Written by Ian K Morgan
Reproduced, with permission, from the Llanelli Naturalists Bulletin no5, April 2001. Please note that some photographs or maps referred to in the text are not included
This account summarises the wildlife communities of approximately fifty ponds in south-east Carmarthenshire, many of which are of recent origin (ie the last two decades of 20th Century). Including water bodies as yet too new or immature to have acquired aquatic assemblages, they comprise a major cumulative conservation and recreational resource, particularly as most have peripheral vegetation and others are associated with more substantial areas of fenland vegetation. As well as data on the aquatic or wetland-related wildlife of these sites, information is also given at some sites about adjacent non-wetland species of interest.
The former Borough of Llanelli, which was subsumed into the new restored Carmarthenshire unitary authority in April 1997, comprised the most densely populated part of that county, reflecting the past dominance of heavy industry in and around the town and the once vibrant coal economy of the nearby Gwendraeth and Amman valleys. Carmarthenshire is not a county which is rich in static water bodies, with less than 0.1% of its land surface covered in standing water (Page, 1982). However, the past excavation of cooling ponds, industrial or domestic water storage facilities and, more lately, ponds created for recreation such as coarse fishing, or as part of landscaping for urban regeneration, has led to a dramatic increase in the county’s natural quota of water bodies. To this must be added those ponds (or larger water bodies) constructed specifically for the nature conservation benefits they will accrue. The Llanelli Millennium Coastal Park partly falls into this latter category, with a large wetland development on the low lying ‘Llanelli Levels’, east of Penclacwydd and with lesser – but still valuable – ponds and associated marshes excavated (as part of a golf course) on the Machynys Peninsula, other ponds east of Burry Port and fishing lakes below Pwll.
Both statutory controls and an increased sense of responsibility have also led to a recovery (albeit still not complete at a few sites) in water quality of some of the area’s ponds and ditches. The combined result of these factors – more water bodies and a diminution of pollution, has led to a significant increase in aquatic wildlife in the south-east of the county with, to take a highly visible example, the number of pairs of mute swans in south-east Carmarthenshire increasing from only two pairs in 1970 (at Old Castle Pond, and Machynys Pond, Llanelli) to some 6-7 pairs at present. Likewise, little grebes (or dabchicks) have increased from 1 pair (at Upper Lliedi Reservoir) to some 22 or so pairs by the late 1990s. In 2000, great crested grebes nested successfully – for the first – time at Ashpits Pond. The presumed recolonization by various dragonflies, once banished by pollution, and the advent of new colonists such as the black-tailed skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum has been facilitated by the upsurge of available habitat; indeed, this latter species is now one of the commoner dragonflies in coastal Carmarthenshire. Otters too, have returned, and have been occasionally sighted by lucky observers on several coastal water bodies as well as in the centre of Llanelli.
Writing in 1951, Leston and Gardner commented that they did ‘not believe that an unpolluted pond is present within five miles of Llanelly’! Many residents of the town (myself included) can remember the insalubrious state of many water bodies in Llanelli – leading to a local wit’s comment that the only salmon in the Afon Lliedi (the town’s main river) were in tins! However, not all water bodies were heavily polluted as Kirby (1994) in his survey of the invertebrates of south-east Carmarthenshire fens demonstrated, with diverse invertebrate communities present at some sites such as around the smaller (eastern) Machynys Ponds, suggesting a continuum of quality habitat availability and thereby contradicting Leston and Gardner’s remarks. At other sites, such as Dyfatty Marsh, Kirby showed that they had rather impoverished invertebrate fauna, consisting of eurytopic (wide ranging or ecologically-tolerant) species which implied a more recent origin for these wetland habitats. In this paper, only those sites with open water will be considered – principally static water bodies and a few, slow moving ditch systems. The geographic area covered in this review is that part of the county south-east of the Carboniferous Limestone outcrop, ie from Cydweli (Kidwelly), through Mynydd y Garreg, Mynydd Llangyndeyrn, the Drefach area, Llyn Llech Owain, Carmel, Llandybie to Ammanford and thence southwards to Llanelli.
The following overview and individual site summaries are based on the author’s observations and notes, with a few additions by Richard Pryce, and also information gleaned from various useful sources cited under References, below.
Also, the Invertebrate Site Register (ISR) forms for Carmarthenshire, primarily compiled by the author, were also consulted. Richard Pryce’s annual Carmarthenshire Flora Project Reports and records of note in the BSBI Welsh Bulletin were both invaluable sources of information, as was the now annual Carmarthenshire Birds (Hunt et al).
THE ‘LOST PONDS OF LLANELLI’
Apart from references by Richard Fenton in his ‘Tours in Wales’ (1804-1813), citing the eminent naturalist Edward Llwyd’s (1660-1709) notes on the Swan Pool in Pembrey parish, as far as I know there are no other historical references to water bodies in SE Carmarthenshire. The Swan Pool, which reputedly supported up to 80 swans, was located in the Pembrey Airfield-Penybedd area and was drained in c1935. The pioneer Carmarthenshire botanist James Motley (c.1821 – 1859) recorded shining pondweed Potamogeton lucens, various-leaved pondweed P. gramineus, opposite-leaved pondweed Groenlandia densa, and ivy-leaved duckweed Lemna trisulca, without locality, from the county. The Lemna has been found at Machynys Ponds (R N Stringer and I K Morgan, 1982) and, more recently, near Bynea and Pembrey, but there are no modern records for the other three. Similarly, cyperus sedge Carex pseudocyperus was only refound in 1983, but at the Witchett Pool on Laugharne Burrows and outside the present study area, whereas Motley probably recorded it, and the other plants, in the Pembrey-Llanelli coastal belt.
The writer remembers (in the 1960’s) a pond just SW of the old Loughor Bridge and opposite what was the old Yspitty Works (at SS560982), undoubtedly the same pond where Hamer recorded soft hornwort Ceratophyllum submersum in 1912. The site is now occupied by a car park for adjacent factories. Part of this pond is clearly visible on the left-hand side of the 1923 aerial photograph of the Yspitty Works on p233 of Malcolm Symond’s ‘Coal Mining in the Llanelli Area’ (1979). Nearby, and behind the chemical works at Bynea (at c.SS557985) was the ‘Victoria Pond’ (associated with the Victoria Tinplate Works) and drained c.1950; it was known to be occupied by a pair of mute swans.
A pond which is still shown on the latest editions of the Ordnance Survey maps is the old tinworks pond at Llangenench, SN562615 but in recent years it has been filled-in to allow for expansion of the caravan and chalet park which now occupies the works site. Nothing is known of the flora and fauna which this pond supported.
A now-infilled pond at Machynys (SS509983), and not to be confused with the extant Machynys Ponds nearby, held the distinctive ‘ear pond snail’ Lymnaea auricularia and much spiked water-milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum in September 1990 (this snail is otherwise only known from Pistyll Pond, Llandybie). A more recent loss – it was pointlessly infilled during Spring 1995 – was the small pond (SS539991) near Techon Farm, Llwynhendy. Amongst commoner water plants, it supported frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae and the unwelcome fringed water lily Nymphoides peltata, (introduced by the previous owners from Machynys) and a dragonfly assemblage which included the emperor Anax imperator.
Another loss was the pond in Trimsaran Wood (SN461052), which was destroyed by opencast in the early 1980s (Plate 6). The Trimsaran Wood opencast site, worked in the 1960s was partially backfilled and planted with conifers. The top part of the high wall remained, exposing the horizons of the Kings and Trimsaran Green seams and in the midst of the poorly afforested spoil was a pond. This supported Spiked Water-milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum as well as commoner species such as Common Water-plantain Alisma plantago-aquatica and Bulrush Typha latifolia. A breeding colony of Goldfish became established, reputedly having been released after the visit of a fair to the village. The area was engulfed and reworked by the Ffos-las opencast site in the 1980s-90s and is now again being restored.
