Tywyn History Trail leaflets 1 and 2

I was in the Tywyn Co-Op last week and spotted these two leaflets in the leaflet holder by the tills.  Do pick one up if you’re there.  Each of them consists of a fold-out map of Tywyn – Walk 1 is The Old Town and Walk 2 is The Seaside.  The map is numbered, and brief details are given about each of the numbers, so that you can do a self-guided tour.  Introductory paragraphs also give a short overview of the origins of Tywyn and its development.  In something this size (A3, printed on both sides) not a huge amount of detail can be included, but it’s a great starting point for getting to know Tywyn a bit better, and a good jumping off point for future research.  Devised and published by Tywyn and District History Society, their production was partially supported financially by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The image below is a scan of part of Walk 1, to give a flavour of the leaflets

Early July dune flowers, more foraging

July already.  How on earth did that happen?  A sunny day today, and a welcome change from the recent wet weather.  The day before yesterday it wasn’t actually raining in the afternoon, although it had all morning, and the feeling of going stir-crazy after all the rain was immense, so it was a relief to go and see what else had come into flower in the sand dunes, which seem to be changing all the time.

 

The sea holly is just coming in to flower, one of my favourites (Eryngium marititinum).  There seems to be less of it in the dunes than in previous years, but that may just be an impression.  The leaves are a lovely silvery-blue colour and the flowers are a stunning powdery cornflower blue, forming little domes.  It loves full sun and dry coastal and rocky habitats.  Surprisingly, given its appearance, it is  a member of the carrot family.

Common/yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) looks so exotic, like an orchid, but is relatively commonplace.  It is a perennial that flowers between July and October.  Narrow leaves grow spirally up the stems.  The flower is two-lipped and only large long-tongued bees can push the two closed lips apart to reach the nectar.  Colloquial names include squeeze-jaw and bunny-mouth.  It likes open fields and sandy soils.

 

Hound’s-tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) is new to me.  It has many small dark crimson flowers, each with five petals, on hairy stems.  After flowering, the fruit is a spiked nutlet that starts green and goes through deep purple to brown.  They hook on to the fur of a passing animal.  The ones in the dunes were courteous enough to have both flowers and nutlets on show.

Hedge woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) grows on the wasteland and the edge of cultivated land and footpaths, with a preference for semi shade.  The toothed leaves look rather like nettles.  They grow up to 1m tall.   It was renowned from the 16th Century for its healing properties, and it has proved to be mildly antiseptic.  White markings on the lower lip of the two-lip flower guides bees to nectar.

Rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium) is a spreading perennial up to 1.5m tall.  It colonized bomb sites during the Second World War and became known as “fireweed.”  It spreads both by rhizomes and by seed, so where it is found, it is usually widespread, and the the rhizomes mean that a whole patch may actually be a single plant.  Delicate Four-petalled pink flowers with white stamens that climb the stem go over first at the bast and continue to be in bud at the top, meaning that they may stay in flower from June to September.  Its leaves used to be used as in infusion to substitute for tea.

Before flowering, old man’s beard, or traveller’s joy (Clematis vitalba) looks just like clematis and is probably the next most widespread plant in the dunes after marram grass, hugging the lower lying areas.  It spreads over everything, and provides a natural protective home for the wild pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) that grows in the dunes.  The name old man’s beard refers to the hairy, air-born seed heads that appear in autumn and extend into winter.  The flower begins as a tiny, spherical white bud and bursts into lovely, starry white flowers with four white sepals and a burst of stamens.

Common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is common in the area,  in the hills, fields, wasteland, and in the dunes.  It is poisonous to birds, horses and cattle, particularly when dry, but for some reason sheep seem to be immune.  It may be either biennial or perennial.  Although it can be mistaken for goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) from the flower alone, the leaves are very different.  Where goldenrod has long, thin leaves, common ragwort’s leaves are untidy, dissected and multiple-lobed.  Senecio is almost the only specie that can be used for food by the day-flying red and black cinnabar moth’s (Tyria jacobaea) caterpillar, striped bright orange and black, absorbing the plant’s poison as a defense against birds.  In spite of the fact that they can be seen between May and August, there were none on view that day.

Broad-leaved everlasting pea (Lathyrus latifolius) is a French perennial that has colonized many other countries.  A vigorous scrambling plant that uses tendrils to colonize hedges and shurbs.  It was brought from France to Britain as a garden plant and has gone native.  The flowers are larger than most of the other pea family of flowers, up to 3cm across, with shades of dark pink and purple.

Marsh pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris) is very similar to the more widespread wall pennywort (Umbilicus rupestris), but grows in marshy areas, whilst wall pennywort grows, as the names suggests, out of walls (and is widespread in Aberdovey).  This particular marsh pennywort was growing out of the side of one of the drainage streams on the golf course.  It is less waxy and succulent than wall pennywort, as it doesn’t need to store as much water.  Both are edible as leaves in salads and as garnishes with much the same flavour.  The flavour can be variable, so although it tastes a bit like cucumber, it can be bitter, and a leaf should be tasted before picking more.

White stonecrop (Sedum album) has now spread over huge areas of the lower parts of the sand dunes, particularly near the road where the sand is mixed with soil, its succulent leaves forming mats, and its white star-like flowers clustering at the top of the short, slender stems.  Drought tolerant, thanks to the succulent leaves that store water.  Like Sea rocket (Cakile maritima) it has apparently benefited from the lack of people around, colonizing areas that would otherwise be used for reaching the caravan park, the golf course and the beach.

The perennial sea beet (Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima) and the orache are side by side at the edge of the dunes, both huge clumps, both common at the edges of sand dunes. Sea beet has a tall, spiky clumps of flowers straggling across the top of the plant.  Sea beet is both drought and saline tolerant.  It is the wild version of a version that was cultivated in the Middle East for its roots and leaves.  Sea beet is easily confused with fat hen (Chenopodium album) and both are members of the Chenopodiaceae, but the leaves have very different edges.  Sea beet leaves have a smooth, untoothed margin, whereas fat hen leaves look more like orache, with a toothed margin.  Sea beet is a popular foraging ingredient, with smaller, younger leaves used in salads and bigger leaves spinach in a tiny amount of water for a few minutes, like spinach.  Squeeze out the water, return to the pan with some butter, and you have a much tangier version of spinach.  On my to-do list.

 

Artemisia absinthium or wormwood seems to come in a variety of forms, many with a lot more foliage than this, but there are a lot of photographs of it online looking just like this.  Small fdsfsfas of tiny yellow flowers tit on a network of silvery stems with silvery leaves.  I haven’t put it to the test, because I didn’t know what it was when I took the photograph, but it is the primary flavouring of absinthe, much beloved of Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries.

The last triumph of the day was the discovery of some field mushrooms and some baby puffballs.  I had the puffballs tossed in butter and added at the last minute to a slow cooker stew with French smoked sausages, onion, garlic, dried ceps, savoy cabbage and peeled baby new potatoes.  The puffballs were mushroomy but delicate, a real treat.

Orache – locally foraged greens that seriously improved three meals

When I finished my Eating Well During Lockdown series, I said I would only post a cooking commentary if it was based on ingredients that were locally grown or produced, and you really cannot get more locally grown than the Aberdovey sand dunes!

A few weeks ago, attracted by a large area covered with lovely Viper’s Bugloss on the edge of the sand dunes, spectacularly on the turn between pink and blue, we spotted a substantial clump of a green plant with distinctively shaped leaves, no flowers.  The leaves were robust and very slightly rubbery to the touch, because they are slightly succulent, and they had a faint shine on the upper surface, dull on the underside.  My friend Caroline thought that it was probably orache (pronounced “orac” or “oratch”), Atriplex patula, and after leafing diligently through a few books, that’s duly what it turned out to be.

So what is orache?  I had no idea, so a little research was necessary.  The photo above right shows as it is on the edge of the dunes, not particularly prepossessing, but as the photograph of the leaf shows, it is fairly distinctive.  It is an annual member of the Atriplex genus in the Amaranthus family, and is also known as saltbush.  Its leaves are edible and commonly used by foragers.  Edible does not always equate to delicious, but orache turns out to be both.  The salad leaves are only viable when young, because they become too tough, but they become a useful substitute for spinach when they mature.  Because they are succulents, retaining water in their leaves, and they live in a salty habitat, the water within the leaves is also slightly salty.  It’s worth remembering that when seasoning anything that you cook with orache as a component.  The roots are mildly toxic so should be avoided.  Atriplex littoralis looks similar but although it is not poisonous it has an offensive smell and tastes awful, so the two are easily differentiated.

When Caroline produced a glorious bunch of orache, having gone on a foraging expedition, I had a lot of options.  Now fully mature it was a lot greener and a lot larger, but retained its slightly rubber texture.  I immediately put the verdant bunch into a jug of water, to keep it fresh, and started plotting.

Caroline has been treating it both as spinach, wilting it slightly to serve as a vegetable, and using it raw in salads, and I also liked the look of the suggested orache tortilla-pizza on the Wild Food Girl website.  In the end I decided to use half of it for soup, some of it to replace spinach in my frequent mushrooms, dice courgettes, pancetta and spinach on toast, and the last of it to liven up a chicken rendang curry.  So here are three meals that I made with some of the bunch, with many thanks to lovely Caroline both for providing the orache and for expanding my horizons.

