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Y Filltir Sgwâr/The Square Mile: Spring at The Lasgarn Woodland

07 Apr 2024 6 minute read
A blanket of velvet green Wild Garlic at the Lasgarn Woodland (Tom Maloney)

In a year long series Tom Maloney, from Abersychan, shows how you can love a place so well it becomes a part of you.

A little while ago I enjoyed listening to ‘The Tools Are On The Bar: Max Boyce at 80’, a lovely engaging conversation with Clare E. Potter talking to Max Boyce.

The programme has stayed within my thoughts. It took me back to the Seventies and the first time I listened to ‘Live at Treorchy’. In fact we replayed the LP several times on a record deck sitting in pride of place on an old Singer sewing machine cabinet table.

It was instantly humorous and …  there was such poetry in the words as well, words that touched your inner feelings, ‘geiriau o hiraeth’ in the Welsh.

Great poets, and Max Boyce is a great poet, connect with their audience and the poem in the song ‘Duw It’s Hard’ cut across the humour with powerful, personal reflections about the demise of mining and relieved to be leaving the hard, dangerous graft of mining underground behind.

One poignant line stood out for me then…

‘And the pithead baths is a supermarket now’

I still find these words powerful, but in a different way, they make me think of my childhood days when the long summer holidays were filled by daily adventures with my friends ‘down the woods’ where we built our dens, climbed trees and made rope swings all without a health and safety manual.

Something went inside me when they took the trees away, but I did not have the words to express my feelings then.

The woodland of my childhood is a housing estate now, and though they are lost, they sowed a deep, long lasting seed within me.

Perhaps, this seed is only germinating now and is one of the reasons I feel so fortunate to be able to enjoy the local woodland at Abersychan.

Lesser Celandine Lasgarn Woodland (Tom Maloney)

Following on from the second feature in the series ‘The Call of The Lasgarn’ it is a lovely time to give a Spring update, as the woodland floor is very special and bursting with new life.

Learning the names of the wildflowers rather passed me by when I was a boy, but over the past few years I have found a new joy in learning their names and understanding their place in the woodland clock.

Let’s start with the beautiful, little blossoms of Lesser Celandine. It’s a great place to begin, as it is one of the first to make an appearance.

Look for its variegated waxy, green leaves low to the ground. It positively shines in the sunlight, especially after a shower of rain when pearls of water adorn its golden petals.

Lasgarn Lords-and-ladies (Tom Maloney)

Lords-and-ladies is a firm favourite for me.

Though they are not in flower just yet, their sculptural, arrowhead leaves defined with deeply etched veins are quite abundant at the minute and do very well at The Lasgarn.

This lovely wildflower is again mostly found close to the ground, but it also likes the craggy spaces of the old quarry workings that litter the woodland.

Bluebell in flower Lasgarn Woodland (Tom Maloney)

So amazing just to see this one flowering stem standing in a sea of emerald green shoots on my walk this week, but there is the promise of so much more to come!

Perhaps there is an especially warm, sunlit spot just here!

Wild Garlic at the Lasgarn Wooland (Tom Maloney)

Everywhere there is the delicious aroma of Wild Garlic, that many would also call Ramson. Some plants seem to be blessed with many, many names!

There is something comforting about its presence. I like the way that it blankets the wooded slopes and defines the paths.

There will be another great showing of silver white blossoms this year again, a moment that I look forward to so much in the coming weeks.

Colts-foot Lasgarn (Tom Maloney)

Each wild flower is like a very welcome old friend returning each year to this special place.

When I first encountered Colts-foot a couple of years ago at first I thought it was a Dandelion, but there was something different about it that made me want to look again.

It has the same vivid cadmium yellow colour, but look closely and you will see it has a different flower structure and its stem seems to be plated rather like an armadillo. I really cherish seeing its cheery little flowers, but they are not so many this year.

It favours stony ground, but I have noticed that the places where it has been vigorous in the past are more waterlogged than in previous years, so this may have had an impact.

The Elephant Tree (Tom Maloney)

Within the wood there are trees that have s special character that I have got in the habit of naming, one such being the ‘Elephant Tree’ with a mouth like an elephant opened wide.

I have often thought it would make the starting point for a story. Sadly, it came down a few weeks ago. I know that it now continues its purpose in the woodland eco cycle, slowly breaking down and returning nutrients to the soil, but still a sad moment to see it fall.

As I write I think about the vulnerability of our natural spaces and that their survival cannot be taken for granted. They are at risk from so many factors including blight, climate change and from other human interventions.

But there is hope as well, sometimes that comes out of adversity and human intervention at its very best.

In the August of 2022 a fire broke out at the woodland, I am still not sure of the cause. Seeing the plumes of fire and smoke over the woods was hugely worrying. I lost count of the number of journeys made by the helicopter pilot to deliver precious cargoes of water.

I had seen this once before, years ago whilst on a holiday in Spain, it was something that I had thought I would never see here.

There is no doubt in my mind that a catastrophe was averted by the professionalism, dedication and skills of all those involved in the operation to quell the fire.

The role of the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service was crucial.

Fire damage, August 2022 (Tom Maloney)

On every visit to this special place I think of how fortunate we are to enjoy the woodland for so many reasons.

Read the earlier installments of Y Filltir Sgwâr/The Square Mile by Tom Maloney


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