An account of the infilled reedbeds and fens in SE Carmarthenshire is given by Friese (1994).
It is also known that very extensive winter-flooded slacks occurred on the sandhills of Tywyn-Pembrey Burrows, before drainage of the site and prior to afforestation, by the Forestry Commission in the 1920 and 1930s. These are shown on a map of 1862 (reproduced in Morgan, 1991:5). It was on these winter-saturated, linear dune depressions that flocks of white-fronted geese once wintered (Vaughan, in Lacey, 1970), and these selfsame slacks must also have been of extreme interest to the naturalist, supporting a wide range of wildlife such as fen orchid Liparis loeselii, stoneworts (charophytes) and a host of invertebrates.
THE SITE DESCRIPTIONS
The water-bodies of SE Carmarthenshire will be described in order of their 10 km squares – SS49, SS59, SN30, SN40, SN50, SN51 and SN61.
PEMBREY BURROWS PONDS SSSI. c.SS413996 and SS425994
These two temporary dune ponds were excavated in 1998 when areas of sea buckthorn Hippophae rhamnoides were mechanically cleared. The easternmost, more substantial pond (to the south, and near the end of, the east-west track) occupies a linear topographical hollow and is deeper; it held 20+ pairs of mating toads in late February 2001. Both ponds should be checked for stoneworts.
MACHYNYS PONDS SSSI. SS512980
A detailed description of this site is given in The Llanelli Naturalists Bulletin 1: pp.7-12, so only a brief summary will be given here, together with any updates or omissions from the earlier account.
Machynys Ponds are a group of ponds, with the larger known to local people and birdwatchers as Machynys Pond; there are four ponds to the immediate east of the main pond (three of which lie within the Site of Special Scientific Interest). These smaller ponds are principally of botanical and entomological interest and hold the ivy-leaved duckweed Lemna trisulca and frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae, both of which are rare in the county. Recently (1997) the Lemna unfortunately disappeared, possibly due to pollution. It does, however, still occur in nearby ditches and a small pond.
The main pond is increasingly covered by the yellow-flowered fringed water lily Nymphoides peltata, an introduced species in Wales, but which is native to south-east England. Apparently it was introduced by a Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust member to the western margin of the pond in the late 1980s, for it was certainly absent when the writer regularly visited the site in the early to middle years of that decade. Given that this plant is exceptionally difficult to eradicate and that the existing wildlife of the pond seems to have adapted to its presence, then perhaps we shouldn’t be too concerned – and it certainly deters fisherman! Water birds such as coots or even dabchicks seem to find it no hindrance and dragon and damselflies often bask on its leaves in summer, whilst its flowers are visited by bumblebees and other insects. Also introduced (the first by unknown sources) is a water lily cultivar on the main pond and a clump of elegant galingale Cyperus longus in a wet depression (SS512980) near one of the smaller ponds; the latter was planted by the writer (from Sandy Water Park stock).
Since the demise of horse grazing in the area (gypsies’ horses once roamed the open Machynys Peninsula), dense growths of bulrush Typha latifolia have choked the shallow, ephemeral pool immediately to the east of the main pond, though this pond has recently (1999) been cleared out (at CCW’s request) as part of the golf course development. This pool once held the stonewort Chara vulgaris ‘approaching var. gymnophylla’ (J A Moore) and much marestail Hippurus vulgaris. However, the latter still survives in the area as clumps transferred to shallow water nearby.
Bulrush ponds are not without interest however, as a fascinating hoverfly assemblage is associated with this plant – particularly Anasimyia (mostly contracta and lineata) and Parhelophilus (frutetorum and versicolor). The handsome and large Helophilus trivittatus, the shining, bottle-blue abdomened Lejogaster splendida and the black and orange Tropidia scita are also present. Much sea club-rush Bolboschoenus maritimus is also present.
Readers are referred to the earlier account in The Bulletin for a more complete list of invertebrates that are present at this site. Jenkins (1995) showed that the marginal fens around the smaller Machynys Ponds held an estimated 3 pairs of water rails, making this site (together with Ffrwd Fen Nature Reserve, Llangennech Reedbed and Glynea Pond, Bynea) amongst the currently more important sites in the county for this bird. Tufted ducks now regularly breed on Machynys Pond, and in 1994 a pair of pochard raised 6 young. In the same year, gadwall raised 9 ducklings, this constituting a new breeding record for the county away from WWT Penclacwydd, where feral birds are known to have bred with wild stock. All three duck species have subsequently bred on a regular basis. Greylag geese bred here in 2000 for the first time, these birds belonging to the recently established sub-population centred on Penclacwydd. Gadwall are also regular in winter on Machynys Pond, and a record number of 40 individuals were present in December 1993. The main pond was (in the early – mid 1990’s) probably Carmarthenshire’s stronghold for wintering coot, with in excess of a hundred birds being present in October to December, though inexplicably numbers dropped dramatically in the 1997-98 winter, and have remained low since.
On 13 August 1989, the writer recorded the scarce 9-spined stickleback Pungitius pungitius at Machynys Pond; roach Rutilus rutilus are frequent.
DITCHES near BERWICK ROUNDABOUT, BYNEA. SS542988
The Berwick Roundabout was constructed in c.1992, as part of the A 484 Trostre – Loughor Relief Road, which bisected the now much-diminished coastal grazing levels of the area. Unlike many other ditches of these coastal flatlands, the broad, long ditch which runs approximately north-westwards (and parallel to the road) from the roundabout, is relatively clean. Much amphibious bistort Polygonum amphibium, broad-leaved pondweed Potamogeton natans, curled pondweed P. crispus and frogbit occur in this ditch. The latter was abundant in summer 1998.Â Hairy dragonfly Brachytron pratense and emperor dragonfly Anax imperator both breed, moorhens and kingfishers are regularly present, and it is a key Carmarthenshire site for water voles Arvicola terrestris.
The continuation of this ditch which runs in an approximately south-easterly direction also holds much frogbit and is again very important for water voles (Neil Matthew, pers. comm).
A ditch at SS545987 supports the rare woodlouse Oritoniscus flavus, at its only British locality, which has also been located close-by at c.SS545980. However, it is not known how widespread in the area is this difficult-to-find woodlouse, which is found in waterlogged leaf litter and under wood near water courses.
WILDFOWL AND WETLANDS TRUST PENCLACWYDD. SS531985
The pond in front of the restaurant, which was excavated in the late 1980’s (and extended in 1998), holds a wealth of plants that have been mostly introduced from other south-east Carmarthenshire sites. These include marestail (from Machynys); galingale Cyperus longus (from Sandy Water Park); great water-dock Rumex hydrolapathum (from Pembrey Canal) and greater pond sedge Carex riparia (from Parc y llong near Kidwelly). Least duckweed Lemna minuta was believed to have been accidentally introduced with the water-dock; greater spearwort Ranunculus lingua also grows here, but its source is unknown. A worry since 1999 is the increasing presence of the alien Parrot’s-feathers Myriophyllum aquaticum, though this is now regularly controlled by WWT staff.
In recent years, the black-tailed skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum, the ruddy darter Sympetrum sanguineum and the scarce blue-tailed damselfly Ischnura pumilio have been recorded on the WWT’s ponds. Stone parsley Sison amonum grows beside one pond in the complex. For interested readers, the annual journal Carmarthenshire Birds holds detailed records of the birds noted in these areas.
The ‘pond dipping area’ (SS532987), near the eastern perimeter fence of the original WWT establishment has several plants of interest (as well as the great pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis). Fringed water-lily Nymphoides peltata, the alien New Zealand pigmyweed Crassula helmsii (both rampant, very undesirable aquatics), and rigid hornwort Ceratophyllum demersum occur. Plantings near this area include violet willow Salix daphnoides, bay willow S. pentandra, purple willow S. purpurea, alder buckthorn Frangula alnus, a few common buckthorn Rhamnus cartharticus, Italian alder Alnus cordata, grey alder A. incana and Turkey oak Quercus cerris. Water chickweed Myosoton aquaticum grows sparingly in nearby willow scrub.