Wednesday’s soup became an orache-and-asparagus-with-a-few-leftovers soup, because I had a pack of six small asparagus tips that were hiding at the back of the fridge and needed using up fairly imminently, but the orache was dominant.  Other odds and ends were an inch of courgette (how, I wonder, does anyone end up with a leftover single inch of courgette?); 2 small Maris Piper spuds, very finely sliced to help it break down quickly; the floppy outer leaves of a little gem lettuce; half a purple onion, roughly sliced; three spring onions, chopped; the edible parts of the tops of two leeks; and some mint.  The main ingredient, by far, was orache.  I put all of it in a saucepan and tossed it to heat through in some butter for between five and 10 minutes, added water to cover, added some chicken stock and simmered it for another 10 minutes.  Once the potato had broken down I lobbed it into the food processor for a few minutes, in two batches.  I then put it back in the pan, re-heated it slightly, stirred in a big dollop of crème fraîche, a big squeeze of lemon juice, heated it through again gently and poured some of it into a soup bowl to serve.  Heavenly!  The orache tastes a bit like something between curly kale and spinach, full of personality, with bags of flavour released by the cooking process.

On Thursday I made mushrooms, pancetta, courgettes and orache on toast, with a poached egg on top.  The mushrooms and courgettes are fried in butter until the begin to brown. The finely chopped garlic is added with some fresh thyme, and after these are stirred in, some flour is sprinkled over the top to take up the fat from the pancetta and thicken the liquid.  It is stirred into the mixture until it is invisible, and heated for a few minutes to make sure that the flour is incorporated and cooked through.  At this point, a little water goes in, accompanied by the orache, chopped parsley and a few turns of the pepper mill. I also like to add a slosh of sherry at this stage.  When the orache begins to wilt, some cème fraîche is added and reduced, and when the orache is fully wilted the mix is served on a piece of toast with a poached egg on top.  The basic formula is a favourite, and of course it can be varied endlessly.  In the photograph, the wilted orache can be seen either side of the egg, a very dark green.

Yesterday, Friday, I was cooking a sort of ersatz chicken rendang curry, but using yogurt instead of the usual coconut (which I detest).  Also added into the mix were aubergine chunks, fresh green chilies and mushrooms.  I left it in the fridge overnight to develop the flavours.  When I slowly reheated it tonight, Saturday, I added a good handful of the last of the orache 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, when it was simmering very gently.  It was an excellent addition, giving real balance to the rich sauce, with more than enough flavour to stand up for itself against the heat of the chili, and providing some much needed greenery as a contrast to the orange-coloured sauce and the bland solids.  In the photograph, the bright green leaves are coriander, but underneath them, the dark green wilted leaves are orache.  To complete the happy extravaganza I had a piece of garlic and coriander naan bread (not home-made).

Orache is a great plant for cooking if you like curly kale, spinach and similar flavours and textures.  I changed the water in the jug ever day, and it remained super-fresh.  Finally, I chopped and simmered the stalks with some chicken stock, leek and onion to make a well-flavoured thick soupy base for a future soup or stew, and froze it down.  The aromas as it simmered in a covered pan were wonderful.

Wild flowers in the sand dunes, a week on

As occasionally happens, I wrote this and then forgot to hit the Publish button, mainly because I meant to do more work on trying to find what the hawkweed-like plant actually is.  These photos were take on on the 20th June, just one week on from a previous visit.  If it ever stops raining, which seems doubtful right now, I’ll go and see what’s there now that we’re into early July.  Hopefully the sea holly will be in flower soon.

Marram grass (Ammophila arenaria) is a perennial grass, reaching up to 120cm tall, each leaf touch and rolled, sharply pointed.  Ammos means sand, philos, loving in Greek; arena is latin for sand.  It is one of the most important sand-stabilizing species, forming large clumps with matted rhizome roots that help to prevent sand dune drift. They attract the Shore Wainscot moth (Mythimna litoralis), whose larvae feed exclusively on Marram, and the L-album Wainscot (Mythimna l-album) whose larvae feed mainly on Marram. The leaves were once valuable in local craft activities, woven into mats, used to make barn roofs, and to produce fishing nets.

Dune Brittlestem.  Psathyrella ammophila.  I often see these toadstools in the sand dunes, and these were two of a dispersed cluster of seven that I spotted, plus some very tiny ones. They have very dark brown gills. They grow at the base of marram grass, but in the absence of any other type of plant life.  Over time the cap begins to turn upwards, as shown here.  Apparently not poisonous, but has a very unpleasant flavour.

Sea bindweed (Clystegia soldanella) is a member of the convuvulus family.  The lovely pink and white striped flowers look like field bindweed, but are much bigger, and the kidney-shaped, slightly fleshy and waxy leaves quite different.   They spread from a rhizome that not only helps to fix them in the sand, but helps them to gather water, and helps to fix stabilize sand dune.  This was part of a fairly vast network very near the top of a very exposed sand dune, on the sheltered side.

Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae).  Lovely blue-back wings and bright red spots make this very easy to see when it is moving around in a flower.  There are two types of Five-Spot Burnet as well (Zygaena trifoli and lonicerae).  The rear wings, hidden hear under the forewings, are red with a black fringe.  They particularly like bird’s foot trefoil but can be found between June to August in most grassy areas and sand dunes, although I don’t recall seeing one in the dunes before.

Sea spurge (Euphorbia paralias).  An upright perennial that inhabits sand dunes and rocks.  The tiny yellow flower is protected by large greenish bracts.  It has slightly succulent evergreen leaves that march up the stem and which, like all succulents, minimize water loss.  It’s poisonous.

Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum).  Well adapted to grassland, scrubland and sand dunes, it spread along the ground, its flowers sometimes slightly upright.  The leaves are distinctive, growing in whorls around the slender stems.  The flowers form in small branches of clusters.  Apparently it gets its name because it was used to stuff mattresses.  In Germany it is called Mary’s bedstraw because the Virgin Mary was supposed to have given birth on a mattress of bedstraw.  They have a slight aroma of honey, but when dry they small of hay.  It was used in cheese making in the past, as it contains an astringent that curdles milk.

The pyramidal orchids that were dotted around earlier in June, had spread widely through the lusher parts of foliage at the base of sand dunes, and were easily spotted.

Hawkbit, Hawkweed? They are all so similar that it’s impossible to tell, even with photographs of the underside as well.

Sea rocket (Cakile maritima).  An annual member of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae Mustard) family, which is happy in very barren areas, and can grow in unprotected sand, colonizing large areas if left undisturbed.  They combine succulent leaves that retain water with long taproots which search for water deep beneath the surface.  Flowers can be lilac, pink or white.  It does not object to being buried in sand for extensive periods, and its seeds can float unharmed on the sea.  The leaves, stems and flowers are edible and are rich in vitamin C but have a very bitter taste, so if using the leaves in salad, they are best used young.

Biting stonecrop (Sedum acre).  An evergreen perennial that forms mats with strong stems and short, thick and waxy succulent leaves that retain water.  It is drought tolerant, and is perfectly happy in inhospitable sand dunes and rock cracks.  Not poisonous, but not edible.

I always like to walk up Balkan Hill on the way back home, because the verges are an excellent mix of escapee garden plants and true wild flowers.

Gardeners will be very familiar with Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), which has a small, pretty flower and red-tinged leaves, but is ruthlessly invasive.  Fortunately it pulls out very easily with the root attached, but it spreads like crazy.  The leaves are slightly scented.  The name geranium derives from the Greek word Geranos, “crane,” referring to the long, beak-like carpels.

Dove’s Foot Crane’s-bill (Geranium molle).  An annual member of the geranium family, with explosive seed pods that spreads widely on wasteland, verges and sand dunes.

Great willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum).  A common garden weed, as it spreads both by seed and rhizomes, giving it a great advantage.  It likes the damp, and in this case sits  where water runs down the side of the road into a drain.  the “hirsutum” in its botanical name refers to the tiny hairs on the stems.

A typical mixture of feral garden flowers growing along the edge of the road on Balkan Hill, with hydrangeas in a hedge growing outwards over a patch of evergreen Brachyglottis/Senecio, an import from New Zealand, attractive to gardeners because of its lovely silvery green- grey leaves.

 

Exploring the origins of Tal y Llyn lake (Lake Mwyngil)

Tal y Llyn from the northeast. Source: Coflein, catalogue number C868164

Introduction

This post explores why the Tal y Llyn lake and valley look the way they do.  This involves investigating its pre-glacial, glacial and post-glacial history to understand how major geological and geomorphological events and subsequent alluvial processes have modified the landscape until it has arrived at what we see today.

When I started writing this, I was going to wrap up this account with details about the human historic heritage of the valley, but there was far too much information to amalgamate into a single post.  There turned out to be more to say about the geology and geomorphology than I initially realized.  Then, the history of the relatively few buildings surrounding the lake proved to be far more difficult to track than I had anticipated. Finally, the Tal y Llyn slate quarries, in the hills to the east of the lake, also deserve a post of their own.  I have therefore separated the story of Tal y Llyn into three parts, and the second and third parts will come at a later date, yet to be written.

The OL23 Ordnance Survey map, part of which is shown below, shows the lake’s name as “Ta-y-Llyn Lake / Llyn Mwyngil.”  Tal y Llyn means “end of the lake,” which is the name of the cluster of buildings at the southwestern end of the lake.  I expect that eventually naming the lake after the buildings was much the same as the situation with the village of Bala, where the lake is often referred to as Lake Bala, when its real name is actually Llyn Tegid.  I have no idea what Mwyngil means.  My excellent book of Welsh Place-names is silent on the subject, my Welsh-English dictionary is no help, and Google Translate translates it, somewhat bewilderingly, as “Morelil.”   I’ve gone with the name Tal y Llyn, just because it is how it is most commonly referred to today.

Tal y LLyn shown on the Ordnance Survey OS23 Explorer map (annotated). Click to enlarge and see more detail.

