Gwen Potter's summer by the sea

A view Penbryn Beach, in Ceredigion taken from the dunes

What a lovely summer it was, with fantastic weather, wonderful wildlife and record numbers of people at many of the places we look after. It was also a bumper season for overgrowing paths, dog poo in bags and beach fires. In fact, any extreme weather is likely to impact on a ranger’s day to day duties – for both good and bad.

First, the good

That perennial favourite topic, the weather, involved something previously unseen in Wales – rangers actually wearing shorts. This can be seen as good or bad depending on the leg owner and their tolerance of the sun, but generally good weather is great.

Wildlife highlights

If it’s good weather, you have more opportunities to record wildlife because it’s not hiding under a leaf quite so much. Our nuthatches and swallows had double broods and the dolphins were seen pretty much every day at Mwnt and Lochtyn. We nearly tripped over an adder a couple of times at Mwnt as well.
In the meadows at Cwm Soden, we’ve never seen quite so many butterflies. Butterflies not just dodging raindrops, but silver washed fritillaries dancing and tumbling through the air in pairs like fatefully entwined lovers (or enemies) and holly blues ferociously guarding ‘their’ tree against butterfly, man, dog and probably lion if they had the chance.

Quickly, the bad

Keeping up with path strimming when brambles grow up to three inches per day wasn’t easy, but we’ve had a truly bumper crop of blackberries as a result (free from your nearest hedgerow). Beach fires are fab when you’re enjoying one but not if a child runs through the hot ashes of an improperly smothered fire, or rare dune plants are set on fire.

‘51’ Things to do before you’re 11 ¾

Our visitors got involved in ‘50 Things Fridays’, and I think I ticked most of them off this summer, surprisingly! Squelching around in bare feet in mud was the highlight for the kids and our volunteers enjoyed it too.
We added an extra ‘thing’ of hugging a tree earlier this year – listening to the sap rising in a young tree in the spring surprised adults as well as children. They were entirely convinced they were listening to the blood in their own head.
To try it now find some smooth bark (beech, sycamore or birch are ideal), put one ear to the tree and a finger in your other ear and voila – sap moving back down the tree in the autumn.
Snail racing was best left to the kids – I got quite angry at my snail. He had been prepped and coached prior to the race for a full two minutes which must be around six months in snail time. The lettuce was there for the taking. One, two, three…GO! and he promptly set off in the opposite direction. Amateur behaviour.

Summer spotlight

Our meadows also had a star turn this summer. As part of our Heritage Lottery Fund funded project led by Plantlife, we’ve been cutting and baling hay the old fashioned, wildlife-friendly way. The August cut was done not from the outside in and small bales were produced.>