Beside the sea

Recent storms here in west Wales have exposed all sorts of interesting things along the coast, from tank tracks and evidence of peat cutting in the exposed peat on the beach at Tywyn, to the foundations of the old bath house revealed when part of the promenade collapsed in Aberystwyth.

On Thursday I took the learners attending my ecology course to see another of the features revealed by the storm… the submerged forest at Ynyslas. The stumps of the trees here have been radio-carbon dated and are about 6000 years old. They were drowned when the site they were growing on became wetter and a peat bog formed – preserving the stumps and fallen trees. Subsequently the sea level rose and and the site disappeared under the sandy beach. There are usually a few of the stumps visible poking out from the sand, but at the moment a vast area has been uncovered, providing a rare opportunity to see this amazing preserved ecosystem.

Whenever it is exposed like this it gets a little more eroded, but soon, the sand will cover it again and it will be hidden from view. If you are in west Wales, it really is worth a visit in the next few weeks.

There is a vast stretch of peat on the beach

There is a vast stretch of peat on the beach

Tree stumps emerge from the peat

Tree stumps emerge from the peat

You can see an amazing amount of detail

You can see an amazing amount of detail

Quite fine root systems are visible

Quite fine root systems are visible

Branches and trunks lie where they fell, embedded in peat that is now eroding

Branches and trunks lie where they fell, embedded in peat that is now eroding

Not only is this a fascinating piece of history...

Not only is this a fascinating piece of history…

... it's beautiful too

… it’s beautiful too

 

 

 

 

 

 

When a tree falls…

I’ve mentioned before that I am a trustee for a small local conservation charity at a place called Denmark Farm. We run courses on all sorts of subjects related to the environment, from plant identification to love spoon carving; from vegetation survey to felt-making. Plus we have lovely self-catering accommodation, where visitors can stay in our eco-friendly lodge and get close to nature on our 40-acre site…. ok, advert over…

Anyway, yesterday I was up there at a meeting when one of the members of staff mentioned that a visitor had reported that an oak tree was down somewhere near the bottom of the site. Once we’d finished talking about courses for the coming year, a couple of us decided to go and investigate the tree and see what needed doing. Last week, Wales experienced winds exceeding 100mph, so we were not surprised that a tree had come down. We were not, however, prepared for the shock of what we found  (I went back and took the following pictures today):

The first view

The first view

A closer look, with Mr Snail-of-happiness for scale

A closer look, with Mr Snail-of-happiness for scale (he’s 6 feet tall)

You can see from the second picture, that the ground had come away with the tree… and further investigation revealed that it wasn’t just one tree, but a 35 metre stretch of beech trees growing on a bank along our boundary.

Thirty-five metres further on, you come to the end of the devastation

Thirty-five metres further on, you come to the end of the devastation

We slipped next door to examine the bank from the other side:

A 35m stretch of bank rotated through 90 degrees

A 35m stretch of bank rotated through 90 degrees

A little further along, there was a shorter length down too:

Shorter length of bank over, with Mr S-o-h for scale

Shorter length of bank over, with Mr S-o-h for scale (only two trees in this section)

The beech trees growing on this bank were about 12-14 m (36-40 feet) tall and one that we measured had a trunk circumference of more than 2 m (6 feet):

Measuring the girth

Measuring the girth

All these trees have multiple stems, and we couldn’t get in amongst them to count how many are down, but there are probably 10 in total. However, they are all beech trees and the visitors said that the tree they saw was an oak, so our search continued.

Back along the boundary, we came across another problem:

Pine across the path

Pine across the path

This one is over the path, and is only upright because it is caught in the canopy of adjacent trees:

Being held up by its neighbours

Being held up by its neighbours

But, that’s not an oak either, so we continued our hunt when we went back today. There were quite a number of young trees down too, but fortunately none of our big mature oaks. Sadly, however, we did come a cross two of our smaller, old and very knarly trees that had been blown over. One oak across the green lane:

All taped off so no one walks underneath

All taped off so no one walks underneath

And one hawthorn that narrowly missed the main building:

A few feet taller and it would have been through the windows and roof

A few feet taller and it would have been through the windows and roof

We cordoned off all the dangerous parts, but now there’s lots to be done to make the site safe for visitors and convert the wood into both fuel and wildlife habitat. It does bring home the power of nature… really the pictures don’t do justice to the size and number of trees that are down.

You can read more about it all in my post on the Denmark Farm blog.

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