Blue Bell Woods: Welsh 100 – No 25

The hill between Cardiff and Caerphilly presents a diverse sequence of rocks, offering glimpses into a long and varied geological history. All the rocks are compacted sediments of mineral, animal and plant remains shaped by glacial activity. The Caerphilly ridge area has two distinctive rock formations of sandstone and limestone, providing a dramatic backdrop to Cardiff. The sandstone formation at Tongwynlais comprises Old Red Sandstone which includes red mudstones and sandstones deposited during the Silurian and Devonian geological periods. The Limestone The sandstone formation at Tongwynlais comprises Old Red Sandstone which includes red mudstones and sandstones deposited during the Silurian and Devonian geological periods. The Limestone broad shelf to the north of Cardiff, along the southern rim of the South Wales coal field.

  
On top of this geological shelf are a couple of woods. Coed-y-Wenallt is an ancient woodland which means it has been woodland since at least 1600AD. There are 44 hectares of native Oak, Hazel and Beech woodland. Luckily it isn’t an isolated wood, but links with other surrounding managed woodland areas. This means that there are easy corridors for wildlife to travel, creating a wider natural species diversity. In the spring the woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells.

  
The Wenallt lends itself as a vantage point. There is an Iron Age hill fort in the south of the site. The Iron Age dates from 800BCE to 55AD. In 1980 a hoard of medieval silver pennies was discovered on the Wenallt. This remarkable treasure trove comprised over one hundred coins, most of them minted at Cardiff, buried around 1140BCE during the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda. A selection of the coins can be seen at the National Museum and Gallery of Wales in Cardiff.

  
So before supper last night Aunty and I headed to the hills while the sun was dropping. In fact this is less than a mile from home, and somewhere I drive past every morning, but we’ve never really explored the woods properly. And we weren’t disappointed the bluebells put on a great show as the sun drifted through the developing tree canopy.

  
Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, captures the very spirit of springtime with its intensely coloured carpets woods at this time of year. Hyacinthoides non-scripta the British bluebell is an ancient woodland indicator species in the British Isles. The British bluebell is most abundant in dominant in old woodlands on light-acid soils but will tolerate a range of soil conditions.

  

  
While preparing this blog post I’ve learnt three things about bluebells that I’d like to share with you before Aunty and Number 1 Daughter stop mope being a geek.

  • The UK is home to about half of the world’s bluebell population.
  • Its sap was to glue feathers onto arrows in the Middle Ages and to stiffen ruffs in Tudor times. 
  • It is dedicated to England’s Patron Saint, St George.

  

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