The current form of the valley in which the Tal y Llyn lake sits is primarily the outcome of two great  events, millions of years apart.  The first is the creation of a major geological fault.  The second is the geomorphological action of the last glaciation, the Devensian (c.90,000 – 10,000 years ago).  Between them they created the ideal conditions for a ribbon lake.  A third impact on the appearance of the valley is alluvial processes that occur when rivers and streams enter the valley, dropping sediment as they enter the lake.

The Bala Fault (Bala Lineament and Tal y Llyn fault)

Photograph showing the line of the Tal y Llyn fault. Source: Coflein, catalogue C867365

 

Map of main structural elements of Wales, showing the Bala Fault (no.7). Source: Howe and Thomas 1963, p.xiv

What is often referred to as the Bala Fault extends from Cardigan Bay into the Upper Dee lowland and into the Vale of Clwyd at the Cheshire borders, as the map on the right shows.

Musson says that the Bala Fault is better described as a lineament (a linear feature), consisting of three sub-parallel faults trending northeast to southwest, and consisting of the Bryn Eglwys, Bala and Tal y Llyn Faults, all probably tectonically active for much of Lower Palaeozoic era (the Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian periods, c.541 – 419.2 million years ago).

These faults are tear or transform faults and occur when two pieces of the earth’s crust are moving horizontally relative to each other.  The resulting faults formed a lineament, a natural line for water to follow.  Over time, water courses carved out a series of valleys along the Bala lineament.

Tear/Transform Fault. Source: Howe and Thomas 1963, p.3

Howe and Thomas (1963, p.4) say that strata on the southern side of the fault have moved horizontally towards the east for a distance of about two miles.  This is particularly visible at Llanwychllyn, at the foot of Lake Bala.  The Bala lineament is easily traceable on an Ordnance Survey map.  The faults of the lineament separate the Snowdonia-Arennigs-Rhinog group of mountains from the Cadair Idris-Aran-Berwyn group.

The only coherent account I have managed to find of the fault, in spite of looking through various books and papers, is the following from Wikipedia.  There is, however, no indication as to where the author of the piece acquired the information, so although it sounds plausible, it is unverified at the moment.  I will update the post if I find more information:

The fault is thought to have initially formed during the opening of the Iapetus Ocean in late Precambrian times (>541 million years ago) when Laurentia (North America) and Baltica (Europe) separated. As the Iapetus Ocean began to open tension cracks opened in a NE-SW direction parallel to the continental margins. These eventually became the Bala Valley, the Menai Straits and the valley at Church Stretton along the line of the A49. Between the Menai fault and the Stretton fault the land sank, forming the Welsh Basin with the Bala fault possibly forming an underwater escarpment. . . . . The scale of geological movements in the deep past can be seen near Llanuwchllyn where the two sides of the fault would have to be slid back for a distance of two miles to get the geology on either side to line up.

Seismicity of North Wales. Source: Musson 2006, p.5.11

In January 1974 there was a report of a minor earthquake, magnitude 3.5, along the fault at Bala, followed by a more unusual phenomenon known as “earthquake lights.”  The earthquake was not particularly unusual.  A number of seismic events have been recorded in north Wales since the 1600s.  Although the Bala fault was originally suspected as the source of the earthquake, Musson (2006, p.5.15) concludes that “there are numerous north–south and east–west lineaments in and around the plausible epicentral area (as identified by the two instrumental locations and the macroseismic epicentre) and any of these could be the host feature for the Bala earthquake. . . . Consequently there is no evidence at present that the
Bala Lineament is active in any neotectonic sense, and it is unlikely that it would be in present stress conditions.”

The river valley along the Tal y Llyn Fault that preceded the last Ice Age supported a river, but not a lake. Before the last glaciation, the Tal y Llyn valley consisted of interlocking spurs, the river wending its way between them along the line of the fault.

The Glacial Valley

The valley’s appearance is very different today from its days as a pre-glacial river valley, and that’s thanks to the last major cold phase, the Loch Lomond Stadial or Readvance (c.11,000-10,000 years ago) during the last, Devensian glaciation (c.90,000 – 10,000 years ago).  Episodes of glaciation are characterized by warmer (interstadial) and colder (stadial) phases, with later episodes frequently wiping out most traces of earlier ones.

River valley before and after glaciation. Source: Howe and Thomas 1963 p.77

In the case of Tal y Llyn, the late Devensian glacier travelled down the line of the fault, the line of least resistance, and carved out a broadly u-shaped, or more accurately parabolic profile, smoothing valley sides where previously there were interlocking spurs.  At the same time it scoured the base of the valley.  The erosional impact of the ice on the profile of the valley is particularly stark on southeastern side of the lake, where Mynydd Rugug, Graig Goch and Mynydd Cedris drop steeply towards the lake, the slopes carved dauntingly into a single, flattened profile scarred with steeply dropping streams.  This is clearly visible in the photograph below, where the landslip is marked.  On the other side of the valley the erosion was less drastic, although still severe, and some truncated spurs are still just visible.  At the same time, the abrasive and scouring effect of the glacier, as it carved its way through the valley, lowered the level of the valley floor.  Throughout the Devensian, during the summer months water will have escaped the glacier in the form of meltwater, draining down the valley, finding its way across the earlier floodplain.

Photograph of Tal y Llyn, annotated to show the landslip scar and some of the debris that blocked the glacial trough, allowing the ribbon lake to form. Source: Coflein, catalogue number C868164

Unlike similar-looking ribbon lakes much like many of the Lake District lakes (e.g. Windemere) and Scottish lochs (e.g. Loch Lomond, which also sits on the line of a geological fault), Tal y Llyn does not sit in a conventional glacial trough in a rock basin, but was formed due to its southwest end being blocked.  A post-glacial land slippage deposited huge blocks of material from the southeastern hillside at the foot of the lake into the valley bottom.  There it formed a barrier where the lake now ends at the Pen y Bont hotel, described by Shakesby as “neither of bedrock nor of moraine, but of a huge mass of fractured and disarranged blocks” (1990, p.64).  This was discovered by Watson in the early 1960s, and described by him as follows:

In the part of the bar north-west of the river, the surface is moundy, but smoother and in clean pasture except for gorse patches on the mound summits. There is almost everywhere a complete turf cover but immediately underneath, on each mound top, are closely packed angular mudstone fragments similar to the debris found immediately overlying rock. That the smooth fields could lie on rock is proved by the road-side exposures north-west of the church. Occasional scars on tracks show rock or angular rock debris while three shallow pits dug to a depth of 18 inches showed the same rock debris on the slope bounding the bar to the south-west. On the slope behind Maes-y-pandy Farm, rock with varying cleavage direction is exposed.

As Shakesby’s comment above suggests, until Watson’s 1962 paper in the Transactions and Papers of the Institute of British Geographers, this blockage was incorrectly thought to have been either bedrock or a terminal moraine (debris pushed by the leading edge of the glacier, and dumped when the glacier stops moving forwards), or both.  The landslip left an enormous scar above the scree and rockfall, above the foot of the lake, which according to Shakesby was caused by the retreat of the glacier, “leaving the valley sides, over-steepened by glacial erosion, in an unsupported condition prone to collapse.”  The Tal y Llyn lake formed behind this landslip barrier.

There is extensive periglacial activity at the head of the lake, where extensive broken rocks rest on bedrock, accompanied by extensive scree.  Periglaciation is the process whereby areas under ice are subjected to successive phases of warming, thawing melting and re-freezing, which causes cracks in the rock.  Eventually the cracks cause rocks to break away and drop towards the valley bottom.

Hanging valleys, fast streams and alluvial build-up

Stream entering Tal y Llyn at Pentre Farm, crossing the alluvial fan. Source: Geograph, Des Blenkinsopp

Tal y Llyn is a form of ribbon lake 220 acres in surface area, with an average depth of 8ft (c2.5m) and maximum depth of 12ft (c.3.6m).  The head of the lake is fed by a number of smalls steams fed by the flanking slopes.  The main streams that feed the lake are Nant Yr Allt-ioen, which travels along the valley below the A487 where it runs through the Tal y Llyn pass; the Nant Cadair stream that runs out of Llyn Cau on Cadair Idris, dropping steeply to the valley floor; the stream and waterfall that flows down Cwm Amarch, above Pentre Farm on the northeast side of the lake; and Nant Cildydd, and another small stream from the east.  There are two stream emerging from a freshwater springs, almost opposite each other at the far northeast and northwest of the lake.

A stream plummeting down Cwm Amarch, above Pentre Farm, on the northeast side of the lake on a very rainy day in late June 2020

The main streams feeding into Tal y Llyn, showing a footpath that crosses all of the major streams. Source: GPS-routes.co.uk

Tal y Llyn northwest end of the lake, showing how the build up of sediment has been converted into fields, and showing a patch of brown where boggy marsh meets the lake.  Source:  Coflein, catalogue C650435

These streams pass through a large flat area of green fields used for grazing, that becomes brownish boggy marsh where it meets the lake, shown very clearly in the photograph to the right.  This flat zone is the result of a build-up of alluvium dropped by steep and hanging streams, and is still expanding into the lake.  The alluvial flats are created by the sudden slowing of the water as it hits the valley floor, a common feature with hanging valleys, where water drops sharply down a hillside.  As soon as water stops falling and hits the flat valley surface, it slows down and instead of carrying material downstream, it drops it.  The heaviest particles are dropped first, with lighter components dropped further downstream, and slowly these built up to form an alluvial plain.  Where streams drop particularly steeply towards a river or lake, this effect is exaggerated.

Alluvial delta in front of Pentre Farm. Source: Geograph by Bill Rowley.

