Bridge/Path Consultation (till 25th March)

Monmouthshire County Council are consulting on proposed improvements to routes across the Meadows, including new bridges across the Usk and Gavenny. We encourage all those who use the Meadows (and those who would do if access were improved) to read the full details and respond to the MCC survey, using the link at the bottom of their page.

Joining Up

To us humans, Castle Meadows look like a varied landscape: river, grassland, shrubs and patches of woodland. For small creatures who live there – from insects to bats – the gaps between those may be more of a problem. Bats use linear features to navigate, insects need a continuous supply of food and shelter to be able to spread around the Meadows.

Photograph of the Woodland Tunnel information board

Our latest information board – featuring artwork by pupils from Our Lady & St.Michael’s School – explains how we are planting native shrubs and trees (including willow, birch, blackthorn, hawthorn, crab apple and hazel) to provide better connections.

Soroptimists

Last November the Friends planted a new copse of 68 saplings where Castle Meadows meets the western boundary of Linda Vista Gardens. The trees were financially donated by the Abergavenny and District branch of Soroptimists International who were looking to mark the female empowerment organisation’s centenary year in 2021 with a locally beneficial environmental project.

The trees, comprising beech, oak, willow, rowan, hazel, hornbeam and hawthorn coped well with the varied winter and spring weathers. And all but a handful also survived the competing attentions of the thorns, nettles and Himalayan Balsam which the Friends cleared away from the guarded trees in several early summer sessions. The ones that didn’t make it were replaced by ash and walnut in order that the original planting number was maintained.

In order to mark their contribution the Soroptimists commissioned a plaque which was unveiled recently at the site. Hosted by the Friends, the invitees included Heidi Lewis, the Welsh Regional President of Soroptimists International; the Abergavenny and District SI President, Darryth Jenkins; Abergavenny’s Town Mayor, County Councillor Tudor Thomas, and Maureen Powell, County Councillor for the Castle Ward.

After brief speeches about the valuable work of the Friends and the Soroptimists, the Mayor and Heidi Lewis unveiled the plaque. Also invited along were a number of young girls who’ll represent the next generation of female achievement, aspiration and progress. The Friends brought along five guelder rose saplings which Tudor and Heidi then presented to the children.

With the Friends Chairperson being a former Soroptimist, the whole project has been a highly enjoyable and worthwhile collaboration between the two organisations, and it is hoped that the new copse of growing trees will become an additional landscape attraction in Castle Meadows.

Welcome Back, Young Friends

In the first Young Friends visit to Castle Meadows since before the coronavirus pandemic, 25 end of Year 1 pupils from Llanfoist Fawr Primary School enjoyed a full morning session of pond dipping and food chain games. In the latter case, with blindfolds and much running about, the youngsters learnt about how interdependent animals are for food in their different habitats. Those habitats include water, and in their pond dipping the children fished out, netted and studied 13 different species during the morning. These were:

  • Pond Snails
  • Water Boatmen
  • Sticklebacks
  • Midge Larvae
  • Tadpoles
  • Dragonfly Nymphs
  • Pond Skaters
  • Mayfly Larvae
  • Toadlets
  • Minnows
  • Whirligig Beetles
  • Bloodworms
  • Leeches

On the water nearby were half a dozen ducklings, and over the water flew damselflies and dragonflies, all playing their parts in the sessions main learning theme.

Many of the pupils were particularly enthused by their finds and were methodically matching the species in their trays to those on their laminated identification charts.

The past 16 months have been extremely difficult and disruptive for teachers, teaching assistants, parents and pupils. Friends volunteers and Mon Life’s Head Countryside Warden were, therefore, truly impressed by the pupils exemplary behaviour and in the close interest they took in the activities. Let’s all hope that more normal times are returning and that we are able to welcome back more Young Friends of Castle Meadows.


Preparing for the future

For the short-term future, since the doughnuts haven’t had as much time as we’d hoped to grow roots, we’ve attached them to stakes so they don’t float away in any flood this winter…

…and, for the much longer-term, we’ve started planting new copses to ensure there will still be patches of woodland and biodiversity when the current willow trees reach the end of their lives. The fence is to keep the little trees safe from trampling cows and humans.

Mechanical Assistance

COVID-19 precautions mean we haven’t been able to have our usual volunteer working parties on the Meadows. Fortunately we’ve been able to call on some mechanical assistance.

In the copse, strimmers have helped to clear the nettles, brambles and other creepers that we’d normally pull by hand. This gives the less vigorous plants, and the trees, more of a chance!

And in the pond the “doughnuts”, which were delivered just before lockdown and left floating in the corner, have now been moved to their proper location on the south bank, flipped on their sides, and secured. Here they’ll stabilise the bank, create a range of habitats along the water’s edge and improve biodiversity. Thanks to Welsh Water for the grant that funded this work.

Unidentified Floating Objects

When the new pond on the meadows was dug, it had an unnaturally sharp edge between water and land. We had hoped that the normal plants of such water margins would establish themselves naturally, but that hasn’t happened: we suspect because of the weight of human and animal feet.

Coir rings in the pondJust before lockdown we were able to launch these coir rings to help the process along. On these, water plants should be able to grow safe from trampling, creating a broader margin that has more wildlife habitats and is more attractive to humans to look at too. The plants should also help to improve water quality, by reducing the amount of soil erosion, trapping silt and consuming excess nutrients in the water.

Thanks to MCC and HabitatAid for their contributions