Notes of 11th July 2016 Meeting Main Topic – Walk to Penybont Hall Heronry and Sideland Nature Reserve, Cwmroches

Members assembled at the Thomas Shop for Coffee and announcements before setting off to meet Richard Morgan at Penybont Hall

Geraint welcomed everyone with special mention of Daniel MacIntosh who has joined us for the first time.

Derek referred to two contacts, with historical links to the village that were made over the last month.

  1. Keith Martin, now in his 80s, was an evacuee during the 2nd World War. He and his mother initially left London for The Gower but soon discovered that German pilots would off load any unused bombs, that were meant for Swansea, on The Gower. They then found their way to Penybont where they settled in Ithon Terrace. Before becoming a broadcaster and pioneer DJ for Radio Caroline Keith had some very fond memories of his time in Penybont. The stories he recounted tended to feature the Thomas Family and the Chapel where his abiding memory was of ‘Hell Fire and Damnation’. He remembered Mary’s mother, Mrs Worth, running a small school for evacuees, and including a few village children, in the parlour, which is now my office. He had a soft spot for Jack and the chicken farm. One of the chicken sheds was converted into a playroom and he seemed to remember Jack meeting his mother there.
  2. An email was received from a Jeannie Elgar who wrote to say that her Gt. Gt. Grandfather, Thomas Davies (1820 – 1903), was gamekeeper at Penybont Hall, and subsequently became Head Gamekeeper for the Severn Estates. Thomas Davies is buried in the graveyard at Llanbadarn Fawr Church and he is mentioned in the book on the Church by Rev. Albert Jordon. She had a particular interest in trying to find a photograph of Thomas Davies. – Enquires at Penybont Hall have not been fruitful but Richard would be happy to meet Jeanie.

Geraint mentioned that the next meeting will be a reporting meeting bringing together the activities of members:

  • Judy Dennison – Narratives from older members of our community
  • Lynda Price – Photographs of Community Life
  • Jenny Bowman – Archives Llandegley School

Geraint asked members to consider volunteering to mount an exhibition of local history on display panels.

Richard Morgan met us at Penybont Hall. As he had damaged his leg he introduced us to Carlton Parry who, as a keen environmentalist and ornithologist would guide us through the woods at Penybont Hall to the Heronry.

Carlton, who lives in Kington, is actively involved in conservation across Powys and wider afield. He is a bird ringer at Llangorse and helps to track the numbers of species and birds that frequent and visit the area.

He started with a couple of happenings he had encountered in the last few hours. He had shot a grey squirrel and left it lying on his lawn and within a very few minutes a red kite had swooped down and taken it. Also in rummaging through his boot he had come across a dead ‘yellow underwing moth’, which is just as described on the tin. To the question – What do they eat? Carlton was able to look it up to find that they ate a wide range of herbage including brassica and docks.

Carlton mentioned that the Herons would have finished raising their chicks by now and that it might be a good idea to plan a walk next year 6 weeks or so earlier. His other concern was that for reasons unknown the herons do not appear to have made use of the heronry this year. The walk through the wood was delightful with lots of bird song to identify, at least for the discerning few.

As we walked through the grounds of the Hall and into the woodland our auditory senses became aroused to the bird calls that were all around us. These were a group of tits. Carlton explained that with the breeding and chick raising finished the tits come together for safety and to forage, and would include Great Tits, Coal Tits, Blue Tits, Long Tailed Tits.

The birds that would have been nesting in the woods would include:

Wood Warbler; Willow Warbler; Chiffchaff; Blackcap; Spotted Flycatcher; Gold Crest; Wren; Robin

As we looped around to turn back towards the Hall we could see a number of very tall conifers that were set back from the path. Carlton was able to find the remains of one nest very high up in one of these trees. Carlton was at a loss to know why the Herons had not used the heronry this year. He thought they might have found an alternative site nearby. He is also involved in ringing herons in a woodland adjacent to the Royal Welsh Showground. They have nested there as usual. He is hopeful that they might return again to Penybont next year as there are still many herons in the area. He encouraged the group plan a visit for May next year.

There was discussion about the frequent visits to the village by Egrets. There seemed to be a breeding pair here this year. He said that with global warming they can be found more and more across Wales. They nest in the ‘middle’ storey below the herons. The first egret in the area was spotted at Bryn Thomas about 20 years ago.

Ringing the herons is quite a task with people being winched up, these huge trees, collecting the young birds, and then abseiling down. They then had to repeat  the process and return the young birds as quickly as possible to their nest.

Attention was drawn to a gold crest that was singing away, and then to a wren.

A question about whether nightingales might be in the area. Carlton said that the last sighting of a nightingale was at Fownhope in Herefordshire during the 1970s.

Geraint thanked Carlton for his excellent ramble through the wood and looked forward to the possibility of following this walk up with one a bit earlier in the year, perhaps May next year.

We then walked up from the end of the lane past the Hall to Cwmroches Farm. Turning down the lane into the farm we crossed through some fields and found ourselves outside Sideland where Radnorshire Wildlife have a sign welcoming visitors to this ancient woodland. A ramble around this woodland is worth an hour of anyone’s time. We were a little late in the season for the best of the wild flowers but one of the features that drew our attention was the pollarded trees that had clearly been cut at a height that protected the young shoots from grazing cattle.

Radnorshire Wildlife encourage people to visit Sideland for the ancient trees that include older dead decaying elms that give way to, and harbour, a wide diversity of invertebrates, mosses and lichens.

The understorey of blackthorn and hazel encourage many species of bird life, flowers, which would also be better seen in May. The Ordinance Reference Number is: SO104638. See:  http://www.rwtwales.org/reserves/sideland

There is no meeting of the History Group in August so our next meeting will be at the Thomas Shop at 10.30 a.m. on Monday 5th September 2016.

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