In the case of Tal y Llyn, the valley was carved out by a glacier, lowering the level of the floor beneath the level of the tributary streams, leaving “hanging valleys,” steep, narrow v-shaped stream beds that drop sharply towards the the erosional valley floor.  The streams flow with great speed down these hanging valleys towards the floor below, and slow abruptly when they hit the flat base of the glacial valley, dropping much of their load.  This build-up of river sediment extends along the north-west side, under Cadair Idris, towards the middle of the lake where it develops into a broadly fan-shaped delta in front of Pentre Farm.  This build up of sediment has considerably constricted the width at the top half of the lake and has reduced its length.  It is easy to see, in the above photographs, that this process is ongoing and unstoppable.  Eventually the lake will fill completely with alluvial deposits.

Lithograph of the lake by Samuel Prout, 1783-1852. Source: Wikipedia

The foot of the lake opens out into the Afon/River Dysynni at the Pen y Bont hotel, through the landslip.  It is crossed by the B4405 between the Pen y Bont hotel and St Mary’s church.  The bridge is a very different affair from the one shown in this picture dating to the first half of the 19th Century.  The river wends its way through its floodplain, along the fault line, as far as Abergynolwyn, where it joined by the Nant Gwernol and turns away from the fault line,  instead heading to the northeast before again changing direction with a turn into the Dysynni valley (Dyffryn Dysynni), where it is joined by Afon Cadair before resuming its southwestern course parallel to the fault line.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OS23 showing the path of the river Dysynni as it changes course, having flowed out of Tal y Llyn to the northeast. I’ve loosely sketched the path of the course change in a deeper blue so that it can be seen more clearly.

Dramatic, informative and very beautiful aerial view towards Tal Y Llyn in the background at the northwest with Abergynolwyn clearly visible as a white strip of buildings to the south of the lake, with part of the village hidden behind the large tree-covered spur (Mynydd Rhiwerfa) that intrudes into the valley.  The river turns westwards before the spur at Abergynolwyn. The B4405 continues down the former river valley, following the line of the fault.  The tiny cluster of white buildings in the foreground is Dolgoch. Nant Dolgoch flows into the Afon Fathew, which in turn flows into the Dysinni near Bryncrug, not far from the river’s mouth. Source: Coflein, catalogue number C821258

The Dysynni is another, and far more complicated story and will be covered on a future post.

Sources:

Howe, G.M. and Thomas, P. 1963.  Welsh Landforms and Scenery.  Macmillan

Etienne, J.L., Hambrey, M.J., Gasser, N.F. and Jansson, K.N. 2005.  West Wales.  In Lewis, C.A and Richards, A.E. The glaciations of Wales and adjacent areas.  Logaston Press

Harris, C. Periglacial landforms.  In (ed.) Stephens, N. Natural Landscapes of Britain from the Air. Cambridge University Press

Musson R.M.W. 2006. The enigmatic Bala earthquake of 1974. Astronomy & Geophysics, Volume 47, Issue 5, October 2006, p.5.11–5.1
https://academic.oup.com/astrogeo/article/47/5/5.11/231627

Shakesby, R. 1990.  Landforms of glacial and fluvioglacial deposition.  In (ed.) Stephens, N. Natural Landscapes of Britain from the Air. Cambridge University Press

Watson, E. 1962.  The Glacial Morphology of the Tal-y-llyn Valley, Merionethshire. Transactions and Papers (Institute of British Geographers) No. 30 (1962), published by Wiley on behalf of The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), p. 15-31.

Websites:

Coflein website

 

Eating well from what’s to hand – final week, week 12

This is my final post about eating during lockdown.  I feel that 12 weeks worth of me bunnying on about cooking is probably about as much as anyone truly needs 🙂  Additionally, I defrosted the freezer mid-week and found that most of the contents consists of meals that I had batch-cooked to divide equally between the plate and the freezer.  By which I mean that I ate half and froze the other half.  It’s about time I started eating those other halves rather than creating more, or there will be no freezer space left!  There will be another post in a couple of weeks about my encounters with a locally sourced cuttlefish, but unless I can source some unusual local ingredients to talk about, I think that my culinary lockdown sharing has come to a natural end, an end to absolute lockdown, and a trailing off of my learning curve.

Lockdown kicked in on 23rd March.  I was originally supposed to be celebrating my birthday a few days after that date with a small lunch party, but a couple of weeks before lockdown was announced we decided to cancel it, because it was quite clear that the tide of the Covid-19 was rolling in very fast.  One of thousands of cancelled celebrations and gatherings, minor and major.  So I cooked for myself on my birthday, and seriously enjoyed a roasted rack of lamb from the freezer, only the second meal on my Week 1 post about eating well from what was to hand.  I had realized by then that I would have to change my ad hoc shopping and cooking regime, and organize myself so that I would only have to do one relatively large shop once a fortnight.  It had the charm of novelty at first, but  a few weeks in and I was longing to go back to a less regimented way of buying and eating.  12 weeks in, and I am now accustomed to it, if not overjoyed by it.

Oregano growing in a pot in my garden

Fortunately, it has not all been about local supermarkets and the freezer.  Dropping off bags of groceries to my self-isolating father has had its own reward, mainly for the pleasure of having a long-distance chat sitting well apart in comfy chairs in the garden for a couple of hours, with ample use of hand disinfectant, but also, with an eye to my pots and pans, in the form of delicious home-grown vegetables, lettuces and herbs.  Following the small relaxation of the lockdown rules I have taken advantage of the occasional foray into both the Aberdovey and Tywyn butchers, and have loved being able to buy fish from Dai’s Shed, when the weather has allowed Dai to take the boat out.

I have no intention of visiting a big supermarket for many weeks yet.  The government may have faith in people behaving responsibly, but after one recklessly optimistic foray into a medium-sized supermarket a couple of weeks ago I walked out in serious dismay at the risks being taken.  I cannot imagine that matters will be improving as the relaxation of rules continues.

Saturday

Prawns, avocado, mushrooms and baby spinach with parmesan, cream and a Panko topping.  In Week 7, I made my first attempt to reproduce a recipe using avocados that was served as a starter in a favourite London restaurant, which closed when the owners returned to Italy.  This is a modified version.

Sometimes the Coey sells single avocados, large ones, but when I was last there there were only small avocados in a packet of two, so I used one at the end of last week and had one left to use.  I also had some button mushrooms and pancetta left over from last week’s egg-topped mushrooms and pancetta on toast.  It was clearly an opportunity to repeat, with revisions, my reverse engineering of the Venezia dish using fridge orphans.  I am unable to buy raw prawns locally, even frozen, but the Coey had cooked frozen ones in a seafood mix, and I had some raw ones left in the freezer.  There weren’t enough prawns, so I threw in some squid rings as well, and that worked well.

I fried some button mushrooms, and added a fine-chopped clove of garlic and some pancetta cubes until well cooked.  I sprinkled over some flour, just enough to help it thicken.  As before, I added a glug of white wine and some water to form a base for the sauce, but to make it a bit healthier, instead of a lot of cream, I added chicken stock and only a small dollop of low fat crème fraîche, with some grated Paremsan cheese.  I then added the cooked prawns and squid, plus two handfuls of spinach to heat through.  I left this to reduce for a couple of minutes, gave it a good stir, seasoned it with some salt and black pepper, and then, just as the sauce was reducing to the right amount, put in the sliced half avocado to allow that to heat through.  If the avocado is very ripe, be careful not to move it around too much when you put it in, or it will break up.  The avocado needs to be no more than warmed through, so must remain on the heat for only a couple of minutes on a low heat before serving or, again, it will break up.

To serve, I turned it into a terracotta tapas dish, provided it with a good sprinkling of chilli flakes, sprinkled some Panko (Japanese) bread crumbs to give it crunchy gratin topping, shaved some fresh Gran Pardano cheese over the top and put it under the grill until it began to bubble and brown.  To serve, I added some more black pepper and scattered fresh oregano over the top. Without all the cream, it was less unctuous but a bit healthier, and with the Panko topping it had a lot more texture to balance the avocado.  The chili and oregano were good additions, balancing the relative mildness of the sauce. It would go well with a side salad, but I didn’t need one.

Sunday

Leftovers frittata. This is basically a quiche without the pastry, or a Spanish omelette without the potatoes.  I had some bits and pieces of courgette, cheese, onion, spinach, bacon and parsley left over, and some eggs that were hurtling towards their eat-by-date with indecent haste.

This is such an easy dish that there’s almost nothing to say about it.  I wilted the spinach, fried the courgette and bacon and put everything else into four whisked eggs.  I heated it through on the hob and then put it under the grill to finish it off.  A quick and simple meal, but full of flavour.

Monday

Smoked sausage and sauerkraut in mustard sauce.  This is a made-up meal, one I invented a long time ago.  I only discovered sauerkraut a few years ago, in a super and very unusual restaurant in London called Zedel, when my father ordered some, having been a fan for life, and I tried his.  I had tried it when younger and disliked it, but as I have aged by tastes have changed and I loved it.

I used to be able to buy Polish kielbasa smoked sausage in my local Tesco in London, which had a Polish aisle.  It’s one of the many things that have been more difficult to acquire since leaving London.  However, at long last my father has been able to place an Ocado order, and very kindly ordered me some French smoked sausage.  As I had a jar of sauerkraut in the cupboard, some German mustard, an enormous box of caraway seeds, some baby new potatoes (any spuds would do), a bit of sour cream, some fridge-orphan pancetta (bacon lardons would be more authentic), and plenty of onion, it was a no-brainer to go for a Polish-style one-pot.  Slices of apple go well too, but I didn’t have any.  A high-sided frying pan or skillet is best for this, as it can be a bit messy when you are stirring everything together.

