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"A Muddle"? 1

Knighton Guardians.I

Builth Naturalists. I

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Builth Naturalists. I THE FLORA OF THE DISTRICT. I VISIT TO ABEREDW. 1 By G.R.T. J It cannot truthfully be said that the flora of our district is very varied or particularly unique. Wales is too remote from the European coast- line for the continental species of flowers to es- tablish themselves. For this same reason the flora of Ireland is poor, poorer indeed than any part of the British Isles. This does not mean that there are no flowers of interest in the Builth district. For instance, there is a flower which grows on the Breidden heights of Montgomery, and on the buttresses which sentinel the Wye be- low Llanelwedd, it flourishes here and nowhere else in Britain; but neither an Editor's blandish- ments, nor wild horses could withdraw from me its name. Philosophers have represented to us with persistent iteration that the proper study of mankind is man, and it would only be a hair's- breadth escape from heresy to assert the contrary proposition. Still we may take the study as in- elusive if we view man in his relation to what lies outside humanity. Man is not wholly material whatever the Germans think, and we must not set a selfish standard of material good to every- thing, and he who is not affected by the wonder of the starry host of heaven, by the touching sweetness and pathos of a wayside flower, by the glory of the setting sun, or the delicate pencilling of an insect's wing is a poor creature indeed. To welcome a flower in the crannied wall by name, to have a nodding acquaintance with a lowly weed, to recognise as an old friend some herb blossoming alone on the bold bluffs of our district are delights denied to those whose aspirations are locked up with their pelf in the counting-house till. Thanks to the splendid advocacy of Ruskin the contemplation of nature is now no doctrinaire study. The love of Nature is its own exceeding great reward, and perhaps the Builth Wells Naturalists can claim a little credit for stimula- ting and quickening this love. Carlyle bewailed the fact that in the curriculum of his early train- ing there was no provision for nature-study. To meet the flora of the vernal wood with a saluta- tion which lie could not answer was always to him a vain Vegret. The Editor of the "Brecon and Radnor Express" is to be lieartily congratula- ted on his efforts to instil by means of the monthly essays a love of nature in the chil- dren of Breconshire. May he convert the novice into an enthusiast is the wish at least of the Builth Wells Naturalists' Society. We proceeded for the delightful little village at the mouth of the Edw, on Wednesday last by the 1.10 train. Our leader, Miss Hawkins, met us at the station. There were some bluff breezes prod- ding our flanks that day, so we adjourned -into the 0 waiting room, what time our leader initiated us into some of the wonders and mysteries of plant-life. This she did in simple, non-technical language to a circle of interested by-standers. She told us much about the exquisite provision for cross-fertilsa'tion, of the reciprocal arrange- ment between visiting insect and flower, discard- ing dry-as-dust technicalism in such a way as to reduce the yawning males into evident interest. There are some very interesting plant localities in the district. On the banks of the Wye, near Builth, is to be seen in large quantities the Chives, which some people maintain is the ori- ginal emblematic flower of Wales, the "Syfi Glan Gwy." This plant, according to others, was first introduced into the district by the Rom- ans. The wood around are covered in early Ap- ril with the beautiful daffodil bells. The Welsh poppy is .not uncommon on the volcanic slopes of Llanelwedd. The maiden pink, with solitary flowers and notched petals spotted with white, is seen on the lower bluffs of Carneddau. The tooth- wort may be found among decaying foliage on the left bank of the Wye. The sundew, with its sticky, shining, glandular hairs, is common in our bogs. This plant is insectivorous, and woe- betide the unwary insect that alights on the leaves. The bladder-wort is a curious floating- plant. with fine root-like branches and thread- like leaves, bearing tiny floating bladders. This, again, has a partiality for insects. The butter- wort is a pretty flower of violet blue, arising from a. rosette of sticky leaves, which again en- trap the insects. There is a pool in the romantic Irvon Glen, above Abergwessin, encircled by these green rosettes. There the great Borrow, prince of pedestrians, was wont to leave his titanic frame, feeling, as a son of Anak, refresh- ed after his morning dip. Just outside our dis- trict, on the site of one of the antiquities which I was exploring I have seen the dwarf elder or Dane's wort, which tradition assigns to places once watered by Northman's blood. The poison- ous Henbane, and broad-leaved helleborine, sup- posed to mark the site of a mediaeval garden, are found near Erwood. Among the rarer plants may be mentioned the ivy-leaved bell-flower, Herb Paris, grass of Parnassus, mossy saxifrage, globe flower, the beautiful little mountain pansy, the vernal sand-wort, and blue. pimpernel. I hope the Editor will one day offer a prize for the best collection of wild flowers of the district. It would be a fine stimulus to the children to study our country flora. The bare slopes of Moelfri, which extend to 1,400 feet, are corned by the beautiful tracery of the stag's horn moss. Years ago it was customary for ladies to decorate their fancy dresses with this ornamental club moss, the larger trailing stems and projecting spikes forming graceful festoons. The Builth district is certainly rich in cryptogame, mosses, liver-worts and ferns being very plentiful. The Aberedw Rocks, the Duhonow and Nantgwyn gorges are habitats of rare ferns, such as the green spleen- wort. The graceful moss-like film fern, the oak fern, the fragrant shield fern, the elegant beech fern, the brittle mountain fern, and the hart's tongue may also be found. The royal fern is not uncommon in the district. A few words of in- terest may be written, in conclusion, about the woodland type. The oak is certainly the domin- ant tree of the'district, and is generally found in the lower valleys, although it may well ascend well up the mountain slopes. Some of the oaks grown in this district have been used in the prin- cipal dockyards and for repairing some of the oldest trading ships. Years ago, the Llanelwedd and Pencerrig estates were renowned for their oaks, and some of these giants of the forest per- sist to this day. It is interesting to recall that the keel of the "Royal George," which was wreck- ed on August 29th, 1782, was made from Pencer- rig oak. John Clark, who made an agricultural survey of the district in 1794, commented on these goodly oaks, and the illustrious Welsh artist. Thomas Jones, of Pencerrig, the pupil and friend of Wilson, has reduced to canvass the great dimensions of these indigenous oaks. There are many well-marked oak-zones in the district, e.g., on the Llanynis road, extending from Pantyblodau almost to the gorge of Cwm Craig-ddu, a distance of 1J miles. The place-names of the district abound in allusion to the oak, e.g., Llwynderw, near Abergwessin, derw being the Welsh for oaks. Dolderwen on the Dauffrwd. In the early days of iron-smelting, it was not customary to use coal in the furnaces, but charcoal, and reference to the cord wood book, kept in connection with the Llynfi furnace, Brecon, in 1753 and 1754, shows that loads of oak were bought for as much as £171. Much of the district has thus been denuded of oak, and the localities which suffered most were Gwen- ddwr, Llangammarch and Llanwrtyd. A sleek brochure might be written on the trees of the dis- trict alone, and, if the present account is to be brought within the confines of a newspaper ar- ticle, my accumulating foolscaps warn me to de- sist. I have written thus about the flora of the district in the hope that the children of Brecon- shire and Radnorshire will take up this beautiful branch of nature study.

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