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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Pembrey in the Past

Reading George Tordoff`s comments regarding flooding in Pembrey Forest (with some tracks impassable etc), it is worth remembering what the site used to look like.
Basically, the Pembrey `peninsula` has accreted from its original depositionary area, which was located at the SW end of Mynydd Penbre, with its northward growth being truncated by the erosive impact of the combined Gwendraeth rivers. Once, arms of the sea, with saltmarsh vegetation, extended up from the Pembrey village area/Trenel/Penybedd Wood to the old airfield area - all this was on the landward side of the main current forest block. Here was located the `Swan Pool` (mentioned by Edward Llwyd) where wild swans wintered or `elks` as it was incorrectly printed (a corruption of the Welsh plural `eleirch`).
The main forest ridges (quite tall in parts) are likely to have originally grown from an offshore sandy bar, the sands being re-worked glacial deposits.
In the Middle Ages, the area, as well as the extensive common land c S & SE of Kidwelly, was intensively grazed by sheep and Kidwelly - which once exceeded the medieval Cardiff in size - prospered with the wool trade. The clogging up of the Gwendraeth and other circumstances reduced that trade dramatically. You can still see where the old common was - look for the more symmetrical, larger fields on the OS map. Llwyd, incidentally, also recorded the rare mole cricket in the Lower Gwendraeth.
The forestry was mostly planted from the 1920s onwards and any woodland moths etc will have colonised since that date. Some forty years ago, you could still speak to old wildfowlers who remembered (or who said they remembered!) flocks of white-fronted geese wintering on the flooded burrows. Whatever, the geese were reliably recorded there and their winter grazing, as well as that of sheep or other stock, must have profoundly affected the vegetation. It is the lack of grazing that has probably contributed to the loss of fen orchid at Tywyn Burrows.
Have a look at the c 1862 map/chart below. I have coloured in blue the main water bodies - Kenfig Pool sized ponds. `Morfa Tanged`on the map incidentally, should read `Morfa Pinged`. Click on the map to enlarge it.

Not good at present for night-time moth trapping - but good for daytime recording of any diurnal moth species (as well as butterflies), as George has demonstrated. I hope to get out somewhere this afternoon. If you have a chance, have a look at some local habitat.


  1. When are you going to write a book on the ecological history of Carmarthenshire Ian - please do!!

    I agree that lack of grazing hasn't helped Fen Orchid, but general stabilisation is the real problem there. What we really need is for the point to loop round and cut off some more new dune slacks as the old ones are just too far-gone for many of the interesting plants/bryophytes. It's still a cracking area for Lepidoptera though!

  2. I`m getting material together for an ecological/landscape type article on SE coastal Carms. Oliver Rackham got me going on the historical aspect/human land-use side of things when he visited Carms in the early 1990s - I wangled a visit for him in the good old NCC days.
    ....and I`ve got to get cracking with that research on post-glacial colonisation of SW Britain article too.

  3. Fascinating Ian, thank you.

    On the post-glacial subject, you might have seen the recent article in British Wildlife on Ireland's lusitanian species.

  4. Yes, have seen the BW article thanks.