First, the baby new potatoes are boiled until just cooked.  I peeled them, but it’s not actually necessary, just really very nice for a change as they absorb flavours much more efficiently than if you leave the skins on.  Then I spooned sauerkraut into a bowl of water and left it to allow the preserving liquid to disseminate into the water for at least 10 minutes before draining it through a sieve and squashing out the water with the back of a wooden spoon.

The smoked sausage is cut into chunks, heated through, set aside and kept warm.  In the same pan, to take advantage of the sausage flavours, a teaspoon of caraway seeds and several good turns of a pepper mill are added.  The onion and pancetta are heated until the pancetta is crispy and the onion golden, and are removed from pan.  The new potatoes are drained and added to the pan to brown.  Then it all goes back in to the pan, with the sauerkraut and mustard, and a dessert spoon of flour stirred in to thicken the sauce.  Some white wine, stock or water are then added.  It is heated gently with a lid on for 10 minutes, with wine/stock, and mustard added by the spoonful until the preferred balance of flavours and the right amount of liquid is achieved.  Then a dollop of cream is added (whatever you have to hand) and stirred in.  I like it with smoked paprika stirred in at the last moment, chopped spring onions added over the top (partly for the flavour, partly to diminish the somewhat off-puttingly anaemic appearance) and a big dollop of sour cream on the side.  It all looks chaotic on the plate, but it is delicious.  Mine had some additional heat, because I had added a fresh chilli to the onion and pancetta, which isn’t traditional but suited me perfectly.

If you prefer a tidier and more presentable meal, you can cook the sausage whole, and in a separate pan cook the sauerkraut, onion and pancetta to accompany it, and in another pan make the mustard sauce separately. If you do it this way, you will probably need to make a velouté (my preference) or béchamel to ensure that your mustard sauce has some body to it.  I would finely chop some chives into it too.

Tuesday

Adapted Nalli Gosht lamb shank and okra curry with basmati rice and minted labneh.  I used a recipe I found on the Internet (see Maunika Gowardhan) for this, as I don’t have any Indian cookbooks, and I am useless at inventing Indian dishes.  The lamb shank came from the freezer, via the Aberdovey butcher, who kindly picked out a small one for me that was perfect for this dish.  I decided to do it in the slow cooker, which departs from the recipe on the above link, but I made very few other changes:  I used skinned and chopped fresh tomatoes and a bit of tomato paste rather than all tomato paste, I had red rather than green chillis, used cassia bark instead of cinnamon, and I changed some of the proportions of the spices to suit my own tastes, adding a lot more ginger, but otherwise followed the recipe closely.  I accidentally used smoked paprika rather than mild paprika for the marinade, but fortunately I realized the moment it hit the bowl and used the mild paprika for the sauce itself, and the smoked paprika didn’t spoil it.  I added the last of the frozen okra, and made a minted labneh to go with it.

The process is simple, but see the above link for the unadulterated step-by-step version.  The lamb shank is marinated overnight in a blended mixture of garlic, ginger, mild paprika, and coriander powder (I had coriander seeds in a grinder).

When ready to cook, fry cinnamon stick (or in my case cassia bark), green cardamoms, cloves and peppercorns in butter and oil, allow to sizzle for a few seconds and then add the onions and chilli slices.  Cook til golden and then add the turmeric and coriander powder.  The recipe calls for the addition of the tomato paste followed by the lamb shank.  I was using peeled tomatoes, so I put the shank in first to brown, added the blended tomatoes next with a single spoon of tomato paste, and the yoghurt afterwards.  I then tipped the whole lot into the slow cooker, but the original recipe calls for it to be simmered for 20-25 minutes on the hob, with a lid slightly open. I carved the lamb shank to save faffing around with it on the plate, spooned the sauce over the top, and although it tasted great its appearance was less than beautiful.  I suggest you look at the source web page for presentation tips.

The recipe suggests serving with naan bread, but I had some plain basmati rice boiled in stock with fennel seeds, and some minted labneh on the side to balance the heat.

Labneh is simply drained yoghurt.  In a bid to eat a rather healthier diet I bought some low fat Greek yoghurt, and it was incredibly liquid so I decided to turn it into labneh.   The only equipment required is either muslin or kitchen roll, a sieve and a bowl or equivalent.  A couple of pinches of salt are mixed into the yoghurt, and it is poured into the lined sieve to drain, preferably overnight.  Once the liquid is removed, the yoghurt is malleable enough to form into balls.  I like to mix herbs or spices into the drained yoghurt before doing so, usually a Moroccan spice mix, but on this occasion I used mint.  It can be preserved in oil in a re-used jar as I have done here, flavoured with herbs and spices, in this case lemon, mint leaves and sliced chilli.  It is delicious served with curry, Middle Eastern stews, or simply on cheese crackers as a snack.

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Wednesday

Deep-fried whitebait with caper and gherkin mayonnaise and salad.  I’ve had a single remaining starter-sized portion of whitebait in the freezer for a very long time now.  I’ve been keeping them for when I really, really wanted them and absolutely nothing else would do, because I’m not going to be able to replace them until after the lockdown.  Lovely, lovely little fish, simply rolled in flour whilst still frozen, deep-fried on a high heat for a couple of moments and served with Tabasco, and a gherkin and caper mayonnaise.  I don’t actually have a deep fat fryer, so I poured Crisp and Dry into a baby wok, and heated it until one little fishy started to fizz in the oil.  Tipping the rest of them in lowers the temperature significantly, so I turned up the heat until the oil started to bubble again.  It’s a dicey business if you are heating oil in a pan rather than in a thermostat-controlled fryer, so make sure you have a couple of damp tea towels to hand in case it sets fire to itself.  It has never happened to me, but it did to a friend of mine.

I served my whitebait with a salad to make it into a main course.   I’ve never managed to make a tartar sauce that is both quick and delicious, but making a mayonnaise and then adding chopped gherkins and capers with a bit of parsley isn’t a bad substitute.  I have lovage, so added a couple of leaves of that too (lovage can be overpowering so it pays to add it just a little at a time, tasting before adding any more). 

Thursday

Griddled lamb chop, mashed carrot and swede, leek, cabbage and boiled and roast potatoes.  In pouring rain, I was craving comfort food, and this was a good match for my mood.  It was very much a case of using up leftovers (carrot and swede mash and lamb gravy from last week, taking up space in the freezer) and fridge orphans (a bit of cabbage and a piece of leek).  Although I love roast potatoes I wouldn’t heat an entire oven for them, but I was also cooking something else at the same time.  As I’ve done this a couple of times before, I won’t add more details, but I really enjoyed it.

Friday

Cold lamb chop, watermelon, feta, cucumber, red onion, mint, olives with a lemon, white wine vinegar and olive oil dressing, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.  When I cooked my lamb chop with traditional roast-related veg yesterday, I cooked two chops, so that I had one left over for this salad.  The first time I had a lamb and watermelon salad was on Kefalonia, and the only barrier to repeating it has been the immense size of watermelons (called sandía where I grew up), which are so difficult to use up.  It was therefore a fairly ecstatic moment when I walked into the Tywyn Co-Op and found that they were selling baby ones.  So happy!   Watermelon is a match made with heaven with feta, red onion, cucumber and black olives, which was very handy as I had all of these that needed using up.   The oil and vinegar might sound a little odd with melon, but in fact both, together with the lemon juice, balance the flavours beautifully.

 Conclusions

Since the lockdown began and I started shopping once a fortnight, I have learned a lot not merely about planning ahead, but also planning around the leftovers and fridge orphans that I knew I would generate. Leftovers are the remains of cooked meals; fridge orphan is a term I’ve invented for the unused odds and ends left behind after the use of their companions in the meals for which they were planned.  A few mushrooms, some potatoes, small chunks of cheese and bits of courgette are typical examples. It’s a big change from doing things the other way round, looking at what ingredients I had left in the fridge and buying things to go with them.  They now have to be used up without shopping.  With this in mind, I started to leave gaps in the meal-planner so that I could bring together leftovers and fridge orphans with items in the freezer, such as last week’s chicken pie.  That is not to say that there is never any kitchen waste, but matters are considerably improved.

Over the last 12 weeks people have commented on how diverse my tastes are, but I am regarded by family and friends as a fussy eater, on good grounds.  I am mildly but genuinely allergic to capiscum (green/red peppers), I cannot stand coconut, I abhor tinned tuna, find tinned tomatoes dreadfully sweet, and think that cornflakes are an abomination.  I dislike pulses like beans and chickpeas, (although I love lentils and black beans), I’m really not keen on offal, I simply don’t understand adding raisins or bananas to savoury food, I eat nearly all green vegetables but find 80% of them exceedingly dull, and I have tried time and time again to learn to love blue cheeses, because I know I’m missing out, but I can’t.  On the other hand, baby watermelons rock!  The picture looks disconcertingly like Pac-Man 🙂

I think that the main thing I learned is that even with a relatively confined repertoire of ingredients, truly enjoyable things can be achieved, and by using herbs and spices the same ingredients can be given a completely different character.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read my culinary experiments, and particularly to those who got in touch – email is a wonderful thing.  Please continue to practice social distancing and please stay safe!

 



Rushlight (Aberdovey Community Council newsletter) June 2020

For those who are still self-isolating, here’s the latest edition of Rushlight, courtesy of the Aberdyfi butcher who supplied tonight’s delicious lamb chop.  This edition, June 2020, should be posted on the Community Council’s new website before too long at https://aberdyfi-council.wales/council-rushlight-newsletter, where all the previous editions can be found.  You can click to enlarge each of the pages below.