The ‘Saltmarsh Scrape’ at WWT Penclacwydd is saline and is replenished with the higher tides. Beaked Tasselweed Ruppia maritima grows here and a recent specialist survey (Bamber et al, 2000) discovered an estuarine fauna, with frequent prawns and sticklebacks. This pond area is obviously a critical bird watching facility with many occurrences of rare or scarce species – as well as supporting regularly high numbers of birds generally.
WWT MILLENNIUM WETLAND (also known as the Swannery). SS536983
This is the largest extent of water bodies (with potential associated fens and reedbeds) emanating from the Millennium Coastal Park initiative. It is managed by the WWT and compliments the adjacent ‘core’ Penclacwydd site. Collectively, the ‘Main Lake’, the (NRA) ‘Freshwater Scrape’ and the ‘Saltmarsh Scrape’, the ‘Deep Lake’ ‘Western and Eastern Scrapes’ constitute an impressive wetland, particularly when they are considered in conjunction with other coastal water bodies to the east (at or near the Sewage Treatment Works) and west (the Machynys Golf Course/Machynys Ponds SSSI etc).
The Millennium Wetland will take time to mature, of course, but already some 5 pairs of little grebes, 7-8 pairs of tufted ducks, 3-4 of pochard, 3 of shoveller and 1 pair of gadwall nested in 1999. In that year some 28 pairs of lapwing bred here and on adjacent WWT property. There have also been ample plantings of trees and other emergent aquatics, which as well as providing marginal nesting areas for wildfowl around the lakes, provide habitat for reed and sedge warblers and reed buntings. The Llanelli Naturalists held an interesting field meeting here in August 1999 with, for example greater duckweed Spirodela polyrhiza being found (Llanelli Nats. Newsl. 65: 10-11).
‘TESCO POND’. SS525996
Immediately visible on the southern side of the ‘Tesco Roundabout’, this pond has seemingly been in existence since the winning of the saltmarshes from the sea. An aerial photograph of 1984 ( reproduced in the ‘Trostre Industrial Park’ booklet produced by the former Llanelli Borough Council) shows this pond surrounded by fields. The pond was probably originally excavated as a source of water for livestock, and over the years it has accrued a number of plants including curled pondweed Potamogeton crispus, broad-leaved pondweed P. natans, spiked water-milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum, trifid bur-marigold Bidens tripartita, and celery-leaved buttercup Ranunculus scleratus. The pond is much fished by local youths and this activity deters breeding birds, though moorhens and mute swans sometimes occur. The hairy dragonfly Brachytron pratense is probably the most notable of the dragonflies found here.
Ideally, management needs to take account of amphibians at this site. Close mowing to the edge is not appropriate and a swathe of ranker vegetation to provide connectivity to nearby ditches would be preferable.
MACHYNYS GOLF COURSE PONDS, SS518983 etc
A complex of two large sinuous-edged brackish ponds in the west, with smaller water bodies towards WWT Penclacwydd in the east, excavated in autumn 1999. The Afon Dafen flows through the larger western ponds and links them through a ditch system. Otters have already been seen and a holt will hopefully be provided on one of the islands within one of the larger water bodies and the needs of water voles will be taken into account. This group of ponds is likely to significantly contribute to the wetland resource of the county.
PENRHYNGWYN POND. SS985973
Penrhyngwyn Pond is new (c.1991-92) pond, of irregular, pleasing shape and markedly saline with an abundance of shrimps and barnacles. Still surprisingly sparsely vegetated at present (2000), probably because of its relative salinity with the only aquatic vegetation present being small beds of sea club-rush Bolboschoenus maritimus. Non-breeding groups of mute swans (up to 6) occur. Cormorants are regularly present, perhaps feeding on eels and in winter 1993, 2 scaup and 3 common scoter were noted. In recent years, the pond has supported up to 5 goldeneyes and 23 little grebes. A grey phalarope visited in September 1998 and black-necked and red-necked grebes were visitors in late 1999. Little grebes and tufted duck have both already bred (in 1995 and subsequently), presumably overspills from the population at the nearby Machynys Ponds.
GLYNEA POND & SWAMP, BYNEA. SS554989
Essentially two sites separated by an overgrown footpath. The southern pond next to the former main road (Heol y Bwlch) has been subject to a planning application for infilling. It is choked with bulrush Typha latifolia but is of local interest for its wetland moths and other invertebrates and for breeding water rails. A recent study of the latter (Jenkins, 1995) indicated that two pairs were present.
The moth fauna of this possibly-doomed swamp includes the bulrush wainscot Nonagria typhae and Webb’s wainscot Archanara sparganii, both rather restricted and very local in Wales. The attractive ‘water ladybird’ Anisosticta 19-punctata can be found on bulrush but has also been recorded on sea club-rush at this site. The flattened bug Chilacis typhae also occurs on bulrush and is morphologically adapted to live behind its stem-sheaths. Another bug, Paralimnus punctatus also occurs. Amongst the beetles, the mostly red Anthocomus rufus and the fenland soldier beetle Silis ruficollis can be found. The short-winged conehead Conocephalus dorsalis (a bush cricket) principally occurs amongst sea club-rush around Glynea Pond, as do the hoverflies Tropidia scita and Helophilus trivittatus.
Reed and sedge warblers, herons and moorhens are regularly encountered around Glynea Pond and the writer once flushed a wood sandpiper from the vegetation. In the mid-1970s, kingfishers and yellow wagtails could be regularly seen at this site. The little egret is now an irregular, but increasing, visitor to this brackish pond. Beggar ticks Bidens frondosa was found beside the trackway to Glynea Pond during a BSBI field excursion in August 1986; it has seemingly subsequently died out.
A tree-lined overgrown minor reservoir, only briefly visited once by the writer in the early 1980s and nothing of note was recorded. Incidentally, it is believed that this reservoir was built for the Pencoed Leadworks, the first metalworks in the Llanelli area, dating from 1774.
PEMBREY COUNTRY PARK ‘CONSERVATION POND’. SN397007
Excavated in the sand-dunes and surrounded by forestry, the water of this pond which was extended in c.1995 is clear and lime-rich. It is therefore ideal for stoneworts and three species are known from this site – opposite stonewort Chara contraria var. hispidula, lesser bearded stonewort C. curta (both recorded by Nick Stewart in 1996) and bristly stonewort C. hispida (collected by IKM in 1997). Stoneworts are algae with a complex structure and superficial resemblance to some aquatic vascular plants and the sand dune systems around Carmarthen Bay are recognized as of being important for this group (Stewart, 1996). Nick Stewart also located fen pondweed Potamogeton coloratus at this pond, new to Carmarthenshire. Lesser water-plantain Baldellia ranunculoides, curled pondweed P. crispus, broad-leaved pondweed P. natans and thread-leaved water-crowfoot Ranunculus trichophyllus also occur. Crossbills visit this pond to drink, affording good views to the patient birdwatcher and they are best first located by their metallic ‘jip-jip’ calls. Little grebes breed and Black-tailed skimmer dragonflies Orthetrum cancellatum have been noted here.
PEMBREY ‘SKI-SLOPE POND’. SN409000
R D Pryce found the nationally scarce clustered stonewort Tolypella glomerata here in June 1996 (as well as more Chara contraria). It has breeding palmate newts Triturus helveticus, as well as toads, black-tailed skimmer dragonflies and, at one of its few county sites, the impressive great pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis.
THE ‘STARFISH POND’, PEMBREY FOREST, SN392015
So-called because of its shape when newly-excavated in the early 1990s, it is located in an out-of-the-way location within the forest. Palmate newts and toads breed and, again, black- tailed skimmer dragonflies have discovered this pond. Fen pondweed and bristly stonewort also occur, as does an introduced lily cultivar. There is now considerable growth of common reed Phragmites australis over much of the pond, though this is periodically controlled by Forest Enterprise.
