The NPMS 7 years on

I have been recording with the NPMS since it started in 2015. I had very little botanical knowledge then as I was still working as a GP. This is my first plot at Longtown in Herefordshire overlooking the Black Mountains. I was lucky enough to have a wildflower meadow in my patch, fortunately unchanged in the quality of the plants in 7 years. Since retiring 3 years ago, I now devote 5 days of the week to botany and am Hon. Sec. to the Committee for Wales of the BSBI (nobody else wanted to do the job!). I also regularly botanise with the Brecknock and Monmouthshire botany groups and am lucky to have had great support from the Vice Recorders of both counties. I have to admit that I flinch at the some/most of records I made in the early days (and more recently)! I also did the Identiplant online course during lockdown, this was at a reduced rate, thanks to the NPMS. I learned loads from this course especially about the different plant families and how to use a key etc.

This is one of my favourite plants in the meadow, Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor). This is a member of the Figwort Family, called Rattle because the large seeds “rattle” inside the calyx when ripe.

Another firm favourite at Longtown is the Heath Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata). This is very similar the Common Spotted-orchid, but the lip is more “skirt” like in the Heath Spotted. They are thriving , covering between 11-25% of my plot. Incidentally, this is the difficult part of the monitoring, assessing with the Domin scale, always a source of stress for me! I am ashamed to admit that I only visit this plot once a year in June as it is mown in July, very little to find after that.

My second plot is on the other side of the Black Mountains, Craig y Ciliau on Mynydd Llangatwg. A simply stunning location and also a National Nature Reserve. An area of limestone popular with cavers, climbers and especially botanists. My 2 favourite places to botanise are bogs and limestone! I started recording this plot last July but already knew the area very well. I was delighted to request it and be allocated it. I will definitely be visiting all 5 of my plots in the square twice as the botany is so great and changes as summer marches on.

One of the highlights of this plot is Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides), this is abundant on Craig y Ciliau, but is listed as vulnerable in the botany books. It is delightful and in my top 5 of favourite plants. This area is rich in Sedges, Marsh Pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris) with occasional Common Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris) and Marsh Arrow-grass (Triglochin palustris). Incidentally, at the foot of Craig y Ciliau is a raised bog, Waen Ddu. This has an intact lagg fen stream around the perimeter, looking like a “halo” around the bog, most raised bogs in the UK no longer have this. A superb area, limestone and bog. Glorious!

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