A short walk along Afon Fathew and a stretch of the Afon Dysynni

Left: Map showing the footpath leading west from Bryncrug. The path turns left where it meets the Dysynni and wends its way past the Ynysmaengwyn estate. Source – Streetmap.co.uk. Right: Map showing the Afon Fathew from Bryncrug to the Dysynni. Source – Google Maps

A footpath runs along Afon Fathew (translating as River Matthew) from Bryncrug and then bears left where the Fathew meets the Dysynni.  This footpath used to form part of the Wales Coast Path, bringing walkers away from the coast, where they were blocked by the River Dysynni.  The path took them inland, crossing the river where the road crosses at Bryncrug before looping back to reach the coast again.  In 2013 the Tonfanau bridge was built across the Dysynni at the point where the railway also crosses the river at the mouth of the river, so this footpath has much fewer visitors than it used to.  The Fathew, a tributary of the Dysynni, is itself fed by streams from the hills on either side of the stretch of valley in which Dolgoch sits, including Nant Dolgoch, that flows over the Dolgoch Falls.

It was a warm day with a gentle breeze, but the sky was an incredibly light, almost invisible blue, and it was very hazy.  The scenery and surrounding environment are completely different from anything that I have walked recently.  The hills behind us looked pale, with pastel shades instead of the usually high-contrast bright colours.  It was an extraordinarily peaceful walk along a raised levee.  To our left, on the outward leg , were either empty fields filled with mauve grass and buttercups, or green fields full of sheep.  On our right was a margin of grasses and wildflowers between us and the the tiny, shallow river.  The Afon Fathew itself was idyllic, flowing lightly over a pattern of golden-brown stones, with shoals of tiny fish, the sound delightful.  Two herons were in a distant field, and both took off, looking wonderful, but aerodynamically improbable.

In the above photograph, one of the first pleasures was a field of Rough hawkbit in the foreground  (Leontodon hispidus) and feathery mauve Yorkshire Fog grass in the background Holcus lanatus).  Rough hawkbit spreads just like dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), with its seeds carried on the air in even the lightest breeze on a hairy pappus (Latin, meaning “old man”), some of which can be seen in the above photograph.  The “hispidus” in the name, meaning bristly, refers  to the protective bract that covers the buds before the flowers open.

Turning back to see the view behind, Craig yr Aderyn (Bird rock) looms into sight, the site of a two-phase Iron Age hillfort.

Water starwort (Callitriche stagnalis) often form clumps,with their roots embedded into the mud.  It is good for rivers, streams and ponds because it is a good oxygenator and provides shelter from the heat for fish, fish eggs, frog spawn, tadpoles, frogs and other aquatic species. Its Latin name is derived from the Greek  carlos and trichos, which translate as “beautiful hair,” referring to its hairy stems.

The fabulous Water crowfoot, Ranunculus aquatilis – a short-lived perennial, a good pollinator and an excellent oxygenator. Produces two types of leaves – submerged foliage with very fine feathery leaves and then, in late spring during flowering, floating three-lobed leaves.  Like the Water starwort it provides shelter for aquatic species.

Levee with central track flanked by Yorkshire Fog grass

Hedge bedstraw (Galium mollugo). One of several bedstraws, it favours open grassland, meadows, hedge-banks and is mainly pollinated by flies.  Flowers June to September.

The path takes an abrupt left where the Fathew flows into the Dysynni, a much wider river flanked by marshy areas, some full of short spiky Spiny rush reeds and sheep tracks, others filled with the tall, gently rustling Common reed.  Little snatches of bird song from the marshes hinted at a healthy population of nesting pairs amongst the reeds, including reed bunting.  The floodplain of the Dysynni gives a sense of great openness and space, with excellent views over the sheep towards Bird Rock.  The Dysynni is home to salmon and trout, and there have been sitings of otters, but no otters were out to play that day.

 

Spiny rush (Juncus acutus) is found in freshwater flats and marshes but is also saline tolerant and will grow in brackish and salt marsh environments.  It is pollinated on the wind, and spreads quickly.

Common reed – Phragmites communis

Male reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus).  Reed buntings prefer tall reeds and high grasses where their nests, near to the ground, are hidden, but they are increasingly found in farmland too.  Their song is described by one of my books as “cheep-cheep-cheep-chizzup” but and it can be heard rather more usefully here on the excellent British-Birdsongs website.  Reed buntings eat insects when breeding, but switch to seeds for the rest of the year.

Almost certainly female reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus).  This was a long way from me, and I took a photo on the off-chance that I would be able to identify the bird once I had enlarged it in Photoshop, which sometimes works well enough to enable  broad markings to be made out.

I had intended to walk as far as the woods of Ynysymaengwyn, but three enormous splodges of warm water landed on my head as I was approaching, so although I had waterproofs in my rucksack I decided to turn back, and had the benefit of different views on the return journey.  Sheep were scattered along the levee.  Sometimes they moved off, and sometimes I did.  They were far more curious and confident than hillside sheep, perhaps more used to people, perhaps less nervous because they had no lambs.  Some were standing in the river.  When I came to one gate, there was a young male bull, jet black, looking at me over the top of it, a lovely animal.  I opened the gate slowly and carefully and he stood back, but I still had to push gently past him.

(Acer circinatum) leaves and samaras (the latter, its fruits, often known colloquially as helicopters or whirligigs).  Vine maple (Acer circinatum) looks very like the standard sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), but it doesn’t grow as big, its leaves are attached to branches by reddish stems and its fruits are red and green.  In Wales, sycamore trees were traditionally used in the making of ‘love spoons.’

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), just about to bloom.  It has attractive feathery foliage (millefolium means “a thousand leaves”), spreads by underground stems, and is patch-forming. It is disease resistant, which can benefit neighbouring plants, and its small leaves prevent excessive moisture loss.  It was named for Achilles, who used it to heal the wounds of his soldiers, and it retains its reputation as a good cure for cuts and bruises.  It has a long history as a remedy for colds and fevers (as a tea) and for toothache (when the leaves are chewed).  Its leaves and flowers are used in salads in small quantities, it can be boiled as a vegetable and served with butter, and it can be thrown into soups and stews.  It has a slightly bitter taste.  Flowers July to October.

Elder (Sambucus nigra).  They are versatile plants, their flowers providing pollen for insects, the leaves popular with moth caterpillars, and the fruits eaten by a wide variety of mammals.  For human consumption they must be cooked, as all parts of the plant are poisonous when raw, but is popular for making tea, wine, cordial and preserves.  It has a distinctive scent and was thought to keep the Devil away.  It was also hung around dairies to keep flies away.  It is sometimes known as the Judas Tree, because Judas Iscariot is said to have hanged himself from an elder.

Red campion (Silene dioica).  A favourite of so many people, its bright pink face is instantly cheering, and there was a lot of it along the Afon Fathew section of the footpath.  Plants are either male or female, so two plants are needed for reproduction.  Flowers May-July/August.

Tutsan / Shrubby St Johns Wort (Hypericum androsaemum).  The name Tutsan is derived from the French toute-sain, “all health,” reflecting its use in herbal medicines, primarily the application of bruised leaves to cuts to help healing.  Androsaemum means “sap the colour of blood.” After flowering the plant produces oval red to black berries when flowering has finished.  It likes shady areas, particularly deciduous woodland where this was found just on the way back to the start of the walk. Flowers June to August.

I arrived back at Aberdovey just as the rain started in earnest, and just in time to take my clothes off the outside dryer!

The Tomlins flour mill, Aberdovey: Melin Ardudwy (revised and updated)

From the moment I saw a photograph of Melin Ardudwy in Hugh M. Lewis’s book Aberdyfi, Portrait of a Village, I wanted to know all about it.  This is my second attempt to supply information about it.

Melin Ardudwy.  Source:  Hugh M. Lewis’s book Aberdyfi, Portrait of a Village.  It is also shown in C.C. Green’s The Coast Lines of the Cambrian Railways volume 2, p.80

When I first started to look around for information about the mill, to my immense frustration, there was remarkably little to be found in any of the resources I had to hand.  Melin Ardudwy is only mentioned in passing in local history accounts, almost forgotten by most histories of the village.  It is not even mentioned on the Coflein website, which is usually a reliable starting place, often providing a few helpful references to chase. A bit of pottering around in my books and files turned up only a little information.  The photograph in Hugh M. Lewis’s book is shown above right.  In the process of my searches online, I was excited to find, on the People’s Collection website, a superb sepia picture of the mill (below left) showing it behind a train pulled by the locomotive Seaham, ready to depart.  Next, I found that the mill was listed in Gwynedd Archaeological Trust’s document Ports and Harbours of Gwynedd: Aberdyfi under their “Buried Sites With Poor Archaeological Potential” category, which contributed a short paragraph on the subject.  However, the best source of information was one I didn’t have and to which my attention was drawn by Sierd Jan Tuinstra, who is an amazing source of information about anything railway-related in Aberdovey.  He pointed me to a book that I hadn’t come across:  The Coast Lines of the Cambrian Railways, Volume Two, by C.C. Green (Wild Swan Publications 1996), and found some news articles about the mill that also help to fill out the story of the mill.  I also found a number of useful short articles on The National Library of Wales website that added to the story.  With thanks to Sierd Jan, Green’s book and the newspaper articles, I have now revised the original post with the new information.  For the first time I now knew the name of the mill’s owner: Mr James Tomlins.

In the Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard on 27th August 1880, tenders were requested for the proposed new flour mill at Aberdovey.  The advert was placed by Robert and Evans of Aberystwyth, solicitors to the trustees.  The tender was evidently granted to James Tomlins, and Green (p.64) gives more details:

Mr Tomlin of Warwick wished to erect a four mill, and Mr Humphreys-Owen [of the Cambrian and West Coast Railway] and the solicitor were instructed to look in to the company’s right to use the land.  That report was favourable, and Mr Tomlin proceeded with his building work.