‘THE SCRAPE’, PEMBREY FOREST, also known as ‘The Sciomyzid Pond’. c.SN373039
This comprises a pond, dug in the mid-1970s and now normally dried up in summer and invaded with Phragmites. It has always been subject to fluctuating water levels which favoured the population of sciomyzid (or ‘snail-killing’) flies. These are dependent upon fluctuating water tables to strand their molluscan hosts (their larvae are parasitoids on various species of terrestrial or aquatic molluscs). Recently however, the pond has been drier than in past years, but it is uncertain whether this is due to less rainfall or the clearing out of the arterial drainage ditch which drains water from Pembrey Forest. The clearance may have critically lowered the water table. Whatever, sciomyzids recorded (by Alan Stubbs, Steve Falk et al) are: Colobaea bifasciella, Pherbellia dorsata, P. grisescens, P. nana, Pteromicra glabricula, Sciomyza simplex and Tetanocera punctifrons. In the recent past, the hairy dragonfly Brachytron pratense and emperor dragonfly Anax imperator have been noted, whilst the ruddy darter Sympetrum sanguineum was seen once in the early 1980s. Lesser water-plantain Baldellia ranunculoides is a scarce water plant which occurs here together with amphibious bistort Persicaria amphibium. Blunt-flowered rush Juncus subnodulosus used to grow abundantly in a nearby dune slack in the forest but in recent years has declined due to unchecked willow-scrub colonisation.
In the late 1980s to early 1990s Forest Enterprise staff had another pond excavated just to the north (within c.25 m). Bristly stonewort Chara hispida is an early coloniser. Another small pond exists nearby at c.SN391015.
TYWYN BURROWS: ‘RAF TARGET POND’. SN364051
The Target Pond is a shallow scrape, excavated in dune-sand adjacent to the targets and is liable to dry up in summer. The stonewort Chara globularis var. virgata was recorded here during a Llanelli Naturalists’ meeting in 1988 and more recently the bird’s-nest stonewort Tolypella nidifica var.glomerata has been observed in this pond. Brackish Water-crowfoot Ranunculus baudotii is often frequent on the banks, distinctive with its stiff, thread-like branched leaves. Variegated horsetail Equisetum variegatum grows frequently on damp ground nearby together with both slender club-rush Isolepis cernua and bristle club-rush I. setacea. In spring the rare Ceperoy’s groundhopper Tetrix ceperoi can be found around this water body: it looks like a small well-camouflaged grasshopper. The notable weevil Grypus equiseti has been swept from marginal vegetation and the hairy dragonfly has been noted.
SANDY WATER PARK. SN497004
Created in the late 1980s on the site of the former Duport Steelworks, this area incorporated a much smaller water body which was probably the source of some of the aquatic vegetation now present. It is now a popular recreation area for local residents, and recently (2000) numerous small fishing platforms have been constructed.
It is well-known to local birdwatchers and is regarded as an easily-visited site to view unusual gulls, with Mediterranean, ring-billed, yellow-legged, little and glaucous gulls, having all been recorded. Initially, large numbers of pochard were present, perhaps feeding on the Chara beds, but numbers have subsequently dropped. Tufted duck are still regular (and have bred), whilst sometimes a few shoveler, gadwall and goldeneye can be seen. Coot, moorhen, dabchick and mute swan all breed. A flock of c.25 mute swans are regular and they include non-local birds (ringing has shown that birds from North Wales have occurred).
There are increasing beds of common reed Phragmites communis, bulrush Typha latifolia and sea club-rush Bolboschoenus maritimus; and there are also planted willows (of mostly ornamental cultivars) around the lake edge. Incidentally, a few young trees of native black poplar Populus nigra var. betulifolia have been planted (amongst modern poplar hybrids, Populus alba, etc) on the slopes to the seaward side of the lake. These were grown from cuttings taken from Dyfatty Marsh, Burry Port, trees. More extensive tree planting was undertaken in 1999. There are enlarging clumps of introduced galingale at the south-west and the north-eastern ‘corners’ of the lake. Chicory Cichorium intybus is also a feature of nearby ornamental shrub and tree planting beds.
Water plants include rigid hornwort Ceratophyllum demersum, Nuttall’s waterweed Elodea nuttallii, horned pondweed Zannichellia palustris, curled pondweed Potamogeton crispus and blunt-leaved pondweed P. obtusifolius. Until recently water-fern Azolla filiculoides, with its small, reddish, floating fronds, was a distinctive feature at the mouth of the inlet at the NW of the lake, but has recently died out. It was doubtless an introduction, as is the clump of ornamental water lilies which grows nearby. Nowadays, least duckweed Lemna minuta clogs the water surface of the same inlet. Amongst the willows clothing this inlet, greater spearwort Ranunculus lingua can also be seen. Probably the most noteworthy dragonfly at this site is the black-tailed skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum which is seemingly a recent (post-1990) colonist; other species include the emperor dragonfly and the common hawker.
KYMER’S CANAL POND west of Kidwelly. SN402061
An artificially created pond (excavated in the late 1980s) complete with the obligatory island, and with rapidly increasing marginal beds of Typha, Phragmites, reed sweet-grass Glyceria maxima and branched bur-reed Sparganium erectum. Surrounded by horse-grazed damp pasture with topographical depressions holding water-starwort Callitriche sp. and water-crowfoot Ranunculus sp., water plants include planted water lily Nuphaea alba cv., curled pondweed and water-plantain Alisma plantago-aquatica, whilst gipsywort Lycopus europaeus, water mint Mentha aquatica and pink water-speedwell Veronica catenata grow at the water’s edge.
A pair of mute swans and up to 3 pairs of mallard and coot and 2+ pairs of moorhen have bred; dabchicks also occur.
‘POND-Y-PELICAN’ adjacent to BANC-Y-LORD. SN409048
The origin of this quaint name is unknown; it is given in Price’s (1959) list of water beetles from the Kidwelly area. The pond is both brackish and eutrophic and is used as a watering hole for cattle. It is accessible to the naturalist via the new cycle-way from the main road which passes under the railway line and through thickets of almond willow Salix triandra. Apart from a little sea club-rush and variable mats of horned pondweed, not much grows in this pond. Pied wagtails feed at its edge and little stint and lesser yellowlegs (the latter being a North American vagrant) have been exciting past finds for the ornithologist.
The adjacent Banc-y-Lord (the sea defence embankment, built in 1817-18 on the orders of Lord Ashburnham) is quite interesting with swine-cress Coronopus squamatus and field madder Sherardia arvensis and the distinctive solitary bee Eucera longicornis (the male has enormous antennae) which is rare in Wales.
BEVAN’S POND. SN413045
Located on the Kidwelly Flats, this pond is visible from the A484 and was presumably originally formed from the severance of a major creek from the saltmarsh when the ‘Banc-y-Lord’ and the Commissioners’ Bridge were built. The marginal vegetation includes bulrush, sea club-rush, branched bur-reed, water mint and pink water-speedwell. Coot and moorhen breed, as have dabchicks and mute swans. Shoveler, teal and pochard are quite regular in winter and in February 1982, a female ruddy duck was recorded. A barnacle goose was another distinguished visitor during that period. The hairy dragonfly, a characteristic species of coastal fenland, has been recorded.
PENYBEDD WOOD POND. SN414019
A smallish pond, excavated in the late 1980s and lying immediately south-west of the old Forestry Commission huts. Already, in 1998, becoming overgrown by surrounding willows, it nevertheless holds some interesting plants such as rigid hornwort Ceratophyllum demersum, horned pondweed Zannichellia palustris, broad-leaved pondweed Potamogeton natans, and the stonewort Chara vulgaris var. longibracteata. The great pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis also occurs.
