fit everything onto the page!!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Oak Woods in Spring

I have visited Elan valley oak woodlands, (Coed Cwnch) and Rheidol oak woodlands to record the spring species I find and collect some things to paint. We have had a really cold spring and lots of plants are very late in their growth. The oak leaves are just starting to burst and there are curly fern crosiers everywhere.

In the photo above;  The ancient woodlands clothe the sides of the Rheidol valley, they exist mainly in steep river valleys.
The main plants of these oak woods are bilberries, heather and mosses, with birch, Holly and rowan trees adorned with honeysuckle, lichens and ivy. There are few species of flower as the soil is more acidic, but we have wood sorrel and violets,with bluebells and wood anemone in the deeper soils. Some of the mosses are now producing their spore capsules on bright red and orange stems, so I've been painting these for my oak woods painting. Also some Pied Flycatcher eggs in a little nest, these birds along with redstart are seen frequently in these woods; They are summer visitors.
 I saw many bumble bees too feeding on the bilberry flowers.

The sessile oaks are twisted and gnarled and in some places their roots cling to the rocks.

Above you can see the oak branches still in bud, with the river Rheidol in the distance. A small bridge spans the gorge; called the Parsons bridge.

 The river has eroded the rock in the gorge below into cauldrons and pools.

You cannot walk very far in these woods but its good enough just to sit and think(or de-stress!). Its great that we have these places protected for the future.
Next week I'll post some sketches from the spring woodland.