Public spending cuts benefit the natural world in South Wales
Filming by the pond
Hedges and roadsides allowed to grow
Whlist many people are naturally upset by the ongoing economic crisis and public spending cuts by the Government and organisations, the situation is having a good effect on the wildlife and vegetation of the South Wales countryside in many places.
Hedges and woodland edges that were formerly pruned and trimmed back, roadside verges are not being cut, sprayed with herbicides, or otherwise damaged, are recovering, and even ponds and wetlands are benefiting by being left as they are.
Around the countryside of South Wales, and outside Cardiff, it is easy to find examples of this. Neglect is allowing wild flowers, bushes, trees. birds, insects and other wildlife to make a comeback.
Where plants can grow without being pruned or removed or sprayed, then the insects that feed on them will do well, and insects are in turn food for birds.
Many once common species that have been sadly declining can hopefully stage a comeback in numbers. Skylarks have been suffering from habitat loss and modern farming methods, so are a bird species that has greatly diminished in numbers. I was delighted to hear this bird's unmistakeable song over a field just outside the city of Cardiff. It was a sign that nature is making a comeback!
Ducks by Fairwater Pond
Fairwater Park, Cardiff
Fairwater Park in Cardiff is a good example. Grass that was once vigorously kept mowed has been allowed to grow longer. A large bank that was once kept covered in short grass with a hedge at the top is now covered in small trees, bushes, brambles and other vegetation.
There is a stream that used to be kept tidy, as did the gardens by it and banks. Now the area is overgrown with wild flowers and bushes and trees/ The stream and a pond it runs into have large masses of watercress, and the area looks beautifully wild.
Three-spined sticklebacks are still plentiful in the stream, and I used to catch them there over 50 years ago!
Fairwater Park Pond, or "The Dell" as it is known, is hard to find, surrounded as it now is by thick vegetation. Willows, brambles, nettles and other shrubs and plants used to be pruned drastically or even weeded out and thrown away. There is now a green and tangled thick border of shrubs around the pond edges.
Newts, ducks, moorhens and other pond life are more protected like this, even if people find it looks messy. There is still access to the water granted via a platform that juts out into the pond a bit and ducks gather near this.
All three species of British newt used to live in this stretch of water. The young newts and adults too can find welcome shelter in the vegetation that has been allowed to grow here. When the pond dries up in summer droughts, all the bushes, brambles, long grass and other plants that grow around the pond's edge provide an area where there should still be enough dampness and plenty of small invertebrates for the amphibians to feed on.
Herons are now frequenting this large pond too. These large water birds stand still in the reeds watching for frogs, newts and small fish. I wonder what they are catching in the pond in Fairwater Park?
Creeping Thistle with Burnet Moth
Six-Spot Burnet Moth
Country roads to St Fagans
Country roads leading to the village of St Fagans, well-known for the Welsh Folk Museum, have been left with their edges looking lush and green. Small trees at the side of the road have not been cut back, and even the creeping thistles and ragwort, both regraded as troublesome weeds, have been allowed to remain in many places.
Both these plants are valued food-sources for many insects. Butterflies and burnet moths feed on the flowers and cinnabar moth caterpillars eat ragwort foliage. The caterpillars of the painted lady butterfly will feed on thistles.
All sorts of wild flowers can be seen growing along the roadsides. There are clumps of the goutweed or ground elder, yellow-flowered agrimony, pink hemp agrimony, stout-stalked hogweed, red valerian, herb robert, old man's beard. greater willowherb and the very beautiful rosebay willowherb.
In years before the service cuts and austerity measures were introduced such plants were often cut back drastically. Hedges of hawththorn, blackthorn, hazel, ash, bryony and briars were pruned really short too.
Delicately perfumed elderflower adorns many an elder bush with sprays of white, and later in the autumn there will be masses of black elderberries just waiting to be made into wine. Blackberry flowers are already starting to turn to fruits and it is only early July, as I write this.
Now the plants are growing much like they should and it can be safely assumed that many more caterpillars, beetles and bugs are feeding on them. This is how it should be!