Green’s book has the photograph at the top of this post, showing the very first delivery into the flour mill, by a 2-4-0 Sharp Stewart engine with timber-sided cab. Bankruptcy proceedings in 1897 give details of the set-up costs invested by Mr Tomlins and his investors:  “He built a mill at a cost of about £10,000 and £2,000 had been expended in alterations.  He was allowed an overdraft of £2,000 and to that was added £4,0000 he borrowed and £3,000 he was allowed by a flour firm.

Later, Green makes the following information about the expansion of railway facilities at the mill mill (p.65)

In 1883, there was much debate about providing a ‘Cover for Mr Tomlin’s trucks.’  at the end, it was suggested that the company would pay half the cost of £125 so long as Mr Tomlin provided the labour for the erection of the structure, and undertook to send all his traffic along those routes most favourable to the company.

In 1884, Mr Tomlin asked for a siding to be laid down out of the company’s empty wagon storage siding to a new warehouse he proposed to erect at the end of his mill.  He laid it in with his own labour to the engineer’s satisfaction, and paid 20 shillings per annum for the use of the company’s land, and a proportion of the cost of the interlocking apparatus in the signal box.

Splendid view of Melin Ardudwy, c.1896.  Source: People’s Collection.

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust publication, Ports and Harbours of Gwynedd: Aberdyfi says that Melin Ardydwy (GAT25065) was a steam roller mill, and the mill was known both as the Ardudwy Flour Mill and, more formally, as the Cambrian Roller Flour Mill.   By the 1870s roller milling was becoming widespread, and conventional wind-powered flour mills were being abandoned.  Roller mills enabled the mass-production of much greater volumes of flour, which could be consistently graded and were used to make newly fashionable white bread. Apparently this area beyond the village was known as Ardudwy, hence the mill’s name.

The mill used to stand where a little housing development stands just outside the village to the left on the way to Tywyn, near the golf course.  The mill was four storeys high, stone-built, with five bays on the main frontage, three on the side, and had a protruding extension one bay in width.  The brick-built chimney sits in the corner where the two parts of the building meet.  It is a substantial edifice.  A large shed-like structure stands at its side.

It is not clear quite where the water came from.  Steam mills required a reliable supply of water such as a river or canal. Failing this a reservoir was usually necessary with sufficient capacity to supply the mill with at least one day’s supply of the required water.  James Tomlins’s name occurs time and time again in debates in Tywyn concerning the supply of water to Aberdovey for sewerage, drainage and the supply of businesses dependent upon it, but it is completely opaque how the mill was supplied with water until he managed to secure agreement for an improved water supply.  That agreement was finally made on 13th February 1894, with the Montgomery County Times and Shropshire and Mid-Wales Advertiser reporting that

Mr. Tomlins has for years been agitating respecting the insufficient water supply and constructed drainage of the place, but he failed to make any tangible impression on the Board representatives until last summer’s drought proved his hypothesis. Penyroror Hill is the site fixed upon for the new reservoir. The result of the enquiry will soon be made public.

As an amusing aside, the author of the report finishes with a rather embittered rhetorical question:  “By the way, can anybody enlighten us why an enquiry closely pertaining to Aberdovey should be held Towyn?”

The traditional approach to flour production was to crush wheat grain between two circular millstones, an upper runner stone that rotated and a lower bed stone that was fixed into a stationary position.  The runner stone was powered either by wind or water.  In the 1850s the repeal of the Corn Laws meant that imported grain was affordable and Britain’s dependence on imported grain grew from 2% in the 1830s to  45% (and 65% for wheat alone) during the 1880s.  The arrival of the railway in Aberdovey seventeen years previously had resulted in an expansion of the deep water sea trade with imported cargoes from Ireland, South Wales, Newfoundland, the Baltic, South America and elsewhere, which in turn led to the expansion of the coastal and rail transport from the port.  Cargoes were trans-shipped, via rail or coastal vessels, to other parts of Wales and England.  Hugh M. Lewis says that wheat and barley were imported from the Mediterranean, Australia and Canada.  At a time when white bread was increasingly in demand, mill technology was changing and rollers began to replace millstones all over Britain  Rollers were cheaper to make than the skilled but arduous and time-consuming dressing of millstones.  The website From Quern to Computer has a useful overview of the reasons that steam-powered mills became so popular, and why they were often located, like Melin Ardudwy, at ports:

Henry Simon was one of the main manufacturers of roller machines for flour milling. Source: From Quern to Computer (full reference at end of post)

In 1878 The National Association of British and Irish Millers (nabim) was formed for ‘mutual advancement and protection’ in the light of the ‘great changes which are now in progress in the manufacture of flour, and in the machinery used for that purpose’.  These ‘great changes’ . . . were driven by two related factors:  the growing demand for white bread and the increased importation of hard wheats from North America, Russia and also Australia and India, to meet demand.  These hard wheats gave good quality flours, naturally higher in gluten than native soft wheats, which enabled the production of well-risen white bread.  The gradual reduction method employed by the new roller mills was not only better suited to milling hard wheats than traditional millstones, but also to extracting a greater proportion of fine white flour.  In addition, changes were taking place in the location of the milling industry, as large new mills were built at ports and on navigable rivers and canals, well-placed to receive deliveries of imported wheat.  Such changes were also facilitated by the use of steam power.

Melin Ardudwy was an outcome of this industrialization of flour production.  I can find no mention anywhere of exactly what internal machinery was installed or how many rollers it drove.  However, the basic operation can be cobbled together from general accounts of steam-driven roller mills.

Roller milling, as the name implies, replaced circular stones with rollers, c12 inches in diameter, not unlike a big mangle, through which the grain was gradually broken down through successive pairs of rollers.  These were set at a specific distance from each other, fixed by a technician, spinning towards each other at different speeds in incremental stages until the grain was sufficiently reduced.  Grain was fed in to the rollers and extracted via pneumatic pipes.  Flour was extracted at all stages of the process.

Green provides a fascinating plan of the railway showing the mill in the context of other structures serving or served by the railway c.1923.  It is marked on the plan as Tomlins Steam Mill, and has an accompanying warehouse.  I have scanned it, a pretty poor job that makes a complete pig’s breakfast of the part where the plan spans the page join.  You can click on it to get a better view of it.  It shows how Tomlins Steam Mill was integrated with the rest of Aberdovey’s railway infrastructure. I have highlighted the mill in red and the station in green.

Plan of the railway at Aberdovey, c.1923, showing the Tomlins Mill at Ardudwy. Source: C.C. Green 1996, The Coast Lines of the Cambrian Railways, Volume 2. Wild Swan Publications, p.74-5

The plan seems to show that the tracks in the photograph at the top of this post ran into Tomlins Mill, shown in red.  There is another siding shown running to the south of that track, terminating next to the mill, and others to the north. The two sidings to the north appear to relate to other activities, with one serving cattle pens and another relating to a proposed goods yard.  a total of four tracks seem to have served the mill itself, a fairly impressive operation.  All of the sidings eventually connect to the main line near the golf club’s club house.  This linkage to the main line meant that flour could be taken further afield by rail, or taken down to the port for loading on to vessels for transhipment along the coast to south Wales.

1884 was a good, profitable year for Mr Tomlins, although he was still in debt.  He had the best possible machinery and established a trade monopoly, but by 1893 he was in difficulties due to increasing competition and ongoing debt.  On 3rd November 1894, the Montgomery County Times and Shrophshire and Mid-Wales Advertiser reported that a wheat conditioning plant was installed at the mill, “giving every possible satisfaction,” but this was obviously not sufficient to rescue the business, which was obviously in trouble.  In 1897 a long report appeared in the Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard, dated 10th December 1897, announcing that the mill had declared bankruptcy, with liabilities of £2,124, 8s 5d.  The public examination heard that “the cause of failure was stated to be the heavy outlay in building a flour mill at Aberdovey, the erection of expensive machinery, insufficient capital to work that business at a profit, heavy insurance and interest, bad debts, competition, and working at no profit for four years prior to 1895.”  A fairly comprehensive list of woes. The mill was sold at auction on 29th April 1897 to a Mr Powell of the Midlands for £1600, but it is unclear what happened to it between then and when the main building was pulled down.

A postcard that shows it in the distance (below) shows women in fashions that date to the 1910s, with the mill and its chimney still in tact.  The picture of the mill on the right, is a detail of the postcard on the left, visible in the distance.

The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard on 4th December 1908 describes the dismantling of the mill itself, leaving the chimney behind:  “The old flour mill adjoining the railway is being rapidly dismantled, at the instance of the Cambrian Railway Company, its condition having of late become unsafe.  Mr J.P. Lewis undertook the contract, which up to the present has proceeded without incident.”  The chimney remained in place until 1920.

The demolition of the chimney was reported in The Cambrian News on 4th June 1920, as follows:

On Wednesday week, an exodus of men, women and children, 100s in no.s, was made for Ardudwy and the sea.  For on that night the giant chimney of the old mill, erected at about 1884, was to be rased to the ground.  Since that date, the old chimney had served as an excellent landmark for the Aberdovey fishermen, and they took this opportunity – the heat of its destruction – to organize a collection from the spectators for the Sailors Orphanage Fund, which was some solatium for the loss of their silent friend . . . . At exactly 10 minutes to eight, Mrs Richards, Ardudwy, applied the torch to the well-petrolled timber and in less time than it takes to write, the base was a mass of flames. . . . A neater job was never done.”

I don’t know when the rest of the mill was taken down, and it may have survived until the land was cleared for the modern housing estate that now sits on the land.

