A close look at grassland

Many thanks to Sheelagh Kerry of the Monmouthshire Meadows Group for taking us around the meadows this morning and demonstrating just how varied “grassland” can be. Three species of clover, three of buttercup and more than ten of grass can be found in what might look, at first sight, like a uniform habitat.

However we were all distracted by the star of the morning’s walk – a magnificent eyed hawk moth. Grassland may be the home of lots of little white moths, but this definitely isn’t one of those.



A large crowd gathered in the copse adjacent to Abergavenny’s Castle Meadows on the last Saturday in April to witness the planting of the 100th oak tree in an area specially devoted to the commemoration of Abergavenny’s 364 war dead, a century on from the conflict.

Following a welcome and introduction to the event from the Friends of Castle Meadows, retiring Cllr Doug Edwards, whose Grofield ward incorporates the meadows, commented onPlanting the 100th tree his proud assocation with the Friends group and the efficacy of their working relationship with Monmouthshire County Council’s Countryside Service in co-promoting and managing the site. Before planting the oak (with assistance from five year old Joshua, see photo) he concluded by remarking on the human sadness and tragedy of the war, Continue reading

Bat walk 5/5/17

A dozen of us joined Mark Langley from Monmouthshire Countryside Services for a dusk walk around the Meadows to look and listen for bats. First stop was the river, but there was too much wind to spot the Daubenton’s bats that can sometimes be seen skimming low over the water in search of insects. We had better luck by the copse where there were plenty of pipistrelles flying around. Mark’s bat detectors brought their calls down to human hearing range, so we could listen to them both navigating and hunting for small insects using high-frequency sound. Working out whether their squeaks were loudest at 45kHz (common pipistrelle) or 55 kHz (soprano) kept us happily – and inconclusively – occupied till well after dark.

Bird Walk 13/5/17

Eighteen of us joined Steve Butler for this morning’s walk around the meadows. The birds managed an equally good turnout, with a record of 44 different species seen or heard. Highlights were a kingfisher flying down the Gavenny and up the Usk, and the first spotted flycatcher that any of us had seen this year. It was great to see one of these declining migrants, which only returned to Gwent a couple of days ago.

Full list: Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Common Sandpiper, Dipper, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail, Raven, Red Kite, Robin, Sand Martin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Spotted Flycatcher, Starling, Swallow, Swift, Treecreeper, Woodpigeon, Wren.

Variety is the spice of nature

Interesting to see three sand martins repeatedly landing on the ground, this morning, in one of the bare patches where the grass hasn’t completely recovered from last summer’s Eisteddfod. They flew off as we approached; looking at where they had been sitting it wasn’t obvious why they had chosen that particular place. If they had been house martins then the obvious answer would have been gathering mud to build their nests. But sand martins build their nests in tunnels in river banks, so don’t need mud. My guess is that they were feeding on ants or other insects that were exposed in the bare patch. Most species need a range of different habitats to meet their needs: normally floodwaters or cattle would create variety in the vegetation of our flood meadows, but it’s good to see humans’ activities helping, too.

Geology Stretches the Mind

Alan Underwood’s walk challenged us to see how today’s Castle Meadows were influenced by events that happened as long as 400 million years ago, and as recently as two hundred.

Pebble containing fossil coralsThe earliest of these is actually the most obvious – the rocks that are now Sugarloaf, Skirrid and the lower slopes of the Blorenge were formed in the Devonian period. That’s so long ago that what is now Abergavenny was south of the equator Continue reading

Planting for a wild harvest

Brownies from Abergavenny and Goytre recently planted a wild harvest spinney in the copse. The thirty strong group greatly enjoyed the planting process, with each tree anchored by a marker with their name on it. The brownies also named trees for parents and grandparents, and they greatly look forward to seeing the trees grow in size over time.

We hope this is the first of many activity visits for the girls – with perhaps some of the skill tasks we’re able to set them linking to brownie badges.