Report on Somerton Farm Walk

Once again it was a treat to visit Holly and David Harries on their ecologically managed farm. Some of us, who have visited the farm over recent years, were able to see the changes that have taken place to promote plant and insect life and biodiversity in general.
We began by eating our packed lunches together with Holly’s generous offers of tea and cakes. We then set out to see the species rich meadows where the Dexter cattle are confined by electric fences to limit their grazing area. Dexters were chosen as they live out year round and their size limits any damage to the sward. I have to confess to not paying full attention to our hosts as I found myself hunting in the undergrowth for the rich array of plants and insects present. They even have the endangered Marsh Fritillery butterfly whose caterpillars feed on the Devil’s Bit Scabious plentifully present. The Shrill Carder Bee also found on the Castlemartin ranges is thriving at Somerton Farm. The lower sheltered sunny banks are popular with lizards while Damsel flies and Dragon flies enjoy basking in the long vegetation. It was good to see an abundance of white, blue and brown butterflies including the Wall Brown which I have not seen for years. We then walked round the five acre wood that was planted in 1990 by agreement with the Woodland Trust and the Forestry Authority Woodland Grant Scheme. The trees, like children, have certainly shot up since our first visit. A very expensive bat hostel has been installed on one of the tree trunks. It is made of a highly insulated composite material.

The Welsh Government’s Tir Gofal scheme has facilitated many of the initiatives over the past ten years. Glastir the new environmental scheme is only interested in taking improved land out of production. Holly and David have added an adjoining improved field to their farm. As this qualifies they are taking advantage of funding for bank creation and tree planting.

We returned to the house for more tea and cakes, Some of us then left and the rest of us were shown around the large pond or is it a small lake? This was constructed in 1990 taking advantage of a thick water impermeable seam of clay. The pool has two islands to add interest and possibly create a safer nesting area, Otters permitting. There are plenty of interesting marginal plants and water lilies. It altogether presents a beautiful and tranquil scene. I wish I had heard of Branched Bur Reed which is lining the margins as I put Reedmace in our pond and it has turned out to be a serious menace.

David has a particular interest in waxcap toadstools since finding that Somerton has some very interesting species. Through his interest, he has become involved in The Pembrokeshire Fungi Recording Network to raise awareness of the conservation needs of these colourful fungi.

Some of the Glastir initiatives are intended to allow wildlife and floral corridors to connect. Connecting up with Somerton would be very worthwhile.

Thank you Holly and David for an interesting day, oh and the yummy Dexter beef we bought for our freezer.

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By Wendy Rowlands