It would be rather nice to know more about James Tomlin other than his name.  He was a member of various boards in Tywyn and Aberdovey and, as mentioned above, was involved in a number of heated debates about improvements to Aberdovey’s water supply for drainage, sewerage and business operations, how it should be implemented.  A report of the marriage of his son Herbert in Chaddesley-Corbett in 1903 indicates that he was married with at least one child.  The bankruptcy proceedings recorded that he was very poor at keeping his books in order and he was, according to a report dating to 21st October 1887, a teetotaler!  I could probably find some more odds and ends by trawling through the newspapers online, but whatever I find, it’s not going to make up much of a biography.  If anyone knows of any more about him please get in touch.

Main sources for this post:

The National Library of Wales website (a fabulous resource):
https://newspapers.library.wales

The Coast Lines of the Cambrian Railways, volume 2, 1996 by C.C. Green.  Wild Swan Publications

Structural Engineering in the Lancashire Cotton Spinning Mills 1850-1914: the example of Stott & Sons by Roger N. Holden, 1993. Industrial Archaeology Review, Volume 15, 1993 – Issue 2

Technology and Transformation: The Diffusion of the Roller Mill in the British Flour Milling Industry, 1870-1907.  Jennifer Tann and R. Glyn Jones. Technology and Culture
Vol. 37, No. 1 (Jan., 1996), p. 36-69 (Available to read on JSTOR)

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust 2007.  Ports and Harbours of Gwynedd: Aberdyfi. A Threat Related Assessment.  GAT Project  No.1824, Report No.671.1, April 2007

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust 2011. Conservation Area Appraisal: Aberdyfi, Gwynedd.  GAT Project No. 2155. Report No. 956, June, 2011

Aberdyfi, Portrait of a Village by Hugh M. Lewis.

Aberdyfi, A Chronicle Through the Centuries by Hugh M. Lewis

From Quern to Computer: the history of flour milling. Roller Milling: A Gradual Takeover. September 06th 2016 by Martin and Sue Watts
https://millsarchive.org/explore/features-and-articles/entry/171161/from-quern-to-computer-the-history-of-flour-milling/11669

England 1870–1914. The Oxford history of England by R.C.K. Ensor.  (1936). Clarendon Press

 

A late afternoon stroll in the hills behind Aberdovey, with wildflowers

Monday at 4pm was looking dicey.  I started out in a light rain coat, because it was spitting fairly firmly and the sky looked ominous, but thankfully it stopped.  I rolled up my coat and put it in my rucksack, the sun came out, and we had no rain for the rest of the two and a half hour walk.  The combination of sun and cloud in the late afternoon made for some very nice contrasts in the scenery, and the wild flowers were splendid.  The foxgloves, which have been rampant for weeks, have truly come into their own in the hills behind Aberdovey, and were really rather spectacular.  Another terrific walk without another person in sight.  There were a lot of sheep and lambs around, the lambs now fairly stocky.  On the other side of the valley, cattle were grazing on the hillside.  We saw several tiny frogs in a narrow stretch of water where there had been tadpoles earlier in the year, and a couple of rabbits on the return leg of the journey at the top of the hill, and could here the larks singing.  Apart from the glorious views, the main source of interest was the wildflower population.

The foxgloves dotted around in the new green bracken provide lovely splashes of colour at the moment.

This is not in flower yet, but looks from its leaves and its spikes like wood sage (Teucrium scorodonia).  It should flower between July and September, producing creamy-yellow lipped flowers.  It is a member of the mint family.  It is drought tolerant, and is often found in coastal areas including sand dunes.

English stonecrop (Sedum anglicum)
A succulent acid-loving 5-petalled perennial, flowering from May to August.  Retaining water in its waxy leaves allows it to tolerate dry environments and poor soil and to survive drought conditions.  The leaves may turn red if it is exposed to a great deal of sun, a protective chemical response to sunlight, which can damage green chlorophyll.  To protect itself from wind-scorch, it grows very low to the ground.

Sheep’s-bit (Jasione montana)
Sometimes called Sheep’s-bit scabious, this is actually a perennial member of the campanula family, even though it has no obvious resemblance to the usual bell-flowered character of campanulaceae and at first glace looks much more like a true scabious.  Unlike scabious, it has small, alternate hairy leaves. and tiny narrow petals.  According to the Wildlife Trusts website, pollinating insects, which see a different light spectrum to humans, find it highly visible under ultraviolet (UV) light, and use the patterns and colours on the petals to guide them to the nectar and pollen.  It usually starts flowering in July, but thanks to the remarkably warm spring, a lot of species are flowering early.  It likes a wide variety of environments, including dry grassland, and is often found in coastal areas.  It is an excellent pollinator.

Rosebay willowherb (Chamerion/Epilobium angustifolium).
Also known as “fireweed” because it colonized burned and scorched sites, and “bombweed” due to its expansion on World war I and II bomb sites.  Heat from this type of site assists with the germination process.  It has rhizomes, so a single large patch can be one plant. Its seeds also establish themselves freely, each fitted with cotton-like ‘parachutes’ that carry them over long distances. The Latin “angustifolium” simply means narrow-leaved.  It is a biennial that flowers from June to September.  Its leaves are edible and have a wide range of uses.  For more on the multiple uses, see the Wikipedia page dedicated to Rosebay willowherb.

Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris)
One of my books says that the dark violet flowers have a hooked upper lip that in the 16th century was supposed to look like a sickle, so according to the doctrine of signatures, it was believed to men wounds from sickles and billhooks.  Although there were one or two isolated examples in verges, this perennial has creeping roots and in open grassland and on heaths usually grows in patches from June to November.  The Latin “vulgaris” means common.  They are pollinated by long-tongued bees.

A tiny frog, about 3cm long, in a very small stream where we had seen tadpoles earlier in the year.  There were several of these little amphibians, and they would have been completely invisible if they hadn’t hopped around, their damp skin catching the light.  It’s a lousy photograph, because I was trying to hold back some grass with one hand and steady the camera and focus it with the other, but you can just about make it out.

Marsh Thistle (Cirsium palustre)
Like most thistles, this has spiny protection both around its clusters of flowers and along its stem, and even has spiny leaves.  It looks fairly lethal to unprotected hands and judging by its proliferation, it is a good defense against being eaten by sheep, cattle and rabbits.  It was spread all over the hillsides, and it is easy to identify from a distance due to its distinctive form.  As its name indicates (“palustris” means of marshes), it prefers damp conditions and meadows, but seems to be doing well at the moment, even after the recent drought conditions.  It is biennial (flowering every other year), pollinated by bees and butterflies, and usually flowers between July and September.

Occasional white examples of the purple marsh thistle were dotted around.

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
Foxgloves are going mad at the moment, in verges, in amongst the bracken or as here, on disturbed ground.  They began flowering in early May, although they don’t usually appear until June, and flower until September.  The foliage is poisonous, which is probably why in Wales it is known as elves’ fingers or gloves, and in Ireland it is called fairy thimbles.

Bittersweet or woody nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)
All parts of the plant are poisonous but in humans usually cause only upset stomachs.  The latin species name “dulcamara” means sweet-bitter, which describes the bitter taste, followed by a sweet after-taste.  In Germany physicians used it as a cure for rheumatism and it was hung around the necks of cattle to ward off evil.   It flowers from June to September and is happy in hedgerows and woods.  After flowering it produces egg-shaped berries that start off green, as above, and slowly become a bright, shiny red.

This is tiny, just a few millimeters across.  I still haven’t tracked it down but will update this page when I do.

White foxglove (Digitalis)
The hills are covered in the distinctive purple spikes of Digitalis purpurea (“purpurea” means purple) at the moment, so the appearance of a single, pure white foxglove, near the stream in Happy Valley, was something of a novelty.

Afon Dyffryn Gwyn in Happy Valley.  Afon means river, but it’s more like a big stream. Dyffryn means valley, and Gwyn can mean white, fair or blessed.  The water is always beautifully clear.  In the shallow stretches by the ford, where the plunging track meets the valley floor, well-camouflaged fish can be spotted maintaining position in line with the flow, as below.  Most of them were about an inch long, but this one was about four inches.

The stream was being visited by cows and their calves, all calling to each other in loud, low, resonating voices.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum)
Beautifully-scented, honeysuckle has evolved to attract pollinating moths.  When the flowers go over, clusters of red berries replace them.  They flower from June to October.  This was was growing in a hedge by the side of the road leading up to the Panorama.  Lonicera is named for the German botanist Adam Lontzer (1528 -1586), and periclymenum is the term for honesuckle, derived from Greek.

Dog rose (Rosa canina)
Although similar in appearance to the bramble flower, the distinctive heart-shaped petals of the dog rose make it easily distinguishable.  It climbs through hedges and bushes, lending colour to otherwise unremarkable shrubs.  The white petals are often tinged with pale pink, as in this example.  After flowering a red rosehip is produced, and as well as being eaten by animals and birdds can be used to make rose-hip syrup, which has high quantities of vitamin C, and can be used to produce wine and liqueur.  It flowers from June to July.

The Afon Leri and the 5000 year old Cors Fochno peatland with the hills of Cerdigion rising behind.  A shame about the disfiguring wind farm on the otherwise undisturbed hillsides, but you can’t have everything!

View from the top of the hill across to the cliffs of Ceredigion, looking very beautiful under the gathering clouds

Wildflower information sources used in this post:

The Wildlife Trusts – Wildflowers
https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/wildflowers

Grey-Wilson, G. Wild 1994. Flowers of Britain and Northwest Europe.  Dorling Kindersley

Fletcher, N. 2004. Pocket Nature Wild Flowers.  Dorling Kindersley

Spencer-Jones, R. and Cuttle, S. 2005.  Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland.  Kyle Books