SWAN POOL DRAIN. c.SN415013 to SN423012
A man-made drainage channel, orientated NW-SE across the low-lying hinterland of Pembrey Forest. The flora includes blunt-fruited water starwort Callitriche obtusangula, horned pondweed Zannichellia palustris, branched bur-reed and unbranched bur-reed Sparganium emersum. Other plants of interest, recorded here by IKM and RN Stringer in 1982 and by Arthur Chater, George Hutchinson, Richard Pryce and Kath Cottingham in June 2000 include curled pondweed, lesser pondweed P. pusillus, small pondweed Potamogeton berchtoldii, frogbit Hydrocharis morsus-ranae, thread-leaved water-crowfoot Ranunculus trichophyllus, amphibious bistort Polygonum amphibium, pink water-speedwell, and the stonewort Chara vulgaris var. papillata and great water dock Rumex hydrolapathum which grows along the banks. Again, the hairy dragonfly occurs not only in the Swan Pool Drain but also in this ditch system as a whole and the local water beetle Anacaena bipustulatus has been recorded.
FFRWD FEN NATURE RESERVE POND. SN419025
Ffrwd Fen Nature Reserve is an important, triangular 19.5 ha area of wet pasture now substantially invaded by Phragmites which is mostly owned by the Wildlife Trust West Wales, but with the Llanelli Naturalists owning the floristically-rich southern corner (supporting the substantial population of marsh pea Lathyrus palustris). It forms part of the Gwernydd Penbre SSSI which was extended from the original core Ffrwd Farm Mire SSSI in November 1999.
A pond was excavated near the northern corner in autumn 1986 and it was quickly colonized by the local population of Brachytron pratense. Teal sometimes utilise this pond in winter. The marsh pea area in the corner closest to the Butcher’s Arms pub, has a very rich fenland flora including tubular water-dropwort Oenanthe fistulosa, bogbean Menyanthes trifoliate and numerous orchids including Early Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza incarnata, Common Spotted-orchid D. fuchsii, Southern Marsh-orchid D. praetermissa and the hybrid D. x grandis. Nearby ditches support populations of frogbit, bottle sedge Carex rostrata and floating club-rush Eleogiton fluitans and the wet meadow adjacent to the old mineral railway has Whorled Caraway Carum verticillatum and common cotton-grass Eriophorum angustifolium. Bird’s-foot Ornithopus perpusillus grows on the sandy trackway over a small stone bridge over a drainage ditch. Cetti’s warbler can often be heard singing from willows around the reserve.
[The above is obviously not a full account of the natural history interest of this site: a more comprehensive summary will hopefully appear in a later Bulletin].
MOAT FARM, LLANDYRY. SN433052
Known to long-standing Llanelli Naturalists members as the erstwhile home of the Society’s founders Mr & Mrs Tallowin, the pond in front of the farmhouse has marginal reed sweet-grass Glyceria maxima with some grey club-rush Schoenus tabernaemontani. Lesser pondweed Potamogeton pusillus and Fan-leaved Water-crowfoot Ranunculus circinatus (the only Carmarthenshire site) occur in the water, whilst a specimen from the muddy bank, of what was originally identified as the nationally scarce three-lobed crowfoot Ranunculus tripartitus, was deposited in the herbarium of the National Museum and Gallery of Wales, Cardiff, by Mrs I.M.Vaughan in 1970. This material was subsequently found by Richard Lansdown to be too poor to determine with confidence and so this record must remain unconfirmed. A pair of greylag geese successfully bred here in 1998.
PARC Y LLONG (AFON GWENDRAETH FAWR). SN437064
This stretch of the River Gwendraeth Fawr has water chickweed Myosoton aquaticum, intermediate water-starwort, curled pondweed, pendulous sedge Carex pendula, and greater pond sedge Carex riparia. In March 2001, Nigel Stringer and Ian Morgan discovered balm-leaved figwort Scrophularia scorodonia to be frequent in the vicinity. Unusually, both the demoiselle agrion Agrion splendens and the beautiful demoiselle Agrion virgo occur; these damselfly species are usually ecologically separated.
Myosoton aquaticum occurs on other stretches of the Gwendraeth Fawr such as near Pontnewydd SN447073 and at the Aqueduct SN427053.
YNYS FAWR, near CARWAY. SN465077
Excavated by British Coal as part of the restoration scheme for the nearby Smith’s Colliery opencast site, this pond has already acquired some wildlife of interest. Kingfishers regularly visit and hirundines swoop down in summer to drink water. The black-tailed skimmer dragonfly was discovered here in 1997. Plants of note include yellow water lily Nuphar lutea and curly waterweed Lagarosiphon major. A true black poplar (of Penywern, Llanelli stock, SN492012) and a hybrid poplar (believed Populus x canadensis ‘Serotina’, from St. Paul’s Church, Bigyn SS509998) were planted here in 1997.
CYNHEIDRE COLLIERY PONDS. SN492088
These former settling lagoons of the now-disappeared Cynheidre Colliery are interesting in that the apparent salinity of the water allows plants which are normally regarded as coastal to thrive. Sea club-rush, grey club-rush Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani, and celery-leaved buttercup Ranunculus sceleratus all occur. Additionally, the brackish-water soldier fly Stratiomys singularior (= furcata) was collected here in 1993. Coot and moorhens breed. Smaller areas of semi-permanent water on the old tips support the stonewort Chara vulgaris var. vulgaris (det A.Orange).
Nearby tufa-forming seepages support the scarce blue-tailed damselfly Ischnura pumilio and the keeled skimmer Orthetrum coerulescens. The emperor dragonfly Anax imperator also occurs on the ponds.
POND south of CYNHEIDRE. SN496073
A range of common dragonflies and damselflies occupy this Typha-fringed pond. Moorhens breed. Spiked water-milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum grows in this pond.
GLYN SYLEN ‘PEAT PONDS’. SN496072
A substantial water body, recently excavated (except for the earlier northern part), and only filled with water in the 1997-98 winter. It is much larger than shown on the latest (1997) OS 1:50,000 map. This major pond is dug into peat deposits and the only vegetation currently present is Potamogeton polygonifolius, though Typha grows in some adjacent small ponds. Alders have seeded into some margins. It will be interesting to see how this pond matures and whether it accrues a floristic and faunal assemblage akin to the other (more or less natural) oligotrophic lake at Llyn Llech Owain.
Some other, not unsubstantial, water bodies are planned as peat extraction progresses to the east and south-east. Royal ferns Osmunda regalis grow at the latter location but the owner has promised to avoid (or transplant) this species.
‘MOUNT PLEASANT’ POND, south of FIVE ROADS. SN493049
A large, privately-owned pond and visible from the road. Post-1990 in origin, unvisited and therefore lacking in data.
PEMBREY CANAL near the Ashburnham Hotel. SN435010
This length of canal is best accessed below the road bridge at SN437010. It has a rich aquatic flora with greater pond-sedge Carex riparia, pendulous sedge C. pendula and water dock Rumex hydrolapathum along its margins, and curled pondweed, common duckweed Lemna minor and least duckweed L. minuta on the water’s surface. The latter is a native of North America which has spread rapidly in recent years. The smooth stonewort Nitella flexilis has been recorded. Reed sweet-grass Glyceria maxima, water plantain, fool’s water-cress Apium nodiflorum and brooklime Veronica beccabunga are other waterside species. Sharp-leaved fluellen Kickxia elatine is an interesting terrestrial plant which grows sporadically along the canal towpath. Odonata include the emperor and hairy dragonflies and the scarlet tiger moth Callimorpha dominula has also been recorded.
A serious pollution incident in summer 1998 and subsequent dredging (the latter a necessary periodic task) left the canal seemingly bereft of interest, though it is anticipated that the canal will recover. Indeed, ivy-leaved duckweed was found to be abundant along one stretch of this canal in 2000.
Adjacent areas of reed and sedge support a few reed and sedge warblers, whilst elusive grasshopper warblers can be heard ‘reeling’ nearby.
