Charli Evans, Community and Volunteering Officer
Rain, hail, rain, sleet, rain, snow; I did mention the rain didn’t I? Pretty much the usual West Wales winter rather than the Christmas card scenes we had last year and the year before. However because the weather hasn’t exactly been crisp and even the winter work programme on the reserve wasn’t disrupted too much.
Contractors were able to get onto the reserve and coppice or thin the trees in three coupes (small blocks of woodland) and The Grasslands Trust’s volunteers have cleared trees from limestone grassland, maintained reserve signs and undertaken a small mammal survey. Some volunteers even found time to undertake a chainsaw course on the reserve.
The Grasslands Trust’s Carmel Reserve SSSI; NNR; SAC: is as you can see a well decorated or rather designated protected area. Special Site of Scientific Importance, National Nature Reserve and Special Area of Conservation. The reserve is of UK importance for its woodland and grassland habitats and the biodiversity within a relatively small area is high as the reserve straddles the northern boundary of the South Wales coalfield. The geology includes Limestone and Silicate rocks and so there are acid, neutral and lime loving plants present.
In the eastern section of the reserve is a turlough, a small lake that fills and empties via swallow holes. It is the only example in Britain and the reason that the eighty six hectare Reserve and over two hundred hectares of surrounding land were designated a SAC.
The Grasslands Trust manages over fifty hectares of the reserve and in addition owns twenty hectares of nearby land within the SAC. The reserve is a mix of fields and small woodland blocks with one area in particular an intricate mosaic of woodland, glades and small fields. The Trust manages both the grassland and woodland areas and since the Trust’s involvement with the reserve significant progress has been made to re-establish the woodland glades, remove scrub from grassland areas and reintroduce coppice management.
Since coppicing work was carried out in December, what some people think looks like the ramparts of a medieval castle have come to light! Although castles are quite thick on the ground in Wales this particular example of large scale masonry is a little more modern. Because the limestone rock was and still is a valuable resource the area is peppered with quarries. The reserve itself has a number of impressive examples. The two quite large quarries on the section the Trust manages were abandoned over a century ago. Nature has pretty much reclaimed them and also the four Victorian lime kilns that were abandoned at the same time. Now the ash and hazel has been coppiced one of these kilns is now clearly visible and as you can see it’s perhaps not surprising that some visitors have mistaken it for some sort of fortification.
Carmel National Nature Reserve and The Grasslands Trust’s other properties at Carmel are open to the public throughout the year and there are miles of trails by which visitors can explore the many wildlife habitats to be found there.