Bracken covers much of the lower slopes of the Foel, and it provides nesting opportunities for birds such as nightjar, tree pipit and meadow pipit (the nests of which are parasitized by cuckoo). The caterpillars of the Dark green, and Small pearl bordered, fritillaries use bracken litter for hibernation and aestivation. Bracken can provide a protective nursery for young trees, and there are now hundreds of rowans on the Foel, which will provide berries for wintering birds such as redwing and fieldfare.
However, bracken tends to dominate if left undisturbed, which can lead to large areas of homogeneity. We want a more structurally diverse habitat, and our bracken management is based on disrupting and disturbing those flatter areas that we can access safely . This week sees the return of Carnog working horses to the Foel. Babs and Crunchie, and their incredible horses, are bruising areas of bracken close to the coastal path. Bruising, or rolling, damages the plant stems. This leads, over time, to a loss of vigour, height and density of stems. This exposes patches of bare ground (great for invertebrates) and encourages grass growth (which attracts grazing animals, which trample bracken roots, which further damages the plant). Our bracken management depends on the combination of, and interaction between, livestock grazing and trampling, and human intervention (rolling and cutting).
Head further uphill from the coastal path and the habitat grades into wet and dry heath. The wet flushes look incredible at the moment – there are large patches of bog asphodel, bog pimpernel and ivy leaved bellflower, and the views across the Dyfi are spectacular. I am often struck by the variety of the landscape before me - mountains, ffridd, ancient woodland, rushy pasture, reedbed, wet grassland, farmland, bog, swamp, riparian, saltmarsh, mudflats and open water. The Dyfi valley is a structurally diverse habitat on a grand scale and it is well worth taking time to appreciate it.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654