PEMBREY CANAL at TRENEL. SN421018
This length of canal was, like the others in the area, once used for transporting coal to Pembrey Harbour from the mines in the lower Gwendraeth valley. This particular stretch is located behind council houses and is reached via a trackway off the A484. It abuts an area of fen willow carr with imposing clumps of royal fern Osmunda regalis, greater tussock-sedge Carex paniculata and greater pond-sedge Carex riparia. Curled pondweed Potamogeton crispus, thread-leaved water-crowfoot Ranunculus trichophyllus and brackish water-crowfoot R. baudotii are frequent (particularly following the clearance of choking vegetation) and common stonewort Chara vulgaris var. longibracteata has been recorded. Strong clumps of yellow loosestrife Lysimachia vulgaris enliven the carr-edge in summer whilst, on the trackway itself, sharp-leaved fluellen and prostrate toadflax Linaria supina have been recorded. As with many coastal water bodies, the hairy dragonfly occurs in late spring, but the great ram’s horn snail Planorbis corneus was a new county record here in June 1992. An account of this site is given by Richard Pryce (1992) – Llanelli Nats. Field Meeting: Pembrey Canal & Court Wood (26.4.92). Llanelli Nats. Newsl. (Summer 1992): 12-13.
DYFATTY MARSH. SN457010
A rather substantial dryish reedbed on the eastern outskirts of Burry Port. There is little open water except for some rather overgrown drainage ditches from which Veronica catenata was recorded by Richard Pryce in 2000. The site is best known for its population of Cetti’s Warblers and the black poplars (discovered by George Hutchinson in 1992), which fringe the footpath.
A long list of invertebrates were recorded by Kirby (1994), which he attributed to the mosaic of habitat types of swamp, drier grassland and scrub. Highlights included the soldier beetle Silis ruficollis and three species of Donacia (a ‘leaf beetle’). The fly Bibio hortulanus was new to Wales and the soldier-fly Vanoyia tenuicornis is regarded as a very local species. Friese (1994) summarizes the ornithological interest. About a third of this site was infilled in early 1998 as part of the works associated with the creation of the nearby ponds for the Millennium Coastal Park.
TURBINE HALL POND. SN450003
This rather formal pond created in the mid 1990s on the site of the former Carmarthen Bay Power Station is what remains of the pit constructed to house the power-station turbines. It has been landscaped within the constraints of the existing concrete foundations, which were too robust to remove during site demolition. The flora and fauna of the water-body itself remains sparse although prior to landscaping, nodding thistle Carduus nutans and the occasional plant of yellow horned-poppy Glaucium flavum were noted on its banks.
ASHPITS POND. SN462010
This was until 1997 a symmetrical, steep-sided settling lagoon for the former Carmarthen Bay Power StationÂ dominated by Phragmites. Until the late 1970s, the pond was only shallowly flooded and was sedge rather than reed-dominated. At that time it was one of the few known Carmarthenshire sites for breeding water rails. It was subsequently flooded (or became flooded) to a greater depth, but eventually became reed-choked. Water rails still nested with Jenkins (1995) noting two breeding pairs. As part of the Llanelli Millennium Coastal Park landscaping, it was substantially extended in an eastwards direction and the original Ashpits Pond was deepened, but with a broad undulating shelf of reeds being retained on the western side. The rest of the water body (extension included) also has this shallow shelf, which is expected to be colonised by aquatic emergents in due course. A new, smaller pond (with a central island) has also been excavated to the east and two further ponds created south of the railway. There has been much planting of mixed deciduous trees and shrubs, which link up with naturally self-sown woodland of birch and willow (with the occasional Scot’s pine) which eventually grades into the Pwll Ash Lagoon (see below).
The site is well monitored by Llanelli Naturalists’ member Dave Powell of Burry Port, who has already noted the breeding of up to four pairs of little grebe as well as mute swan, tufted duck, pochard and mallard; several pairs of coots and moorhens also nest. A pleasing development in 2000 was the rearing of two young by a pair of great crested grebes the first record of the species breeding during the history of the Pond. A passage osprey once turned up in the late 1970’s!
As is now expected, black-tailed skimmer dragonflies, once rare in Wales (and unknown in Carmarthenshire) have colonized, as have a range of other Odonata. The migrant hawker Aeshna mixta was recorded on the original pond in the early 1980s. It would be interesting to see if it still occurs.
PWLL ASH LAGOON, also known as Pwll Pfa Ponds. SN470011
Located south-west of Bethlehem Chapel, this pulverized fuel-ash (pfa) settling pond was mostly drained in the early 1990s. Good numbers of snipe (and the occasional jack snipe) now occur in winter and interest was first drawn to this site by the clumps of royal ferns which curiously grew on the ‘floating islands’. It was only in 1998/99, when more detailed examination of the vegetation took place, that it was realised that here was an exceptional site, supporting a range of plants which are scarce or rare in the county. Further interest is provided by the growing, in close juxtaposition, of plants normally separated by their ecological requirements with acidophile (‘acid-loving’), normally upland species growing amongst or near those usually found in more lime-rich lowland fens.
For example, lemon-scented fern Oreopteris limbosperma and certain bog-mosses Sphagnum spp. grow in proximity to blunt-flowered rush Juncus subnodulosus and swathes of southern marsh-orchids Dactylorhiza praetermissa. Such assemblages occur because the fuel-ash (which was pumped here, to settle in ponds, from the power station) is alkaline when fresh but it leaches to become acidic. An extraordinary feature of the bare, damp areas is the frequency of sundew Drosera rotundifolia, together with many plants of lesser centaury Centaurium pulchellum, as well as an interesting bryophyte community. A full account of the vegetation was given by Pryce (1999).
Invertebrate interest is provided by the scarce blue-tailed damselfly Ischnura pumilio (a mostly south western species of early-successional ponds, etc), and the keeled skimmer Orthetrum coerulescens, the latter dragonfly being normally found on base-enriched upland flushes. The large black-and-yellow soldierfly, Stratiomys potamida, was noted here in summer 1998.
There are probable proposals to declare this site a ‘Local Nature Reserve’, but trying to maintain the current mosaic of bare ground assemblages may be very difficult, if not impossible to achieve, due to both successional changes and changes in soil chemistry.
‘HORSEBOX POND’, PWLL. SN469009
The ‘Horsebox Pond’ was a shallow, ephemeral water body, on pfa, to the south and south-west of the Pwll Ash Lagoon. When it was grazed, this pond area, supported breeding lapwings and noteworthy birds recorded here were little egret, little stint and even a North American killdeer in the mid to late 1970s. The name was coined because of the proximity of an old railway wagon body, which amazingly has survived all the upheaval associated with the creation of the Millennium Coastal Park!
Today, grazing has ceased and the area is being colonized by willow scrub although it retains enough wet, open grassy areas to be attractive to wintering snipe. Although the vegetation is rather mundane, having been derived originally from grass sown to stabilize the pfa, a small population of the annual alien Foxtail Barley Hordeum jubatum has maintained itself over the last fifteen years or so.
‘FFORDD-Y-WAGEN’, PWLL. SN465014
‘Ffordd y Wagen’ comprises the route of the Llanelli branch of the old Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley railway between Pwll and Burry Port. Its main interest to the naturalist relates to elements of its terrestrial vegetation (eg various elms Ulmus spp.) and its reputation as a good locality for wintering blackcaps and chiffchaffs.
In aquatic terms, the man-made drainage channel to the south is of interest as the first locality where least duckweed was recorded in Carmarthenshire. The writer believes he remembers its presence since the late 1970s, though it was not confirmed until 1991.
PWLL FISHING LAKES. SN480008
Construction and landscaping works are now more-or-less completed on this large water body which has been excavated to provide flood alleviation and fishing facilities. Peripheral reeds or other marginal vegetation are likely to colonise in the next few years and other wildlife will become established in time. The lake may be subject to occasional tidal incursions which may cause the water to be somewhat brackish and this will obviously influence the resultant plant and animal assemblages (and the fishing!). The recent winter months has seen the establishment of a roost of up to about 15 cormorants on the narrow spit and herons are a common occurrence.
