Anglesey Adventures - Penmon & Snowdonia 27/06/17 - Part 1

The adventure continues......

This day we went to Snowdonia and in the late afternoon we explored Penmon Point on Anglesey. As Part 2 also covers Snowdonia, I'll write about Penmon first.

Penmon Point is on the extreme North Easterly point of Anglesey with a lighthouse, a fine view to Puffin Island and the Great Orme beyond. We even saw a Porpoise running the tide close to the lighthouse. There's plenty to see!

You park near the lighthouse and on the grassy cliffs was a profusion of Pyramidal Orchids.  Surprisingly, I didn't see that many of them on the island.

Anacamptis pyramidalis

The coastal turf was species rich, helped along by species such as Eyebright which weaken grasses, allowing other species a chance to grow.

Euphrasia agg

The next plant was actually growing on the shingle beach above the high tide mark. They are White Stonecrop, a species very common in Kent. However, it's not often I can get a decent photograph as they're small and usually surrounded by other plants. Not here though, I'm quite pleased with how this photo of them came out.

Sedum album

Wild Thyme also grew in dense mats along the cliffs and short turfed areas.
It's very common across Anglesey as it is in Kent. Though in Kent some care is needed as Large thyme also grows amongst it and looks very similar.

Thymus polytricha

However, perhaps the most enduring botanical memory from here will be the sight of hundreds of Common Spotted Orchids. Walk from the lighthouse towards an old quarry and the ground is covered with them in places, a real treat.

Dactylorhiza fucshii

I didn't take many photos of them, I already have over a hundred of this species. However, each seems to have a slightly different pattern or loops, dots, dashes and lines; plus a range of colours from white to deep purple, such that I never tire of looking at them.

That was about it for Penmon Point as the light was fading quickly now. One last photo of Herring Gulls framed by the lighthouse and some beach art built by an unknown soul....

As I said above, I'll now revert to the morning's activities. We had decided to visit Mount Snowdon and why not!  Given that we didn't have the time or equipment to safely walk it, we enquired about taking the train from the beautiful town of Llanberis. This little town is situated on a lake with two steam railways, one around the lake and one for going up the mountain.
Unfortunately, the mountain train was fully booked, so we booked tickets for the next day and decided to explore Snowdonia by road with perhaps a walk later on.

As such, we drover out of Llanberis heading East into the hills. I decided to pull over wherever I could and have a look around near to the car as my health still wasn't great.

Here's what we found at one such stop, it wasn't all plants.

Some semi tame Chaffinches wanted (and got) some of our lunch.

By the car park, I was most perplexed with a tiny Speedwell plant that I found. As I looked about I found dozens.  They looked like Thyme-leaved Speedwells but I'd only ever seen these with lilac striped white petals and these were bright blue.

On reaseraching them later back at the cottage, I found that they were indeed Thyme-leaved Speedwell, but that those at altitude are blue - a mountain variant, stunning!

However, for the botanists reading this, I didn't realise I needed to distinguish between Ssp. serpyllifolia with mountain blue flowers and Ssp. humifusa which is a very glandular mountain sub species.  I think on balance, looking through Stace Vol 3, that this is the former.

Veronica serpyllifolia Ssp. serpyllifolia

Navelwort is very uncommon in the SE of England, but quite common in Wales. I can't resist photographing it when I see it though. It is a fascinating plant with tubular flowers that looks rather like an odd pale green Foxglove.

It grows in cracks on bare rock, or like here on a dry stone wall near the car park in Snowdonia.

Umbilicus rupestris

Here's a close up of inside the tubular flowers. Love 'em!

If you're eating, look away now!

The lower plants were well represented in Snowdonia, with many a gooey mess of primeval algal slime adorning the permantly wet areas on the slopes.

I then came across a lovely combination of two miniature plants in flower. The larger, tinged pink flower is English Stonecrop, with the other being Heath Bedstraw. There were carpets of both species intermingled in several areas.

