Summer Walks Programme 2019

We’re pleased to announce a series of walks to look at the wildlife of the Meadows. Most last about 2-3 hours. Please wear appropriate clothes and footwear. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Dogs only on leads, please.

Sat 10/8 [CANCELLED, due to bad weather, sorry]: Dragonflies and other insects. Meet Steve Butler 10am at the Byfield Lane entrance

Fri 6/9: Moth night. Meet Martin Anthoney 8pm at the orchard in Mill Street. Please bring torches

Flounces, Thorns, Carpets and Shells

YellowShellMoths have much better names than butterflies! On Friday night we had a visit from the Gwent county moth recorder with his (reasonably) portable lamp and generator. Set up for a couple of hours as it grew dark this attracted three different kinds of yellow underwing (Large, Lesser and Broad-bordered), three rustics (Flounced, Square-spot and the recently arrived Vine’s), Green Carpet (which is patterned like a carpet, it doesn’t eat them!), Light Emerald, Flame Shoulder, Ruby Tiger, Dusky Thorn, Setaceous Hebrew Character and the Yellow Shell that illustrates this post. An enthusiastic audience of children and adults were kept busy trying to capture these in clear plastic pots for inspection and identification.

Llanfoist Year 1

The final summer term Young Friends of Castle Meadows session recently took place when Year 1 pupils from Llanfoist Primary School revisited the site in order to take part in some different activities.

Starting off in the Horse Chestnut copse the young naturalists identified a range of ‘minibeasts’ by using their pots, brushes and magnifiers. Their was no shortage of the usual suspects i.e. ants, woodlice, beetles etc. as well as ladybirds and, lurking in the longer grass, a cricket. The class were also set an afternoon research task involving identifying the number of legs on the millipede!
After a short break the children then went into neighbouring Linda Vista to devise suitable habitats for the stuffed toy versions of stoats, badgers, rabbit, hedgehogs and rabbits. They even located a rare red squirrel up a tree (!) before the excited group made their way back to school.

Llanfoist Young Friends

Twenty-nine Year 1 pupils from Llanfoist Primary School became the latest Young Friends of Castle Meadows after a recent session spent pond dipping and playing food chain activities in the meadows. Led by Monmouthshire Countryside Service and Friends volunteers the children greatly enjoyed the hands on activities. They were especially delighted and / or horrified when the pond dipping yielded up a water scorpion into the water tray. Within no time the water scorpion demonstrated the practical lesson of the food chain in action to the extreme cost of the sticklebacks and water boatmen in the tray!

The species identified during the morning were:

  • Pond Snails
  • Sticklebacks
  • Water Boatmen
  • Pond Skaters
  • Fly Larvae
  • Phantom Midge Larvae
  • Midge Larvae
  • Hog-louse Leech
  • Hairworms
  • Beetle Larvae
  • Water Scorpion.

A very tired group made their way back to school at the end of morning, but they’re looking forward to another visit in a few weeks when they will be discovering mini-beasts and exploring animal habitats.

Llanfoist Primary: Orienteering

Thirty Year 5 pupils from Llanfoist Primary School became the latest Young Friends of Castle Meadows following a recent orienteering session. The students demonstrated excellent map reading skills as they searched for clue cards comprising photos of the flora and fauna of the meadows, its ponds and the adjoining River Usk. After two and a half hours an excited and very hungry group made its way back to school, but not before a highly alert trio of girls located one of the area’s geocache locations en route.

Bird Walk – 28th April

Ten of us joined Steve Butler for a rather breezy walk around Linda Vista Gardens and the Meadows this morning. It was good to hear lots of bird song, including from migrant blackcaps, though the many wrens won the prize for volume. But the best bird was down on the river, where a common sandpiper spent long enough preening to give everyone a chance to see it through the telescope.

Birds seen or heard: Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chiffchaff, Common Sandpiper, Goldcrest, Goosander, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Robin, Sand Martin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Woodpigeon, Wren.

Cantref Primary: Birds and Migration

Thirty Year 1 pupils from Cantref Primary School became the newest (and most junior ever) Young Friends of Castle Meadows when they joined Monmouthshire Countryside Service and Friends’ volunteers for a bird watching and migration session recently.

Initially impressing the Friends with their knowledge of around twenty different birds (included goldfinches and long tailed tits) they then viewed the sand martin nest sites on the riverbank and learnt about their imminent return to the meadows from their long, winter African migration. The pupils then enjoyed a bird spotting walk round the copse, with the robin the most frequently sighted.

After a break the Young Friends split into groups to create shelters for locally hibernating animals, using natural materials from the copse. There were some highly impressive pupil efforts for sheltering imaginary squirrels, hedgehogs, foxes, rabbits and stoats, but perhaps the best of all was the multi roomed badger sett complete with an ‘accessories’ log for Mr and Mrs Badger!