DAFEN POND, formerly known as GORS POND. SN531015
Presumably this was once a storage pond, fed by the Afon Dafen, for adjacent industrial premises [Llanelli’s first tinplate works was established by James Motley and John Winkworth in 1846 (Davies, 1986)]. It subsequently became mostly silted up but was cleared out by the then Llanelli Borough Council in the late 1980s. The north-eastern part remains covered by swampy willow scrub where a Cetti’s warbler was heard singing in 1993. In March 2000, Richard Pryce found this area to be covered in dense Least Duckweed Lemna minuta, a species first recorded from sheltered marginal water by the writer. A pair of mute swans regularly nest and moorhens and mallard also breed. Tufted duck and pochard sometimes winter in small numbers. George Hutchinson has recorded perfoliate pondweed Potamogeton perfoliatus, broad-leaved and curled pondweeds, as well as alternate water-milfoil Myriophyllum alterniflorum and Canadian waterweed Elodea canadensis. The writer additionally noted the grey-leaved, alien parrot’s feathers Myriophyllum aquaticum in 1991, though this species has since died out. An introduced clump of galingale occurs just north-east of the northern ‘slipway’ and natural beds of reeds occur in other areas.
Some bushes of sweet brier Rosa rubiginosa (which smells of apples) were planted as part of the landscaping near the north-west of the pond, but now these are very much overgrown by white poplar Populus alba. There have also been plantings of various willow cultivars, but of interest are the older large trees of crack willow Salix fragilis var. furcata alongside the Afon Dafen, back towards the main road.
Dragonflies include the emperor and the black-tailed skimmer, the latter presumably a rather recent colonist. The green lestes Lestes sponsa, common darter Sympetrum striolatum, common blue damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, azure damselfly Coenagrion puella, blue-tailed damselfly Ischnura elegans and the large red damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula are additional odonata which have been recorded.
UPPER LLIEDI RESERVOIR. SN511045
A c.2ha water body created by the damming and flooding of Cwm Lliedi in the late 19th century. There is some marginal vegetation of Phragmites and other emergents and Mrs Irene Vaughan found perfoliate pondweed Potamogeton perfoliatus here in 1975. Thread-leaved water-crowfoot Ranunculus trichophyllus has also been recorded and shoreweed Littorella uniflora grows in the stone-faced margins. Diligent long-term monitoring of the bird interest by Mike Williams has shown that great crested grebes, little grebes and mallard regularly breed, whilst visiting rarities have included smew, ruddy duck, osprey, little crake and ring-necked duck. Green sandpipers are frequent, particularly in the ‘by-wash’ which skirts the eastern margin of the reservoir and water rails have been recorded. Pochard (usually averaging 30-50 birds) and tufted duck (25-35 birds) are regular wintering waterfowl. Williams (1993) and Pryce (1993) both – respectively – summarize the ornithological and mostly vegetational interest of this site.
LOWER LLIEDI RESERVOIR. SN515041
This was the first of the two Lliedi reservoirs to be created by the damming of the Afon Lliedi in the mid 19th century. The wooded valley sides have large numbers of majestic oaks Quercus spp. interplanted with mature Scot’s pines Pinus sylvestris with a larch Larix sp. plantation on the southern side near the dam. The ‘top’, northern end of this reservoir has small amounts of crack willow Salix fragilis and osier S. viminalis. Extensive beds of reed canary-grass Phalaris arundinacea, now colonise the silt banks which provide refuge for wildfowl. Wildfowl regularly seen include teal, pochard, tufted duck, mallard (including farmyard crosses) and moorhens and coots. Rosebay willowherb Chamerion angustifolium, bulrush Typha latifolia and hemlock water-dropwort Oenanthe crocata are also present in this upper part of the site whilst yellow loosestrife Lysimachia vulgaris and purple-loosestrife Lythrum salicaria add colour to the vegetation in summer. Members of the Llanelli Naturalists discovered dormouse-chewed hazelnut shells and early dog-violet Viola reichenbachiana near the old railway track, during their visit on 29 April 2000.
FURNACE POND also known as the Upper Trebeddrod Reservoir. SN 504022
This former reservoir, built in 1854, which supplied water to the growing town of Llanelli in the 19th century is now used for recreational purposes alone, especially fishing. – bream, tench, perch and carp have been introduced (David Bannister, pers. comm. 1993). Shoreweed grows at its edges and this was the first site in Carmarthenshire where the migrant hawker Aeshna mixta was recorded (O D Hughes, 1978). Moorhen and mallard breed and small numbers of tufted duck sometimes occur in winter; kingfishers occasionally visit. Incidentally, the Lower Trebeddrod Reservoir is now silted up and dry.
OLD CASTLE POND. SN500003
Also known locally as ‘Pond Twym’ (or the ‘warm pond’ – which supported a population of goldfish) due to its one-time use as a cooling pond for the adjacent steelworks complex (now landscaped as ‘Sandy Water Park’). It is a site well known and recognized by local naturalists and, together with Furnace Pond, the Lliedi Reservoirs and Machynys Pond, provided one of the few water bodies in the Llanelli area worthy of a visit by the non car-owning novice birdwatcher in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The present writer recalls his first black tern – an autumn-plumaged individual – sitting on a floating tyre here in autumn 1970.
The Llanelli Naturalists in its early years gave the pond much attention, with special meetings to clear rubbish and the encouragement of sponsorship by local school children to purchase some rather exotic pinioned wildfowl for the pond. The choice may not sit comfortably with modern conservation or ecological principles but pairs of Canada geese, shelduck, red-crested pochard and Carolina duck were released in November 1974! Predation or other factors resulted in the loss of these birds over the succeeding few years (see Pryce, 1994).
However, the pond is clearly recognized to be of local importance given its urban setting, historical recording and wildlife assemblages. Originally, it was formed from a tight meander of the Afon Lliedi (see map 1), which previously entered the sea in the Sandy area, before its re-alignment towards the North Dock. The island within this pond was a fortified mound deliberately constructed within the defensive potential of the meander loop whch gave rise to the name of the surrounding farm ‘Hengastell’ or ‘Old Castle’ farm, a name which has survived in ‘Old Castle Road’ and, indeed, ‘Old Castle Pond’. If viewed from its north-western corner an arm of reeds etc will be seen within the pond (see plate 7). These actually grow on the levee (embankment), which marks the southern bank of the former course of the Afon Lliedi. There are swathes of reeds, other vegetation and grey willow carr around its margin, whilst its eastern side is marked by a now-diminishing row of black poplars (presumably the ‘Manchester Poplar’ clone) Populus nigra var. betulifolia, planted to celebrate the Festival of Britain in 1951. There are also more recent plantings of rapidly-growing modern poplar clones.
Coot, moorhen, mallard, tufted duck, mute swan and sedge warblers all breed, whilst additionally, pochards and (more rarely) gadwall occur in winter. Rare visitors include goosander and, one winter, the North American ring-necked duck, which afforded almost clinical views to the bankside birdwatcher. Pike, rudd and perch occur and both emperor and migrant hawker dragonflies fly over this pond in summer. The neatly-patterned hoverflies Anasimyia spp. also occur around Typha at this time.
Aquatic plants of interest are spiked water-milfoil Myriophyllum spicatum and amphibious bistort Polygonum amphibium and marginals include trifid bur marigold Bidens tripartita.
GLYNGWERNAN QUARRY POND, FELINFOEL. SN533025
The stonewort Chara vulgaris var. longibracteata occurs in this shallow quarry pond. There is also some marginal Typha growth.
BRYNGWILI MANOR POND, HENDY. SN578030
This pond was dug in 1996 in an area of rush Juncus sp. – common spike-rush Eleocharis palustris – creeping bent Agrostis stolonifera dominated marshland protected for the last 140 years from most estuarine influences by the railway embankment but still subject to occasional spring-tide inundation. The marshland supports a small population of bulbous foxtail Alopecurus bulbosus, at its only Carmarthenshire site on the Loughor estuary, as well as locally abundant marsh foxtail A. geniculatus. There are also associated areas of swamp vegetation including those dominated by common reed Phragmites australis and sea club-rush Bolboschoenus maritimus. Reed and sedge warblers and reed bunting breed and sand martins and other hirundines use the area for hawking insects.
