Slate fence art

In 2002, the artist Valerie Coffin Price worked in the Braint car park, off Penlon, to engrave a series of pictures showing some of the wildlife characteristic of Newborough Warren.

Although I look at the pictures every time I pass, it’s easy to take them for granted. And as time goes by, some of them are becoming less distinct. So here, for posterity, are some photographs of the slate fence art.

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Y tywyn trwy’r tymhorau – The warren through the seasons

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Some of the engravings of flowers and fungi (including a cinnabar moth caterpillar alongside the ragwort – top left)

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Some of the birds drawn by Valerie Coffin Price at Penlon, Newborough in 2002

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An iconic Newborough bunny; and a pair of ponies (becoming less distinct as the lichens grow)

These are just a few, there are lots more to see…

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Perhaps it’s “too darn hot”…

The cattle and the ponies on Newborough Warren are definitely finding things a little too hot. And they have a Catch 22 situation: if they go under the trees for a bit of shade, the horse flies are ferocious.

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One of the belted Galloway cattle on Newborough Warren.

Young broadleaved trees, especially the willows, birches and sycamores are showing marked drought stress.

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A scorched young willow behind the dunes of Penrhos Beach

Signs have been put up around the forest warning of the extreme risk of it going on fire. Mostly people are heeding these, but there are always exceptions and there have been some small fires, which have, thankfully, been controlled and put out before over much damage is done.

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NRW Extreme Fire Risk warning sign, Newborough Forest

Over on the mainland things are worse, the smoke from the wildfire by Carmel, near Caernarfon, was clearly visible from Llanddwyn Beach this morning.

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Smoke from the gorse/mountain wildfire by Carmel seen from Llanddwyn Beach this morning.

There seems to be no rain likely in the near future. Things are going to get tougher. It seems churlish to wish this weather to end, but I do!

Trialling treelessness…

Towards the end of last year, Natural Resources Wales gave notice that they planned to fell a four hectare block of the forest in order to establish an area in which to conduct “hydrological monitoring”. Off and on through the winter that clearfelling and site “preparation” work has been ongoing. The major works have now finished, the machines have left and the site has been fenced off…

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The area clearfelled on the edge of the forest for hydrological monitoring.

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NRW information sign for the hydrology trial site

The management of the forest is always a controversial issue and this trial is no exception…

The plan is for the area to be grazed: clearly that can’t happen for a while as the surface has been scraped and raked clear of all the vegetation that was there.  That is why the smart new fencing has been put around the area (to contain the future grazing animals), even though the forest is a designated open access area…

And then, in four years time, the area may or may not be planted with some scrubby/shrubby trees like rowans, hawthorns, hazels and birches.

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Newborough Forest clearfell coupe April 2018

Icy sands and Eleanor’s bottles

Yesterday was a perfectly clear, sunny and bitingly cold day – perfect on Penrhos Beach. It was so cold that the dunes were frozen solid; the rock pools had a covering of ice; and there was a line of ice crystals all the way along the beach marking where the tide turned.

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Tideline ice glinting in the morning sun. Penrhos Beach, Newborough

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Ice crystals at the tideline

It was the first chance I’d had to visit the beach since storm Eleanor blew through last week. She has eaten into the dunes some more and exposed dozens and dozens of old(ish) bottles – and lots of other not so nice trash too.

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A few of the bottles exposed by Storm Eleanor on Penrhos Beach, Newborough

Fatbergs – palm oil pollution?

The Daily Post has been warning that the wreck of the Kimya, which sank in 1991, was disturbed by the recent storms and palm oil from it is once again washing ashore on Anglesey.

Sure enough, today Penrhos Beach was littered with lumps of a white soapy substance that had a very strong smell, like diesel or tar.

And floating on the tide there were more lumps, looking like miniature ice bergs.

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A “fatberg” floating infront of Llanddwyn Island

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All the white blobs are lumps of a stinky, waxy substance – possibly some kind of processed palm oil. At first glance, they looked like polystyrene breaking up.

There were also a couple of lumps of yellowish, waxy stuff – more what I associate with palm oil – which doesn’t smell like diesel, just a bit like rancid fat and these seem to be more attractive to the birds (and presumably dogs too). If this is palm oil, it can make dogs very ill – so be careful. I can’t imagine it’s very good for any aspect of the marine environment, but Natural Resources Wales seem uninterested, saying it is the Council’s responsibility to clean up…

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A smaller piece of yellowish “palm oil” that the birds have been feeding on

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Today, 5th November, many lumps of fat remain on the beach, but the wind is doing a good job of covering them up.

On a lighter note, the Council have put out their warning signs for jellyfish…

Anglesey Council jellyfish sign

Portuguese Men o’ War

For about a month, Portuguese men o’ war (Physalia physalis) have been washing up on Cornish beaches. Now they have arrived at Newborough too. I spotted one at the start of the week. Today there were about a dozen dotted along the tide line.

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A Portuguese Man o’ War on Penrhos beach Newborough

I had never seen one of these in real life (or death) before, and I was surprised at how petite they are. The sails, or balloons, of the ones I’ve seen are only around 20cm long and 10cm tall at the most. Their colours are stunning.

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Portuguese Man o’ War complete with a little fish in its tentacles (and a pound coin to show its size)

Portuguese Men o’ War are related to the Borne by the Wind Sailors (Velella velella) that washed up earlier in the year.

Sadly, there have also been lots of dead seals washed ashore lately: mostly young pups, still coated in their pale baby fur. In south Wales it is being reported that as many as two-thirds of this year’s seal puppies have been killed by the storms. I wouldn’t be surprised if the situation is just as bad here:(