Veteran trees and wildflowers at Lanlay

The meadows at Lanlay in the Vale of Glamorgan are a relic of pre-war farming and have two particularly wonderful habitats – wildflowers and veteran trees.

Gnarled and knotted giants

The enormous oaks dotted around Lanlay are known as veteran trees and are around 500-years-old.

The trees are full of gnarled and knotted limbs and brim with character, but most importantly they provide a unique habitat for birds, insects and other creatures.

They’re also often a great place to find some fantastic fungi, which along with lichen and dead wood invertebrates rely on these trees for survival.

Whilst a veteran tree is very old compared to others of the same species, there’s no strict definition. Oaks of 500 or 600-years-old like those at Lanlay are considered veterans, whilst a beech of 300-years would also be considered a veteran. This is because trees grow at different rates.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, climb onto the lower branches to get a closer look and really experience the special environment of these giants.

A safari for your senses

Flower-rich hay meadows are places of beauty and at their height in early summer are full of vast and varied colours, sweet-scented grasses and herbs, and the hum-drum of insects as they hurry from flower to flower.

Hay meadows such as Lanlay exist because traditional farmers needed to produce enough feed to get their stock through the winter. But following the end of the Second World War, agricultural improvement of grassland intensified significantly. The result is the loss of many natural and semi-natural types of grassland.

But here at Lanlay, we’re keeping this tradition alive and the results are a truly glorious variety of flowers.

Visit in late spring / early summer to discover Devil’s-bit scabious, yellow flag iris, purple and yellow loosestrife, betony, and the rare and very poisonous monkshood, among many others.

The hay fields are cut in late summer (mid-late July or early August). If they were cut any earlier it would prevent the meadow plants from setting seeds. And in autumn and winter we bring in traditional breeds of ponies, or sometimes cattle, to graze.

This opens up the grassland for new growth and removes ranker vegetation allowing a greater variety of wildflowers to emerge in spring and summer.

So if you want to while away a few hours in a true wildlife paradise, then visiting Lanlay is a must.