PANT-Y-FELIN POND, CWM-MAWR. SN538126
Located amongst conifer plantations which grow on the restored Pant-y-felin opencast site near Tumble, this rather shallow, vegetation-choked pond supports abundant bulrush Typha latifolia. Common water plantain Alisma plantago-aquatica, common spike-rush Eleocharis palustris, purple loosestrife Lythrum salicaria and some grey club-rush Scirpus tabernaemontani also grow here. A small clump of the undesirable introduced Parrot’s-feathers Myriophyllum aquaticum also occurs.
The scarce blue-tailed damselfly Ischnura pumilio has been recorded in the past and in all, about eight species of Odonata have been noted. A couple of terrestrial plant species of interest grow closeby – common wintergreen Pyrola minor (which is rare in Carms.) grows abundantly under Corsican and lodgepole pines, first recorded by Bob & Ranvieg Wallis (SN538127, etc) and tasteless stonecrop Sedum sexangulare along the northern margin of the access road into the site (SN537125). Bee orchid Ophrys apifera, pennyroyal Mentha pulegium and brown sedge Carex disticha are uncommon plants established on the open restored opencast land.
GARNFFRWD TROUT FISHERY, near Drefach. SN508143
An artificial lake created in a hollow on the Carboniferous Limestone ridge, this site supports breeding little grebes, coots and moorhens.Â The lake is choked at times with Canadian waterweed Elodea canadensis and curled pondweed Potamogeton crispus, whilst nutrient input has led to an algae problem. The lake has a thriving toad population.
LLYN LLECH OWAIN. SN568152
This oligotrophic lake is situated on the very acidic Millstone Grit outcrop and has a flora reminiscent of water bodies in the uplands. It is notified as a SSSI for this feature. An account of a Llanelli Naturalists field visit and aspects of the legend concerning Llyn Llech Owain is found in the Llanelli Nats. Newsl. (Sept. 1985): 14-15 and (Dec. 1985): 12.
Vegetationally, the lake is interesting with populations of both the white water-lily Nymphaea alba and yellow water-lily Nuphas lutea, whist in shallower water there are floating rafts of bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata. At some margins, beds of bottle sedge Carex rostrata grow and support the northern hoverfly Platycherus perpallidus, here at one of its more southerly British sites. Less rare, but still quite restricted in Carmarthenshire, is the black darter Sympetrum danae, a typical upland dragonfly but here curiously found in association with a species for more characteristic of lowland ponds – the emperor. Additionally, the black-tailed skimmer O. cancellatum (another lowland species) was also here on 15 August 1997. The adjacent mire is of interest with some white beak-sedge Rhynchospora alba and expanding clumps of royal fern.
Sometimes little grebes breed and redpolls nest in the nearby plantations and willow carr. Rarely, hobbies hunt overhead, presumably attracted either by the dragonflies or the swallows or other hirundines which frequent the lake in summer. Members of the Llanelli Naturalists were captivated by a hunting barn owl quartering low over the moorland in broad daylight during a meeting way back on 21 May 1978.
PISTYLL POND, north of Llandybie. SN624167
This is a rather deep, seemingly base-rich water body hidden within an old limestone quarry. Specimens of a stonewort collected here by Mrs Theresa Rhodes, then working for the National Rivers Authority, were determined by Dr Jenny Moore of the London Natural History Museum as Chara hispida var. hispida in 1976. Nuttall’s waterweed Elodea nuttalli, curled pondweed and broad-leaved pondweed have also been recorded here.
The distinctive ‘ear snail’ Lymnea auricularia (which is rare in Carms.) has been recorded and Wallace (1986), in a general account of the caddis flies found in South West Wales, remarks that the very uncommon Leptoceras tineiformis occurs here. Records were made by Arthur Chater in 1984-85 of the rare pseudoscorpion Neobisium carpenteri (or a closely-related species) from leaf litter around this pond. Otherwise, this species is only known from Essex and Co. Cork in the Republic of Ireland. (Bratton, 1991).
GLYN TAI POND. SN608129
This pond was created in the late 1980s within the Glyn tai opencast site in an area where water naturally collected adjacent to a peat-bog which had been left high-and-dry by site working. It was fully intended to remove the peat and extract the coal from beneath, but due to the known problems in handling such incompetent material and the desirability to preserve the diverse flora and fauna of the bog it was left intact. However the excavation surrounded the bog on three sides, seriously dewatering it and allowing the colonisation of scrub in place of the purple moor-grass Molinia caerulea and heather Calluna vulgaris dominated heathland vegetation. The restoration of the site sought to raise the level of the pond to a sufficiently high level to maintain the water-table in the bog. In the event, however, because the elevation of the surrounding restored land was too low, this was not possible and, although wetter than during site working, it was not wet enough to arrest scrub colonisation.
The pond today, therefore, abuts native birch woodland and scrub with planted woodland and developing wetland on the adjacent restored ground. Royal fern Osmunda regalis, which was abundant around the drier periphery of the bog prior to opencasting, remains quite frequent but is being encroached upon by scrub woodland.
In the early years following its creation, the pond supported the scarce blue-tailed damselfly Ischnura pumilio – which is rather capricious in its appearance – and probably benefited from the several operations to remove dense beds of colonizing bulrush. Where open water remained, the invasive alien curly waterweed Lagarosiphon major was recorded, as a second vice-county record for Carms., in 1994.
PANT-Y-LLYN TURLOUGH. SN606166
Pant-y-llyn is the now celebrated, and only known example outside Eire, of a ‘turlough’ or seasonal lake which occupies a depression on limestone, which rises and falls synchronous with the water table. This apparently unique site was first drawn to the attention of the scientific community by Davies & Stringer in 1992, with subsequent summaries given by Campbell (1992) and Blackstock et al (1993). Campbell’s paper concentrated on the geomorphology whilst Blackstock reviewed the vegetation and invertebrate fauna, the latter paper concluding that there were similarities between Pant-y-llyn and the Irish turloughs. Common or frequent plants at Pant-y-llyn are, reed canary grass, bladder sedge Carex vesicaria, water mint Mentha aquatica, water horsetail Equisetum fluviatile and common marsh-bedstraw Galium palustre. Zonation of these plants (and bryophytes) is exhibited, this being consistent with the annual cycle of winter flooding and summer drainage.
Barney and Pat Gill, sometimes helped by others, have surveyed the toad population of this site on an annual basis since 1993. They have also recorded frogs and palmate newts.
GARNANT GOLF COURSE LAGOONS. SN688123
These few ponds are the only features of any ecological note restored on the completion of the Garnant opencast site. Prior to working, the area was of very high ecological interest with many whorled caraway Carum verticillatum dominated meadows containing such scarce species as meadow thistle Cirsium dissectum, greater burnet Sanguisorba officinalis, dyer’s-greenweed Genista tinctoria and petty-whin G. anglica. The ponds were created by ‘ecologically-enhancing’ a series of settlement lagoons involving the creation of more shallowly sloping banks and the planting of common reed around their peripheries. The reed was obtained from ‘The Scrape’ in Pembrey Forest (see above), which benefited by being partially cleared-out, but resulted in the Garnant Ponds receiving several dune-species not appropriate at that location. Most notable among these is lesser water-plantain Baldellia ranunculoides, several plants of which were recorded in 1996 by George Hutchinson and Richard Pryce, about four years after the original plantings were made.
TROSTRE WORKS POND, SS524992. A reservoir within the perimeter fence. Teal visit this pond in winter (C. Jones, pers. comm.)
FFOS-LAS OPENCAST RESTORATION, SN453052. A new pond is being created on this worked-out opencast coal site near Trimsaran which is currently being restored.
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