Sedum anglica and Galium saxatile

There was another area where I could pull over and have a look around where the road ran parallel to a fast running stream, bubbling across its rocky bed and splashing noisily over many small waterfalls.

I explored the area in the foreground, which was wet and boggy.  I really wanted to see Common Butterwort, so kept an eye out for it.

However, I was stunned by my first find here, a species incredibly delicate, yet beautiful, and one I hadn't thought I would find unless I went mountaineering!

The stunning Starry Saxifrage, a beautiful name for a beautiful flower.

Each tiny flower had bright (like starlight) white petals, each dotted with two yellow blotches; a ruby red centre and anthers.

These were well out of sight, growing in a tiny sunken ditch that meandered through the bog to the main stream. Of course, I made the classic mistake of moving back just a bit more to get a better photo and my boot sunk deep into the bog in this ditch. All credit to my boots which stayed dry, but my jeans were soaked with foul smelling bog mud half way up my shin.

The stunning Saxifraga stellaris

Now I had a wet leg, I didn't mind if I got even muddier, so I had a look at a wetter part of the bog and not only found Common Butterwort, but one in full flower.

What is special about this weird plant is that it's actually carnivorous to some degree. The bog soil is very poor in nutrients, so it gets what it needs by trapping insects on its very sticky pale green leaves. It then dissolves them on its leaves and absorbs their nutrients. Nice!

Pinguicula vulgaris

Knowing I might not find another in flower at all on my holiday, I rattled off around 20 pictures. Not easy when you're off balance due to both feet slowly sinking in the bog. Of those 20 or so pictures I got just this one in focus.

As we drove a circular route from Llanberis, we came to the Watkins Trail, a long, arduous route to the summit of Snowdon.  However the map indicated some large waterfalls not far from the road, so we thought we'd have a walk and hopefully see them as well.

One downside of the area (like many tourist areas) is that for each layby and car park  you had to buy a parking ticket. This got quite tiresome and I got through several pounds in change this day.

A change to accepting contacless cards is long overdue in car parks.

Anyway, I digress. We started a slow ascent on this trail on a nice tarmac path and almost straight away, I found numerous Common Cow-wheat growing along one edge.

This is another semi-parasitical species, though I couldn't determine the host for sure. I think it may have been a variety of trees nearby.

Melampyrum pratense spp. pratense

As ever in Snowdonia, there were some fantastic views, made all the more dramtic due to low clouds rolling in.

On a grassy ridge, we found a number of Heath Spotted Orchids brightening up the path.

Dactylorhiza maculata

We then got sight of the watefall and what a sight it was. Falling over a hundred feet in several stages it looked fantastic.

Of course, with all this water around, there were a number of boggy areas where water pooled as it flowed off the hills.

In places were fine stands of Bog Asphodel. the bright yellow beacons of the bog, beckoning you to them with their alluring golden hues.

Be careful though! They grow in bogs and bogs mean you sink and get wet.

Yes, I got a wet leg again, but it was worth it.

Narthecium ossifragum

I got surprisingly close to this Grey Wagtail by the path, succh a beautiful bird that bobs up and down as it walks or stands, hence its name.

The final plant in this part of my blog, is the Round-leaved Sundew. Rare in Kent, there were thousands of them here growing on sphagnum moss.

Unfortunately and tantalising, almost every one had flower stalks in bud, but I couldn't find any with open flowers.  I think most people know that these also eat insects, catching them on the sticky blobs on its circular leaves. The blobbed stalks then fold into the centre of the leaf where the unfortunate insect is devoured slowly.

Drosera rotundifolia

We walked back to the car and then drove back to Anglesey.

It's been hard trying to select photos for this blog as there were so many stunning views and numerous photos of each wildflower.

I hope you enjoyed the selection, though I'll leave you with a final view that hopefully imparts some scale to the hills and mountains here.

Snowdonia is a wonderful place that makes the North Downs of Kent seem like a minor inconvenience rather than the big steep hills that they actually are.

Part 2 of Snowdonia will follow soon I hope.



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